Christmas Glory and the Two Victories Arriving in Christ's Advent
Sunday, December 14, 2014 - 10:00 a.m. Sermon #: 1768
Pastor Don Horban
1 John 3:2-8 - “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
It is hard to worship God in a selfie world. Our stuck-in-the-mud culture panders to the vain, the proud, and the self-absorbed. We are technologically advanced with the tiny yet consuming fetishes of our own egos. These are the fuel of our text-sized hearts.
I said last week it is a shame to stand before something truly wondrous and remain unmoved. Sin comes from not treasuring what is truly glorious. We were created to feel genuine glory because our Creator is glorious.
Now behold the fruit of the Fall. When we willingly and persistently tether our minds to so much uninterrupted light thinking we won’t see the glory of Christmas because Christmas glory is about God and what He has done. Christmas glory is about the deepest truth and the most real, eternal lasting world and it slices across this selfie age. Christmas glory is about why this universe is here and why you and I are alive on this planet. It is about the purpose of our lives while we live and finding genuine meaning and freedom and unfading joy. It’s about right and wrong, good and evil, conscience and sin, forgiveness and grace, life and death, eternal life and eternal damnation. Christmas glory is too big and too deep and too sweeping to be reduced to the immediate chit-chat world of much social media.
Look again at our opening text. One of its unique features is the way it suspends ideas between the two comings of Christ into this world. One advent (which means “coming”) has happened in history and another advent will happen in future history. Both are actual, observable, verifiable events.
I love the way the Apostle John relates these two advents to two of our greatest needs and desires. We all know we aren’t what we want to be yet. As followers of Christ and recipients of the fruit of His first advent we still sense our own incompleteness. John has a hopeful word to say about that inward frustration - 1 John 3:2 - “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
We have heard these words for so long they no longer shock us as they should. For all those worship hymns and choruses adoring the holiness and purity of our Lord it rarely dawns on us - rarely dares to dawn on us - that we will all, one blessed future day, be just as holy and morally pure as our Lord.
Let that sink in. Something as mighty and majestic as the resurrection of our bodies from the grave is going to transform our spiritual lives. True, Jesus will always be the one and only unique God the Son. But the presently received-by-faith imputed righteousness of our sinless Lord will one day be our permanent actual spiritual condition. If the Bible didn’t explicitly say so, this would be a blasphemous concept.
But where does that leave us right now? If we still feel the weight of our present unrighteousness - if we still yearn for that depth of perfect holiness - what did our Lord’s first coming accomplish? What is the Christmas glory of our Lord’s first advent? Is there any present blessing? Is all reserved totally for the future second advent?
Not at all. John unfolds two manifestations of Christmas glory that brighten our present lives as we cling to Christ Jesus. This is where we’re going to put our attention:
1) THE GLORY OF CHRISTMAS IS GOD THE SON CAME TO TAKE AWAY OUR SINS
1 John 3:5 - “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”
What shall we do with sins we’ve already committed? There is no way to turn back time. Deeds done can’t become deeds undone. There is no rewinding of any life. If God is real and if God is holy and if we’ve done deeds or entertained thoughts or been motivated by attitudes impure what shall we do to pretend there is no guilt or shame?
John has something precious to tell us. There is a reason he finishes that fifth verse reminding us of the sinlessness of our Lord - 1 John 3:5 - “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”
Everyone on the planet knows Jesus died. And everyone who knows the New Testament knows death is the curse of sin (Romans 6:23). So if Jesus really died and if He really was sinless, He must have died for sins other than His own.
He didn’t die to take away the guilt of His own sin. He died to take away the guilt of our sin. This is what John is so excited about. Jesus removes the stain of sins He didn’t commit. Jesus pours out a payment He didn’t owe. He bears a punishment He didn’t deserve. He owed nothing to divine justice. His account, unlike yours and mine, was totally clean. He laid down His life with no moral deficit whatsoever.
In the best known Christmas prophecy of all time the inspiring Spirit of God has Isaiah singing about the wonder of this miracle 700 years before it happened:
Isaiah 53:4-6 - “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
“....the iniquity of us all.” The accumulated weight of the present 7.5 billion sinners on this planet - plus the actually standing guilt of every sinner who had lived and died since Adam and Eve - that is the spiritual mass of the first redemptive coming of Jesus.
This is gigantic Christmas glory, church. Don’t stand before something this wonderful unmoved. Church, He carried the darkness of your sins away. He carried them all away - “He appeared to take away sins”(1 John 3:5).
2) THE GLORY OF CHRISTMAS IS GOD THE SON CAME TO DELIVER YOU FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN’S POWER
1 John 3:8 - “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
“The reason the Son of God appeared....” We know John is talking about Christ’s Christmas coming - His first advent. We know that because John uses that very physical word, “appeared.” And Christ hasn’t appeared a second time yet.
This means John is saying it is another part of Christmas glory that is being considered. First, we saw Christ came to take away the stain and guilt of sin. Now, second, John says Christ came that first Christmas to “destroy the works of the devil.”
And we should be grateful John doesn’t leave us guessing what those “works of the devil” are. He tells us what he means in the first part of that same eighth verse - “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
The Apostle John says it is the work of the devil to lead people to “make a practice of sinning.” Himself being a habituated sinner, It is his chief purpose in his limited amount of time to make sure your next sin isn’t your last sin. Notice the way John says the devil gives himself to various “works.” He uses more than one means to his end. He is industrious. He is sophisticated. And every ounce of his wicked energy is directed to keep you and me from living in freedom from our sins.
How can we stand against this? What hope can we possibly have? John says those good questions have everything to do with Christmas glory. This freedom destroying work of the devil is why Jesus came. Our world doesn’t even know its deepest reason for the joy it tries so desperately to pump up each year at this time. Cultural Christmas joy will leave you stuck in your present sins. There may be some kind of temporary seasonal cheer but there is no true Christmas glory here.
Jesus didn’t come just to remove the guilt of our accumulated sinful past. He came to give us new life as well as a clean slate. Christmas isn’t abstract truth. It is transforming truth. I know, we’re not fully transformed until Jesus’ Second coming. We’ve already studied that. But there is transformation that is actual and increasing, even if not total. There is honest to goodness Christmas hope and glory for unfaithful husbands, rebellious teenagers, compromised business executives, people with same-sex attractions, bitter neighbors, and back-slidden students.
Listen, the Apostle Paul, perhaps more than any other convert in recorded history, knew of what he wrote when he talked about the transforming power of Christ on the inside of his own skin. I don’t know where you find yourself today, but Paul put people to death just for naming the name of Jesus Christ. There wasn’t an agnostic bone in Paul’s body at that time. He was a persecutor, not an unbeliever.
Yes, Paul knew the joy of forgiveness. He treasured it. But that’s not all Paul treasured. Here’s how Christmas glory - the destroying of the works of the devil, as John describes it - manifested itself in Paul’s life:
Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
3) CHRISTMAS GLORY AND THE DEEPEST NEEDS OF OUR HEARTS
We live our lives looking in two directions. We look back on our past and we look forward to our future. Both directions find a glorious hope in Messiah’s first advent as John explains it. There is Christmas glory for your entire existence today.
Christ came for people who look to their past with guilt and regret. I don’t know what invisible weight you carry everywhere you go. Perhaps you carry it today. O, how we wish we had done better. But there are no “do-overs.”
When the Old Testament prophet wrote of the coming of Jesus into this world one of the most telling images used was “The people who walk in great darkness have seen a great light!” John in his gospel said Jesus came into this world full of grace and truth. We should be forever grateful for the way the Apostle spliced those two important words together - grace and truth. This was no accident of prose. The wonderful thing we’re meant to see is the full truth about ourselves didn’t erase the forgiving grace of redemption.
How wonderful! Christmas glory means God’s grace isn’t a pretending grace. It fully knows the deepest and darkest truth about each one of us. And it’s full of grace still. There’s nothing better than that. No one has anything better to tell you this Christmas. This is glory that outshine the star that lead the wise men.
But there’s more. We don’t just look back with guilt. We look forward with fear. Will we be able to keep going? Can we stand? Is there hope? John says there is. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. The devil’s work to keep us bound in sin is strong. But it is not strong enough.
True, perfection awaits another day. But growth does not. Learn to look constantly to Christ. Shun what is trite and empty. Stand and feel the wonder of Christmas glory. And, when failure arises, learn to be an instantly repentant sinner. There is hope for the future just as surely as there is grace for the past.