In the preface of Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation, authors Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein state that “Learning the reasons for Christ’s advent will help us more deeply celebrate His birth, allow us to see more clearly how it is connected with the rest of His ministry, and help us understand its importance in our lives.” They add that it also helps when people ask us why Jesus came to have a fuller knowledge of the answer to that question.
They discuss 31 reasons Jesus came but acknowledged there are multitudes more. They range from the familiar, like “To Die,” “To Seek and Save the Lost,” “To Do the Will of the Father,” to others you might not have thought of right away, like “To Bring Peace,” “To Bring a Sword,” and “To Demonstrate True Humility.”
Each selection is only about three pages but is packed with references and thoughts about that day’s subject. The writing is not warm and fuzzy nor what one usually thinks of as “devotional,” but it is a rich treasury.
Here are just a few quotes:
In Christ’s first coming, He implemented a rescue plan conceived in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. He did not come to promote holiday cheer, boost end-of-year sales, or serve as the central figure in a Nativity scene. He came to save sinners. To save sinners, Christ had to put away what makes people sinners–namely, sin.
The Scottish divine Samuel Rutherford was on his deathbed when he was summoned to court for refusing to conform to the new forms of worship decreed by the king. Sensing that his death was near, Rutherford said, “I will soon stand before a greater judge, and this one is my friend!”
Paul refuses to focus on the greatness of others’ sin to minimize his own. He sees his own sins in the light of God’s holy law and perfect character.
Apart from a true incarnation, there is no true atonement.
Christ did not come to earth simply to be our moral teacher. If that were His only mission, He could have come as He did in former times, as the Angel of the Lord, without our flesh and blood to encumber Him. Instead, He had to become like us so that He could raise us up to be like Him.
Some of us have little spiritual vitality because we fail to feed on Christ day by day. Over time, we become spiritually anorexic.
Christ’s advent, in particular, teaches us the joy of anticipating Jesus. The Christian journey is riddled with trials and difficulties, but the brilliance of the One whom we seek turns our mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11).
As we reflect on the incarnation, we too should be filled with joyous amazement and thanksgiving. Wilhelmus a Brakel explains, “The reason one does not rejoice in the incarnation is for lack of holy meditation upon the subject, its miraculous nature, the promises, the Person, the fruits and this great salvation brought about by His suffering and death. What reason for rejoicing would he who does not attentively reflect upon this have?”
Judgement means to divide truth from error as well as to uphold the good and condemn the evil.
Jesus calls all sinners to repent. True repentance is not a nebulous response of sorrow; it requires definite actions. Repentance so transforms the mind that it results in a changed life. Repentance does not merely say “I’m sorry” (similar to what we say when we accidentally step on someone’s foot). Rather, true repentance says from the heart, “I’ve been wrong and grieve over my sin, but now I see the truth, and I will change my ways accordingly.”
Christ gives us a true thirst for Him by convincing us of sin.
There were just a couple of places I disagreed with the authors. One was “The most important way to seek Christ is in the public worship of His church.” We need that, but equally important is private seeking of Him in His Word in our own homes. Another was the assertion that “Jesus gives us a precious glimpse of His humanity…He experiences the fear of death as we do.” I don’t think it was just a human fear of death that caused His anguish (they quote Calvin as calling this His “cowardice”), but the thought of all that would be involved in taking our sin and its penalty on Himself. They also write from a Reformed/Calvinistic view, and while I agree with a reformed view of faith in many particulars, I disagree on a few.
But mostly I found much food for thought here and enjoyed thinking on its truths during the Christmas season.
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)