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Just in Time - Shepherd of Hope

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son . . . – Galatians 4:4

 

A lot has changed since last Christmas. Christmas is a normally busy time of year. But nothing, not even Christmas, is being “normally” faced this year. Normally, we decorate both inside and out of our homes. We shop, shop, shop, and then wrap, wrap, wrap, and then probably drop, drop, drop. This year, we may decorate in and outside of our homes, but because of the “pandemic,” situation, shopping physically in stores is, for most people, being replaced with shopping online. Oh, we will still hide the presents and wait for the unwrapping frenzy. But, if government officials have their way, we will do it in no more than groups of ten. For me, such a thought is as bogus as Santa Claus!

We normally take time to visit and to prepare for visitors. Now, visitation is discouraged and or restricted. Of course, people will “obey” to varying degrees, government restrictions about meeting during the holidays. We will probably still rush here and rush there. And we will, if our church is open, try to fit church into all of it but too often it is crowded out or closed out. There’s so much to consider and do and so little time.

And then there is the entire 2020 election situation. There seems to be clear and present fraud either by human or mechanized means. Our thoughts are being dominated by Dominion voting machines. And although the media and many those in political positions are asserting a president elect, I have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t finished just yet. There’s a lot of talk about timing. We the people have voted, (although apparently so have some who’ve been dead for some time as well as a host of stuffed versus stifled ballots). We just passed the time of the electors being chosen and soon those electors will cast their votes. But regardless of all the “dates” set for determining a president, the one date that is legitimately set by the Constitution is inauguration day January 20th.

Christmas is about timing too. It’s been like that from the beginning. God in His word says there is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1). God has a plan. He has a plan for this universe, for nations and a plan for each individual (e.g. Jeremiah 29:11-13). God is orderly not chaotic (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). He is not a fly by the seat of the pants God. God works things out in intricate details. God does things with perfect timing. The incarnation of Jesus is a perfect example of this.

We can take tremendous encouragement and hope from God’s orderliness. At times in life it seems as though things are out of control. Maybe over these last few years you’re feeling as though perpetrators of unjust practices are going scot-free with little to no justice or consequences to obvious crimes. Maybe you’re feeling like there is a n elite “Deep State,” or “Globalist cabal” who are “above the law.” Despite promises of justice being served by various “prophets” or mysterious entities like “Q,” you just don’t see any of what they say coming to pass. Maybe you’re one of the many who just can’t make rhyme nor reason out of the events of the day. But, let me assure you, no matter what, we can be sure that God is in control and He does have a plan that He is working out.

It’s true that it seems as though God stretches the faith of His people by waiting until the last possible moment to bring rescue and reason to the events of life. But even when things get harry, even when they seem hopeless, we can rest assured that God has a plan and just in time He will assert His will and authority to fulfill that plan.

You may feel as though you’re in a hopeless situation. No matter how hopeless things look, God has a plan. God is in control. God will save the day just in time. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer loss. God’s plan and our plan conflict at times. Our expectations aren’t always in alignment with God’s purposes. What we have to remember in such situations is that God’s plan is the best plan. We have to trust the Lord’s leading and plan, even if it means we have to suffer in some way. God’s ultimate plan is to conform us to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). That can be painful at times. But it’s always worth it to wait on the Lord for we are His poetry, a beautiful work of art (Ephesians 2:10). A good poem, a good story usually includes some nail-biting situations, some mountain top highs, and some death-valley lows.

Jesus is a perfect example of how God works. What might seem as though it is just in time to us is right on time for the Lord. He works to the fullness of time according to His plan. And the fullness of time of the Lord is always just the right time. That’s what the apostle Paul is inspired to write in his letter to the Galatians when he states: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he argues against the idea that a person can make themselves righteous before God by keeping the law by good works. He argues that a person is justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16). He also argues that once a person is saved that they do not rely on their own effort and strength anymore than they did to be saved. No, instead they rely on the Spirit in them to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 3 and 5). The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who brings us into the love of God. It is in the love of God that we find security and strength.

The Fullness of God’s Time – There is a time set by God for all things (Ecclesiastes 3). God is not One to dilly dally or meander around with no regard for timing. No, not at all, God keeps a schedule for His sovereign plans. There is an order to God’s universe. Our problem is that we are out of order because of sin. No matter how much you think you have your life together, without Jesus, you are out of order.

Historically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. Two commentators make the following observations about the timing of when Jesus came to be God with us: “The proper time had arrived for both God and man. The time appointed by the Father and foretold by the prophets. It was a time of outward prosperity and inward corruption. The religions of the world were spiritually bankrupt, devoid of power to change men’s lives, and had degenerated into feeble superstitions and meaningless rituals. This “time” was when the Roman civilization had brought peace and a road system which facilitated travel; when the Grecian civilization provided a language, which was adopted as the lingua franca of the empire; when the Jews had proclaimed monotheism and the messianic hope in the synagogues of the Mediterranean world.” [1] It was a time of great human internal struggle and sin, but also a time of great external human achievement.

Prophetically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. The coming of Jesus was in line with the timing of prophetic events. The removal from the Jewish religious leaders of the right to order capital punishment (Genesis 49:10) was fulfilled. The prophesied forerunner (Malachi 3:21) John the Baptist was fulfilled. And Daniel’s prophecy concerning Messiah’s triumphal entry (Daniel 9:24-27) was fulfilled. Everything that needed to be in place was in place; everything was just right; just in time. This was all evidence of Gods’ perfect prophetic timing.

God Sent His Son Jesus – Preexistent Fully God – Jesus existed in eternity before His incarnation (cf. also John 1:1, 2, 14-15). Jesus is “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, . . .God” (1 Timothy 1:16-17). It was time for the world to meet God in the flesh.

Born of a Woman – Fully Human – God foretold beforehand in the Bible by way of prophecy that the Messiah would be birthed uniquely, born of a virgin (cf. Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31-35). God had a plan. God birthed His plan, at just the right time.

Jesus is fully God and fully Human. The significance of this is expressed in the following observation in a commentary: “This does not mean, however, that Jesus’ humanity is only a display case for His divinity. Jesus lived out His human life by experiencing all the pressures, temptations, and limitations that we experience (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 5:2, 7–8). That is why Jesus’ life really is the supreme human success story (Heb. 5:8). Jesus was a pioneer (Heb. 2:10, NRSV), showing in practical terms the full meaning and possibility of human life, lived in obedience to God. In this respect, Jesus is a kind of second Adam (Rom. 5:14–15), marking a new beginning for the human race. Jesus would have performed a great work if He had done no more than set a perfect example. But His full humanity is also the basis on which it is possible for Him to represent us—indeed, take our place—in dying for us. The Bible makes this clear when it speaks of “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5–6).”[2]

Born Under the Law – A Jew – Jesus fulfilled and submitted to every requirement of the Law pertaining to His birth and calling (Luke 2:21-27; Matthew 3:13-15). That was God’s plan. That was God’s just righteous arrangement and requirement. And so, it was completed, at just the right time.

To Redeem Those Under the Law – Under the Curse of the Law- Earlier in Galatians Paul explains that those who try to justify themselves by keeping law are obligated to keep every law. The Law is like a holy chain with links. When we live by the Law, we hang from eternity with God by that Law-chain. Break one link of the Law, and we plummet into eternal darkness. It only takes one broken law to condemn eternally. That is how high God’s standard is. God is holy. His standards of righteousness are far superior to ours. We can’t save ourselves. We need a Savior. That is why Jesus came; to save us from the curse of sin and death (cf. Galatians 3:10-13).

Each person who has yet to be saved from their sin is under a curse of death (Romans 6:23).  Everyone is broken. It’s as though those who have yet to deal with their sin are laid flat out on their back in a guillotine looking up at a blade, and that blade is about to fall and slice away any hope of averting that curse. The curse of sin holds people in a dark state of being which is destined to tumble out of control into an ever more depraved sinful state (Romans 1:18-32).

You may be in such a state. It begins with total unawareness of being under the curse of sin. That’s because the god of this world (Satan) has blinded you to your sinful predicament (2 Corinthians 4:4). The beginning of the good news for you is that the Holy Spirit is reaching out to you to convict you and make you aware of your sinful cursed state (John 16:8-11). God’s desire is to turn you from your dark condition to the light of His word. He seeks to show you that you are perilously under the power of Satan. But He also wants you to know there is a way to be saved from that predicament, by turning to Him by faith. God has a rich inheritance waiting for you. All you have to do is trust Him to receive it (Acts 26:18; John 1:12). His plan is just right to solve our sin problem. His plan, for each of us, individually, is always revealed by Him, at just the right time.

Galatians 3:10-13 reveals that the curse of sin is clearly exposed by people’s inability to obey the entire perfect law of God. God is holy, just and good. Heaven is His abode and heaven is holy. God will never allow any sin into heaven because sin is like cancer; it spreads and grows worse by nature. God’s Law is holy (Romans 7:12). To prove our righteousness and worthiness for heaven some people seek to keep that perfect Law of God. But that is impossible. No one can “continue in all things which are written in the book of the laws, to do them.” That puts us in a serious and perilous predicament. We are barred from heaven because of the curse of our sinfulness. But God has provided a way to deal with this sinful cursed state. We can be made “just” if we put our faith in God (3:11).

Saving faith is described with the acronym Forsaking All I Trust Him. As Paul explains, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),” (3:13). The curse of sin is death. But Jesus took our curse when He died on the cross (“the tree”). He is our Substitute (“having become a curse for us”). He has “redeemed” us, or paid off our penalty and all we need to do to receive the benefits of that saving work of Jesus is to put our FAITH in Him and accept His work on our behalf. Paul put it this way in another letter, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus did this just in time.  That’s was true prophetically. But that is also true for each of us individually. His redemptive work is just in time for those who have yet to receive Him as their Savior. God gives you the opportunity to be freed from this curse of sin now. But beyond now all bets are off and there are no further guarantees. The perfect time is always “now”; it may not be” later.” The Bible says, “Now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Now” is just the right time for you to be saved from the curse of sin. “Now” is just in time for you.

That We Might Receive the Adoption as Sons – The Purpose of Jesus – The benefits of salvation are not only salvation from the curse of sin. God always goes above and beyond what we deserve (cf. Eph. 3:19-20). That is what the grace of God is all about (see “much more” in Romans 5). There is a rich inheritance awaiting those who receive Jesus as Savior.

Under Roman law a child that was adopted into a family had all the rights of a natural born child of that family. There was total equality between natural born and adopted children in the family. While Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9), we can be adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters too. We will never be equal to Jesus in the sense that we become “God.” Mormons and New Age followers teach human beings can become “God.” No, we will never become “God,” but we can experience the rich blessings of having God as our Father (2 Corinthians 6:18).

This is God’s promise to those who put their faith in Jesus (Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:29). This adoption is attained through faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:7, 26). This adoption is purely provided by the grace of God; it’s a gift to be received by faith (Romans 4:16, 17; Ephesians 1:5, 6, 11). Jesus is the One through whom this adoption is worked (John 1:12; Galatians 4-5; Ephesians 1:5; Hebrews 2:10, 13). The Holy Spirit in a person is the evidence of having been adopted by the Lord (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The Holy Spirit witnesses or affirms in our hearts when we have been put into this adoptive position with God by Christ (Romans 8:16). And being led by the Holy Spirit in life is tangible evidence that we are God’s adopted children (Romans 8:14). When we are adopted into God’s family, we become the brethren of Jesus (John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11-12). Just think of that!

As adopted sons of God we experience the discipline and guidance of God. Indeed, the discipline of God is evidence that we are adopted children of God and that He loves us (Hebrews 12:5-11). God’s desire for His adopted children is that they live holy lives (2 Corinthians 6:17-18; 7:1; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:2-3).

What does living a holy life mean? It means we begin to become like our Father in heaven (Ephesians 5:1). It means we trust in God with a child like faith (Matthew 6:25-34). It means we live to glorify God (Matthew 5:16). It means we love to speak to our Father in prayer (Matthew 7:7-11). It means we become peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and have a forgiving and merciful spirit about us (Matthew 6:14, 35-36). Children of God seeking to live holy lives won’t be hypocritical and ostentatious (Matthew 6:1-4, 6, 18).

The children of God have a rich inheritance to look forward to (Matthew 13:43; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; 4:17; Ephesians 3:6). What we experience now in this life through our adoptive relationship with the heavenly Father is only the tip of the ice burg of our inheritance in Christ (see Ephesians 1:3ff.).

God’s sons are Spirit-filled – Paul goes on to describe in Galatians more of the awesome benefits of being an adopted son of God saying, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (4:6).

The night before Jesus went to the cross He met with His disciples and one of the last things He taught them about before He went to the cross was about the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to pray to the Father and that “another Helper” (literally “one just like Him”) would come to abide with them forever. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

Jesus used two prepositions in the above passage to describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit with people. The Holy Spirit is “with” a person prior to conversion communicating God’s “truth” and persuading them of their need of salvation (e.g. John 16:8-11). The Holy Spirit comes “in” a person when they accept Jesus as Savior by faith and are born again (John 3). The Spirit comes “in” a person to regenerate them with eternal life (John 20:22; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And God’s inspired word uses a third preposition to indicate a further work of the Spirit on the believer. The Holy Spirit also comes “upon” a believer to empower them to serve the Lord (Acts 1:8; 2; 15:8-9). Throughout life we are to rely on a daily continuous filling by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Acts 4:31). It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us to bring us fully into the love of God (cf. Romans 5:5, 8) and conform us to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Not a slave but a son and heir – Paul concludes to the Galatians in verse seven saying, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” A slave is forced to obey; a son obeys out of love for the Father. A slave is motivated by judgment, a son is motivated by love (1 John 4:17). This is a key distinction to make in the life of the believer. A slave depends on his own strength; a son depends on and looks to his father’s strength and authority. A slave does not operate in the fullness of the benefits of the Father, a son does. Are you motivated by a fear of judgment or by the love of God?

How can we know if we are operating in the fullness of the Father’s benefits, in the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us? In Galatians five Paul contrasts “the works of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:19-26). These verses tell us that love is the difference.  Paul writes a great deal about love in his letters (e.g. Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 5:14-16; Ephesians 3:13-21). When we rely on our own strength like a slave, the end product is often something that either looks like or is what is described in the Galatians 5 list of the “works of the flesh”: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

That’s not a pretty picture. But that is exactly what we see in the world around us and too often in the church itself! Are you working in the flesh, in your own strength? If you are relying on yourself, these “works” will crop up in some way in thought, word or deed.

The fruit of the Spirit are wholly different: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22-26)

All of this is what God wants to work in you. Isn’t it awesome? Isn’t it magnificent? And if you haven’t experienced the rich blessings of our inheritance as adopted children of God, now is just the right time for you to do so. What are you waiting for? Don’t let the uncertain circumstances of this world deter you or distract you from the inheritance that awaits you through faith in Christ. No matter our electoral outcome, there will be troubles ahead. Life in this world always has hardship and difficulties. Jesus told us that. But He also said, “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Do you know what “good cheer “is? Good cheer is courage that helps us overcome fears, it is comfort to help us in hard times. Do you have that? You can if you turn to Jesus.

I continue to pray that God will come to rescue our nation just in time. But more importantly, I pray, you will receive the good cheer of Jesus. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be a time of “good cheer”? Yes, it is! And God wants that for you. God is reaching out to you. He may be reaching out to you just in time. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. No further opportunity is guaranteed or promised. Now is the time of salvation. Now, just in time, God is offering you the chance of a life time. In fact, your eternal destiny is in the balance. Just in time God has come to save the day for you. Take His hand and join His family. Just in time is the right time for you to do this.

Here is a prayer for you to receive Jesus as your Savior:

Father in heaven, I come to You in Jesus name. I admit my sin to You. I ask Your forgiveness. I ask this not because of any “good work” that I have done. I ask this solely because Jesus died on the cross for me and three days later, He rose from the dead. I believe this with all my heart. I ask for Your forgiveness and receive it by faith in Jesus. Please fill me with the Holy Spirit and give me spiritual life. Help me to life my life to please You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

And if you already know Jesus, but need some “good cheer,” pray this:

Father in heaven, I come to You in Jesus’ name. I thank You for my salvation in Jesus Christ. Father, I have lost my cheer. I have lost my courage and my comfort in You. Would You please give me courage to face uncertainties? Would you comfort me in times of trials? Would you settle my soul and steady my walk? Im going to trust in You. I ask for and receive by faith, your courage and comfort through faith in Jesus. Please Holy Spirit, do Your work in and through Me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

One last thing. May God bless you and our nation with a very merry Christmas. In Jesus name. Amen. God bless you.

[1]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2]Ronald F. Youngblood, general editor; F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, consulting editors, Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary: An authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations [computer file], electronic edition of the revised edition of Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary, Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1995.

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