December 20, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Joy To The World)

Submitted by Alice R. of Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Luke 2:4–7

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

What does this reveal about what the people in Bethlehem valued? i.e., what kind of world did Jesus come to?

The fact that “there was no room for them (Him) in the inn” reveals that the people in Bethlehem valued prioritizing their own mundane preoccupations of life. They were living in a time when things were not certain and every man was just trying to survive, feed their families and try to build a secure home for themselves. There was no room to pause in their hearts to accommodate anyone else. The people of Bethlehem had to get on with their own lives. It was a world that said, “I’ll take care of me first and then maybe I might have room for others.”

What values do I hold to in my life that would be inhospitable to Jesus’ arrival?

One value I hold to in my life that would be inhospitable to Jesus’ arrival is the value of protecting my pride. There is a deeply innate resistance to being humbled, humiliated, losing face within me. Jesus arrives in my daily life through His word of truth through daily DT, messages I hear, through times of Bible reading, personal prayer times and through people who speak His truth that exposes the shameful and hideous sins of my heart. But to protect my pride, I find myself struggling to fully own up to the truths Jesus’ arrival exposes in my life. Each time I resist His truth I am trying to shut the door on Jesus from entering in to the deepest parts of me. Reflecting on the fact that whenever I am resisting my pride from being touched, I am shutting Jesus out of my heart is a sobering thought and highlights how deeply offensive it is whenever I choose to protect my ego, rather than submit to His truth.

Another value I hold to in my life that would be inhospitable to Jesus’ arrival is self-preservation and resistance to disturbance in my life. It’s a life where I am tempted to not allow myself to be at the mercy of others in terms of my time, schedule, my physical and emotional energy, my thoughts, and my heart and allow myself all kinds of interruptions and disruptions in a given day. When I strive to preserve all these in my life, ultimately I am saying that I do not welcome Jesus’ arrival because it disturbs my life too much. However, I need to always remember that keeping Jesus away from my life by trying to preserve my life is not a life of tranquility, but rather it would be a life that is trapped in a enslaving cycle of being consumed by my fears.

Luke 2:10–12 & 16-20

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

..

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Think about the smells and uncleanliness of a stable. How does my heart resemble a stable, and what would it mean for me to “prepare him room” in my heart?

A stable would be quite foul from all the filthiness of animal waste along with leftover feed lying everywhere because there are no boundaries, no order, but only chaos. It’s a place that’s been left to take its own course with untamed and unruly animals. It’s a place that will continue to deteriorate until someone takes notice and intervenes.

My heart resembles a stable in that it has the stench of sin from all my sinful acts, thoughts and intentions of my heart. As I think about just the past week, I am reminded of different ways in which I was selfish and failed to love people, as I was preoccupied with my own burdens, responsibilities and cares and at times put tasks before people. The stench of my sins comes from the ways I was mean or curt with my spouse or others around me. As well as my ugly attempt to try to preserve my pride in different situations, trying to excuse myself or blame. When I look at myself, there are traces of the stench of sin within my heart, which desperately needs to be cleaned out.

To “prepare him room” in my heart would then mean for me to begin discarding all the waste, filth and garbage in my heart which starts with first acknowledging and confessing one by one such things are residing in my heart. It would mean that I would begin by emptying my heart of worries, fears, need to preserve my pride and make room for Jesus to enter in by surrendering these to Him in prayer. And it would require that I eagerly anticipate His coming in with faith, that Jesus would still be wiling to come down to the dirtiest of places unfit for a holy and pure God.

What are some ways or excuses by which people refuse to prepare him room today?

Some ways people refuse to “prepare him room” is by simply refusing to own up to the brutal truth about the filthiness of their hearts. People try so hard to ignore the many pricks of their conscience throughout a given day, because their pride refuses to be humbled. And before one knows it, another day has passed by without receiving Jesus. Some people make excuses that they are too busy taking care of their own lives, their families, careers, school, etc. and keep passing up the opportunity to have Jesus enter into their lives. They make the excuse that there are more important, urgent needs that they need to tend to first, so there is no room for Jesus in their hearts. Others might just be plain smug about their lives. They are too self-satisfied to recognize their need for Jesus. And in the end they miss the opportunity to have Jesus come in and transform their lives.

PRAYER

Write a prayer of thanks that Jesus wants to come into the messiness and dirtiness of sinful human hearts, expressing personal trust regarding Jesus willingness to turn my sinful self into a place of “glorifying and praising God.”

Heavenly Father, how could it be that Jesus, so holy and pure could lower Himself and make such a descent into all the messiness and dirtiness of such a sinful heart like mine. Though you were in the highest place, you came down to the lowest place of all. You came down to the deepest and darkest place of deep regrets and to so much shame. How could it be that you would seek me out and come to filth and stench of all my sin. This is still at times hard to comprehend. You truly came to seek and save the lost. You came all the way down and sought out the lowest place possible to rescue, cleanse, and redeem sinners like me. Because of your zeal and love for all of mankind, I can fully trust in you to continue to persevere with me so that my sinful self can be that place of “glorifying and praising God.” Thank you, Jesus, for coming towards me rather than being repulsed by all my sins and turning away. I want to continue to open up my heart up to you, to prepare my heart to have you occupy my whole heart as I prepare for this Christmas. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Submitted by Roy L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Luke 2:4–7

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

What does this reveal about what the people in Bethlehem valued? i.e., what kind of world did Jesus come to?

Jesus came into a world that had no room for him, because he did not have the status, power, or means that the world welcomes. The people of Bethlehem most likely received a lot of guests on this particular night due to the census, and they made room for the relatives who had family ties and the strangers who had money. But Jesus, born to a peasant couple from out of town, had neither, so they had no room for him.

It’s also tempting to simply dismiss the people of Bethlehem as heartless and cruel for denying shelter to a traveling, young, poor couple about to give birth. But his story is probably not so simple. I’m sure that if he had room to spare, the innkeeper would have gladly given Joseph and Mary a room at his inn. But in a world of limited resources, the innkeeper, like everyone else in the world, had to look out for himself and do what was in his best interest. Forced to choose between a paying customer and a peasant couple, he went with the money, and few people in our world would fault him.

What values do I hold to in my life that would be inhospitable to Jesus’ arrival?

I can identify with the innkeeper and the people of Bethlehem because I, too, have a self-preserving nature. When push comes to shove, as it always does in life, I also think of myself and my interests first, before I consider my impact on others. It is surprisingly easy to justify my selfishness to myself, especially since the rest of the world is doing it, but such a “me-first” mentality is exactly what caused the innkeeper to turn away the Guest of a lifetime.

For this nameless, hapless innkeeper, Jesus came knocking on his door in the form of an interruption to his well-laid plans—a great night of business when his inn was sold out—and he chose to stick to his plans. For me, Jesus might often show up in the same, inconvenient way, perhaps at the end of a long day of work when I had planned for some down time to rest. Whether it’s a student who wants to talk, a project that needs more manpower at the eleventh hour, or a friend who is hit by crisis, my self-preserving nature tells me to hold on to my agenda and pass up opportunities to encounter and serve Jesus. Even when it comes to ministry, if I’ve set aside a certain night to meet some people, do some ministry related work, and read, I am resistant to abandon those plans if a last-minute need comes up that I can meet. But I need to take warning from the people of Bethlehem that when I give in to that familiar voice of “save yourself,” I am doing it at the cost of turning away Jesus from my life.

Luke 2:10–12 & 16-20

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

..

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Think about the smells and uncleanliness of a stable. How does my heart resemble a stable, and what would it mean for me to “prepare him room” in my heart?

A stable is a dirty, smelly place. It is where animals live, creatures that leave a mess because they do as they please and do not share man’s desire for order and cleanliness. But my heart is like a stable because it is also full of unclean things. Jesus said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” On the outside I might look clean, but as Jesus pointed out, it is these things on the inside that make a man unclean. I can look inside my own heart and feel sickened by what I see there. My heart is a mess because I have lived for a long time doing as I please—in other words, like an animal—and when my desires run rampant, I make a mess of my life and other people’s lives.

If I am to make room for Jesus in my heart, then my self-centeredness and self-preservation have to go. Jesus is the King of kings, and I need to make him king in my life by putting my life at his disposal. As I do so, he will drive out the unclean things in my life until my heart becomes a place that is clean and fit for his presence. It means dying to myself–my instinctive nature to think of my interests first and ignore other people’s needs. It means pushing myself to give of my time, energy, and money to meet a clear need before me, even when it hurts.

What are some ways or excuses by which people refuse to prepare him room today?

People make all sorts of excuses for turning Jesus away, but in the end I think it comes down to fear—fear of losing control, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. “If I make room for Jesus, what will happen to the rest of my life? Will I still have room for the other things I want to hold on to, like my grades, career, possessions, etc.? Will Jesus ask me to do something challenging, uncomfortable, or scary?” Fear has a way of crowding out all concerns except for myself.

PRAYER

Write a prayer of thanks that Jesus wants to come into the messiness and dirtiness of sinful human hearts, expressing personal trust regarding Jesus willingness to turn my sinful self into a place of “glorifying and praising God.”

Lord, thank you for looking at our world and not turning away in disgust. You had every right to judge us, or at best leave us to wallow in our own sins, but you had compassion on us. You did not stay at a distance, but you chose to leave a perfect heaven to come into a broken world. Thank you for descending to enter the filthy stable of my heart. Thank you for not being repulsed by what you see so clearly in me, most of all my self-centeredness that still persist after all these years with you.

Lord, even though my heart is still a dirty place, full of things that must cause you revulsion, grief, or pain, thank you for taking up permanent residence here. Thank you for believing that there is still something you could salvage from my life, and for persevering in cleaning it up until it becomes a place fit for the King of kings. I confess that I have a hard time believing this is possible, but I know it is because of your personal, unconditional commitment to me. Lord, help me not to resist your attempts to clean up my life and drive out all that is displeasing to you, but rather help me obey you and follow your example. Help me take up my cross, putting to death my self-preserving nature so that I can have room in my life for you and all the people you want to bless through my life.

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