Friday, December 12, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-12 [Apostle's Creed] A Virgin

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." Luke1:34-37

The Creed tells us that Jesus "was born of the Virgin Mary."

Strangely enough there are many people who have trouble with this.
"Mary a virgin? Sure! Pull the other leg!"
Some have even tried to turn their rejection of the virgin birth into a positive thing, by saying that the merciful Messiah came into the context poverty and brokenness of a young girl who'd landed up with a "bun in the oven."

But Mary was a virgin - The Bible says it - I believe it - and it _is_ important. Not because it makes Mary special, but because it makes the conception and birth special.

If Mary hadn't been a virgin and the child was actually Joseph's then we lose a critical concept that Paul was at pains to make in Romans 5 where he talks about Jesus as the "second Adam." Paul points out that all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are prone to the same failures and sinful desires. (Irenaeus called this "original sin")

We needed a new start. Jesus, though born of Mary, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not through human intercourse. He is not part of the chain of human brokenness.

The other important facet of the Virgin Birth is that Jesus is both fully human and fully God. He's born of a very human Mary (who wasn't special or sinless) but He's conceived by God. He's fully human so that He understands our situation and is able to die in our place and He is fully God so that He can be without sin (unlike the first Adam) and that He can bear the weight and sin and death on the cross.

The Virgin Birth isn't about Mary - It's about Jesus and we should recognise how important this is: It means He is eligible and able to take our place and die for our sins. HALLELUJAH!
This brings us to the end of the devotions for 2014 - I will pick up the creed again in the new year. I pray you will have a blessed CHRIST-mas and know God's guidance in the new year. Thank you for sharing in this devotional journey with me this year.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Thursday, December 11, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-11 [Apostle's Creed] Conceived

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!

Sometimes we think that the start of Jesus' life was the birth in Bethlehem. But Jesus didn't "begin" at Bethlehem - He has existed eternally with the Father and the Spirit.

When the Creed tells us that "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit" this doesn't indicate His beginning but it tells us of His incredible sacrificial transformation. In military parlance, a soldier is "inserted" into the area where the rescue mission must be performed. Jesus becoming incarnated in Mary's womb was the start of the ultimate Rescue Mission.

Paul, quoting from an early church hymn describes it like this: "He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man..."

The writer to the Hebrews put it like this:
"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;'" (Heb10:5)

Do you remember the scene in the movie Aladdin, where the Genie describes having "AWESOME POWER!" (while he looms as a six story high giant) and then he shrinks and curls up inside the lamp and says "itty bitty living space!"

Think about Jesus (the co-creator of the universe who lit the fires of the sun and knows each star by name) who by the power of the Holy Spirit is stripped of glory, majesty and power and is implanted in Mary's womb: Limited, Vulnerable, Humble, and Fragile.

This is love!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-09 [Apostle's Creed] Our Lord

...if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans10:9

It's not enough to believe that He was a good man or a great guru...
It's not enough to believe that He was a great role model and teacher...
It's not enough to believe that He was a noble martyr...
It's not even enough to believe that His death saved us.

We also have to believe that He is LORD.
The Greek word "kurios" means "master" - it requires loyalty, obedience and fealty.

The idea of confessing or declaring that "Jesus is Lord" is reflected twice in the New Testament (here in Rom9:10 and 1Cor12:3) it reflects a real issue that the early church faced: As the cult of the Roman Emperor developed, it became a likely scenario that members of the Roman Empire would be required to bow before a statue of Caesar and burn incense in his name and worship him as "lord."

The Early Christians refused to do this.

This could result in a martyr's death, imprisonment, beatings, loss of business or rejection by society. After Nero the persecutions against known Christians became more and more severe, but Christians steadfastly clung to the confession: "Jesus IS LORD" (not Caesar, not Greek Philosophy, not Jewish Legalism, but only Jesus.)

Declaring that "Jesus is Lord" is to draw a line in the sand.
It is to declare a new loyalty and a new direction.
It is to place oneself under His management.
It is to offer ourselves AND all our stuff AND all our time to His direction and purpose.
It's to make Him the boss of my life.
His way - not mine.

It is to say: "I am not my own - I have been bought with a price - I will honour God with my body" (1Cor6:20)

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Friday, December 5, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-05 [Apostle's Creed] Only Son

Apologies for the missed devs for Wed & Thu - I took a bit of leave....
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John3:16

We believe in "Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord..."

In Genesis 22 (the story of Abraham who is asked to sacrifice Isaac) we read: "Then God said, `Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.`"

We know that the account ends with Isaac being spared, but in the account of God's dealing with humanity, Jesus the Son is not spared: He is _given_:

1. Given in the Incarnation to experience humanity as He "made Himself nothing and taking on the form and nature of a servant. (Phil.2)

2. Given in the Crucifixion to pay the price for our sin. (Rom.6:23)

3. Given in the Ascension to live forever praying for us. (Heb7:24-25)

But I'd like to think about the "Only Son" a little more...
While it is true that you and I are adopted as sons and daughters of God, we are not sons and daughters in the same way as Jesus is God's Son. Jesus is in unique relation with the Father.
- He is the beloved Son in whom the Father is pleased.
- He is the unique expression of who the Father is.
- He is uniquely obedient - even to death on the cross.

When I became a parent, I along with Abraham, began to understand a little bit of how difficult it might be to give up my only son. When I believe in Jesus who is God's only Son, I believe in a God who loves and is loved and then shares and sacrifices this love for me who has not loved Him anywhere near as faithfully...

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-02 [Apostle's Creed] Two big names. angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us." Matthew1:19-23

Joseph's plans to divorce Mary were upended by the angel who brings him startling news.

There are some interesting facets to this passage:
1. The angel addresses Joseph as "son of David." This alerts us to the distinct possibility that whatever message Joseph was going to receive was going to have something to do with the Messiah who was expected to come from the line of King David.

2. The name Immanuel, which means "God with us", is also used in a prophecy in Isaiah which also relates to the hope of a coming Messiah. This is what Matthew is referring to in v.22-23

3. The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew "Yehoshua" which means "God (Yahweh) saves."

The creed affirms that you and I "believe in Jesus Christ..."
The word "Christ" - means "Messiah" or "anointed One" and indicates the long awaited God-intervention into the human predicament. The name "Jesus" tells us that He is the Saviour. He's the long-expected Rescuer and Redeemer.

This expectation has been present in Old Testament thinking since God promised Eve that her offspring would crush the serpent's head. It is an expectation that became clearer and more ardent as it became evident that the Law could not save and that the human predicament could not be altered by human effort alone.

To believe in _Jesus_ _Christ_ is to affirm that we believe in One who saves and and we recognise that this was God's plan all along.

Not a spur-of-the-moment but a long-term plan.
Not a general intervention but a personal one.
Not a plan but a person.
Not a religion but a relationship.

Theo Groeneveld theo @