I would be concerned if, when getting out of bed each morning, I had no thought of communing with God. If the demands of my day kept me from He who alone provides my every breath (Acts 17:25). If the notifications on my smartphone spoke louder than the cries of my desperate soul. If the urge of extra sleep kept me from spending time with the One who has awakened my soul from death to life (Eph. 2:5).
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10 ESV).
Shortly before writing this, the apostle Paul described a time when he was “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2) and “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (v. 4). Now, in response to those revelations, Paul talks about a thorn that keeps him humble and dependent on Christ. And that’s what I want to write about today.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the coming of God into our world. Theologians call it the incarnation. It’s a fancy word representing both the humanity and divinity of Christ. God in human flesh. And while it may seem complicated to grasp, Christmas cannot happen without it.
The Bible says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).
Our history surrounding slavery never fails to stun me. What kind of evil man would whip another man senseless for the sake of money and power? What kind of evil man would ignore the suffering of another for the sake of keeping his own status? What kind of evil man would withhold from another man his needs in order to maintain his own luxurious lifestyle? I mean, how can so much evil and hatred fit within the human heart? These are the questions which haunt my mind. Until I realize that I’m that man.
I’ve never owned a slave. But my sin put Jesus Christ through the most dreadful torture known to man. Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah.
Nothing makes me feel farther from God than sin. The shame in my heart. The gunk in my mind. Something about sin causes me to play hide-and-seek with God. After all, His holiness and perfection seem all-too-scary for a darkened heart like mine to encounter.
That’s what sin does. It taints our worship by creating a barrier between us and God. And we need not look any further than the first book of the Bible to discover this truth.
In Genesis 2, Adam and Eve live in a perfect world. There’s no sin. There’s no death. There’s no cancer, divorce, or suffering. Everything is absolutely flawless. Because of this, there’s no shame. Verse 25 reads, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (ESV).