I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!
Scripture: Luke 1:49
Notice that in Mary’s song, the Magnificat, she expresses amazement that God is bringing to fruition his plan of salvation for the world through her. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for her, personally: “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”
What about you? Have you personally experienced the gospel of Jesus Christ as good news?
I have. And I’d like to share one way that the gospel has been good news for me:
I am someone who is a naturally fearful person. For example, growing up, I was afraid of dying in a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union—Russia. In fact, I was fairly certain that I was going to die in a nuclear war.
The early eighties, after all, were a scary time for fearful kids like me. For example, when I was in eighth grade there was a made-for-TV movie called The Day After starring Jason Robards, which imagined the world after the Russians dropped the bomb on us. For weeks, news about the movie was all over newspapers, magazines, and TV news.
Sting had a hit song about nuclear war, in which he wondered “if the Russians love their children, too.” We played video games like “Missile Command.” Remember this game? You’re in command of a missile silo, and your job is to protect six cities from being hit by fast-approaching nuclear missiles. And these missiles just keep coming, wave after wave. You have to shoot them out of the sky. And no one wins in the long run: eventually all your cities get reduced to rubble!
Around the same time, President Reagan was talking about building a real-life “missile command” system that could destroy Russian nuclear missiles before they landed on U.S. soil!
We also watched movies like WarGames, in which a young Matthew Broderick is a computer prodigy who hacks into the Pentagon computers and nearly launches World War III—by accident.
And you may be wondering, “Brent, you’re a pastor now! Instead of being afraid, why didn’t you just place your faith in God, and trust that he would take care of you?” After all, Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus also said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’” In other words, there is a healthy kind of fear that we’re supposed to have, and it’s the fear of the Lord, which comes from believing and trusting in him as our Savior and Lord. If we do that, we don’t need to worry about all these other things! God will take care of us!
And I believe these words are true from the bottom of my heart now. But back then… I didn’t know Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I wasn’t saved. So I was even afraid that when I died, I wouldn’t be prepared meet the Lord, because I hadn’t yet received the gift of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life that he freely offers us.
But that changed one weekend in February 1984, when I went on a winter youth retreat to Black Mountain, North Carolina, with my church youth group.
The gospel was preached in a way that finally made sense to me: I understood that I was a sinner whose sin had separated me from a holy God. As scripture says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I understood that because of my sins, I deserved death and hell.
But just as importantly, I also understood that God loved me—that God loves all of us—way too much to let us die in our sins. He wants to save us. He wants to have a relationship with us—both now, in this life, and in eternity. I understood that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I received this gift of eternal life that weekend, and I’ve never been the same. For one thing, I’m not nearly as fearful as I used to be. I have peace of mind and a sense of security and belonging. And it’s because of Jesus.
Along with Mary, I can say, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”