Christmas is the time of year we celebrate the advent of Jesus, but we should remember that he is coming again. We are all waiting in the midst of earth’s struggle for it. Heaven is waiting for it. Earth is waiting for it. Hell is waiting for. The universe is waiting for it. Yes, this Jesus is coming again. This is part of the hope and the song for the world at Christmas time.
We today live between the two advents. Our relation to the first creates our relationship to the second. To trust in the first is to wait for the second. So I must ask, as we go into the New Year, “How stands you and your soul between the two advents?” If Christ is welcomed into your house all year, then welcome the New Year with joy. However if your intention is to continue crucifying this Christ in the coming year by what you do, then I say stop your celebration, cease your joy, for it is blasphemy to crucify Jesus every day of the year and then celebrate Christmas.
If you have found room in your heart for him who no one had room for at his first coming, then this is truly a time for celebration. But if you have shut him out, I warn you that when he comes again he will do with you what you have done with him. He is coming again. Trust in the meaning of the first coming, so that you will not be ashamed at his second coming.
During the Christmas season we reread the Bible stories of Jesus birth, Mary’s song, Joseph’s yielding, the journey to Bethlehem, His simple birth, amazed shepherds, wise kings following a mysterious star, and the cunning evil of an old king. They are the cherished stories of Christmas.
There never has been another story such as that of Jesus’ birth. Never was a story so tender, so beautiful, so strong, or so pathetic, but if it is just a story it would have lost its power long ago. Men and women do not remake their lives, morals are not upheld, nations are not born, societies remade, and thoughts changed because of a story.
The world has not been transformed by the telling of the story of Jesus birth, any more than it is transformed by the telling of his death, and ascensions. What has transformed the world is a man named Jesus who conquered death, and his living presence in every successive century. What Jesus began to do two thousand years ago He has never ceased doing, and thus the world has been, and is being transformed.
This church is not gathered around the memory of a majestically beautiful story. We are here because the same living Christ is here, doing among us what he first did: Forgiving us, making us holy, and making us presentable before a Holy God.
Christ’s work goes on,
Traditions are the passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation. The Jewish character Tevye, in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, explains the role tradition plays in our lives. He says, “Life is tenuous, like a fiddler on the roof. How do we keep our balance? We keep our balance over the years with our traditions. How did these traditions get there? I don’t know. But because of our traditions, we know our position and what God wants us to do.” We all have traditions, and we give them great value. Like Tevye we believe our traditions tell us our position and what God wants us to do.
We all bring traditions into our Christian experience from our background. These traditions can have a powerful hold on us. A hold that we may never be able to break away from no matter how persuasive the arguments are for their abandonment might be. At times we can even find ourselves more devoted to some tradition than trusting God.
We need to recognize Jesus as the higher authority over our traditions, and it is only Jesus that saves us. Therefore, abandon yourself to Him, and measure your life only by His standards. If you are a Christian then show it. Be aware of any belief or tradition that is making you self-satisfied and abandon it, for anything that you promote, defend, or believe that is not of Jesus brings about death in either you, a family member, or a friend.
When do Christians have the freedom to do something, and when should we judge someone? Because of God’s grace the Christian has freedom, but we must not abuse our freedom and cause another to stumble. Here are the guidelines to our freedom that Paul gave to the Corinthian Church:
1. Will my freedom lead to slavery (1Cor. 6:12)
2. Will my freedom make me a stumbling block or a stepping-stone (8:13)?
3. Will my freedom build me up or tear me down (10:23)?
4. Will my freedom only please me, or will they glorify Christ (10:31)?
5. Will my freedom help win the lost to Christ or turn them away (10:33)?
The way we use our freedom and relate to others indicates whether we are mature in Christ or not.
If there comes an instance when you must judge then here is a guideline for judging that is based on Matt. 7:1-6:
1. Do not judge if you struggle with the same sin.
2. Do not judge if you struggle with a secret sin.
3. Do not judge if God has not spoken clearly.
4. Do not judge a non-Christian by Christian standards.
When you do judge:
Judge when God has spoken on a subject.
Judge what God says to judge.
Judge in God’s way.
Remember this thought about judging, which I have found to be true. The chief judgment that we have against somebody is actually the chief compliment that we have about our self.
Freedom and Judging,
In Romans 13 we are told about the imminent return of Jesus, and given three warnings. We are to: “Wake up,” (11)! “Put on the armor of light” (12). “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” (14).
“Wake up” and begin living the life God has planned for you. Stop repeating the same mistakes, making excuses, and being like the world. Wake up for our salvation draws neigh, and begin living a life filled with the glory of God. Wake up!
“Put on the armor of light,” or we are to clean up. We all are involved in things we know Jesus doesn’t want us doing. Do we really want Jesus, when he returns, to find us involved in something we are not supposed to be involved in? We are no longer children, though we are now children of God’s, so let’s once and for all make a decision to get those things out of our life that we know God wants gone. Clean up!
“Clothe yourself.” We are no longer children, we are an adults and adults clothe themselves, so it is time for us to grow up! Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish way behind me.” Grow up!
God loves us with agape love, the greatest of all loves. He bids you to wake up, clean up, and grow up and experience the life he has intended for you to have.
Time to Listen,
We are surrounded by a lot of tension these days. It is being brought on by many things such as: The 24 hour news cycle, political arguments, changing social dynamics, and our desires to have it all in a country that seems to have it all. The level of tension has gotten so bad that one report states that 1 in 5 American adults are on some type of anti-depressants, or anxiety medication.
How is a Christian to respond to this tense world we are living in? Get up tomorrow morning and do God’s Will. Go to your office, your business, your workshop, and your appointments because you realize that God is bidding you to go. Do not think any more like the world on the drudgery of your work. Cancel the word commonplace from your vocabulary. Keep His commandments in your mind, and your heart. If you will do this you will be protected from the tension, depression, and anxiety of those around you. Do this and your day will be transfigured from the lowliness of your job or task into a thing of glory and beauty for God.
In the home, office, the street, the store, the gym, and the hospital do each thing because it is God’s bidding, and you will see Him, in his glory, toiling with you through your day. And you will know that in your doing his bidding that you are building His city; you are building His kingdom. Simply do this and your life will be changed.
We returned to the white chapel last Sunday for our services. The reason for the return was to celebrate the buildings 50th anniversary at its present location. The chapel was built so someone would have a place to come and tell God’s side of the story, and speak about the Kingdom of God. After fifty years the building, for the most part, sits empty. Sad!
Pioneer Village is open five days a week, and during those five days visitors to the village make their way back to the distant corner of village where the chapel sits, and look upon it with nostalgia, but they see it as a building whose time has gone by. On occasion someone will rent the building for a wedding, but usually it sits unused, the pulpit vacant, the bell calling worshipers to service remains un-rung, and the pews empty. Sad!
I thought of the building this week and how it, in many ways, speaks of the condition of the Christian Church in America. The American Church today is like the chapel for it is thought of when someone wants to get married, when there is a funeral, when Easter and Christmas rolls around, or when there is an emergency. The pulpit is not empty, for there is still a message to deliver. There are bells still calling worshippers to services, but the pews remain empty. Sad!
The Church Neglected,
Today we are breaking from our normal church service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the white chapel. Anniversaries are a good thing, for it gives us the opportunity to think about things of the past and to measure our present. Paul wrote, “Think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you,” (Rom 12:3b). He says we are to think, and measure.
The word, “Think,” in the Greek language is phroneo, and it means to have a particular mind set. An example of phroneo in the English language is heard when we say, “Don’t think so highly of yourself.” Paul is telling us to think honestly about who we are in Christ.
Paul said we are to, “Measure,” our thinking. What are we to measure against? In Washington D.C. at the Department of Weights and Measures is a length of metal that is exactly one yard long. It has 36 inches mark on it as well as 3 feet. It is the standard against which all other yards, feet, and inches are too compared to. Anything that does not measure up to this standard is not an inch, foot, or a yard; it is something else. Our measure is J.C. and we are to measure what we say, do, act, speak, or think to Him. Anything we do that does not measure up to Him is something other than Christianity.
In our service today we will think about Christ, our measure, and then look at ourselves, and respond to what we see.
President Trump visited Pittsburgh, Pa., this week to pay his respects to those in the Jewish community who were killed by a deranged gunman. And interesting contrast was noted. The synagogue’s rabbi was appreciative, and respectful to the president. A short distance away a female Presbyterian pastor repeatedly shouted at the president, “Everybody is welcome here. You’re not welcome here.” She sounded deranged.
Theology is the doctrine of what is true and what is false about God. Ethics is the doctrine of what is right and what is wrong. Duty and doctrine always go together, for it is not enough for us to understand explanations about God, we must translate our learning into living. We must show, by our daily living, that we trust God’s Word.
We unfortunately are living in the post-modern world, and one of the characteristics of this world is it disavows truth. Truth has been replace by feelings, and therefore, the answer to an ethical question is, “If it feels right, it is right.” A response to someone’s unsubstantiated testimony is, “I believe your truth.” Yuck, too wishy-washy for me.
In this post-modern world there is a lot of crazy talk, vitriol, and anger, like what was witnessed in Pittsburgh. It is designed by Satan to confuse you and confound you, and separate you from real truth. As Christians we walk in the sandals of the carpenter. This means His theology and His doctrine are ours, and we are to translate that theology and doctrine into all we do.
In His Sandals,
A doxology is a hymn of highest praise to God for his work. Paul once sang this doxology, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” Rom 11:33-36).
Think about “The depth … of God.” The word depth in the Greek is an expression for an inexhaustible abundance. The word applied to God means God is a bottomless or infinite in resource of riches, wisdom, and knowledge. In thinking of the depth of God it is proper for us to consider His riches, His wisdom, and His knowledge in His dealings with us, for have they not been, and are they not an inexhaustible abundance?
We cannot fully understand how this is all possible, but just because we do not understand how it is possible for God to be involved in our lives does not mean we should reject Him. We like Paul should contemplate the plan of God in our lives. With such a thought, our hearts should also be filled with awe, and we in turn should responds with our own hymn of highest praise for the things God has done in our lives.