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.
Unfortunately to many Christians can be labeled as, “In-betweeners.” What is an
in-betweener? A good example is the time between when Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt, and their arrival in the Promised Land. The Israelites were saved from slavery in Egypt, but along the way to the Promised Land they were never satisfied or trusted God. They kvetched all the way to the Promise Land, and because of their complaining and lack of trust they lost many blessings. They lived in between the promises of God.
An in-betweener Christian lives between Christmas and Easter. As someone at Bible study humorously pointed out on Tuesday, they are not Christians but Chreasters. An
in-betweener believes in Jesus birth, and they believe in His death, but they are never
convicted to the point of trusting God completely. They never enter into the real power and glory of the resurrection. Sadly this is an unfulfilled Christian life, for many blessing from God are missed.
Rom 6:5 indicates our union with Christ assures our future resurrection when we die. But Romans 6:4 teaches us that we share His resurrection power today. I like what Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above … For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3). If you have been raised with Christ stop being an in-betweener, and set your heart on things above.
What is behind the death of Jesus? The Bible says, “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed, (Isa. 53:5). This means that God saw sin, and not wanting anyone to be lost gathered into His heart, to His own suffering, to His own pain, and to His own wounding the penalty for sin.
The Bible never teaches Jesus died to persuade God to love, nor does it teach that God was impassive and never felt pain while some person endured pain so He could be appeased. The Bible teaches that God was in Christ. Therefore, every word Jesus spoke was the word of God. Every work He did was a work of God. Every tear he shed was a tear of God. The blood he poured out was symbolically the very blood of God.
Now I see the God of absolute truth, without violating Himself, made it possible to forgive the sinner. The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins is a doctrine of a just God who can and does forgive, not by putting the punishment upon someone else, but by gathering up into his own heart the weight of sin, and suffering its punishment Himself.
This is the Gospel: God can be just and the justifier of any man or woman who believes in Jesus. Through the pain and passion of God sin has been canceled, made not to be, and made no more by placing our trust in Jesus.
It is hard for us to understand the strain of Paul’s ministry, for he did not have the comforts we have today. Every day Paul relied on God for his food, a place to clean up, a change of clothes, and a place to lay his head. He crossed seas during storms, walked over mountain ranges that were not yet free of snow, was jailed, beaten, left for dead, and chased from towns.
If Paul were here we would ask him, “Why the hurry, why the urgency, why the suffering?” And he would say, “I am a debtor,” (Rom 1:14 KJV).
I am a debtor are the words of every Christian Church. The Church is in debt to the world. Not that the world has given the Church anything, but Jesus has given the Church something for the world. Yes, it is true the world hates God, but it is truer that God loves the world. Yes it is true that the world will not have God, but it is truer that God wants the world. And for this reason God has given the world the Church. If the Church appropriates Christ’s Gospel, and sings her songs about it, thanks God in her worship for what He has done for her, and stops there, she is playing the harlot, she is prostituting her very nature to base uses. This is harsh language, but until the Church takes the Gospel and gives it to the world we are dishonest, for we, like Paul, are in debt.
An old German theologian once said, “There is nothing in the universe so much like God than the human soul.” Read the creation story in Genesis and you will agree, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him,” (Gen 1:27). There is something in man that response to something in God. It is a mystical link that no other animal has. In order for us to understand ourselves, others, and life we must first come to an intimate knowledge of God.
However, there is something wrong with us. We were created to have a relationship with God, but we don’t want God. How is it that the creature who was created to know God, knows so little of God? It is because of sin. Because of sin we have replaced God with our imaginations.
We have lost our sense of God and who He is. We need to get back to God. To do that we need to let God be God. By that I mean we have to accept the fact that we were created in His image, and not the other way around.
We have assembled this morning to worship God. It is our goal to rise up in a Spirit-filled worship, with feet firmly planted in the Scriptures, to see God through our faith in Jesus, and look on God in adoring wonder and amazement. Join us as we rise and place God on His throne.
Reconnecting with God,
When God decided to make man He said, “Let us make man in Our image,” (Gen 1:26). This means God gave man some of His own characteristics, characteristics that separated him from the animals, things like: The ability to think, to use language, solve complicated problems, the curiosity to discover, and He put eternity into the heart and mind of mankind. Then Adam sinned and the special fellowship we had with God was broken, and man was cast out from the presence of God. But man still bore God’s image, and therefore, man will never be complete until that fellowship is restored.
Today’s average Christian doesn’t seem to be making much progress toward restoring that lost fellowship. Today’s Christian is converted, joins the Church, and five years later he is right where he started, and ten years later he has fared no better. For a true seeker of God that will not do, for the testimony of a true seeker is, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirst for God, for the living God,’ (Ps 42:1-2). That is the testimony of a true seeker after God, and nothing is going to slow their progress.
Something has been lost in the churches, so they offer something shiny on the outside to pretend that there is something real on the inside. But you cannot fool a true seeker of God with this kind of thing, for they know better.
Here to restore what was lost,