This will probably be the next to last post until after Christmas.
Though it’s almost the last, I hope it’s won’t be the least. It’s about something which will still be here long after the tree is down, the lights and ornaments are put away and the Santa figures and snow men are stored back in the attic or shed.
It’s about what the angel told Joseph after it was discovered his affianced wife was pregnant,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:20, 21.
Christmas is about salvation.
“He will save His people from their sins.”
Some folks focus on this statement, which they see as an indication of what might be called the definite purpose of salvation. They will always emphasize that Jesus died to save His people.
Others, with what they consider a wider view, proclaim “Whosoever will”.
Both are true.
Neither of them, in and of itself, is the Gospel.
You see, the Gospel isn’t so much about “who,” but “how.”
Even the salvation of “whosoever” is limited to those who believe.
And even that is limited: “whosoever believes in Him..,” John 3:16.
And how does He “save His people”? Through faith in Himself.
Yes, but can’t God just “forgive” sin? After all, He’s a God of love.
True, but He’s also a God Who is holy, righteous and just.
His holiness requires absolute perfection in our dealing and views of Him. His righteousness demands absolute perfection in our dealings with ourselves and with others. His justice says there are consequences if we fail in any of the areas.
In other words, He requires perfection in life.
And who of us can truthfully say that we haven’t failed – times beyond counting?
Regardless of how we may dress things up or explain them, the sad truth still is, We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.
But because God IS also a God of love, He sent His Son to remedy that situation.
His Son, Jesus, was born as a helpless babe, in order that He might grow and develop and mature and experience everything there is to life. The fact that He never drove a Chevrolet or had a facebook account has nothing to do with it. These things, and all the other modern “conveniences,” are secondary to life, which has to do with how we react to ourselves, to others and to God.
He’s the only One who could truthfully say, “I always do those things which please Him,” John 8:29.
That goodness of life, that righteousness, is what we need if we’re ever to stand uncondemned before God. I used this phrase in talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, but I may as well have talked to the chair he was sitting on. He had no idea what I was talking about. During our conversation, he told me that he thought he had a pretty good chance of making it to Paradise.
I was talking with a young lady and I asked her if she loved the Lord with all her heart, mind and soul. She replied with an emphatic, “Yes, I do!” I resisted the temptation to tell her that when she got to heaven, she could go up to the throne and say, “Move over, Jesus. Now there are two of us.”
It’s sad that we can think that we’ve “got it,” when we don’t even come close!
All that we have is unrighteousness.
Even our best is bad.
Isaiah 64:6, though it’s Israel’s lament, could just as well be ours, But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
“Our righteousnesses” – those things we think are on the positive side of the ledger, the “good” we do, are just like “filthy rags” in the sight of God. These were menstruous cloths, or the rags a leper might use to dress his sores. Not very pretty, but graphic.
And we all know that we really have very few “righteousnesses” when it comes right down to it. If our “best” is this foul and disgusting in the sight of God, what must our “unrighteousnesses” be??
I’ve made the comment before that Jesus is the only historical figure who’s never allowed to grow up. He’s always viewed just as “the babe in the manger.” Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday – that’s how I can remember it. This year, there was a news item about the observation of the anniversary of his death. It was a very short item, but it still was from the standpoint of what he had become, not just that he was born.
Somebody made the point that we do celebrate the death of Christ. That’s true, but still, the two events aren’t really connected in our minds. We normally don’t think of His death at this time of the year and we won’t think of His birth next Spring. And what happened between those two events is just as necessary as the events themselves.
What happened was His life – that perfect, sinless, righteous life.
That life we can never live ourselves.
And yes, He died.
Though He had no sin of His own, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
I don’t even know how to do justice to that verse! It says that Jesus took to Himself all the foulness of sin, all the filth of sin, that leprous cloth, that menstruous cloth, as if it were His own, and God treated Him as if it were His own. Jesus felt the full weight of the wrath of an offended holy, righteous and just God. We don’t ever think of God like that in our superficial and sentimental Christianity, but Jesus experienced every ounce of it for those for whom He died.
But just as there came a time for Him to be born, and a time for Him to die, so there must come a time when we, too, must come, not to that cradle, for there is no salvation there, but to the Cross. It is only there that our sin question will find an answer.
The Apostle Paul answered one such individual, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.
“To believe” means “to trust,’ to so completely trust that if He were to fail – and He cannot! – if He were to fail, there would be no other escape from our sins. There IS no other escape!
“That we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
There are two sides to the coin of salvation. One side is that Christ took our sins.
The other side is that God gives us Christ’s righteousness. He imputes it to us, credits it to our account. This is called justification. In addition, He treats us as if we were righteous, just as He treated Jesus as if He were sinful. The work of the Spirit is to show some evidence of that righteousness in our lives, lives which show conversion, no matter how imperfectly it may show. This is called sanctification. Paul wrote that we are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10. The Spirit’s job is to make sure that we look something like it.
Oh, that today, God might do His work through the Holy Spirit, that there might be some, perhaps even you, who come to Bethlehem to find that One Who was born in order that He might live and die for sinners.
Christmas is serious!