Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Christmas is for Christians ..."

"Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.  Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son.  And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (I John 5:10-12).

"Merry Christmas!" to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ ... and to all who do not yet know Him, may His Spirit open your hearts to receive Him as Savior by confessing your sins and turning in faith to put your hope in Jesus, believing that He suffered God's wrath against your sin on the cross and rose again to offer life to all who believe.

So why the title, "Christmas is for Christians"?  And why today, on Christmas??  My answer is:  What better day to offer to people the love of God that sent His eternal Son into the world so that those who believe might have life?!  You see, there is a lie that has been spread and is being spread throughout the world that the "spirit of Christmas" is the spirit of love and forgiveness and hope and peace and joy.  "What's wrong with THAT?" you might ask.  What's wrong with that is that it leaves out the one thing that makes all of that possible ... it leaves out the One whose birthday we are supposed to be celebrating!  It leaves out JESUS!!

Just this morning, on Christmas day, I was watching the "TODAY" show and host, Matt Lauer, asked two pastors, a husband and wife team, some questions about "the real meaning of Christmas."  Once again I was saddened to see them avoid talking about the real meaning of Christmas.  They talked about a lot of things, and barely mentioned in passing someone named Mary and Joseph, and, oh yes, a baby whom they named Jesus.  They spoke of forgiveness and love and reconciliation, but missed the entire reason for His coming.

When the angel announced Jesus' upcoming birth to Joseph, he said that Mary would "give birth to a son" and "give Him the name JESUS, because He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus came as true God in human flesh in order to be able to be mankind's representative (the second "Adam"), in order to bear God's just judgment against your sin and mine.  Today there is no message of sin, no mention of upcoming judgment ... only talk of God's love for everybody and the "spirit of Christmas."  Today even many pastors have become instruments of Satan to deceive because they have fallen for the message of "love" without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  "Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness" (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

But what about John 3:16?  What about "God so loved the world that He gave His own Son ..."?  Continue with the rest of the verse:  " ... that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life."  Jesus goes on to say, in verses 17-18:  "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only son" ... JESUS!  The Apostle Peter, preaching in Jerusalem shortly after receiving the Holy Spirit to empower him and to give him wisdom to understand these things, proclaimed "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Christmas is for Christians ... for the true Church ... for those who by God's grace have been born again by His Spirit, who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who have, by an act of their new heart, mind and will, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their only Savior, and acknowledged Him as their Lord, their Master, to whom they now willingly and joyfully give their lives.  Only those who know and love Jesus, the Christ, have a reason to celebrate His coming.  The true celebration of Christmas has been obscured by the secular celebration of "the holiday season," but those of us who have been blessed by God to have our eyes opened see Jesus as "the reason for the season" ... not only as the baby in a manger, but the One who is our risen and exalted Lord, who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven and is soon to return!

This Jesus said to His disciples:  "I am the gate for the sheep. ... whoever enters through Me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:9-10).  This life can only be received by believing in Jesus.  Those who propose that God's love covers every person, no matter what they believe, no matter what "god" they serve, no matter what religion they proclaim, is false, is wrong, it is a lie ... and it is leaving millions in spiritual death that will ultimately lead to judgment and eternal death.  Jesus DOES offer life - eternal life, to all who BELIEVE.  In this same conversation Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. ... I lay down my life for the sheep. ... " (John 10:14-15).  And later in John 10, speaking to some of the Jews who were demanding, "If you are the Christ, tell us plainly" (vs. 24) ...  Jesus answered:

"I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:25-28).  Once again Jesus makes it clear that only those who believe in Him receive God's gift of eternal life.  In John 6:29, Jesus says, "The work of God is this:  to believe in the One He has sent."  No one can receive God's gift of eternal life without hearing God's Word, confessing their sin and believing in Jesus.  Any other message, no matter how loving and kind and good it sounds, or who brings it, is true.

So today, on this celebration of the birth of a Savior, I offer you ... no, GOD offers you, a reason to celebrate:  Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior has come.  He was born, He preached the good news of God's kingdom, and then He went to the cross to pay the penalty for sin, rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Is He YOUR Savior?  Have you received Him as your Lord?  Have you BELIEVED in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone for forgiveness, believing that through faith in Him your sins have been forgiven and that God has credited you with HIS perfect righteousness so that you now stand before God justified ... holy, perfect in His sight by faith?

THIS is the message of the Gospel and the reason we as Christians continue to proclaim it throughout the world.  We believe that God's OFFER is for all people and that God will use His Word, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to draw those who are His to Himself. TODAY, if you will hear His voice, you can receive this gift and KNOW that you have His life within you - eternal life.  Your life can change, today!  John wrote in I John 5:13:  "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life!"  Yes, you can KNOW, not by thinking you are good enough to please God, that you have done enough good things to earn God's forgiveness, but by believing in His One and only Son, Jesus Christ; by receiving His grace by faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Let me close, then, with this motivation for those who can and must truly celebrate Christmas, the gift of God's Son for our salvation ...

To ALL, God gives this promise:  "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved" (Romans 10:13).  So to you who are truly Christians, followers of the Christ, on this Christmas day, remember this:  "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching (proclaiming) to them?  And how can they preach (proclaim) unless they are sent?  As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Romans 10:14-15).  YOU have been sent by the living God as ambassadors of Christ's kingdom to proclaim the Gospel to those around you!

While many within the Body of Christ today have been persuaded that it is enough to show people God loves them by doing good things (which we are called to do!) ... we must proclaim the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ!  We must tell people that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  We must call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that it is the ONLY way for people to escape the coming judgment of God.  Love compels us to offer people Jesus!!

May you have a Merry Christmas as you celebrate God's love and grace to YOU, and may His Spirit move you to renew your commitment to proclaim this good news every day in the coming year, that you may be God's instrument to call someone (or even many!) out of darkness and into His glorious light.  To GOD be the glory!!

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