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Coming home from Sunday school during December, little Cindi cried out, “Mommy! My teacher says I drew the most unusual Christmas picture she has ever seen!” Her mom studied the picture for a moment and concluded–yep, it was indeed a very peculiar Christmas picture. With gentle, motherly wisdom, her mother asked, “This is wonderfully drawn, but why have you made all these people riding on the back of an airplane?”
“It’s the flight into Egypt,” the little girl said with a hint of disappointment that the picture’s meaning was not immediately obvious. “Oh,” the mother replied, and then asked cautiously, “Well, who is this mean-looking man at the front?”
“That’s Pontius, the pilot,” Cindi said, now visibly impatient. “I see. And here you have Mary, Joseph and the baby,” the mother volunteered. Studying the picture silently for a moment she summoned the courage to ask, “But who is this fat man sitting behind Mary?”
The little girl sighed. “Can’t you tell? That’s Round John Virgin!” I love her sincerity. She is a lot like many people I talk to–they’re very sincere about Christmas, but definitely mixed up. They’re often sincere about Christ, but very confused about why Christ was born and what bearing it has on their life.
Christmas is the celebration of a desperate rescue. Christmas is the hand that grabs you as the branch you’re hanging onto breaks and you begin a fall to your death. Christmas is the appearance of the SEAL team just before ISIS is about to behead you. Christmas is that dramatic, Christmas is that crucial, Christmas is that significant.
We’re the ones who’ve softened Christmas. We blurred Christmas with Santas, peppermint mochas, cute babies, presents, colorful lights, and petting zoos. But Christmas is when Christ came to rescue us. And He did more than any SEAL team could do since Christ was born to rescue us from an eternal punishment!
God was born as a man so He could die in our place. The cute little baby was born to die so we could be free. Little Jesus was born to bear God’s wrath for our sins. Again we’ve softened Christmas. Decorations, traditions, family gatherings, special foods tend to distract us from the reality of our desperate need.
Every one of us in this room is eternal. Each one of us in this room will live forever after we die, but because of our rebellion from the God who made us and the choices we have made to disobey God, called sin, we’re not allowed into God’s presence after we die. God is holy, righteous, perfect, without sin–so God cannot allow sinners in His presence. And because our sin has so corrupted us, we would not choose to turn to Christ, submit to Christ, nor follow Christ on our own.
In fact the Bible affirms in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sin.” Dead refers to the stench of a corpse–a person so dead they smell. There’s absolutely no life. And corpses have no ability to choose. People are blind and deaf to their own sinful condition and to their only hope of rescue–turning to Christ.
This is why Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Why must God do the choosing? Because we can’t. You say, “Wait a minute–I chose God!” But let me ask you, “Was it you or God who enabled you? Did you choose Him, or were you dead, then God awakened you in such a manner you could respond by putting your faith in Christ?”
You see, when you’re dead you can’t choose–you can’t respond. There are theologians today who think even though you’re dead, you are still “sort of alive” and can respond. Pray this prayer, make this decision and you’re good with God. They hold the same theological belief as Miracle Max in the movie, The Princess Bride–you remember his theology?
After they bring Wesley’s dead body to Miracle Max, Inigo says, “What can you do for him, he is dead?” And Max mocks Inigo–he says, “It just so happens, your friend here is just mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead–mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”
“Go through his clothes and look for loose change!”
Friends, the Bible says, “Apart from Christ you are all dead.” Genesis 3 describes our downfall–Adam and Eve chose to sin, and their decision affected the entire human race. Romans 5:12 says, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Each of you is cursed with original sin–you are not sinners because you sin, you sin because you are sinners.
Second Chronicles 6:36, “For there is no man who does not sin.” Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” Romans 3:10 to 12, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; 12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. ”
Come on friends, how many of you have lied? Stolen? Yelled? Gossiped? Hated? Lusted? Perverts–God must judge sin. God must condemn and punish all who have sinned. And people are not mostly dead, they’re totally dead–all dead, spiritual zombies who don’t know they are actually dead. So what does a dead man need? Life! And true life is only found in Christ. John 10:10b, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”
That’s what makes this season so awesome. You and I are dead, desperate, helpless and hopeless. But God loved His children so much, He made a desperate rescue. And the good news (the Gospel) is God did the rescuing. Every other religion on the planet tells you how you can rescue yourself. Following Mary, Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, or Joseph Smith are all about human achievement–what you can do to make it to Heaven (and be right with God).
Friends, every religion, can’t be right. That’s like saying, “Dial any number and my phone will ring.” Christ and the Bible dogmatically declare you will not make it to Heaven, nor be right with God through anything you do nor any religion you follow. Your righteousness, your niceness, your good deeds are like filthy menstrual rags to a holy God, Isaiah 64:6. Nice people don’t go to Heaven–only forgiven people make it.
God must rescue you, and that is what Christ did. Christianity is not a religion of human achievement, but a faith in divine accomplishment. Christmas proclaims God’s plan is now at hand. True eternal rescue is possible. Why? God became a man–God was born a baby. The little baby Mary bore was her Creator, and she confessed later her only hope of salvation. Christ was God in a bod.
He was God, so He was perfect and could satisfy God. He was man, so He could take our place and bear our sin. The wages of sin was death and Christ was born to die. And out of a love for those who rebelled against Him, what the Father did to His Son was shocking. And out of love for His chosen children, what the Son did for us was gritty–not soft Santa.
God was born as a baby, lived a perfect life as a man, ministered publicly for 3½ years, then offered Himself as a sacrifice to die for the sins you and I committed. And Jesus Christ didn’t just die–He was punished on the cross for our sins. God the Father poured out His wrath for your sin upon God the Son–the very eternal wrath for sin you deserve forever in Hell was dumped on Christ, poured on Him for you.
Jesus literally suffered your forever punishment in Hell so you would not have to. The perfect Son of God took your punishment for your sin. But understand, He wasn’t spanked for you, He wasn’t hung for you, He didn’t sit in the electric chair for you, nor did He take the lethal injection for you on a table. No, on the cross, Jesus Christ took the eternal torment, weeping and gnashing, burning, darkness of forever in Hell for you.
God did it cause you were dead in your sins and unable. God did it cause no one will ever be good enough, nice enough, or religious enough to stand in His presence in Heaven. God did it because it was His perfect plan. And because Christ had no sin of His own, three days later He rose from the dead, then ascended to Heaven.
So now Jesus Christ stands as the only way of salvation. He is the only way you will ever be right with God. Christ is your only hope of Heaven. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” The Bible affirms in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Not Mary, Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, nor Joe—no other way.
Are you sick of your sin and your sinful life? Your sin is bad enough for God to send you to Hell forever. Are you tired of hurting yourself and crushing others? Are you weary of your lust, anger, hard heart, hurtful tongue, greed, envy, jealousy, selfishness, impatience, and pride? Then cry out for God to open your eyes. Plead with Him for mercy, grace and love so you can turn from your sin in repentance and put your life in Christ’s hands in faith. Not a mere decision, but a transformation. Not something you do, but God does to you. Plead for Christ to give you salvation.
What God will do when salvation is true? There are a lot of people pretending to be Christians. There are a lot of people claiming to be believers who are not.
When salvation is GENUINE God will JUSTIFY you
God places your sin on Christ and punishes Christ for all your sin–past, present and future. Then God places Christ’s perfect righteousness on you so you can actually stand in God’s presence now and forever in Heaven–not because you did anything, but because Christ did everything.
When salvation is GENUINE God will TRANSFORM you
Becoming a Christian is not a decision you made once, it’s a radical internal rebirth God does. The Word of God says in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again.” God caused us to be born again. All things become new. You may look the same, but you are not the same.
You are given a new nature indwelt by God Himself–so much so, you have a new heart that wants to obey, wants to follow God’s Word. Like Romans 6:17, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart.” Christians don’t follow a bunch of legalistic rules to earn favor with their God.
Christians have a new heart that wants to follow His Word in order to please Christ. You want to follow Christ and do what He says. John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” True Christians follow Christ by obeying His Word cause they want to. You are transformed.
When salvation is GENUINE God will FILL your heart
Christ is the path to knowing and giving genuine LOVE,
to experiencing and sharing total FORGIVENESS,
to living in and sharing with others real lasting JOY,
to perceiving and living by deep PEACE with God and others.
God will give you a love for Christ that will be unrivaled, and He gives you a love for others you never thought possible. He can transform your marriage, fix your parenting, heal many of your friendships. And there are people sitting all around you who will affirm the truth of what I am saying–ask them. This morning as we close, what’s going on in your heart?
Some of you are CHURNING today, because you heard Christ is the only way, the only true faith. Not everyone is correct, friend, and Christ is based in fact and true in history–proven by a bodily resurrection.
Some of you are CONCERNED you can’t choose Christ, but God must choose you. And friend, I would ask you–does the Bible teach you are dead before God, or just mostly dead?
Some of you are CURIOUS–you are being drawn. I want to invite you to come back to FBC as we teach God’s Word verse-by-verse in the book of Philippians, right now so we can come to Christ or become like Christ. Learn more about Christ through His Word. Read it, attend a mid-week Bible study, join a ministry, return here, but learn about Jesus Christ and His Word.
Some of you are under CONVICTION and want to respond–what should you do? Three things . . .
#1 Fill out your response card right now, and in a moment drop it and only that in the offering plate, and we will contact you
#2 And make certain you talk with the one who invited you or brought you this morning. If you came but don’t know anyone, our community group or ministry leaders are raising their hands and they’d love to talk to you right after the service. Say, “Can we talk?” Make certain you talk to someone about what God is doing in your heart.
#3 Do not delay, do not play church, do not gamble with your eternity. You are on earth for 60 . . . 90 . . . 100 years–but where will you go forever?
In submitting to Christ, you will know abundant life now and eternal life in Heaven forever. But by ignoring Christ, even politely, you will only know separation from God now and eternal torment for your sins forever—in Hell. Merry Christmas.