This is my third and final post on why Christmas is such an important event. It is a big deal and it would help if we have a handle on why it is such a big deal. This is the summation of my first two posts on the subject. I would prefer you read them to get the full picture, but here it is. First of all, because Jesus Christ came at Christmas, my past can be forgiven. A simple statement but eternal in impact. A second reason why Christmas is such a big deal is my present can be managed.
Here’s the third reason why Christmas is such a big deal, MY FUTURE CAN BE GUARANTEED. (This post is somewhat lengthy so I only ask that you continue reading to the end.)
Hebrews 2 “Jesus became like us to set free those who were slaves all their lives because of the fear of death.” The fear of death is a universal problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or uneducated, white, black, brown, whatever, we’re all going to face death. It a universal problem. Do you know what the mortality rate in America is–100%? Since we’re all going to die, it seems foolish to go through life unprepared for something you know is inevitable. That just doesn’t make sense. I know someday I’m going to die. Everybody else in history has, so I guess I’m going to. So it makes sense to be prepared for it. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.
Have you noticed people don’t like to talk about death? Some of you get nervous with me talking about it now. Why? Because they’re afraid of it. Why? Because they’re uncertain about what’s going to happen when they meet God. We’re all going to meet God someday. You can run from God the rest of your life, but then you can’t run any more.
How do you make certain what’s going to happen on the other side? The Bible says “It’s appointed unto man once to die.” That’s one appointment we can’t run from. But He doesn’t want you to fear death. It says Jesus came to set us free from the fear of death. Why? If you already know where you’re going and you already have a relationship to God and He’s your friend, you’re not worried about what’s going to happen. I can say in absolute sincerity, I am not afraid to die. I’m afraid of pain but I’m not afraid to die! I know where I’m going. I’ve already settled that issue. I’m already friends with God. For a Christ follower, death is just a homecoming, a transition to better things.
At Christmas time, probably the most used word you hear is “gift”. Everybody’s worried about giving and getting the right gifts. Have you ever received a gift within a gift? I received a book one time and in the book was money. It was a gift within a gift.
God has some gifts for you at Christmas time this year. They are these three that I have addressed in three blog posts on “What’s the big deal about Christmas,” but they are wrapped up in one big gift, Jesus Christ. When you receive Jesus Christ, the gift, you get the three benefit gifts.
1) The gift of forgiveness. “Let us praise God for the free gift he gave us in his Son we are set free, our sins are forgiven.” That takes care of my past.
2) The gift of strength. That takes care of the present. Jesus said, “I’m leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart so don’t be troubled or afraid.” He says, I’m with you. I’ll handle it. I’ll help you. You don’t know what’s going to happen but I’ll help you.
3) The gift of eternal life. Romans 6:23 “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That takes care of the future.
When you look at these gifts here are some things you notice:
1) They are very personal. They come from a person, Christ, to a person, you.
2) They are practical. They are exactly what you need. They take care of your past, your present, your future.
3) They are priceless. They cost Christ His life. They cost God His Son. That shows the worth of you. When you receive a gift that expensive you realize somebody really values you. God says, you are valuable.
4) They are permanent. I’ve received a lot of gifts that didn’t last till new years. This is a permanent gift. Like the Energizer Bunny, it goes on and on… for eternity.
Here is the most important question I could ever ask you. Have you received God’s Christmas gift of Jesus Christ? I was reading about a guy who got a Christmas gift, 49 years ago and he still hadn’t opened it. Isn’t that strange? I can’t imagine if my wife gave me a gift (or you gave me a gift) and three months after Christmas, about March, you say, “How did you like the gift?” I say, “I’m sure I’ll love it, I just haven’t had the time to open it yet.”
The tragedy is many people celebrate Christmas, year after year, and they’ve never received God’s Christmas gift. That doesn’t make sense! Because you can’t really celebrate Christmas until you do.
Let me try to explain as simply as I can what it means to accept God’s gift of Jesus. It means that we decide to accept Him as our Savior and Lord. Savior means forgiver. It means we accept the reality of our condition, that we have sinned, the Bible says we all have, and that because of our sin there is the penalty of death. Death is eternity separate from God in a place called Hell. And that there isn’t anything we can do on our own to make ourselves acceptable to God and deserving of forgiveness. The bible says “There is a way that seems right to man, but it still ends in death.” We might try to do enough good works, or be sincere enough, or religious enough, or even compare ourselves to Christians who don’t live as good a life as we do, but it still ends in death. Pretty bleak picture. Pretty desperate circumstance.
Here’s the good news. In spite of what we deserve, God offers us the very opposite. He offers forgiveness and heaven with him. That’s where Jesus enters to picture. He came to provide a way for us to be forgiven and get to heaven with God.
The Bible says He was tempted in the same kind of ways we are, but He did not sin. He is the only sinless person to ever live. But even so, he was taken by cruel and jealous people and killed. Not only was he killed he was killed in the most cruel and inhumane manner possible, nailed to a cross.
Now, here’s what you have to understand about Jesus. He didn’t deserve to die. He had done nothing wrong. We, man, are the ones who deserve the punishment. And what you have to understand is that when he died on the cross He was taking our punishment for us. He was paying our price. He was meeting God’s requirement on our behalf.
When God sent Jesus and when Jesus died like He did, God did everything he could do to let us know how much He loves us and how much He wants to forgive us and how much He wants us to spend eternity with Him.
So he turns to us and says, “Will you accept what I offer you? Will you accept the gift? Will you accept me as your Savior, the one who died for you and did for you what you could never do yourself? And will you accept me as your Lord, your manager, boss, CEO of your life.” Will you say, “I accept that you died for me and now I want to live for you?”
This takes faith. In fact, the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is more than accepting certain facts to be true, like there is a God, and who Jesus is. Faith is trust. Faith is trusting yourself completely to him for salvation. Take the trust off of self and place it in God, and His Son.
When faith is real it is accompanied with certain responses. We are taught about them in the Bible.
Like this thing called repentance. Repentance means I want to stop doing life my way and do things God’s way. I want to stop walking away from God, turn around and begin walking toward God.
Another response the Bible mentions is the willingness to confess our faith in Jesus and our acceptance of Him as our forgiver and manager. It’s to say, “I’m not ashamed of this choice in life I am making.”
And a third response to real faith is following Jesus in baptism, as the Bible says, for the forgiveness of my sins. It’s the public demonstration of taking off the old, self driven life, burying it in baptism and putting on the new God centered life.
The rest is growing up to be a real Christ follower.
This is what it means to accept the gift.
I heard the story of a father who gave his daughter some plastic pearls. She wore them for years. When she turned 13, he said, “I want you to give me those plastic pearls you’re wearing.” Why? “Just trust me, just give them to me.” As he took them back with one hand, he pulled from his pocket a string of real pearls.
God is saying to you, “Give Me the cheap plastic thrills, give Me the things you think satisfy but really don’t, and I’ll give you something that’s real, something that lasts if you’ll trust Me.”
People are reading this post for a number of different reasons. Whatever the reason God wants to say to you, “I have a gift for you at Christmas. You matter to me.” I invite you to not waste another Christmas by refusing this gift.
Would you like to discuss further about receiving the gift of Jesus?