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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Don't Believe in Vain This Christmas


By Justin Edwards

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 6:6

Over 2,000 years ago God entered the world to dwell among us (John 1:14) in order to accomplish many things, among them being to testify to the truth (John 18:37), to give life (John 10:10; 28), to be a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), to lay His life down for His sheep (John 10:11), to call sinners (Mark 2:17), to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11), to preach His gospel (Luke 4:43), to atone for sin (Hebrews 2:17), to do the will of God (John 6:38), to proclaim freedom for believers (Luke 4:18), to bring judgment (John 9:39), and to redeem a holy and unblemished people for Himself, as Titus 2:14 says:

[Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. 

But how many people truly understand the purpose for which Christ came? Millions around the world will be celebrating the holiday called Christmas for one reason or another. Many of these are faithful Christians remembering the birth of their Savior; many of these are professing Christians remembering their annual duty to sing carols, give to the poor, and attend the semi-annual church service (let's not forget Easter Sunday attendance to check off the list); yet many others use this holiday to weigh themselves down with the things of this world (Matthew 6:19), whether or not they give lip service to Jesus at all. Still, there are many Christians who have given up on Christmas altogether because of its pagan roots or are overwhelmed with the glorified materialism it represents today. Even so, no matter which category you may find yourself in, Jesus Christ did come 2,000 years ago, and He is coming again.

The saddest part of Christmas is that the majority of those participating spend more time preparing for this single day than they do preparing for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and eternity. Just as there are over 300 fulfilled prophecies that predicted the first coming of Christ, there are many, many prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled that include prophecies leading up to the return of Christ and prophecies pertaining to His 2nd coming and the establishment of His earthly and eternal kingdoms. This time, however, He is not coming as a baby or a humble servant, lowly and meek calling upon men to follow Him. No, He is coming to destroy those who have rejected Him as Lord. No longer is He a "newborn king", but He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, and this Mighty King is coming with a sword to slay His enemies in the fury of His wrath,

in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Have you obeyed the Gospel? For a moment on this day, take some time to reflect on these things. Forget about the hoopla of Christmas and the holiday cheer. Forget about your service to the poor and your church attendance. Think about your soul and where it might spend the rest of eternity. This Jesus who came to save that which was lost and to call sinners, did so only for those who see themselves as lost and as sinners. My friend, my desire is not to put a damper on your Christmas holiday, but to challenge you to examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith, to see if you are truly saved by the grace of God, to see if you truly have eternal life, and to be sure you have been truly saved from eternal hell (2 Corinthians 13:5).

If there is any inkling whatsoever of you trusting in yourself to be good enough to go to heaven, or you think that merely professing faith in Christ without bearing any fruit of grace is a valid "ticket to heaven", then please let me warn you: the man that God has saved is a man that God has changed (2 Corinthians 5:17). Simply believing in Christ without the power of His resurrection being a reality in your life will not be enough for you on the day of judgment. It is only by the righteousness of Jesus Christ that you may enter heaven, and the first step in being clothed in His righteousness is being poor in Spirit. Just last night I read a work by Albert Martin on the Practical Implications of Calvinism, where he proclaimed:

Poverty of spirit results from just getting a sight of what you really are, and seeing that you are nothing and have nothing and can do nothing that can commend yourself to the grace and saving favour of God; it results from the conviction that he could make you an eternal monument of his righteous wrath, and let you perish in the eternal burning. Have you been brought to some experimental acquaintance with that? If not, I doubt whether you can claim that Christ is your Saviour, for he said that he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. The poor in spirit have been made consciously aware of their depravity and sin.

Once recognizing yourself as a depraved sinner, by the grace of God, being broken over your great offenses against a holy God, your heart will be ripe to turn from your sin and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in humble submission. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:9-10, 13

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation...13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

This is reality, and one you must embrace in order to receive the blessing of eternal life. When you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, He will plant in you new desires to hunger and thirst for righteousness, which will lead to you being conformed to the image of Christ. On the reality of God's electing purpose being realized in the life of the professing Christian (Romans 8:29), Martin declares,

He chose me in Christ that, being purchased in time and called in time, I might begin to be holy in time, and have that work perfected in eternity. The only assurance I have that I was purchased to be holy, and will be perfected in holiness, is that I am pursuing holiness here and now. Essentially holiness is conformity to the revealed will of God in thought, word and deed, through the power of the Holy Spirit and through union with Jesus Christ. Holiness, godliness, this is the evidence that his electing purpose has come to life and fruition and it finds its expression in obedience. That is why John can say in 1 John 2:5, ‘Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected’. It finds its designed end in the one who keeps the Word of God. Is there clear evidence that I am experiencing communion with Jesus Christ through his Word? For he has called me into fellowship with himself, and if I have been effectually called then I am no stranger to experimental acquaintance with the Lord.

Are you pursuing holiness now? From the day you once professed faith in Christ, is there evidence that you are being conformed to the likeness of the Son of God?  If not, do you want to pursue holiness now and do you want to be conformed to Christ?

How many more Christmases are you promised? How many more days are you promised? While it is nice to remember the birth of Jesus, wouldn't it be tragic if you are doing so in vain? I challenge you to truly examine your heart and make this Christmas the most important day of your life. This world and its lusts are passing away (1 John 2:16-17), but the Kingdom of God and those blessed to be heirs of it, those who are born again, will reign forever and ever. While you sing "joy to the world" this weekend, make sure you have experienced true Joy, Hope, and Peace through true faith in Jesus Christ, which will be manifested by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, Jesus came to this earth with a divine purpose 2,000 years ago through the miracle of the virgin birth, but make sure you do not believe in vain through a mere head knowledge of this fact, and experience the greatest miracle of all - that of being born again.

To my dear brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ, may God's grace increasingly abound in you as we wait for Him to come once again, and may that Day come soon!

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. - Isaiah 6:7

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