And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:13.14
In just a few days, Lord willing, I will experience my 55th Christmas Day. As the years have come and gone, I am made aware that my perception of Christmas has changed drastically. As a kid, it was all about what Santa would give me. Then as a young adult, it was all about what I could give my children. As a maturing adult, it was about how much sales our company could do during this busy buying season. As a grandfather, I still want to give just the right gifts to my children and family members, but I have a special desire to see my grandchildren blessed.
Yet, this Christmas is different from all the rest, because I have a much better understanding of what Christmas is truly about. This has come from a two-year journey of absolute abandonment of my will, turning it over to the will of God, while taking the risks God asked me to take. These past two years have been a romantic journey with Jesus Christ, as I have been following Him, learning to listen to His voice and simply obeying Him, no matter the cost. As I have learned to do this, He has revealed Himself to me in such a manner that the light of His truth has radically altered my perception of God, of who I am in Christ, and of what life is really all about. So, I stand grateful this Christmas, grateful for the freedom and liberties I have been granted in Christ Jesus. For the first time in my life, I am now free to obey Him, and free to fulfill His purpose and plan for my life.
The essence of Christmas, what it genuinely means to me, goes beyond the Christmas narrative, and is discovered in answering the questions of why God came to earth as a man, why Jesus Christ became a human, why He lived a perfect sinless life, and why He died on a cross. Christmas is about the Gospel, the Good News that brings us peace on earth and good will toward men.
Christmas means that we are saved by grace.
Of course, I knew that I was saved by grace in 1988 when I had a born-again experience, but slowly and surely my life became religious, and even though with my conscious mind I would say that I was saved by grace, I lived a life that would suggest I was trying to save myself. Saved by grace means that what Jesus did for me is enough. I am simply to put my trust in Him, and what He did instead of what I do. Jesus lived a perfect life, as He fulfilled the law perfectly. He never did one thing that His Father didn’t tell Him to do. He was both divine and human from the womb to the cross, and as a man, He was tempted in all points like as we are tempted. Then, He paid the price for our sins, and took our punishment for us when the judgment of the Father was placed upon Him instead of us.
We can never save ourselves, no matter how hard we try, and the good news of the Gospel is that we don’t have to, because Jesus did it for us. Almost all religions of the world teach that man must find the way to God by being good, doing good works, and trying to reach enlightenment with God. Man is desperately seeking a connection, or a union with God, and is looking for the way to God. However, this is impossible without a connection with Jesus. Christianity doesn’t merely show us the way to God, but with Christianity, Jesus finds us and says, “I am the way.”
If you are still thinking that you need to be good, or that you need to try harder, work harder, pray more, shout more, or somehow turn yourself into a better person, then you have yet to understand the fullness of the grace of God. If you are afraid of missing the rapture, or afraid of facing God at the judgment seat, then you are not resting in the grace of God. If you still feel that no matter what you do you are not measuring up to God’s standards, then you do not yet understand God’s grace in its fullest measure.
When you must do something to merit God’s grace, then it is no longer grace, but works. It is impossible to merit the grace of God because grace is unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor of God. We are saved by God’s grace, not by what we do, but by what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago.
If you are still looking down on other Christians because, from your perspective, you feel superior, are living a moral life, or know more about God than they, then you don’t yet have a full understanding of the grace of God. If you are feeling superior or inferior, either way, you are not resting in grace. The true Christmas story is that God came to the earth as a man to save us, to rescue us from sin and the devil's authority that he held over us. God did this because He is a good God, full of grace and truth.
I once thought that even though I was a Christian saved by grace, I still needed to diligently work at trying to perfect myself, because I wanted the highest possible eternal reward. Today, the eternal reward I seek is to see Jesus face to face. Just to be in His personal presence is all the reward I desire, because finally, for the first time in my life, I realize that Jesus is life. He is my purpose. He is my center. He is my Savior. If your objective or goal is to attain the highest possible eternal reward, then you will do everything in your power to gain the reward and thus, will fall back into performance based theology, instead of resting in the grace of God. Jesus is enough for me, and I will trust Him to place me where He wants me in eternity. His grace is sufficient for me.
Christmas means that Jesus is the only Mediator between man and God.
Another amazing truth we learn from the Christmas story is that Jesus has made all believers to be priests; therefore, we need no other person standing between us and God mediating, because we have Jesus, the one and only Mediator. On the cross, Jesus cried out “It is finished,” and in doing so, the old covenant was completely fulfilled, as the veil of the temple was rent to and fro. The glory of God left the Holy of Holies in the temple; the Levitical priesthood was finished, and the mosaic law was fulfilled and made obsolete. From this point on, the new covenant was established, and now the Holy Spirit would come to live in the hearts of believers, as our bodies became the temple of the Holy Spirit. This means that we all can hear from God ourselves, and we do not need to go to a person to discover the will of God for our lives.
Because Jesus came to the earth as a man, lived a perfect sinless life, died on the cross to save us, went to hell for three days, was resurrected, ascended to heaven to make the final atonement for our sins, and sent the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, we now can have an amazing relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the face of the Father. Jesus is the only way for man to be connected to the Father. Jesus is the way, the only way, the only one. Most religions encourage a focus on the Father, then persuade people to connect to Him without going through Jesus. If you believe this lie, then you will find yourself going through the leaders of the religion to help you connect with God. This will make you dependent upon the religion or its leaders instead of being dependent upon Jesus. Religion will always steal your intimacy with Jesus and cause you to turn your trust from Him to people. You can’t enjoy the fellowship of God the way He intended you to if you place your trust in people instead of Jesus Christ.
Christmas means that Jesus came to give me a new life, a new identity.
What Jesus ultimately did on the cross was to give me a pristine new life in Christ. This is how I can enjoy true fellowship with Him. He gave me a new life, as He regenerated my spirit when I was born again. Jesus came to live inside of me and this ‘new man’ can have an amazing relationship with Him. Religion will always keep you thinking that you are your ‘old man’ or old identity. This is unfortunate because there is no way your ‘old man’ can have a relationship with God. Some religions will try to make you think that you must improve upon your ‘old man’ so that he can one day have a great union with God. But, this is impossible, because the ‘old man’ is totally corrupt and void of any goodness or righteousness.
What Jesus did by becoming human, living a sinless life, and dying on the cross, not only paid the price for our sins, but killed the ‘old man’, and destroyed the power of Satan. He didn’t just die for me, but He died as me. He who knew no sin, became sin, so that we might be made righteous. The good news of the Gospel, or the good news of Christmas, is that Jesus made a way for my old sinful nature to be destroyed, and I no longer must live under the power and influence of my ‘old man’ with its satanic nature. I am crucified with Christ, but now, I live. That is, my ‘new man’ lives; however, it is not me living, it is Jesus Christ in me, the hope of glory.
Now I can walk in the newness of His resurrected life, or better said, now Jesus Christ can live His life through me. The life that I could never have lived, now can become reality, as I yield myself to Him and allow Him to flow out of me. I am no longer my ‘old man’; he is dead, crucified with Christ on the cross 2,000 years ago. As I identify with what Jesus did for me on the cross of Calvary, in its fullest extent, I can now, by faith, reckon my ‘old man’ dead and my ‘new man’ alive in Christ. Through faith, I can now live in Christ, and as I abide in Him, His love flows out of me.
Christmas means that I can be as close to God as I desire to be.
Because of what Jesus did for us, we now have the opportunity and privilege of being as close to God as we desire. Some people are satisfied with knowing Jesus only as an admirer; some know Him only as an acquaintance; while many come to know Him as their Savior, and become adopted into the family of God, as sons and daughters. Most Christians never go any further than this in their relationship with God. Yet, we can go as deep and as high as we want to go. We can become a friend of God. Abraham was called a friend of God. Can God trust you? Would you consider yourself God’s friend?
We also can become followers of Jesus as His disciples. But of course, there is a cost to this, as Jesus told his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. Many well-intentioned but ignorant preachers teach that you must make Jesus the Lord or Master of your life to be saved. This lordship theology for salvation is not true. A person only has to repent of his sins, and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins to be saved. As they put their trust in Jesus, He saves them and comes into their hearts. This matter of making Him Lord, or Master is another choice all together. Jesus has called us all to follow Him, which is the greatest path one can choose in this life. Will you follow Him? Will you go wherever He leads you? Will you make Him Lord?
Next, there is the servant level of relationship or the good steward. To be a true steward of Christ Jesus is to realize that He owns everything, and you own nothing. This requires giving everything that you think is yours to Him. You are not really giving Him anything that He doesn’t already own, but you are simply releasing it from your presumed ownership over to His rightful ownership. When you are a bond slave to Jesus, you have no rights and no ownership. He is your all in all, and you are happy just to please Him each and every day with your life. A servant doesn’t get to plan his day; he simply awakens and is at the service of his Master.
But there is yet an even deeper relationship we can have with God, because of what Jesus has done for us. We can become His Bride. We can know Him intimately, and have an amazing love relationship with Him. There is an erroneous teaching in the church world that every believer is the bride of Jesus Christ. I do not believe they can prove their argument from the Bible. The Bride is the one that has sold out completely to Jesus; she has let go of everything and every person, and has no earthly attachments. She has taken His Name, and no longer seeks any glory or recognition for herself. She no longer seeks her own will, but only seeks the will of her beloved Bridegroom. She is His.
Becoming the Bride of Christ is not embracing a particular dogma; it is not belonging to the correct religious organization, nor is it following a particular leader or teacher. Becoming the Bride of Jesus Christ is about falling in love with Jesus to such a degree that you give up all rival lovers in your heart, that nothing of this world competes with your love for Jesus. It is about allowing God to change you into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, or becoming like Him. To be the Bride of Christ is to make Him your all in all. It is to be faithful in following Him every day, to be a representative of Jesus while you are on this earth, representing His Name, His Word, and His Spirit. This is the greatest level of intimacy, or personal relationship one can enjoy with God. If you want this, you can have it, because of what Jesus did 2,000 years ago.
Christmas means that God's Son came to the earth to save me from my sins. Christmas means that I can have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, and I need no human standing between Jesus and me. Jesus alone is my Mediator, and He will speak to me if I learn to listen to Him. Christmas means that Jesus not only saved me, but He gave me a new identity in Christ. My ‘old man’ is dead, and my life is hidden with Christ in God. From this new identity, I can have an amazing relationship with God, and get as close to Him as I want. Christmas means that Jesus has made a way for me to draw close to God, and I can become His bride if I am willing to obey Him and give Him my entire heart and life.
When I hear the story of Mary and Joseph, of the shepherds and angels, of the wise men following the star, or of the Babe in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, it stirs the emotions of my heart, because I am realizing what Christmas truly means. It is not what I do, but what Jesus has already done 2,000 years ago. He did everything needed for me to have a personal, intimate relationship with Him. Now it is up to me as to how close I really want to be to God. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.