We’ve all been there – holding a Christmas present that someone gave that, frankly, confuses us. We don’t quite understand what they were thinking or why they spent their money on us the way they did. It’s awkward. It’s even more awkward for the one doing the giving.
The entire holiday season is a bit like that – everyone running around as if Pavlov rang his bell and we are obligated (like his dog) by the very forces of nature to engage in spending, debt acquisition, charity, travel, and religious activity, all the while wondering “why?”
We are trying to respond to so many messages at this time of year. The end result for many is exhaustion and depression. That’s too bad, because the central message simple and costs you nothing. Here it is:
- Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11)
But it begs the question – do you need saving? Maybe we’ve outgrown it. I think not.
The Bible tells an old story – the story of us and how from earliest days we’ve needed saving from something ancient, simple and catastrophic.
In Genesis 3:1-19 we find people in a perfect place with very few restrictions; paradise with only two rules. Well that was two too many. God’s directions were refused and the following consequences immediately ensued: shame, defensive posturing, hiding, fear of God, accusations toward loved ones, and a curse on creation. The very next chapter it gets worse.
In Genesis 4:4-24 we see that once the seed of sin is planted, the harvest quickly gets out of hand producing murder, lies, cries of injustice, polygamy, unrestrained violence and more. By Genesis six, matters are so bad starting over is the only workable solution. This thing called sin wreaked havoc on God’s perfect creation in six short chapters.
And so we learn that man working on the honor system doesn’t work. Well, what about passing some laws?
God did that. Exodus and the balance of the Old Testament tell that story – one often misunderstood. Some see the Ten Commandments as ways to please God and fix people. But the problem with law is that it’s given after the problem. Laws aren’t given for a nonexistent crisis. Laws are passed because there is a problem. At best, their function is to manage behavior. And if the behavior simply cannot be changed, or we run out of prison space to hold all the offenders, another path is selected – make what was illegal yesterday legal today. Viola! Problem disappears… (unfortunately the behavior and the fruit remain).
God gave the law, according to the New Testament, to lead us to grace; to lead us to understand that the ancient thing inside each of us, named sin, could not be controlled by legal restrictions. What Jeremiah anticipated is affirmed in Galatians 5:23-25. The fix has to come inside. It can’t be legislated and it can’t be mandated. People can only change from the inside out.
That change happens as people permeated by sin, guilty by the standards of law, come to the cross of Christ and find forgiveness, acceptance, love and a changed heart. One of my favorite stories of how this works is in Luke 23:26-43.
We’re not doing well managing our own behavior – and we don’t even manage by God’s standard! I found this recently…
Since the start of 2000, Congress has created at least 452 new crimes. So the total number of Federal crimes as of the end of 2007 exceeds 4,450. Ninety-one of the 452 were contained in new laws that created 279 new crimes, and the remaining were contained in amendments to existing laws. The total of 452 new crimes breaks down by year as follows: 65 for 2000; 28 for 2001; 82 for 2002; 51 for 2003; 48 for 2004; 13 for 2005; 145 for 2006; 20 for 2007… (and it goes on)
It would appear we do need saving. So a savior was born to us…. to save us from our sin. Now that is good news… for all people! And especially for you and me.