Monday, December 22, 2014

'Tis the Season

Photo by Anggie, source = Lightstock Photos
"Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.".  That's a recent tweet from @DavidRoads, otherwise known on Twitter as Motivational Quotes.  In this Christmas season, I thought it was an appropriate thought, since that's what Jesus was telling us 2100 years ago.  It's an idea we need to pay attention to.  That reality makes all the difference in the world.  And beyond.

Pastor Chris Moore pastors one our churches in the Philadelphia area. He shared a photo on Facebook of a sign on one of the doors in the area he was doing outreach. The sign read, "When you stop believing in Santa... you get underwear.". Most guys can identify with that one. And it's where our illustration comes in. No matter how mundane the contents of the present may be, we do whatever we can to make it outwardly seem as extravagant as possible.  Till the package gets opened and we find the underwear.  Jesus warned us that there would be consequences if we did that with our lives.

Paul, in writing to Timothy, describes it this way:

2 Timothy 3:2-7 (KJV)  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,  Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

That describes deceivers who are so self oriented that they have to drag others along with them, if only to convince themselves they're not so bad.  But consider the Pharisees and the modern day legalists.  Not living in outward sin, but allowing pride to convince themselves and others to think their own efforts were sufficient to please God.

I recently quoted Billy Graham's son Franklin, "The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but the Bible also teaches that pride is a sin, jealousy is a sin, and hate is a sin, evil thoughts are a sin.".  One of the responses I got to that quote was a statement that homosexuals could get saved if they gave up their sin.  That missed the point Franklin Graham was making and the reality of our old sin nature.  Our flesh is quick to note someone else's sin, if it differs from our own.  And, no matter what it is, the flesh makes the other guy's sin always seem to be worse than our own. Which convinces us that we can fix ourselves,.

The truth is that, by ourselves, we can't please God and we can't fix much of anything.  When Jesus says, in Luke 13:3, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.", He's not saying the only way to heaven is by our own merit.  In fact, both He and the Bible are clear that our own flesh and efforts don't have any merit with God.  Adam did a great job of getting the ball rolling on that one.  And we've been amazing at keeping it going.

God knew that, so He gave us our own special present.  But unlike our own present wrapping, God didn't go for fancy outward looks with the actual present being a disappointment.  Isaiah's prophetic utterings in chapter 53 make that clear.

Isaiah 53:2-6 (KJV)  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

No special ribbons and wrapping paper, but the present was the gift of eternal life with God.  We're incapable of satisfying the requirements for that to happen.  We can never be good enough.  Our flesh can't cause the proper repentance to save us.  Our repentance comes from truly accepting a relationship with God, Him guiding us, the repentance being an outward sign He's in us and the relationship is real.

Our real Christmas present has no amazing wrappings.  The gift is much greater than the packaging would indicate.  Matthew 13:45-46 says this of the gift and what our response should be, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.".  That's real.  If you don't have a relationship with God, consider what the eternal alternative is.  And, if you do have that relationship, consider again what an amazing gift that is.  Beyond what we could ask or think.

We hope you have a blessed Christmas.  There will be a Christmas morning LifeNote from us, on the Life Letter Cafe site.  We think it will add to the blessings.  Merry Christmas!

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