Indictment of Christmas ~ 20141221 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/21 Indictment of Christmas; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141221_indictment-of-christmas.mp3
This is the season of Advent, a Latin word that means 'coming.' This is the season we focus on the coming of Jesus into the world. We can take this opportunity to search our hearts and open our lives to Jesus. I was reading an advent devotional that caught my attention. It said “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight”. An indictment!
How is Christmas an indictment? For that we need to look at the reason Jesus came. But before we look at the reason, it is important to note the bare fact that he came. Jesus came into the world. That implies that he came from somewhere. He did not have his beginning here. He came from outside our world. He existed before he was conceived. Especially in the gospel of John, Jesus makes it clear that he was uniquely sent by his Father. Not sired, but sent. He was born into this world at a specific point in time, he made his appearance, and that is what we celebrate at Christmastime, but that was not his beginning. In fact Jesus claims to have no beginning.
John's gospel opens with:
In verse 14, we see
So Jesus, the Word, the only Son from the Father, was in the beginning. He didn't begin, he simply was. He was with God, and he was God.
Jesus states in:
Not 'I was' or 'I existed' before Abraham, but 'I am', I exist. He is identifying himself with the eternal God, who had no beginning and will have no end. Jesus 'is'. He always was, he is, and he always will be, or as Hebrews tells us
Just before he is crucified, in John 17, Jesus prays to his Father:
So Jesus, who eternally existed as God together with his Father, at a point in time came. He was born into this world as a human baby. He became something he was not before, he became flesh. He came. This is what we celebrate at Christmastime. And his coming is an indictment.
How is Christmas an accusation, a charge, blame for serious crimes? For that we must look at the reason stated for why Jesus was sent or came into the world. In Luke 5, Jesus tells us:
Jesus did not come for the righteous. Some people who thought of themselves as righteous, religious leaders and such, were offended that he would associate with people they considered unworthy, dirtbags and scum. We know from verses like:
No one is righteous. Not even the self-righteous. No, not one is righteous. Jesus did not come for the righteous. He came for sinners. So if his coming is to have any significance in your life, if it is to mean anything at all to us, you and I must agree with his indictment of us that we are sinners. We are not righteous. As John tells us
In Luke 5, Jesus also calls us sick.
We are sinners, and we are sick. That is why Jesus came. Luke 19 contains another indictment:
We are lost. We can't find our way. We don't know which way to go. We might search and grope along and try to find our way in the dark, but we cannot. Once I was lost in a system of caves for several hours. I was trying to hurry and took a wrong turn and ended up in an unfamiliar part of the cave system. It took some time, and a process of elimination, but eventually we narrowed down which tunnels were not the way out and which one was, and we were on our way out when we met the rescue party that was coming in to find us. That is not the kind of lost Jesus is talking about - given enough time and a good head on your shoulders, and maybe a fresh set of batteries, you will figure it out. You have lost the way but you can find it again. No, we are lost. Hopelessly lost. Desperately lost. We have never been on the right path, we have a warped sense of direction, and we don't even understand what the destination is. We cannot seek and find God. He must come to seek and find us. He came to seek us and to save us, because we need to be rescued. If we are not saved by Jesus coming to us, we will remain lost forever.
John 3 tells us:
God sent his Son into the world to save us. The eternal Son, who was sent by his Father, is the means through whom we can be saved. What do we need to be saved from? What is the danger? This verse tells us that the danger is condemnation. As we have seen there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned (Rom.3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). 2 Thessalonians describes this condemnation:
So we are sentenced to eternal punishment unless we are somehow rescued from God's just condemnation. Romans 8 tells us how.
God sent his own Son to do what nothing else could do. The law can only condemn. That is the purpose of the law, to point out our faults, failures, and shortcomings. Jesus never sinned, but he was sent by God in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was sent by God for sin, to condemn sin in the flesh. Human sin demanded a human sacrifice. Jesus became flesh, became human, so that he could meet the righteous demands of the law. My sin was condemned in his flesh. 2 Corinthians tell us how.
Jesus became sin. My guilt was transferred to him. He who knew no sin became sin for my sake. This is why Jesus came. This is why he was born in Bethlehem.
Jesus, eternal God come in the flesh, had every right to be served. He could have come demanding to be served. He could have arranged to be born in a palace and pampered. Instead he was born in a cave, a stable for animals, his parents laid him in a stone water trough. He was a manual laborer for most of his life, and during his three years of ministry, he was homeless and dependent on the generosity of others. He had nowhere to lay his head (Mt.8:20). But that was no accident. That was by divine design, for he came not to be served but to serve. The King of glory, who possesses everything and needs nothing, came to give us freely what we could never get for ourselves. He came to serve us. Not to be a genie in a bottle that answers our every whim, but he came to serve us in the way we most need to be served. He came to give his life as a ransom. That is yet another indictment. We were slaves. We were in bondage. We sold ourselves into the power of a cruel taskmaster who would not let us go. Jesus paid the price we could never pay to set us free to serve him. The price he paid was not monetary, it was not a trade for any goods or services. He gave his very life as a ransom.
That means that our offense was so great that nothing but death would satisfy the demands. He gave his life as a ransom. His life in exchange for our life. Do you ever feel guilty? I mean really guilty? Guilty to the point that you feel you need to go turn yourself in, realizing that you fully deserve the death penalty? Not just guilty before the civil authorities, but before the God of all the earth?
To be honest, most of us probably don't feel guilty before God. That thought may never have occurred to many of us. Think about it this way. Kings and governments require some kind of tax or service from their citizens in exchange for the protection and provision they offer. Citizens are expected to contribute to the good of the society. If a citizen expected to receive benefits from the blessings the king provides while at the same time refusing to honor or thank the king for those blessings, and instead working for and serving an enemy of the king, we would consider treacherous and treasonous. That is our condition. We breathe his air and eat his food and drink his water, we are warmed by his sun and enjoy his benefits, but we don't honor him or give him thanks.
Jesus told a story about a landowner who...
Is the demand of the landowner unreasonable? Who invested time and energy and resources into developing the piece of property so that it would be fruitful? What should the attitude of the tenants be toward the master?
God treats us with generosity, provision, patience, kindness, We respond with greed, presumption, selfishness, dishonor, disrespect. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn.3:16). He came to his own and his own did not receive him (Jn.1:11). Our ingratitude, dishonor, disregard for the Master is treasonous. We are guilty.
So Christmas is an indictment. It points out to us how bad we are, and how desperate our situation is. Paul says:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That is an indictment. If I will benefit in any way from the coming of Christ I must admit that I am sinner. But this is also good news. Yes I am guilty and lost and a slave and a sinner and condemned. But that is the point of Christmas. Jesus came to rescue sinners.
Galatians tells us
We were under the law. The law was meant to show us how far we fall short of the standard. To be under the law is to be under the crushing weight of condemnation because we fail to keep the law. Jesus came to buy us out from under the obligation of the law. He came not only to buy us out from under the condemnation of the law, but to bring us into a totally new relationship with God, a relationship not based on law. He came so that we could be adopted into his family as sons.
Take Away Sin
1 John tells us why Jesus came.
Jesus came to take away our sins. Not only to remove the guilt of sin, but to conquer sin in us.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. He appeared in order to take away sins. The devil is at work enticing us to sin and then accusing and condemning us when we sin. Jesus paid the price in full for every sin, taking the sting of guilt and condemnation out of our sins, stripping sin of its power over us, and weaning us from our desire to sin.
This is an indictment of our true condition, but this is love.
God made his love known by sending his Son as an indictment against sinners. “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior” [John Piper “Prepare the Way of the Lord!” - Solid Joys Devotional; from Taste & See article Nov.25, 1985]. God sent his Son to be the wrath-appeasing sacrifice for our sins. God sent his Son on a rescue mission to the lost, to the broken, to the guilty and condemned. God sent his Son to take away our desire to sin and transform our hearts so that we begin to enjoy God for who he is. God sent his Son so that the dead might have life.
“What a wonder this is! The first link between my soul and Christ is, not my goodness, but my badness; not my merit, but my misery; not my standing, but my falling; not my riches, but my need. He comes to visit His people, yet not to admire their beauties, but to remove their deformities; not to reward their virtues, but to forgive their sins. O ye sinners, I mean you real sinners, not you who call yourselves by that name simply because you are told that is what you are, but you who really feel yourselves to be guilty before God, here is good news for you! O you self condemned sinners, who feel that, if you are ever to get salvation, Jesus must bring it to you, and be the beginning and the end of it, I pray you to rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed Name, for Jesus has come to save you, even you! Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and say to Him, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, save me, for I need Thy salvation!” Doubt not that He will fulfill His own Name, and exhibit His saving power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.” [C.H.Spurgeon, Christ's Incarnation, p.15-16]
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org