Christmas: a Line in Time Defining Life

December 15, 2013

It was almost as if someone
had dragged a stick though the sand drawing a line that said that was then and
this is now.  There has never been an
event in the history of man that has so defined human history as the birth of
Jesus. 
And it began when God interrupted
the life of a young lady named Mary.  And
now all she could think about was how different the line had made her life.
As she made her way along the road she wondered about the
sense of it all.  Although she had agreed
she still couldn’t understand why.  She
lived in a poor country that was occupied by a foreign army, violence was never
far away and often during the night you would hear soldiers entering the home
of neighbours looking for the patriots they had called terrorists.  Even as she made the trip with her husband
she was shocked with the conditions that lay outside the small village they
called home.  The poverty she saw on her
travels was an eye opener for a young woman who had never wanted for food. Her
family was not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but her hard working
father had always provided the food and shelter the family needed.
Occasionally she would see lepers in the distance, scorned
by society and pushed far away from those they loved, and there were the beggars
who lined the busier sections of road, men and women who couldn’t see or
couldn’t walk, dependent on the kindness or pity of strangers just to survive.
On their journey she even saw a crucifixion, she had heard
about the horrors of the executions the Romans performed, but to see those
victims left hanging on the primitive crosses was horrible. So much despair and
sadness could anything ever change the way her world was. She wished that there
was something she could do to make a difference.
It wasn’t that many months ago that her life had been
simple, engaged to be married, she dreamt of the life that lay ahead of her,
and this wasn’t it.  An angel had
appeared to her one night with a story that she couldn’t believe.  She was told that she would have a child, a
son.  And she knew that wasn’t to be,
after all she had never been with a man, had not even held the hand of her
fiancé because it just wasn’t done.  And
now she was being told that she would be a mother. 
The messenger explained that it would be a miracle, that the
Father of her child would be God himself and the child would be the Son of God,
in fact God himself. What could she do?  She
knew that she was a virgin and if she became pregnant then what the angel had
said must be true, she believed him, but would anyone believe her?  How could she explain this to her parents,
her friends? What would she say to the man she was engaged to?  “Hi Joseph, guess what? I’m pregnant, but
don’t worry I’ve been faithful, God’s the Father.” Joseph might just be a
carpenter but he certainly wasn’t a stupid carpenter.
Why did God choose her? 
Ss a matter of fact why did God have to do this? Come as a child to this
cruel and hostile world.  I’m sure that
question would surface time and time again as she raised this child she would
call Jesus.
The question is still valid 2000 years later, people still
ask: Why did he come?  Why bother drawing
a line in time?  What difference does it
make?  We know that the line that was
drawn redefined Mary and Joseph’s lives, but how does that same line that was
drawn two thousand years ago define lives today?
Well there are those who would tell
you 1) The Line Defines an Eternal Life
For some folks that is what it is all about. 
The burning question for them is the same as it was for the man who came
to Jesus in Luke 18:18 Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good
Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”   And that answer to that is given in by
Jesus himself in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and
only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal
life.
Throughout history humans have sought to reconcile
themselves with God and they haven’t been able to do it.  I don’t have to go through the plan of
salvation here, you already know it.  You
understand that we really don’t deserve to go to heaven and that in our own
power and through our own efforts there isn’t anything we can do that will make
us worthy of eternal life.
And so into the picture steps Jesus Christ, God himself and
he offered himself up as a sacrifice, paying a debt that he didn’t owe because
we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. 
Jesus came to do what we couldn’t do, and that is to obtain
eternal life for ourselves. 
You understand at this point in history, December 15th
2013 that everything that has to be done for you to go to heaven has already
been done.  All that is missing is for
your acceptance of that fact. And so your salvation depends wholly on you
because God has already done his part. And all he’s asking of you at this point
is for you to respond.
And so most of us, probably not all of us, but most of us
have accepted that gift, the gift of eternal life.  But it’s not the only reason he came.  But as important as eternal life is that’s
not all the line of Christmas defines. 
2) The Line Defines An Abundant Life 
You see, Jesus didn’t just come so we could have eternal life.  If the only reason we get saved is to gain
eternity then the day we embraced that salvation we would go to heaven.  Think how much easier that would be, saved
would mean safe.  Once we accepted Christ
as our Saviour all of our troubles would be over.  One minute we’d be on earth with all of its
problems and all of its pain and the next minute we’d be in heaven with no pain
no sorrow and no loss.  But that wasn’t
the plan.  Jesus didn’t just come and
live and die so we could live in heaven he came so we could live on earth, part
of the promise is revealed in John 10:10 when Jesus told his disciples John 10:10 Jesus said “The thief’s purpose is to
steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying
life.”   Maybe you know it better
from some of the old translations where it says,  John 10:10 Jesus said I have come that they may
have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (NKJV) And
that promise is as real today as it was when Jesus made it 2000 years ago. And
it wasn’t just a promise for those listening to his words that day; it was a
promise for every person who has ever called upon his name.
The
word that is used for abundantly here literally means full to the point of
overflowing.   That’s the life that Jesus
wants us to have, a life full of living.   Life is meant to be lived to the full, to be
enjoyed and to make an impact.  It was Helen Keller who said “Life
is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
And the
life that Jesus offers will make a difference not only to us but to those
around us.  When Jesus was searching for
similes to describe what our lives were to be like he said that we would be the
salt of the earth and the light of the world. 
Both are elements that change their environment.  Once you’ve added salt to something you know
there is salt in it.  And if you’ve ever
been on a sodium reduced diet you know how bland food can be without salt.  Jesus left us here to flavour the world to
make a difference with our lives.
And
throughout history Christians have done exactly that.  I’m not saying that all the positive
contributions made to society in the past 2000 years have been made by
Christians but a good majority of them have. 
We hear people talk about the crusades and abuses that have happened in
the name of Christ but very seldom do we hear society as a whole acknowledge
the contributions that the church has made. 
It was the church who established hospitals, and orphanages, it was the
church that reached out to the outcasts of society with shelters for lepers and
the poor.  It was the church that started
schools and universities. 
Every
Christmas it seems that you will hear a complaint from someone about their
children are asked to take part in Operation Christmas Child, in a school or
daycare, because it was a Christian organization that was blatantly sponsoring
the program.  Duhh.  Of course it was a Christian organization
nobody else does that type of thing. When was the last time you saw Muslim or
Buddhist organizations raising funds to help children around the world? 
Where
would the hungry of the world be without groups like World Vision, World Hope,
Compassion International and Samaritan’s Purse? Dead! Because for all of the
criticism of the church we are making a difference. Or at least we should be.
The
second thing that Christ told believers that they ought to be is light.  And light is provided for two reasons 1) for
illumination and 2) for direction.  The
life that we are living is supposed to illuminate this world and point people
to Jesus. And if we are being light then we will annoy some people because the
dark doesn’t look to bad until a little light disturbs it. And have you noticed
just how little light it takes to chase away the darkness?  A single candle can destroy the darkness in
the darkest room.
And
Christ came that we could live a life that makes a difference.  But there’s still a third thing that is
defined by the line of Christmas.  Now
some folks have experienced the first two and they are content, they aren’t
really interested in going any further. 
I think that’s because they know what’s down that road, and they’d just
as soon not go there.
3) The Line Defines a
Holy Life
Now up to this point everyone has been with me because those are
nice things.  Everyone one wants to have
eternal life and most of us like the concept of making a difference in the
world around us but how many of us want to live a Holy Life?  As a matter of fact what images come to mind
when I use the word holy, do you immediately think of Mother Theresa or John
Wesley or one of the writers of the Gospels?
When I say holy do “you” come
to mind? You should because we are called to live a holy life listen to 2 Timothy 1:9 For God
saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we
deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to
show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
And in Colossians  3:12
Paul writes Colossians 3:12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must
clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and
patience.
But what does it mean to be holy?  The Wesleyan Church,
which we are a part of, has historically and traditionally been called a
holiness church, but does that mean anything? 
When I tell you that you are supposed to be “holy people” do you cringe
or bristle? Do you wonder how you can live an abundant life and at the same
time live a holy life? Does your definition of holiness automatically eliminate
any enjoyment you might get out of life, does it mean you can’t have any
fun?   Some people think you can tell who
is holy by the dour look on their face. To them holiness means that you look
like you’ve been sucking sour lemons. 
But is that what leading a holy life is about?  Does it mean that we dress in dark clothes,
and never smile?
When I pastored the Wesleyan Church
in Truro I was
fresh out of Bible
College and one of my
best friends in the church was a man in his late sixties, which seemed quite
old then but doesn’t seem all that old now. And Don would ask me “When are you
going to preach about not going to movies or dances or playing cards?” Is that
what leading a holy life is about? What we don’t do?
One day as Jesus was teaching a
religious leader came to him and asked what the greatest commandment was in
Jesus opinion. Jesus’ reply is given in Mark 12:30 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all
your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
You see
holiness isn’t about rules it’s about relationship, our relationship with
God.  Are there things in your life that
stand in the way of your relationship with God? 
Chuck Colson in his book Loving God makes
this statement “Holiness is the everyday
business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and
the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.” 
Or simply put, holiness is wholeness, the whole of Christ in the
whole of your life.  But how do we know
what decisions to make, what things to do? Well we do have the book. And the
short answer is to ask ourselves: would what I’m doing honour God?
When I became a Christian my Dad
offered me a couple of pieces of advice, one of them was this, “All kinds of people will have all kinds of suggestions for
what you can do and can’t do as a Christian.  Here’s a simple guideline, ask yourself: would
I do this with Jesus?”
Have you ever been watching a television program or a
video and one of your kids walked in and you felt a little bit ashamed or
embarrassed by what you were watching?
Have you ever done anything that if I happened along you
wouldn’t want your pastor to see what it was that you were doing? Would you
mind if I happened by and joined you watching whatever it is you are watching?  What if Jesus called and said he was coming to
your house for a couple of days?  Would
you have to scurry about checking to see what magazines were on the coffee
table, what videos were next to the television? If he asked to use your
computer and internet to go on line to check his email would you worry that
he’d look in your history folder?   Would
he appreciate the joke that you told the other day, you know that funny
slightly off colour story your friends laughed at?
There was a time not that long ago, that the church
frowned on people going to movies, and then we kind of relented because after
all what was wrong with being able to go to a G or PG movie. Probably nothing,
but that isn’t what we limit ourselves to is it.  I know I’ve gone from preaching to meddling,
oh well.
I’m not positive it was Billy
Graham but I think it was Billy Graham who said “I
watch programs on television now that I wouldn’t have dreamed of watching 20
years ago.”  And I would suspect
that Billy is not alone.  Here’s a
helpful hint, if you are wondering whether or not a movie or a video is fit to
watch go online, Focus on the Family has a great website that tells you about
the content of movies, music and videos. 
So before you catch that movie everyone is talking about go to www.pluggedin.ca  and check out their movie reviews, there’s
even an app for that.  You won’t always
agree with them but you will go see the movies knowing what you are going to
see. 
And if you still want to go see a movie filled with vulgarities
and debauchery, well then that’s your choice. And some people say, “Well if I’m
going to relate to the unchurched I have to know what they are watching.” Stop
it.  There is a term in computer usage
that is GIGO, Garbage in, Garbage out.
I’m preaching to Denn right now because all too often I
find myself justifying what I’m watching on television or a movie I’m at, and I
know that deep down in my heart that I wouldn’t watch it with Jesus and I know
it’s wrong.  I read once that the last
part of your body that got saved was your right foot, which of course was in
reference to our driving habits.  I think
the last thing that gets saved in our house is the remote control for our TVs
and PVR.  When something comes on that
you ought not be watching, change the channel, or if it’s on a disc hit the
button that says stop eject.
You might be saying “Denn,
Holiness is not externals, let’s not become legalists” I’m not talking about
become legalists I’m talking about pleasing God. Because we never want to lose
sight of Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a
holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Socrates wasn’t a preacher
but he hit the nail on the head when he said “It is
not living that is important, but living rightly”And no, it’s not easy
to lead a holy life, if it was everybody would be doing it.  But it is what God is looking for his
children to do. And a holy life style isn’t cultivated by what you don’t do
it’s cultivated by what you do.  It’s as
you spend more time with God in prayer, and spend more time reading his word
that you know what pleases him and what doesn’t, as you become more like Christ
you won’t have to ask yourself “what would Jesus do?” because you’ll just know.
So where are you at? 
I hope everyone here has stepped over the line that defines their eternal
life.  But that isn’t enough, when Jesus is
offering you an abundant life and make a difference in the world around you.
And finally don’t forget to go a little further and embrace a holy life a life
that glorifies and brings pleasure to God.