Today we conclude as series of devotions about the Christmas celebration. Today I would draw your attention to the “reason for the season”, the baby Jesus, the Son of God. He was God, yet He became a fragile little baby. Friends, if God came in the form of a baby, He also lived through teething, puberty, adolescence, awkwardness, young adulthood and all the emotions and challenges any human goes through.
Because He came like this….because He emptied Himself and become fully human, because he endured chores, work, ridicule, the lose of friendship, He most certainly does understand the struggles of every adult, but also of young adults, teenagers and even a baby.
But as you look at the baby in the manger, never forget the purpose of that baby—to be one day nailed to a tree. He was not born to live to a ripe old age and enjoy the fruits of His labors—He was born to suffer and die so that you and I won’t have to. What God requires of us is to believe in the efficacy of the cross, bodily resurrection of His Son and the unsurpassed love of the Father and the Son. What God gives us, if we believe, is justification and the credit of eternal life.
But consider what Jesus said in the third chapter of John, regarding eternal life:
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…..No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. …. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John Chapter 3, selected verses, NIV)
You hear Jesus say this time and time again: we must believe in Him—-not believe about Him, or even testify that we agree with all the good things He taught. He didn’t come to be some sort of moral hero or the final prophet of God. He came, God-in-the-flesh, so that you and I would not die. Now, do you believe that?
Jesus came here, born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, lived a sinless and flawless life over 2000 years ago. Do you believe that? He suffered and crucified to atone for the sins of the history of mankind. Do you believe that? And finally, He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return one day. Do you believe that? He is the One and only, eternal, pre-existing, never failing to exist, Son of God. Do you believe that?
Now we believe in Julius Cesar, Charlemagne, Marco Polo, and other persons of history. And yet there is far greater evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and yet we choose to doubt.
If you believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, you’re ahead of more than 1/3 of the clergy of the Church of England. One in three of the Anglican priests in Great Britain, do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church of England is shrinking, do you wonder why? Today, for the first time in 1000+ years, less than half of England professes to be Christian. Well, imagine that!
Here’s the point: You have to believe. Belief is a choice we make, based upon what we have witnessed, experienced and what we have determined to accept as truth. You can choose to believe that 2 and 2 = 4 is true. But your choice to believe or disavow doe not change the truth one bit!
When God speaks to me, it becomes a matter of my will—my freedom to believe or deny the truth. Do I choose to respond to the truth He brings to my conscience —which we call divine and natural revelation. Will I come to Him and call Him Lord? Belief is an act of my free will where I deliberately commit myself to accepting what is true.
Oswald Chambers said that, “Belief must be the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to persuasive power; a deliberate launching forth on God and on what He says until I am no longer confident in what I have done, I am confident only in God.”
Again, We must will to believe, and this can never be done without a violent effort on our part to disassociate ourselves from the deception and lies of the enemy, and even my old ways of looking at things, and by allowing Him to open my eyes and to see things as He does.
Later on Jesus talked about this idea of “belief” in detail, as well as how HE, as God in the flesh, was essential for salvation.
You might recall that He fed 5000 men, not including women and children, so probably 15,000+ people in a huge meadow. After He departed, they followed Him—but not looking for the right thing. They wanted more free food. That often happens in society or ministry that gives free food but does not ask those that receive to work. Sometimes the church is guilty of helping folks with their physical needs but they ignore the essential, existential matters.
“When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Let me stop there. Did you hear that? What is the work that requires of us? To believe in the one that He has sent—that is, Jesus Christ. If you truly believe you will be born again and you will walk in light, not darkness. Do you believe? Are you telling that to others that are not here, right now, in your own family?
“ Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. …. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:25-40, selected, NIV
Again, listen to what the Son of God said! Eternal life is for those that believe in Him! It is not for those that believe in Mohammed, Buddha, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, or any other God. Christianity is the most exclusive religion in the world for this reason:”There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
“ Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” …. Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me…..…. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” John 6:45-66, selected, NIV
We must believe on Jesus…we must be born again….we must will to accept that He is the only means of getting our lives in order—-and that includes according to Jesus, “having Him inside us” by means of ingestion! Consuming Him! We all know that we can’t literally eat His body or drink His blood, even though He told us that we had to, but I think the point is that He, inside us, is the source of the eternal life. He told this lesson right after they ate the real bread that He miraculously produced—it kept them alive for a while. But now, He is saying, eternal life is also something that He is miraculously prepared to give them, but only HE can give it—-and HE is the bread…..HE is the wine….HE is the source of eternal nourishment.
Do you believe this? Are you prepared to admit that you cannot get this eternal life on your own—you have to accept it as a gift. But the gift is quite costly. The body and blood of Jesus was spilled and broken, just like bread and wine at communion.
Jesus came as a baby, over 2000 years ago, as proof of God’s love and also as proof that you and I can’t get to heaven on our own. He has gone to great lengths to open heaven to us—but we’d better be prepared to accept His gift! That gift requires that you admit you need a savoir, you need to be “re-made”, i.e. reborn, not simply forgiven. And you must believe in Jesus Christ.
The gospel is John is clear, regardless of what liberal priests in England say, you must believe in Jesus to receive eternal life; which requires that we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that He is God in the flesh, and that God raised Him from the dead; to refuse to believe in Jesus, His divinity and His resurrection, is tantamount to rejecting God and His love—and we’re promised that we will then earn the wrath of God.
I willed to know the truth about Jesus and Christianity. I uncovered the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. But I had to want to find the truth. It set me free to will to believe all I have read and heard about Jesus. My will has determined that I am going to believe in Him, no matter how many others chose to follow their own notions of heaven, hell, God, creation and mankind.
And here’s what I know—and what I have determined and willed to hold onto no matter what the world says, these absolute truths:
God sent His son, we call Him, Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!