I mentioned on Sunday that I am not concerned about keeping Christ in Christmas, or promoting “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, or about the supposed “War on Christmas”. I stated that my biggest concern is keeping Christ in my Christianity.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, stated in the 19thcentury:
- “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
Did you catch that? One of the things he was afraid of was “Christianity without Christ”.
Michael Horton, professor at Westminster Seminary California, wrote a book on this same topic entitled, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, which discusses how “Christians” in America are using Christianity for their own means, are often busy in their churches, and yet have excluded Christ from their lives, their churches, and their practices.
Our culture is rapidly changing from an era when Christians had a voice in society and were generally accepted, to one where we are viewed as irrelevant, dangerous, arrogant, and the source of hate. We are fools to think we’ll ever be accepted, or that we can Christianize our culture by forcing people to say, “Merry Christmas” or fighting back against a culture that is trying to strip Jesus from Christmas. I think the passage often ignored by the church is the one that informs us on how we should engage our world:
- I. Corinthians 5:12-13a For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.
What is Paul telling us?
- Our External Mission (which came directly from Jesus Christ) is to preach the Good News of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to all.
- Here Paul says we are not to be judging the lost for the way they live.
- Dr. Wheeler, professor of Evangelism at Liberty University School of Divinity, often says that it should never surprise us that lost people act lost.
- That means these people are going to Hell regardless if they’re nice, sweet, cute, handsome, rich, philanthropic, contributors to society, educated, well-mannered, raunchy, covered in tattoos & piercings, sexually vile, diseased, missing teeth, murderous, pedophiles, and so forth.
- Which also means that these people are all redeemable by the grace of God.
- And that means that our job is not to conform them to “Christian” standards of living since they are outside of the church and will ultimately be judged by God.
- Similarly, we are not to force them to celebrate Christmas in a “Christian” fashion as so many attempt to do.
- The message of the New Testament is that we are to evangelize them and let the Holy Spirit convict them and draw them to the Lord.
- Our Internal Mission (from various New Testament passages): To ensure our church is theologically accurate, is free of false teachers, is living out brotherly love, is morally pure, is praying, and is most importantly Jesus-centered.
- In this particular passage, Paul focuses on the moral living of those within the church, and says that the church is to hold each other accountable to living godly standards.
- Remember, the world hates hypocrites, and nothing speaks of hypocrisy more than living contrary to the Bible.
So, how will we best show Christ at Christmastime? Let me offer a few suggestions:
- The Gospel. No other religion, philosophy, or belief has any good news, but that is the whole crux of Christianity—Christ is the Good News! That’s the reason He came in the first place.
- Be the hands and feet of Christ to the world. The weakness of the Social Gospel was that it thought doing good works would lead people to Jesus. But, we are still a people of social action since we hold the truth of God’s Word and the love of Christ. As such, we need to look for opportunities to serve (like ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on Wednesdays, or helping with meals on wheels, serving the poor, working with foster children, and so forth), all the while proclaiming “Jesus saves!”
- And, individually as well as collectively as a church, we need to ensure we are repentant and holy. It’s not easy since our flesh wants what it wants. But, to make God happy, secure His blessings, and demonstrate to the world that we are not fake Christians, this is an area that needs to be reviewed by each of us daily.
- What parts of your life are Christless? (we all have them, so here’s a good time to honestly confront them): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Confess these to Jesus right now and ask Him to take up residence in those parts of your life as the Lord of them.
- Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
- The above verse was actually from a letter Christ had sent out to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation. This was a church that had essentially kicked Jesus out. It was practicing Christless Christianity.
- Think about various churches you’ve encountered over the years (could be here in Hawaii, in other countries, or on the mainland). Have you ever experienced any that were merely going through the motions, but the life of Christ was not evident? ________________________________
- What are some products in our world that are fake (like wood-grained laminate, or artificial chocolate Easter bunnies that taste like plastic)? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Now, similar to fake products, many Christians may look real but are just going through the motions (like a real chocolate Easter Bunny on the outside, even having the right texture and color, but when someone bites off an ear the flavor is all wrong).
- Admit, you’ve been that person before. We all have. But, are you being that person right now?
- Ask God now to help you live what you believe, to pour out of you the fruit of the Spirit, and to boldly proclaim His loving Gospel.
- Christ’s first Advent was not so we could celebrate Christmas (even though I enjoy this season), or to show “goodwill toward men” once a year, or have some mystical and magical “Christmas spirit”. It was about death—His death on the cross.
- I. John 10:10b I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
- Christianity is not a religion about people or else it would fall in the category of all other religions (i.e. it’s all about Jesus). Yet, it is deeply concerned about people since God loved the world so much that He sacrificed His Son so that people could be saved.
- Who is in your life right now that has never confessed his sin, repented, and accepted Jesus Christ and His work on the cross? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- The greatest Christmas gift you could give is the Gospel. What are some ways you can intentionally reach out to these people with the Gospel this season? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Now, pray for each of these people, and reach out to them in the next few weeks!