As we approach the Christmas holidays, it just seems appropriate to take some time to reflect on what we celebrate and why.
The event that we celebrate each December actually has its beginnings in the first book of the Bible. That's where we learn of the creation of the earth and everything in it. It's also where we learn of the intimate relationship that existed between the first couple and the God Who created them. That is, the relationship was close until that first couple did the one thing that God had commanded them not to do.
With their disobedience, death entered the world...and not just physical death, but, even more significantly, spiritual death. Fellowship with their Creator was broken. But, fortunately for them, and for all of us who would come after them, God had already anticipated their (and our) failure and had put in place a plan to redeem men and women from the penalty of their sins and to restore them to fellowship with Him. That plan would involve God Himself coming to earth in the form of a man and offering His life as the only sacrifice that could pay every person's sin debt.
As an early step in that plan, God chose Abraham and called him to leave his home and family and to travel to a land that God would give to him and to his descendants. God entered into a covenant with Abraham, promising that, from him, would come a great nation and that, through him, all the nations of the world would be blessed.
During the centuries that followed, prophets of the Lord gave many prophecies concerning the One who would come to redeem mankind.
- He would be a descendant of Abraham.
- He would be from the tribe of Judah.
- He would be a descendant of David.
- He would be a prophet like Moses.
- He would be the Son of God.
- He would be born of a virgin.
- He would come at a specific time.
- He would be born in Bethlehem.
- He would restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, etc.
- People would hear and not believe.
- He would be rejected.
- He would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
- He would be betrayed by a friend.
- He would be sold for 30 pieces of silver.
- He would be accused by false witnesses.
- He would be silent in front of His accusers.
- He would be forsaken by His disciples.
- He would be crucified with criminals and buried in a rich man's tomb.
- His bones would not be broken.
- Men would gamble for His clothing.
- He would be raised from the dead.
All these prophecies and many more were given hundreds of years before Jesus was born to a virgin named Mary in the town of Bethlehem; and all were fulfilled in His life and death. Other prophecies, those concerning His imminent return, are yet to be fulfilled.
God's requirement for entrance into Heaven is sinless perfection. He established the law by which we were to live, and He established the penalty of an eternity of torment and separation from God for any who did not keep that law perfectly. Then, because He knew we would fail, He personally came to pay that penalty and to offer forgiveness and eternal life with Him to any who would put their faith in Jesus, who was God in human flesh, come to earth to redeem sinners.
There has never been a human who lived who has achieved God's standard of perfection, and there never will be. Since we all fall short of God's standard, there is not one person who can earn his way into Heaven.
But God has provided a way for us. One way. The only way. And He provided it at great cost to Himself.
God is just and must punish sin. But He is merciful and doesn't want to punish us. So He came to earth in the form of a man, whom we know as Jesus. Jesus alone lived a life of sinless perfection. And then Jesus laid down that life, offering Himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for the sins of the world.
Jesus' life was not TAKEN that day that He died on the cross. It was GIVEN. Only a sinless sacrifice could pay for the sins of the world, and only Jesus was totally without sin, either in nature or in deed.
He paid for our sins that day...one time for all. It was a demonstration of both His justice and His love. His justice demanded that sin be punished; and, in His love, He took our punishment for us.
Now we have a choice. We can choose to continue trusting in our own good works to get us into Heaven. Or we can choose to trust in Jesus and in what He has done to purchase our salvation for us. There will be no boasting in Heaven. Not one person will be able to pat himself on the back and say, "Look what I've done." The only people in Heaven will be falling at the Savior's feet, thanking Him for what HE has done. Heaven can only be received as a free gift. It cannot be earned.
If there was any other way for sinners to be saved, why would Jesus have come?
We don't really know the date that Jesus entered our world. We traditionally set aside the 25th of December to celebrate the event. But the date is not important. What is important is that He came and that He offers us the gift of eternal life, freely, which is really the only way a gift can be received.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus for your eternal salvation, I pray that you will do so today. Just tell God, in prayer, that you realize that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself, that you believe that Jesus died to pay your sin penalty, and that it's your desire that He come into your life and help you to be the person He created you to be.