by Bob Wheeler


Lorenzo di Credi, “The “Annunciation”


This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief . . .

                                                                                    (I Timothy 1:15; NKJV)


This Christmas season is a little odd. The season will go on, of course, as it has countless times before. But as our culture becomes more secular an ostensibly religious holiday like Christmas seems increasing odd and out of place. Supposedly the “reason for the season” is the birth of Christ. But who is interested in Christ anymore?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus was no ordinary human being, and His birth was a watershed in history. Jesus is the Son of God, and He came into the world for a specific reason and purpose. He “came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

But who is a sinner, you may ask? The answer is, we all are. It may be hard for us to see that, but it is true nonetheless. We measure ourselves by each other, and conclude that we are basically nice, decent people because we have managed to stay out of jail. But when we measure ourselves by God’s standard the picture is completely different.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). God is perfectly holy and just. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Moreover, He created us for His own purposes and expects us to live accordingly.

“He has shown you, o man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8)

We, however, have not done that. We do not always “do justly.” We cannot say that we truly “love” mercy. And we can hardly say that we “walk humbly” with God. Most of the time we go through life pursuing our own self-interest, sometimes at the expense of others.

While we may look outwardly respectable, inwardly we are a raging cauldron of human passion and lust. What we take pains to hide from others is all too obvious to ourselves: our pride, our lust, our envy, our greed. Our seething anger; our petty selfishness. And in ways subtle and sometime not so subtle, our fallen human nature corrupts and destroys everything we do. We manipulate and extort from others; we become addicted to compulsive and self-destructive behaviors. And God sees it all.

And it all boils down to rebellion against God. We have consciences; we have the Scriptures. We know that what we are doing is wrong, and yet we do it anyway. We try to rationalize our behavior. We even devise elaborate secular philosophies to justify our godlessness. It all amounts to a stubborn refusal to do what our Creator wants us to do. Even our best attempts at civilization are done in defiance of His authority.

Our situation, then, was hopeless. We were under God’s wrath and condemnation. But what God did next was most amazing. “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “For God so loved the world . . .” The “world,” in biblical terms, is almost entirely negative – it is the sum total of fallen human society in all of its sin and rebellion. Who could possibly love something so ugly and hideous? And yet that is exactly what the text says that God did. This does not mean that God thinks that the world is likable – it most definitely is not. But what it does mean is that God took pity and compassion on us creatures made in His image – on a human society that had become a pitiful wreck of what He had originally created.

And how God expressed that love is even more extraordinary: “He gave His only begotten Son . . .” “His only begotten Son” was His most precious possession, the person Who was nearest and dearest to Himself. And yet He “gave” Him. He sent His only begotten Son into this sin-cursed world to die a horrible death on a cross. And why? So “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The language is taken from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, from a prophecy that describes “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation,” at which time there will be a resurrection in which

“. . . many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,

Some to everlasting life,

Some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

(Daniel 12:1,2).

But the only way to gain the one and avoid the other is through the work of a Savior. We all deserve to die. We must have our sins forgiven and our guilt removed in order to live. “For Christ also suffered once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit . . .” (I Peter 3:18). And that, in a nutshell, is why Christ came to earth.

Christmas is, of course, a time of cheer and good will. But it should also be a sober reminder of why we needed a Savior in the first place. He came to rescue us from our sin and misery. Let us “believe in Him” – put our trust in Him as our personal Savior – that we might have everlasting life.