Christian Living · Culture & Society

What Does the Coming of Christ Mean?

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

More than one person has said, because it is true, that every life has a purpose. Sometimes the purpose for life may be obscured by sickness, aging, or obscurity but every life has a purpose. The first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer is this, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”  In recent years Pastor Rick Warren has challenged millions to live a Purpose Driven Life. He is not wrong to do that. But the purpose driven life must have as its ultimate objective the glory of God whatever form it takes. Jesus had a purpose in life.

The angels knew what His purpose was for on the night of His birth they told the shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Jesus came to rescue individuals from the penalty, power and pollution of imputed and personal sin. Jesus would save souls by bearing in His body the wrath of God. Instead of divine judgment being poured out on the sinner, it would be diverted to the substitute and poured out on Christ. Christ would absorb the punishment of death that would have killed others for eternity in His own body.

It was May 21, 1946. The place, Los Alamos. A young and daring scientist was carrying out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the waters of the South Pacific at Bikini. He had successfully performed such an experiment many times before. In his effort to determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction—scientists call it the critical mass—he would push two hemispheres of uranium together.

Then, just as the mass became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction. But that day, just as the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped! The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. Instantly the room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze.

Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and thus interrupted the chain reaction. “By this instant, self-forgetful daring, he saved the lives of the seven other persons in the room. . . as he waited…for the car that was to take him to the hospital, he said quietly to his companion, ‘You’ll come through all right. But I haven’t the faintest chance myself’ It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.” Nineteen centuries ago the Son of the living God walked directly into sin’s most concentrated radiation, allowed Himself to be touched by its curse, and let it take His life . . But by that act He broke the chain reaction. He broke the power of sin (George Vandeman, Planet in Rebellion).  The angels knew this would happen. They knew the purpose for which Christ had come, to be a Savior.

Jesus also knew His purpose in life. Jesus knew His purpose in life as a baby. On the night of His birth the Lord spoke in His divinity to the Father and said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:9-10).

At the young age of twelve Christ knew His purpose in life for He gently rebuked His concerned parents while He was in the Holy Temple asking, “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

As a mature Rabbi Jesus knew His purpose in life for He taught His disciples “The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again” (Matt 17:22-23).  The purpose of Christ was to seek and to save the lost and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

But on a practical basis, on the other side of Calvary the world asks again “What does the birth of Jesus mean?” And the church should have an answer because the relevancy of Christmas is being challenged.  In Texas a lady named Debbie Daniel walked into a Wendy’s Restaurant the other day and was rather exuberant with her “Merry Christmas” greeting to the manager. He did not have much of a response and so she said, “Where’s your Christmas spirit?” He said, “We’re not allowed to use the words “Merry Christmas” when greeting customers. We can only say “Happy Holiday.”

On another day Debbie grabbed a quick breakfast at a What-A-Burger Restaurant. She noticed there was not a single decoration in the store. She asked the manager why they weren’t decorated for Christmas. He told her the corporate headquarters decided not to send any decorations to any of their stores, and he didn’t know why.

In other national news Macy’s Department Story which gave to the world The Miracle of 34th Street and now the Federated Stores are taking down their Merry Christmas signs. The Target stores are not allowing the Salvation Army to “Ring the Christmas bells.” In many schools and communities children choirs, and bands are not allowed to play or sing Christmas carols. The reason for all of this in part is because the meaning of the birth of Christ has been lost through commercial activity, the rise of other religions, and the indoctrination of human secularism promoted in the public schools from kindergarten through college. So what does the coming of Christ mean?

First, the coming of Christ means that the question of sin has been seriously dealt with. Conservative Christian theology teaches the natural depravity of the human heart. When the Church speaks of man’s depravity it means man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.

There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his “virtue” is evil in the sight of God.  Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace. The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity (John Piper). Nor will there be an appreciation for the coming of Christ. It is only against the black backdrop of sin that the glorious light of the gospel shines forth and appreciation is seen of what God has moved to do about sin. In the person of His own dear Son, God has dealt seriously with sin for in Christ it was judged in violence, blood, shame and death. The good news is that God has moved to do something about the natural depravity of the heart that causes individuals to hate and hurt one another and destroy any hope of happiness in time or eternity.

Second, the coming of Christ means that individuals can be different. Herein is hope for the heart. God has provided a means whereby a soul can be born again. In the new birth there is forgiveness for all sin—past, present and future. In the new birth there is a new heart to love with, a new will to choose righteousness and a new understanding of spiritual matters.

But it is not easy to change. Anyone who has tried to subdue lust or anger, jealousy or greed knows the sorrow of failure. Recognizing this Thomas à Kempis wisely said, “Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

However, by the power of the new birth, by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, by growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior, by the intake of Bible doctrine in the soul a person can be fundamentally and forever different.

Through pills and drugs the world offers individuals hope of change.

Through self-help books the world offers individuals hope of change.

Through counseling the world offers individuals the hope of change.

The Church offers Christ. The Church says, “Come to Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Following Him and you will become Christ-like, a Christian.” When the wife of missionary Adoniram Judson told him that a newspaper article likened him to some of the apostles, Judson replied, “I do not want to be like a Paul…or any mere man. I want to be like Christ…I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, and place my feet in His footprints…Oh, to be more like Christ!”

Third, the coming of Christ means there can be a personal relationship with the living God. This personal relationship is called eternal life. Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

It is not wrong to think of eternal life as life without end. That is a part of the biblical definition. Thinking of the fullness and duration of this wonderful life, W. B. Hinson, a great preacher of a past generation, spoke from his own experience just before he died. He said, “I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ‘You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’”

It is not wrong to think of eternal life as life without end, but eternal life is more than that. Eternal life is to enjoy an intimate fellowship with God and his Son through prayer and meditation and a study of His Word, the Bible.  If you want to know God and enjoy Him forever, give yourself to the Bible, to prayer and to thinking great spiritual thoughts. Redeem the time.

The apostle Paul spoke of people who live for the next party, the next social gathering over a good meal, the next interesting conversation no matter how illogical it might be, the next pleasure cruise, the next exciting moment in the circus of life.

With an ache in his heart Paul said that “many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19).

What an arresting phrase that is, “whose God is their belly.”  In the ancient world the belly was considered to be the seat of emotion. Today the “heart” is said to be the seat of emotions. But there are many sensations that are felt in the stomach and near the heart. Sensual pleasures find expression in the body which is why so many risk so much for that feeling. The search for the feeling of pleasure is an addiction in and of itself. Individuals are on a frantic search for happiness.

Sometimes, it is only by looking back over a lifetime of self-seeking pleasure where God is dismissed and the body is given to indulge in every appetite to excess that the foolishness of a wasted life is understood. The wise heart is saddened that it did not believe Jesus sooner when He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  The good heart will repent of a life of wasted years and will begin to search out a personal relationship with the living God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Finally, the coming of Christ means there can be a hope of heaven. Every civilization both ancient and modern believes in a life beyond the grave. Some individuals might dare to deny the immortality of the soul, but societies as a whole embrace the concept of life after death. God Himself has put eternity in the heart of man. It is natural to believe in the immortality of the soul. The older a person grows, or the sooner a near death experience occurs, thoughts of eternity set in. Suddenly, life is short, death is certain and eternity is real. And if the Bible is true, then people either go to heaven or to hell. There are not other biblical choices.

The Catholic Church has a terrible doctrine called purgatory, which is nothing but a hell for Christians. It is a terrible doctrine without a single verse in the Bible to support its existence. Jesus said to the dying thief on the Cross, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paul was more than willing to suffer martyrdom “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).

Peter said that Judas Iscariot went “to his own place” (Acts 1:25).  In eternity every person has their own place they will go to. “Where is your place?” Do you have a hope of heaven?” If so, “On what basis do you have this hope?” “Are you living the Christian life?” “Do you believe the Bible?” “Is there a real relationship with the living God and a vital union with His Son, Jesus Christ?” If not, then come to Christ for He came to save His people from their sins.

“Once again the Gospel message
From the Savior you have heard;
Will you heed the invitation?
Will you turn and seek the Lord?

Come believing! Come believing!
Come to Jesus! Look and live!
Come believing! Come believing!
Come to Jesus! Look and live!

Many summers you have wasted,
Ripened harvests you have seen;
Winter snows by spring have melted,
Yet you linger in your sin.

Jesus for your choice is waiting;
Tarry not: at once decide!
While the Spirit now is striving,
Yield, and seek the Savior’s side.

Cease of fitness to be thinking;
Do not longer try to feel;
It is trusting, and not feeling,
That will give the Spirit’s seal.

Let your will to God be given,
Trust in Christ’s atoning blood;
Look to Jesus now in Heaven,
Rest on His unchanging Word.”

Daniel W. Whittle
(1840-1901)

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