Christian Living · Culture · Culture & Society

What Does the Birth of Christ Mean?

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

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 depression, but every life has a purpose. The first question of the Westminster 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.”

Since 2002, 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” (Luke 2:11). 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 in His own body the punishment of the second death that would have wounded others for eternity.

It was May 21, 1946. The place, Los Alamos, New Mexico. 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 on the Bikini atoll on March 1, 1954. 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 running, 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 act, Slotin 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 will come through all right. But I have not the faintest chance myself.” It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.

Twenty 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). We say again, the angels 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, even as a baby. On the night of His birth the Lord spoke in His divinity to the Father and this is what He said. “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7).

At the young age of twelve Christ knew His purpose in life, for one day 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).

Now on a practical basis, on the other side of Calvary, the world still wonders, and sometimes asks, “What does the birth of Jesus mean?” The church should have an answer, because the relevancy of Christmas is being challenged.

On December 2, 2015, USA Today filed the following report. “An Indiana public high school will not be allowed to portray a Nativity scene with live performers as part of the 2015 Christmas Spectacular, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Jon E. Deguilio granted a preliminary injunction in a federal lawsuit against Concord Community Schools, writing in the order that the show “conveys a message of endorsement of religion, or that a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.”

“Accordingly, the court finds that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits on their claim that the inclusion of the living Nativity scene in the show, as currently proposed, violates the Establishment Clause,” the judge wrote. There is a war on Christmas because there is a war on Christ. And there is a war on Christ because the meaning of the birth of Christ has been lost in America to commercial activity, to the rise of other religions, such as Islam, and to 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 depravity it means a person’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform individuals.

To speak of human depravity seems to be saying something too harsh, until a person reads the daily headlines in America and around the world. There is death, bloodshed, and violence everywhere. Despite the manifold expressions of human depravity, multitudes still believe they personally are good, and have no need of God.

I received a letter dated December 2, 2015. “Read your book (A Message for America). It is well written, but I can’t relate to it as I don’t accept the Bible as factual. It’s a lot of good stories for sure. I don’t believe God is into all life. …I’ll have to take my chance as a person who tried to live a good life.”

Therein is the problem. The Bible says there is “none good, but one” (Matt. 19:17). The terrible condition of the human heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other individuals. But when the heart is compared to God’s demand for perfection, then a person can only say, “I am unclean.”

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 sin was judged in violence, blood, shame, and death. The good news of Christmas 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 a’ 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, and 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.

In contrast, the Church offers Christ. The Church says, “Come to Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Follow Him and you will become Christ-like, and thus a Christian.”

When the wife of Burma (Myanmar) 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 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 gifted preacher of a past generation, spoke from his own experience just before he died. He gave his testimony and 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 only 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, or 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: 19 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 humanity.

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 no other biblical choices.

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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