Here we are with the birthday of Jesus only a week away. What exactly are we celebrating? You might respond, “We’re celebrating his birthday!” Yes, Yes, I know that. My question is, “Why do we celebrate his birth?” This may sound like a strange question coming from someone who is a retired pastor and preacher of the Gospel.
Follow me here. The whole purpose behind Jesus coming into our world was to bring about a change in our status with him. As sinners we have violated God’s eternal laws and are therefore in rebellion against him. The die is cast. My sinfulness has separated me from any meaningful relationship with God. The tragedy is that there’s nothing I can do about it. My sin, my attitude, my willfulness has caused the split with my Heavenly Father. I can’t fix my condition either. No amount of penance, or self-sacrifice, or inflicted flagellation or any other means so instituted can put me in an improved standing with him.
This is why Jesus came. God, in his mercy and grace, reached out to you and me through his son, Jesus. He offers to forgive our sins. This offer of reconciling us to himself comes at a great cost to him – not to us. The cost to receive God’s forgiveness for my sin is really no cost at all. My part is to confess. This is experienced in two steps: First, I must confess that I am a sinner and am hopelessly separated from God. And Second, I must confess that God is the only one who can rescue me from my sinful condition.
Now, the cost to God for my being saved from sin focuses entirely on the sacrificial act of Jesus willingly going to certain death on a Roman cross. Why did he do this? Because the penalty for sin is death. And the sacrifice of blood must be from a perfect victim. That’s Jesus! It certainly is not from me, because my soul, my blood is tainted by the very sin I need to be freed from.
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, fully realized the dilemma each of us faces when it comes to the issue of personal sin and the penalty associated with it. In order for you and me to be reunited with God something quite extraordinary has to occur. Since I can’t pay the price for my own sin, someone greater than me who likewise has the power to bring about my salvation, must step up to pay the price. Otherwise I am totally lost and without hope.
Since I made the confession mentioned above on September 8, 1972 while a sergeant in the Marine Corps, I have discovered that even though my sins are gone because of the blood Jesus shed to make me clean, I am not as yet a perfect man. In fact, I am far from it. Too often the critics of Christians and the Christian faith point out the obvious hypocrisy witnessed in any church on a given Sunday. Those who gather for worship and prayer and the preaching of the Word of God are placing themselves at the feet of Jesus to learn how to be more like him. For some, they are making great strides in becoming more Christ-like. For others, they simply don’t see themselves as needing any real help. And still others could care less. Going to church for them is just one more activity in their busy week.
So when you look at me I want you to remember this: Jesus is perfect. And he has perfectly saved me from my sins. I, on the other hand, am imperfect, flawed severely more than I want to admit. In however many years I have left on this earth, Jesus is in the process of transforming me into his image. For this to be a successful transformation, I have to be willing to allow him to have complete control of my heart, mind, body and soul.
I should be much further along in the maturing process of my walk with Jesus. I should be more patient toward everyone, but particularly toward those I love the most. My temper still ambushes me without warning. The nasty old habit of using foul language threatens to invade my speech once again. And my thoughts at times frighten me.
So, for those who wish to criticize those of us who are Christians, go right ahead. Just know that I, along with so many other followers of Jesus, are wrestling every day in the expectation of drawing just a bit closer to him, fully aware that whatever change for the good that takes place is his doing.
I’m so glad Jesus came two thousand years ago to rescue me from myself. The Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 7:24-25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Happy Birthday, Jesus! And thanks for rescuing this sinner.