Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's Not about the Baby

There's something about that image: Shepherds standing in adoration, angels singing praise, a father embracing his bride, and that bride pondering the wonderful, peaceful moment.  And then there's the center of the whole scene - the entire focus of the night: the baby.  The child, Jesus, lying gently in a manger.  Everyone loves the thought of it.

But why?  In a society that has so forsaken God, why do people accept - and even embrace - the mention of the Son of God coming to earth?  Why does our anti-Jesus culture suddenly love Jesus?

The answer is simple: they don't.

Sure, they love the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, but they don't really love the Messiah.  To the world, the Christmas baby is a symbol of peace, of love, of hope, and of joy.  But he's just that: a symbol.  The fact is, just like the "loving Jesus" society embraces, this baby Jesus has been stripped of nearly every truly divine quality and left as a mere "feel-good" idea.

He's lost his power.  His judgment.  His terrifying holiness.  His unrelenting wrath against all sin.  And because of all this, he's lost his gospel.  The Almighty King has been replaced by just... a baby.

Perhaps you think I'm taking all of the joy out of Christmas.  However, there can never really be joy without Christ; and we've done exactly that: we've managed to take Christ out of Christmas without even removing Him.  The Church is tricked into thinking that the world is worshiping God when it's really worshiping a baby.

But the baby in the manger is also the One we worship.  He's not the same baby, though.  This baby is God Himself, Who chose to become the lowliest.  He came as a weak infant, but He was - and is - so much more.  He's still God.

He's the Maker of the universe.  He's the eternal Judge.  He's the Commander of all the heavenly armies.  He is Jesus Christ, and no one will ever be able to diminish a single thing about Him.

So when we celebrate Christmas, we worship the Lamb who was slain to pay our debt forever.  And that is the true joy of Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Knowing the God We've Forgotten

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers ... that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe." (Ephesians 1:16-19, emphasis added)

In today's society, the church is being increasingly compartmentalized into two groups: believers who "feel God" and ones who "know about God."  Sadly, as the dichotomy widens, both factions are pushed further and further apart to the point that both are extremes that often stray far from the Truth of Christianity.  In order to truly know God, however, it is crucial for us to find the truth in each of these viewpoints without swaying from scripture and so jeopardize a close walk with Christ.

The first view, "feeling" God, is mostly characterized by Evangelicals.  It began during the first Great Awakening, when dynamic preachers starkly contrasted the dull churches of the day.  These men gripped the emotions, but Christianity became consistently characterized by individual feeling and experience rather than true belief.  Doctrine was kicked to the curb as "spiritual experiences" took precedence.

Alternatively, as the Evangelical movement swept the country, some resisted by holding tighter to church organization, ordinance, and tradition.  While they preserved many sacred aspects of the faith and taught proper theology, they, much like the pharisees of Jesus's day, began to lose the fervor and zeal for the God they served.

And so it has continued to this day.  It is not difficult to notice that the Church of today has almost entirely embraced the Evangelical extreme.  As the philosophy of naturalism becomes much more common, belief in the Maker of the universe seems like fantasy.  Christianity has become therapeutic; "love," "faith," and emotional experience are the primary ideals of the Church, giving it a mystical feeling with little to no foundation in reality.

So what does this mean?  How does all of this help us to know God?  It's simple, really: we must regain the right perspective.  We can't develop a Christian worldview simply by having a "God experience."  Today, knowledge about God is second-priority - even shunned, but God wants us to know about Him!

But even more so, the Lord desires that we know Him.  This means that we not only feel His presence, but we diligently seek to understand who He is.  And yes, that requires studying His word.  It requires prayer.  It requires talking about Him with fellow believers.  It requires things that our "Just me and Jesus" society ignores.

I could really go on and on about this.  I invite you to continue the conversation in the comment section!  In the mean time, though, remember that merely knowing about God or feeling God is not enough.  We have to know God!