12/22/2012 – Christmas—the tree, the cost, and the cross – Shane Idleman
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
There is a significant shift in the church today to avoid controversial truths, such as sin. God’s Word says to confront, confess, and turn from sin, whereas many encourage us to ignore, overlook, and continue in it. Silence about sin minimizes the cross, making it less offensive. The cross only makes sense in light of the consequences of sin. “To convince the world of the truth of Christianity, it must first be convinced of sin. It is only sin that renders Christ intelligible” (Andrew Murray).
Many mistakenly believe that Jesus didn’t mention sin—after all, He was “a friend of sinners.” However, Scripture reveals quite the opposite. For example, in John 5:14 Jesus exhorted a man to sin no more or a worse thing would happen to him. He also told the woman caught in the act of adultery to “go and sin no more.” In Luke 10:13-14 Jesus reprimanded cities that did not repent and turn from sin.
It’s clear that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15), why, then, is there a move to avoid mentioning sin? John 12:43 may reveal the answer, “They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” “The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it” (A.W. Tozer).
Little sins eventually grow and become strong influences (strongholds). Sin has a life cycle—it either grows or withers depending on whether we feed or starve it. This is why the puritan author, John Owen, wrote, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” With that said, here are a few points to consider:
1. Sin is within: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Our sinful nature is at war with God. No peace treaties can be signed; no concessions can be made…sin must be aborted: “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). The Bible says to flee, not feed sin; to crucify, not coddle it.
2. Sin has a cost: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). It’s been said that sin takes you farther than you want to go, costs you more than you want to pay, and keeps you longer than you want to stay. Sin has a tremendous price, but fortunately, this greatest of debts was paid: “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
3. Sin separates: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Contextually, God is dealing with Israel here, but the overlapping principle applies—sin separates all nations, tribes, and tongues from God. There are two types of separation: separation from God eternally, and separation that believers experience as the result of besetting sin. If God seems distant, Bible study boring, and church inconvenient, it may be that sin is hindering your relationship with Him. Look within…is jealousy, envy, bitterness, gossip, lust, or anger controlling your thoughts? Do you have a critical spirit? Are you compromising via media choices and/or destructive friendships? Are you filled with pride and judgmentalism instead of love, joy, peace, contentment, and gentleness. If there is no repentance from besetting sin, one can never experience true freedom in Christ.
4. Sin enslaves (controls): “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption, writes, “Sin corrupts worship. Not a ceasing of worship but a distortion of it. We never stop worshiping. Rather, in sin, we worship anything and everything other than God. We tend to exalt a substance, an experience, a person, or a dream to the level of a god. We define life by its attainment, and we feel like dying when it eludes us…The Bible calls this ‘idolatry.’ So addictions, for example, aren’t just drug, alcohol, food, or pornography problems. They are worship disorders. They flow from hearts bent on worshiping created things rather than the Creator.” Sin enslaves, controls, and distorts.
As a note of great encouragement, Jesus came to “save His people from their sins.” This is the true reason for the Christmas season—the penalty for sin was paid on the cross (propitiation), and our guilt was removed (expiation).
Christmas points us to the cross. The tree once dead and barren, supporting a lifeless Savior now stands evergreen, as the symbol of eternal life, with radiant lights penetrating the dark; light that darkness cannot overcome. This Christmas, let the tree remind us of the cross and the transformation from barren and dead to vibrant and eternal.
John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us life, freedom, and a relationship with God. Are you experiencing this abundant life? Or are you bound by sin, rules, compromise, or tradition? That can be changed…2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. The old has gone, and the new is here. You must trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
If you’re a believer, but find yourself trapped in sin, misery, and depression, there is also hope. God’s continually calls His people back to Himself. If you return to Him with all of your heart, He will return to you. That’s a gift of the greatest value…a promise that will never fail.
More can be found at www.WCFAV.org