Christian history reveals quite a bit of controversy over the actual date of Jesus’ birth, raising the question, why do we celebrate Christmas at all?
As we navigate the ups and downs in this wretched world, sometimes it becomes necessary to take a new direction. But change is a hard pill to swallow for some of us. So, many of us who are short-sighted and the narrow-minded put up barriers and resist every notion of change.
Then, one day a spiritual awakening happened, and suddenly you morphed into a completely different person. And for the first time you realised that you were wrong all along. It now becomes clear that the path you had chosen leads to a dead-end street.
Still, you have to decide whether to stay stuck in your old ways or reset and embark on a new direction. Thankfully, like apostle Paul, some of us choose to explore a new direction.
Today one of the most famous religious institutions–the Catholic Church, finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The head of the Church wants to take the institution in a new direction, but members of the ruling bodies vehemently oppose. Still yet, this hardened opposition is not base on Biblical principles. If anything, it is base on Church traditions sprinkled with some moral principles.
Therefore, it is not blasphemous to say the Catholic Church got stuck in tradition, in the same way, the Pharisees was when Jesus called them whitewashed sepulchres. For it appears that majority of its members both in the ruling bodies and the pews are more concerned about public opinion than winning souls for the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus was on earth, He ran into similar opposition. Luke 5:30-32 documents one of His encounters with the religious class. The Bible says Levi put on a great feast for Jesus, and there was a great company of tax collectors and sinners among them.”But the scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
31 And Jesus answering said unto them, they that are well needed, not a physician; but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Fellow Christians and non-Christians, John 8: 7 (“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”), is undoubtedly one of the most powerful yet humbling Scripture in the New Testament. Unfortunately, many Christians either do not think the context of the passage apply to them, or they flatly do not understand it.
I have arrived at this harsh conclusion after observing fellow Christians for many years. I have realized that many of us, especially some who preach from the pulpit, are pompous and stuck-up. Like the Scribes and Pharisees mentioned in John 8, we enjoy pointing out the sins of others but we cover up ours. We even look down on the people we labelled as sinners with disdain.
Naturally, one do not expect a follower of Jesus Christ who truly understand Jesus’ mission and what He meant when He said: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), to exhibit a repulsive attitude toward the people Jesus came to save. Unfortunately, none of us is blameless in this regard.
But if we are going to talk gospel according to Jesus and the disciples, then we must first come down off our high horses and face the harsh reality. The church cannot grow if we continue to pour water into the faces of those who need Jesus in their lives. Many of these people do not know that they need Jesus. Therefore, it is our solemn duty to tell them why they need Him.
As Christians, we must never forget where we were when we found Jesus. Some of us had been in similar situations as the people we now condemn. But just like Paul, we had an awakening and we turned our life around. Notice, Paul never forgot the life he had lived before he met Christ, but he never returned to it. And most noticeable, he was never Stuck-up, pompous, judgmental, or condemning.
Mary, a virgin, living in Galilee of Nazareth was engaged to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. One day God sent an angel, Gabriel to inform her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child, and she would name him Jesus.
At first Mary was afraid and troubled. Being a virgin, Mary questioned the angel, “How will this be?” The angel explained that the child would be God’s Son and, therefore, “nothing is impossible with God.” Humbled and in awe, Mary believed the angel of the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.
While Mary was still engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he felt betrayed and disgraced. He knew the child was not his own. Under Jewish law, Mary could be put to death by stoning.
Although Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly. But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to verify Mary’s story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God’s will. The angel explained that the Holy Spirit conceived the baby within Mary and that his name would be Jesus the Messiah. When Joseph woke from his dream, he obeyed God and took Mary home to be his wife.
In Mary’s third trimester, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census must be taken, of every person living in the Roman world. Joseph, a descendant of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. There was no room in the inn. She wrapped the baby in cloths and placed him in a manger.
Out in the fields, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their sheep by night. The angel announced that the Savior’s birth in the town of David. Suddenly a great host of heavenly beings appeared with the angels and began singing praises to God. As the angelic beings departed, the shepherds decided to travel to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child.
There they found Mary, Joseph, and the baby, in the stable. After their visit, they began to spread the word about this amazing child and everything the angel had said about him. They went on their way still praising and glorifying God. But Mary kept quiet, treasuring their words and pondering them in her heart.
After Jesus’ birth, Herod was king of Judea. At this time wise men (Magi) from the east saw a star, they knew the star signified the birth of Christ. So they followed the star to Jerusalem where they asked the Jewish rulers where the Christ born. The rulers explained, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” referring to Micah 5:2.
Herod secretly met with the Magi and asked them to report back after they had found the child. Herod told the Magi that he too wanted to go and worship the babe. But secretly Herod was plotting to kill the child.
So the wise men continued to follow the star in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. They bowed and worshiped him, offering treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh. When they left, they did not return to Herod. The Holy Spirit warned them of his plot to destroy the child.
In 1993 former basketball star, Charles Barkley declared to the world in an Ad that he was not a role model. Charles was at the peak of his career, and even though he hadn’t won a Championship kids everywhere looked up to him. They thought he was somebody they could emulate. He was their role model. But he could handle the responsibilities or the pressures of the squeaky clean role model. So, he ran an Ad on TV titled ‘I am not a role model.’
So, I took another look at the Charles Barkley ‘I am not a role model’ Ad, and it occurred to me that every Christian is a role model. It is part of our responsibilities as followers of Jesus Christ.. When Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16); He is really asking us to become the light that leads others to Him.
Make no mistake, the world will never find Jesus on its own, and even though it will never admit it, It is morally bankrupt and in desperate need of your help. It needs mentors and role models like you that it can emulate. And since we are Jesus’ representatives here on earth, we must step up and be the role models and mentors the world needs to help steer it back from the precipice. But this is no easy task. Therefore, as committed servants of Jesus Christ, it is of paramount importance that we lead lives that are worthy of the calling we have received. Not only when the spotlights are shinning on us, but also when no one is looking.
Further, as Christians and role models and mentors we must stand out among the crowd wherever we go, and we must never be afraid to embrace who we are and who we represent. The Apostle Paul emphasized this in Romans 12:2 ” Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Your attitude says a lot about you. A Christian with a friendly demeanor is more likely to draw sinners to the Kingdom of heaven than, let’s say one with a repulsive attitude.
It is true; many of my Christian brothers and sisters have attitude problems. (…you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. Matt. 23:13) We often scoff at sinners and anyone who does not attend our church. Hence, we limit ourselves to the four walls of our sanctuary and refuse to adopt to the changing environment. Essentially, we have become aloof, judgmental and disinterested.
But no one likes being around a person with a bad attitude. So, if we want our light to shine before men, that they see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16), then we must clean up our attitudes.
Since Jesus is our example, Christians are obligated to follow His lead and strive to emulate Him in every respect. He never turned anyone away. Everybody is welcome in His presence; even the little children. He is approachable, and He never looked down on sinners. As a matter of fact, He sat down and ate and drank with sinners, much to the chagrin of Pharisees. ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and “sinners”? They asked the disciples. The bible said, “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’” (Luke 5:30-32).
Does your attitude helps to draw people closer to the kingdom of heaven, or does it drives them away?
Recently I read a very disturbing article, captioned: “What is this world coming to?” The article arrived in my Inbox, and I believe Stephen Altrogge whom I do not know wrote it.
Obviously, Stephen is a follower of Jesus Christ, and he is every bit as concerned as most of us are about the moral decay of our society and the world in general.
Here are some excerpts of what Stephen writes:
“Every so often I hear someone say in despair, “What is this world coming to?” This kind of comment usually comes in response to a doomsday report of some sort.
1. Statistics shows that kids are more sexualized now than ever and that 70% of kids will have sex before graduating high school!
2. A new report says that 45% of Americans think that God wants them to be happy more than anything else!
3. A pew poll report shows that church attendance is at the lowest mark in twenty years!
When we hear these kinds of reports and stats, our gut instinct can be to throw our hands up in despair, panic, or disgust. We are shocked at the behavior of young people these days. Shocked at the levels of immorality at universities. Shocked at the apathy of people toward spiritual things. Shocked at the spike in gay marriages. Shocked at the smut being produced by Hollywood. Shocked at the increase in sexual promiscuity in our culture. What is this world coming to?”
The apostle Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, warned us about these things. In a letter to Timothy, he writes the following:
“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
6 They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. 7 (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.) 8 These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. 9 But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres” (2 Timothy 3:1-9).
So, my good friends, do not be dismayed about the troubling things you see today. The worst is yet to come. But if you stayed committed and faithful to God, the one who gave up His only Son as a ransom for your sins, then at the end you will hear the words, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant.’