God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ…(2Tim1:9-10) (in nothingness, before anything existed, all that existed was the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit.)
Christ-mas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. We should stop and think about that a moment. In our everyday hustle and bustle we tend to just meet the ‘holidays’ head on and not pay much attention to what specifically we might be celebrating. The birth of Christ is so central to what we believe and our hope as Christians. It is one incident in a chain of events that, without it, the whole chain breaks apart. Each section is unable to provide what only the whole can provide. Let’s start with the simple birth-incarnation of Jesus. Imagine the actual moment when God, who is bigger than our universe, actually outside billions of universes that exist, God who is outside that entire cosmos, steps into this small planet. He stepped into His creation from outside the other side of the whole of creation. Stop there and think about that. Big deal isn’t it! Bigger than I think we celebrate sometimes. The writer of this story stepped into the story and began to teach us about Himself for the purpose of permitting us to know Him and know the Love He has for His creation.
Our Faith depends on this: a chosen people, the small town of Nazareth, a young Jewish girl, one single winter’s night, a small stable and a bright shining star! That’s why this ministry spends all its time dedicated to keeping our thoughts and attention on the child born at that single moment. This ministry is not about denominations, we’re not about ‘we are right and you’re wrong and you need to get right.’ No, we are about the birth, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and keeping our mind on Him daily.
Here we are, 25 years into this thing called WBVN. The initial purpose of this ministry was to come and serve this community of believers, i.e., Church. I guess we could have chosen a lot of things to come and serve. There are tons of religions in the world. Many of them have a more ‘lawful’ ethic or higher demand for morality than Christianity. Some have hundreds and hundreds of laws, observances and traditions. But in our Faith, believing in Christ is not an ethical or moral decision. A Faith in Christ comes with an encouragement that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) That’s simply the Faith question. In our Faith, for sure there’s a morality; it contains an ethic, but the central theme is not our ‘perfect’ behavior. Our focus is His perfect behavior, planned before time, before the world began. The question we all must ask is whether we believe His life was ‘enough’ to cover what we do. Christianity not a morality that we adhere to; it’s a Faith in Him that we hold fast to.
The real test between religions is does it make wings to lift people up or are its wings dead weight that drag people down? Very simply, does our Faith carry us or do we have the burden of carrying it? The Grace of God is powerful because it reveals how to live rather than just revealing how we ‘miss it’ sometimes. Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden light. It is the yoke of a finished work. The very thing that empowers us is the thing that so many are afraid of: Grace. We will at the first sign of trouble, at our first chance, depend on our works to get God to do something for us. It becomes a ‘if You will do this I will promise to do that’ transaction. We have a tendency to look at ‘our walk’ and see that it’s not what it should be all the time, perhaps most the time. Our mistaken response is to set ourselves at work, mending it as best we can, improving it if possible, only to find ourselves back where we began: inadequate at best. That process frustrates us and is meant to frustrate us. That frustration should cause us to search out the Grace of God. Anything but that Grace is a strange doctrine according to Paul’s Spirit-inspired scripture. Performance and works are strangers to grace and mercy. Worldly religion is simply us trying to get back to God; ‘Christ-ianity’ is God getting to us.
Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians while in prison. However, each is a celebration of joy. Why was he joyous? I think Paul answers that in Philippians: he had been found by God, had come to know Him, experienced the power of His resurrection, suffered His sufferings (sufferings for his faith, more akin to persecutions because of his Faith, rather than having had a bad cold), died with Him, been raised with Him and was looking to Christ’s return.
Paul had come to know that, if there is any gain in this life it is to gain Christ. It’s Christ that we must grasp. It’s a simple formula: keep Christ the center of our Faith, not make you or your neighbor the center of your Faith. We can be tempted away from the simplicity of that by the whispers of Eden. We can be turned, looking at what others are doing as our evidence of God? or No God? We can be enticed to try and solve our problems by making this Faith one of morality, turning our Faith into perfecting the flesh at the expense of the Spirit. To discover Paul’s truth is to be empowered to live out the Christian life in practice. In the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks of being perfect, but he had no illusions about the flesh and its imperfection. Rather, to be perfect was to come to the place of maturity in ‘Christ learning.’ There is nowhere else to go from that Truth. Christ is ‘all in all.’ He is the full deal, the finished work — we are not and we never will be!