There has been a lot of discussion in recent posts concerning true and false gospels. I have decided to put on the table the Gospel message I have prepared for my e-cards I am sending out this Christmas. By True Gospel I don't mean style of writing or personality. Both of these are extensions of myself. By true Gospel I am talking about the theology of the message which must NEVER change.
Please read on and take the time to do what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Church in his second letter "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (II Corinthians 13:5). (The numbers represent corresponding Bible verses that you will find at the bottom of the post).
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
I wish to extend warm greetings to you and your family this Christmas. This is a time of year when people often stop and reflect on the big questions in life. As a Christian it is a time of year that has great significance to me and this year feel greatly convicted to articulate what Christmas is all about. I hope and pray that you would take the time to consider these eternal truths that concern each and every one of us.
The Christmas Carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” really captures the true message and meaning of Christmas. You have probably heard this Christmas Carol sung many times throughout your life. It often seems that when we sing songs as ritual or tradition we fail to stop and reflect on the words we are speaking and what they really mean. Would you be so kind as to take the time to journey with me for several minutes and examine the meaning and the message of this timeless song.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
A modern reading of this line could say “God make you mighty, gentlemen”. It is an uplifting statement of good news. The message of Jesus Christ is often referred to as the “Good News”. This song actually explains what this unbelievable good news is. But the “good news” makes no sense without understanding the “bad news” and so it is with this song.
Let nothing you dismay
Nothing lasts forever and sadness and grief will inevitably come our way. For many, our joy comes from the relationships we have with those we love. But the truth of the ultimate statistic (that one out of one people die)1 will ultimately track us down during the course of our lives and bring to an end that which we cherish most. The line “let nothing you dismay” is telling us that this “good news” can override any disaster or tragedy that will strike us in this life. In a world where everything good seems only temporary, the joy of this song is built on something everlasting that death can never take away.
Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day
In a festive season now overrun with commercialism, many people have forgotten the first six letters of the word Christmas. Christ is the reason for the season. Jesus Christ was and is God, the creator of the universe, appearing in human form.2 That’s right, God walked on this planet over just over 2000 years ago. This song describes Him as our Saviour. This should prompt the question “save or rescue us from what?” A surf lifeguard is sometimes referred to as a rescuer. Even though he is a rescuer, the person who needs rescuing usually has to realise they are in trouble before they call for help. The same goes for us as people. We all need to have our eyes opened to the very serious problem that faces each and everyone of us before we too can cry out to be rescued or “saved”. So what is this serious problem?
To save us all from Satan’s power
Many of us have heard about the story of Adam and Eve. You may think of it as an amusing fairy tale. But Jesus spoke of Adam as a real person3 who set in motion a disastrous chain of events. The Bible tells us that God made everything perfect in the beginning here on earth and He made Adam and Eve as the very first people to rule over this perfect world.4 There was no death or suffering and EVERYTHING WAS GOOD. But Satan (or the Devil) was able to deceive the very first man and woman into rebelling against God and surrendering their rule here on earth.5 This rebellion is what is sometimes called original sin. Sin is the breaking of God’s moral laws6 that He has set in place and written on our consciences.7 This sinfulness became mankind’s nature and was passed on from generation to generation. It is the virus that contaminates the whole human race including you and me.8 It is revealed when our thoughts, words, and actions violate our own conscience. Even one of Jesus’ well known followers said “why is it that I continually do what I know is wrong and continually avoid doing what I know is right”.9 The problem of the human heart is the heart of the human problem. The Bible tells us that sin is the reason that we all die.10 Jesus came to save us from Satan’s power which is the curse of sin and death.
When we were gone astray
Please bear with me as I labor this point because it is so important that we grasp what this line is saying.
People often ask the question that if there is a loving God then why is there so much evil in the world today? The problem with this question is that it is built upon a wrong view of humanity. The Bible tells us that many men “proclaim their own goodness”11 and are “clean in their own eyes”12 but that we have all “sinned and fallen short”13 of God’s standard. This is far more serious than most of us realise. God, being good, is a just and righteous judge and He must punish the Hitlers, Stalins, and Bin Ladins of this world, otherwise He would be corrupt. Because we are all made in God’s image we crave justice to be done with the wrong things we see in this world. An infinite God must punish infinitely and that is why there is a Hell, and why Jesus warned so much about it.14
But when God’s judgement comes to this earth it won’t stop with murderers, rapists, and paedophiles. He must also deal with liars, thieves, blasphemers…… even every wrong thought. As painful as it is, it is always good to examine ourselves in the light of God’s justice system. Martin Luther said that we should hold up the mirror of the Ten Commandments15 so we can see ourselves as we really are and what our real need is.
Have you ever lied? The Bible says that all liars will end up in Hell.16 If that seems overly harsh then consider this: If I lie to my daughter there is nothing she can do to me. But if I lie to my wife then my sleeping arrangements are likely to shift from the bedroom to the garage. If I lie to my employer then I’ll probably get fired. If I lie to the government then I can end up in jail. Though the crime never changed in each situation, the level of punishment did in proportion to the level of authority being dealt with. How serious is it then to lie to an infinite and perfect God?
Have you ever stolen anything? The Bible says that no thief can inherit God’s kingdom.17
Have you ever used God’s name as a swear word? The Bible tells us that God will not hold anyone guiltless who blasphemes His Holy Name.18 God will judge every word spoken.
Have you ever committed sexual immorality outside of the confines of marriage? Jesus took it even further to tell us that even a lustful thought makes us guilty of adultery of the heart.19 God will even judge our thought life. Nothing is hidden from Him.20
If you are anything like me and have broken those four commandments then you are a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, and an adulterer at heart. And that is just four of the Ten Commandments. And here’s the killer punch, if you break just one commandment then you are guilty of all of them anyway.21 The line of the song “when we had gone astray” means that every single person has strayed from God because of our own exceeding sinfulness.22
It was when I examined myself in the light of God’s standard that I realized that if God is good then He should send me to Hell for my crimes against Him. I stopped asking why there is so much evil in the world, and started asking why God has not yet poured out His judgement and justice on me already. And this is why, because it is not God’s will to send anyone to Hell.23 God is holding back His judgement because He is merciful and giving us time to repent of our crimes against Him. He loves us so much that He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him and be “Saved” from His judgement.24 This is the amazing “good news”.
O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy
It is the “good news” that brings us tidings of comfort and joy. At Christmas 2007 years ago, God appeared in human form as a baby born in Israel. Jesus Christ came on a mission to fulfill the law that we had broken and then pay the penalty for our crimes with His own blood.25 The cross He died on was meant for you and me. The only way God could make reconciliation possible was by living a perfect sinless life as a human and then paying for our sin with His own blood.26 He then rose from the dead defeating the curse of sin and death because of His own righteousness27 and ascended up into heaven to prepare a place for those who follow Him.28 God showed us His love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.29 To receive God’s free gift of payment for our sin and inherit eternal life we must repent of our sin and put our complete trust in Him to save us30 from His terrible day of judgement.31 To repent is to turn away from our sin and apologise to God with genuine sorrow. To trust in Him means to put our complete hope in Jesus work on the cross because no other prophet or religious leader has done that for you. Trust in Him like you would in a parachute when jumping from 10000 feet. If we confess our sin He is faithful to forgive us and clean us from all unrighteousness32. That is tidings of comfort and joy.
I hope and pray that you would consider these things as we approach the season when Christ was born.
You are in my prayers
PS The greatest gift you’ll find this Christmas won’t be under a shiny tree with pretty lights. You’ll find it at the foot of a blood stained wooden cross.
1 Hebrews 9:27
2 John 1:1,14
3 Mark 10:6
4 Genesis 1
5 Genesis 3
6 I John 3:4
7 Romans 2:15
8 Romans 3:23
9 Romans 7:15
10 Ezekiel 18:4
11 Proverbs 20:6
12 Proverbs 16:2
13 Romans 3:23
14 Matthew 10:28
15 Exodus 20:1-17
16 Revelation 21:8
17 I Corinthians 6:10
18 Exodus 20:7
19 Matthew 5:28
20 Ecclesiastes 12:14
21 James 2:10
22 Isaiah 53:6
23 II Peter 3:9
24 John 3:16
25 II Corinthians 5:21
26 I Peter 1:18-19
27 Romans 4:25
28 John 14:2
29 Romans 5:8
30 Acts 20:21
31 Romans 5:9
32 I John 1:9