“Christianity is not moving from vice to virtue. . .
. . It is moving from virtue to Christ”
This is a great phrase to keep in our minds, especially at this time of the year. With the holidays come all the fun of traditions, family, friends AND horrible theology.
“What is that, you say, horrible theology?”
Yes! It is horrible, even damnable theology.
Don’t get me wrong here; I do enjoy the holidays and traditions. However, we dare not mix the traditions of man for the truth of God’s word. The holiday called “Christmas” has little to do with Christ and a lot to do with toys and trinkets, at best; at worst it has to do with pure moralism.
You can all sing the song,
You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!
He’s making a list,
Checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
How about this from Charles Dickens:
“. . .I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.“
- A Christmas Carol
And from the famous Snoopy Creator, Charles Shultz:
Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.
One last one from Bill Murray as Scrooge in the movie of the same name:
“It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we
are the people that we always hoped we would be. It’s a miracle. It’s really sort of a miracle because it happens every Christmas Eve. If you waste that miracle, you’re going to burn for it. . . . You have to do something, you have to take a chance, you do have to get involved. There are people that are having trouble making there miracle happen. “
Here it is, in movie and song, we move from vice to virtue. To the world the message is, “be a little nicer, love a little more.” And, sad to say, it is the message that so many churches proclaim as well.
Joel Osteen wrote:
God is keeping the records. He sees every act of kindness you show. He sees every time you are good to somebody. He hears every encouraging word you speak. God has seen all the times you went out of your way to help somebody who never said thank you. Your good deeds do not go unnoticed by Almighty God[i]
Can you see it? He might as well be playing the same part as Bill Murray and singing “He’s checking His list, He is checking it twice. He is gonna find out who is naughty or nice.” It is a clear call to virtue and the motive is “God is watching.” In another place Osteen teaches, “You are full of potential. But you have to do your part and start tapping into it…You have the seed of Almighty God on the inside of you…We have to believe that we have what it takes.”[ii]
Quite on the contrary, scripture tells us we are not full of potential for good, rather we are full of sin, “And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Is. 64:6 NASB). Even the good things we do are sinful in the eyes of a holy God. Paul wrote that “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10). And then he ends the chapter by saying that no one is able to be made right with God by doing “good works” (Rom. 3:20).
And here is why we Christians celebrate the birth of Christ every day, even as we do his life, death and resurrection; Because we cannot be good enough to merit a thing in the eyes of God. Yet – and this IS the good news – Christ has provided for us. Not by giving us the power to be good and then encouraging us to try harder, or to surrender or to yield. Christ became sin for us and placed on us His very righteousness.
Dr. Rod Rosenblat made this statement on one of the recent White Horse Inn radio broadcasts:
“The law is what God demands,
and the gospel is what God gives.
And what he gives in the gospel
is what He demands in the Law.”
Those proclaiming that the message of Christ is for us to “be good” are sadly and simply wrong! The message is to trust in Christ as our good, our righteousness and our peace. It is moving from thinking that somehow I’ll measure up in the end to seeing that I merit only the wrath of God for even my very best. So, I give up my own “virtue” to hold onto Christ, who grants me His righteousness.
This is the Good News!
“[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Cor. 5:21
Silent night! Holy Night!
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus Lord at thy birth.
[i] Joel Osteen, Becoming a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day
(New York: Free Press, 2007) pg. 7
[ii] Ibib pg 5
I came home earlier this week from a long day at the High School. Laura gave me a sheepish little grin as I walked up the stairs. “Guess who called you today?” The grin turned to a smile. She loves when she can pull one over on me and she knew I wasn’t going to guess.
“Hmmmmm, was it Aunt Debby?” I poured a glass of water as Laura shook her head no.
“Well, I guess you had better tell me then.”
Her eyes sparkled, “Dr. R. C. Sproul!”
“Right” I smiled and sipped my water, but her smile only grew brighter.
“No, really! Dr. Sproul called and asked for you.” She paused when she could see the befuddled look in my eyes. After enjoying the moment she gave that sweet, impish smile that always gives away the rest of the story before it is said. “Well, it was really him and he really did say your name, but . . . it was a recording asking you to join him in a conference call this Thursday evening.” She paused, then added with excitement, “How cool is that?”
And the call did come. Thrusday evening, when I had completely forgotten about the message from earlier this week, I heard Dr. Spoul’s recorded voice saying, “Robert, please stand by as we connect you to our conference that is in progress.” I waited, and then heard Dr. Sproul in the middle of answering a question. I strolled to the living room and handed the phone to Laura. “How would you like to listen to R. C. Sproul?” She simply beamed, “Yeah, sure!”
We put the phone on speaker and sat in the living room together listening as Dr. Sproul answered questions. As I sat there I couldn’t help but think at how gracious God has been to me and our family. Here I was with my daughter enjoying this discussion on theology. It wasn’t so much that it was Dr. Sproul, though I do admire his faithfulness to the sound teaching of scripture, but it was because of my daughter who’s heart has been graciously changed to love Christ and the truth of His word.
3 John 4 “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” I know John was not talking about his own physical children here, but it does apply to our own children as we see them “walking in the truth”. As God has allowed me to get older, I find myself enjoying more of this spiritual times than ever before. Whether with my own physical children as they grow in grace, or seeing the family of God growing, I find joy.
And this is the thought that I’ve pondered this week; God gives us great joy in being part of His family as we live out the Gospel of grace. I think the part that I’m most growing to appreciate in my home as well as our church is this aspect of family. It’s not in the formality of an organization, but in the vitality of a family that God works in us and through us.
(14) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, (15) from whom every family in
heaven and on earth derives its name, (16( that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ
which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
( Eph 3:14-19)