As we think about celebrating the birth of Christ this Christmas, we can’t help but think of a stable and a manger. But this Christmas, all I can think about is a cross. I think we can all relate when I say that the human condition lends itself to trying to earn God’s acceptance by what we “do”, by meeting expectations or by our performance. Our focus can become self-centered and we can be driven by keeping rules, a check-list of what we are or are not doing. Some of us may hope our good deeds outweigh our bad, some of us may fear failing or the disapproval of others. Some of us may deal with perfectionism because doing it “perfectly” makes us somehow more pleasing. I think all of us at some time or another have a fear of being “found out” that we’re really not that great and therefore, we will be rejected by God or by others. We feel we have to “do” something to “be” something. What some of us may have never thought about is that we may profess Christ, but basically, by being self-sufficient, we are saying that we don’t need God. The truth is as hard as we try, we will utterly fail living this way- because it’s impossible to do it good enough. We’re just not capable. If we continue trying to earn His acceptance, we will live weighty lives of despair, joyless living and emptiness. But of course God in His grace has provided a rescue, and there’s hope for all of us– because there’s Jesus and the cross.
I’ve heard it said that the illness we’re experiencing matches the remedy we need. For a headache, we pop a pill, for something more serious like cancer we take chemotherapy treatments. So when we think of Jesus’ back being filleted open, “his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness…” (Isaiah 52:14), what must have our sin looked like? If the remedy demanded the very life of Jesus, how significant was our malady? Jesus paid the price of our sin through His perfect sacrifice on the cross. He forgave our sin, and gave us His righteousness; He restored us to right relationship with the Father. We have been accepted in Christ. We have been declared holy in Christ- we have been set apart for Him. Christ is the hero, not us. Christ’s performance is the focus, not ours. We who were His enemies, guilty and condemned with blackened, sin-stained hearts have been declared innocent and set free! What a reason to celebrate! What joy that He knows all about us and still accepts us in our brokenness. Apart from Christ there is nothing good in us but in Christ we are made new!
Christ has become our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). His grace is at work in us transforming us to be more like Him, not only providing us pardon, but providing His power! His Holy Spirit’s power lives in us providing the strength to do what He’s called us to do. Out of our new identity, we live. We are, therefore we do. Our call to action to love, to reach out, to choose life, all springs from who He’s made us to be and what He’s done for us. Let’s be stunned by His love for us, that we would fall head over heals in love with Him. Let’s live from an unending gratitude for what He’s done for us. Let’s continue to follow Him and grow, not striving to earn His acceptance- again, Christ already accomplished that for us with His finishing work on the cross (Hebrews 10:14). In Christ, we are already holy. But we are also called to practical holiness, to live it out, to grow to be more and more like Christ. So let’s choose Truth and Grace and not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1), self-sufficiency, and trying to earn His acceptance by our performance.
God’s grace was poured out on us from the cross. May we never forget what we were saved from, the incredible price Christ paid for us and the completeness of that cleansing. May we not forget His grace or become immune to it but instead, live from it and share it with others so that He is seen and glorified!