Michael Youssef - Christmas Eve at The Church of The Apostles
Merry Christmas, and I hope that you already been to church or going to church to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Throughout the season of advent, we offered a book called, "Jesus the Only," and today, I'm gonna explain why there is no one like him. All these pluralism and all religions are the same, it's falsehood, and today I'm gonna tell you why. He is the only Jesus. He's the only one promised in Genesis 3:15, and he showed up 1st century. And now, I want you to stay tuned.
There's a story that was told about a very wealthy widower, who had only one son. Both the man and his son were passionate art collectors. The widower father looked with a great deal of satisfaction upon his son, who became an expert in that field. The son's trained eye in art and sharp business mind made the father beam with pride. And as war engulfed the world, the son, like many of his contemporaries at that time, they signed up and went on to fight in the war on behalf of his country. A few short weeks later, the father gets a telegram which announced that his son was missing in action. The father waited anxiously every single day, waiting for more news. Meanwhile, deep down in his heart, there was that nagging feeling that he possibly not gonna see his son again. And sure enough, within a matter of a few more weeks, his fears were confirmed and he got the word that his son died in action rescuing another fellow soldier.
This so distraught, and lonely, and depressed father viewed this upcoming Christmas season with such crushing anguish and sadness. The joy of the season that he and his son had often looked forward to and celebrated with great joy will not visit his house again. Then, on Christmas morning, there was a knock on the door, which really awakened the depressed father. When he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier in uniform, carrying with him a large package. And the soldier immediately introduced himself as the person, the soldier that got rescued by this man's son, and he wanted to come and visit him on Christmas morning. And so, the father invited him in and the young soldier handed the father the package. And as he opened it, he immediately saw that it was an amateurish portrait of his son that was painted by that soldier whom he saved.
Although the world of art would never consider this portrait as a work of a genius artist, and yet this amateur soldier's attempt to paint a portrait of this man's son captured so closely many of the features of the son's face. And when the father looked at the portrait of his son, he was overcome with deep emotions. And the father thanked the soldier, and he promised him that this portrait is gonna occupy the central place on the wall. It's gonna be above the fireplace. Few hours later, when the soldier left, the father went about the task, just as he promised, removing from the walls some priceless, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art, and made room for the portrait, the amateur painting of his son, and he placed it in the center location.
The father spent the entire Christmas day gazing at the portrait of his son. It is the greatest gift that he's ever received. The following spring, the father became very ill and he died. So, you can imagine the art world became a buzz with expectations. I mean, they could not wait to get their hands on the estate of this man. So many collectors from around the world wanted to get their hands on these priceless possessions, these priceless paintings. But according to the will of the father before he died, it is that the next Christmas Day, on Christmas Day, on the day in which he received that gift from the soldier, on that Christmas Day, the auction will be held to sell these work of arts.
And sure enough, the day arrived, and some of the world's most enthusiastic collectors and representatives of museums and artists from all over, they gathered into that big mansion on Christmas Day. They were all dying to get their hands on these priceless paintings, these treasures, and the auction began. And the auctioneer began by auctioning the portrait, that amateur painting of the man's son. You can imagine when the auctioneer asked if there are any bidders, the room became silent. No one wanted it. No one was bidding for the portrait of the son. And the auctioneer said, "I take $100. Is there anyone who'd bid $100"? Total silence. No one bid for it. No one wanted the son. Finally, the housekeeper, in a halting voice, shaken, she said, "Sir, would you take $10 for it? That's all the money I have. I knew the son, and I'll love to have his portrait".
After more silence, the auctioneer said, "I have a $10 bid. Will anyone go further? Anyone would go up"? When no one has spoken, the auctioneer had no option but to say, "Going once, going twice, sold," and the gavel fell. Cheers filled the room. Voices were raised loud. "Now, let's get our hands on the good stuff. Now we can start bidding for the real treasures". Ah, but the auctioneer silenced the room as he announced very calmly that the auction is over. In such anger and frustration, disbelief and stunned the room, people kept saying, "Wait a minute. What do you mean the auction is over? What do you mean? We came such long distances. We left our own Christmas celebrations with our families. We came long ways to be here today for these priceless masterpieces. There's millions, and millions, and millions of dollars worth of art here".
The auctioneer calmly again, he said, "It's really very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son takes the whole lot". My beloved friends, God's Word tells us in John chapter 1, verses 1 to 18, John was the disciple who leaned in Jesus' shoulder, the beloved disciple, and he writes clearly, distinctly of what he saw, and what he experienced, and what he testified to what experienced in Jesus. And here's what John said, that Jesus, God the Son, came to his own, but his own received him not. But as many as received him, as their only Savior and Lord, as many as received him, he gave authority, he gave power, he gave the way for them to be called the children of God.
Someone would say, "Well, aren't we all the children of God"? No, we're not. We're all creation of God, but only those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus alone as Savior, and Lord, and Master of their life, they're the only ones who can call themselves children of God. And that is what Christmas is all about. Whoever receives the Son as only Savior and Lord receives all of the blessings and heaven on top. One of the things that John really highlights here in this passage, if you look at it very closely, is the theme of rejection. When Jesus came to his own, they rejected him. If you have ever experienced rejection by a dear and near, if you have ever experienced the pain of rejection, you can begin to understand and comprehend this. He came to his own, but his own rejected him.
Jesus came to Israel because Israel's history, which we call the Old Testament, is filled with promises, and they waited and they anticipated the coming of their Messiah. But when he finally came, when he finally paid the humongous price, and laid down the glories of heaven as a robe, and came down to earth, he was rejected by the very people who should have welcomed him. The Word really means that he came home. Imagine, some of you who have traveled long distances came home, and then they opened the door and says, "Okay, we don't want you today. You're on your own. Go stay in a hotel". He came home. He came to his family. He came to his own people. He came to those who should have been waiting for him.
Oh, but he was rejected. The very people to whom he came, they rejected him. He was rejected by the very people who should have known better. Ah, listen, but that's not the end of the story. John goes on to say, because God knew this, he knew this is gonna happen, he knew that back in Genesis, and he said, but out of love, out of mercy, he issued the invitation, whomsoever, anyone from any ethnic group, from anywhere, from any place, from any nation, from any language, from any skin color can come to him. Anyone who would come to him and receive him as the only Savior, the only Lord of their life, they've been given the power, they've been given the authority to be called the children of God. That's the good news of Christmas. He who gets the Son gets the whole lot.
I know Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to God, the God of heaven on earth, to him, Christmas only means one thing, that his Son, who coexisted with him before all worlds, that his Son who has no beginning or end, just like the Father, his eternal Son came from heaven, born of a pure virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life. He went about healing the sick at no charge, raising the dead, touching lepers, doing miracles, transforming lives, and yet he was crucified on a criminal's cross. But that's so he can pay for the wages and for the repayment for our sin and the sin of everyone who would come to him. That's what God the Father think of Christmas. God said that whoever receives the Son receives it all.
What is that all? What is that whole lot? Listen carefully please. Forgiveness of sins, and I'm not talking about temporary forgiveness. I'm talking about eternal forgiveness. Past sins, present sins, future sins. It is total forgiveness. Release from guilt and shame, peace and reconciliation with God the Father, contentment in this life, and guarantee of heaven on top of it. Whoever gets the Son gets the whole lot. This is the priceless gift of Christmas. You cannot put a value on it. All of the trillions of dollars in the world could never be equal to it. Nobody, could you live a million lifetimes, you cannot achieve it. You can do all the good things and all the good work that you can muster, you could never get close. But it is yours for the asking today. The Bible said there's even more. There's even more. Those who take the Son, they become princes, they become princesses.
Now, not like these useless ones that you see on the news. They're really unemployable. They're kinda, they really are just rich people on the dole in their countries, and I'm talking across the board. I'm not pointing to some specific. They all are. God says that he gives them authority to be called the children of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. That's the power that God is offering you tonight. That's the blessing. That's the gift that he's giving you. Someone here might say, "Well, Michael, I'm really neutral about Jesus. I admire Jesus. Don't misunderstand me. I like Jesus, because of his love and because of his teaching".
Please listen to me very carefully, very carefully. The Bible said that if that is you, you are no different than those who reject Jesus outright. I don't make the rules, don't shoot the messenger. That's what the Word of God said. Some will protest, "Oh, but that's not fair. I have warm feelings for Jesus". It makes no difference. The Bible said if you are neutral about Jesus, if you ignore Jesus, you're in the same category as those who have rejected Jesus. But you say, "I consider myself to be a Christian. My parents are Christian and we belong third-generation Presbyterians, or Baptists, or Episcopalians". Uh-uh, that's not what's gonna take you to heaven. It makes no difference. The category is the same as rejecting Jesus.
Let me illustrate this. If I take a plane and I fly from New York City to Los Angeles, but then the plane breaks down in Arizona. It's just as well as I never left New York. You see, it makes no difference. I never made my destination. I never made it to where I need to go, whether I'm stranding in New York or Arizona makes no difference. The Bible said close enough is not good enough. The Bible said that almost there is the same as never there. It is the Father's will that whoever receives the Son as their only Savior and the only Master of life receives all of the blessings, forgiveness of sins, here and now on earth, eternal life in heaven. There's only one way, and his name is Jesus.
The folks tell you all religions are the same, they're either lying or they're ignorant, because they don't know the religions. I do, I studied them. They're not the same. Nobody ever promised eternal life. Nobody ever claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. All religions are not the same. All the ways are not gonna lead you to God. Only Jesus who said, "Without me, you cannot make it to heaven". Only Jesus can take you there, and that is why he left heaven, so we know him, and receive him, and love him, and be with him for eternity. Listen, you know and I know that we live in a time where there are all sorts of people who lie, and cheat, and double-talk. We have some of them actually in politics, believe it or not. There are many in our culture today, among some of our leaders even, who torture the English language. It depends on what "is" is.
You see, you torture the English language. We live in a time where everybody wants to be their own arbitrator of what truth is. My truth, your truth, his truth, her truth. No, no, no, no, it makes no difference what you think. It makes no difference what I think. It makes every difference what God thinks. We even have some people standing in pulpits who will take you around the block 20,000 times without telling you the real truth and the facts as they are. Why? They want you to like them. Well, thank God I don't have that problem. Whether you like me or not, that's beside the point. I would rather offend someone and see them come to Christ, and receive eternal life, and receive forgiveness of sins, instead of going around the block, and smooth talking, and then have them spend eternity in hell, cursing me for not preaching the truth.
Beloved, here is the truth. That baby that was born in a manger more than 2,000 years ago, he grew up and became a man, and he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the only giver of life. He who comes to me comes to the Father. He who believes in me believes in the Father. He who has seen me has seen the Father". And if you reject him here on earth, he said you'll be rejected eternally. Oh, I pray, I pray to God not a single person at the sound of my voice would harden his or her heart and not respond, and come to Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life. He said if you ignore him here on earth, you disqualify yourself from his presence on earth or heaven. For one day, the very Jesus who hung on that cross and bled to death with his arms open wide for whomsoever comes.
Whomsoever. Young, old, black, white, yellow, green. Whomsoever comes would receive the gift of salvation and eternal life. That same Jesus one day, and it looks, it appears that it may be sooner than most of us think, one day he will sit on the bench and become the Judge, and he's gonna judge every single human being that's ever lived. Jesus, the Savior, will hold every one of us accountable. No, he's not gonna be impressed by how many times you went to church, or what you did, or how good you were. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. He is going to ask you only one thing, "Have you received my gift of eternal life? You heard the message. Did you ignore it? Did you repent of your sins and receive my forgiveness? Did you receive my offer of salvation? Did you live in intimacy with me, day by day? Did you obey my Word"?
That's what he's gonna ask. And that's the basis of judgment. Someone here might say, "Well, I do have some more questions about the Christian faith". Great, I did before I came to Christ. I rejected him. I turned my back on him. But I am so thankful for the person who led me to Christ and brought me from my foolishness to receive that gift of eternal life, and I've been telling people all over the world ever since. Jesus said, "When I'm with you, I am the light of the world".