Robert Jeffress - Simply Christmas
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". There've been countless movies, songs, and books written in honor of Christmas. But what if you had to explain the meaning of Christmas, in a single sentence, would you be able to pull that off? Well, the apostle Paul managed to, and today we're going to dig deeply into his simple, yet profound summary of the Christmas story. My message is titled, "Simply Christmas," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
One of the ways you can know it's about to be Christmas, is the airing of those Christmas movies on television. I know everybody has their favorite. Maybe I shouldn't admit this, our family favorite is "Elf," with will Ferrell. That is our absolute favorite, it's part of our Christmas ritual to watch "Elf". You may like one of the older ones, like "Frosty the snowman," or "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer". I know we have some "It's a wonderful life" fans here today. Or maybe you liked that perennial classic, "How the Grinch stole Christmas"! Remember the story of the Grinch? He was that creature with a heart two sizes too small. He absolutely hated Christmas. He hated the trees, the lights, the carols, the feast of beast. And so, one year he decided to steal Christmas, from the whos who populated Whoville. I bet you even remember the song about the Grinch. Why don't you sing along with me? "You're a mean one"... Well, maybe not, but anyway.
You remember the story don't you? Many people don't know that Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodore Geisel, wrote "How the Grinch stole Christmas" as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas, way back in 1957. Can you imagine what Geisel would write about today, if he saw what is happening in our culture? You know, to talk about the commercialization of Christmas seems trite. I mean, we all know we can allow greed and self-centeredness to obscure the real meaning of this holiday. And yet most people, even Christians, would be hard pressed to explain what the real meaning of Christmas is. Yeah, they know it's about a baby who was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but what does that incident have to do with my life today? Well, in one sentence, the apostle Paul gives the clearest explanation for the meaning of Christmas, found anywhere in literature. And today, we're going to look at that one sentence that explains what Christmas is really all about.
If you have your Bibles, turn to the book of Galatians, in the New Testament, Galatians 4:4-5, look at it with me. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. If you've ever taken a journalism class before, you're taught that in the opening paragraph of a story, you're supposed to answer six key questions, who, what, when, how, where and why. Paul answers all six of those questions in this one single sentence, about the coming of Christ in the world. Notice how he answers them, first of all, the question of who, who is the subject of this sentence. Who is the subject of Christmas? When the fullness of time came, God. God is the subject of Christmas. God is the one who initiated all of the events that led to the coming of Christ. In fact, God is the one who initiates everything that happens in the world in general, and then your world specifically. Isn't that what the Bible says?
It begins with the words in the beginning God. God, God is the first cause of everything that happens. And the reason for that is the fact that God is sovereign. The idea that God is completely in control, that could be a menacing thought if God were some sadistic ogre in heaven, looking to hurt us. But the fact is everything God does, every action he takes, is motivated by his love for us. Isn't that what the scripture says, John 3:16, for God so loved the world that he gave his only son. Romans 5:8, but God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, he sent Christ to die for us. Or 1 John 4:10, and herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and gave himself as a propitiation for our sins. Or Ephesians 2, but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, he has made us alive together with Christ.
God is the initiator of everything that happens, and it is God who was the first cause of the events that led to the coming of Christ. In the fullness of time, God. Now secondly, what. What is it that God did? Well, it says he sent forth his son. Underline that word son. He doesn't say God sent forth an infant, or God sent forth a baby, but God sent forth his son. Too often, at Christmas, we focus on the infancy of Jesus, and that leads us down a wrong path, obscuring the real meaning of Christmas. We began looking at the lights, and singing the carols. We get this warm, fuzzy feeling inside. And then we think about the idea of a baby being born. And then we think about our own children being born. And pretty soon we've devolved in this syrupy sentimentality that really has nothing to do with what the real message of Christmas is.
The fact is, there is nothing unique about a baby being born in Israel, that night 2000 years ago. Hundreds of babies were born that night. But this baby was different. He was God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us. And because of that, he alone was capable of taking away our sin. That is what made his birth different than any other. And when did it occur? When did it happen? It happened in the fullness of time. I like the way one paraphrase summarizes it, at just the right time, God sent forth his son. I want you to think about that phrase, in the fullness of time. Did you know the plan of salvation was not some afterthought God had. God didn't look down at humanity and say, "Oh my, look at the way those human beings have screwed things up. I better do something quickly. I better have a rescue plan". It didn't happen that way.
Ephesians 1 tells us that the plan of salvation was established before the foundation of the world. The coming of Christ came at just the right time. In what sense was it the right time for the coming of Christ? Consider four ways that it was the right time, the fullness of time for Christ to enter the world. First of all, it was the right time politically. Politically the pax Romana , the Roman peace pervaded the world, and because of that you had this great Roman road system that went all around the world. And people were able to travel with great ease, making the proclamation of the Gospel very, very easy. It was the right time politically.
Secondly, it was the right time culturally. The world was becoming more and more unified. People were becoming more educated, more and more people spoke the same language, koine Greek, the common language of people in which the New Testament would be written. It was the right time spiritually for the coming of Christ. The polytheism, the worship of many Gods, of the Romans and Greeks, was giving way to a renewed interest in monotheism, the worship of one God. People were awakened once again to the teaching of the Old Testament they had forgotten, as evidenced by their acceptance and interest in the teaching of John the Baptist. But most of all, it was the right time prophetically for the coming of Christ. As you know, there were dozens of prophecies in the Old Testament, about this coming one, the Messiah, about his birth, and about his life and his ministry, and all of those prophecies converged together that night in Bethlehem.
Let me remind you about one of those prophecies, about Christ coming. It was written 700 years before the fact. It's found in Micah 5:2, you know it well. "But as for you," God said, "Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah. From you, one will go forth for me to be the ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity". Jesus would not be born in the center of political power, Rome, the center of religious power, Jerusalem. He would be born in this no account, dusty village called Bethlehem. In the fullness of time, at just the right time, God sent forth his son. How? How did he do it? Well, it tells us here again, he was born of a woman. What does that mean, born of a woman? What's the big deal? Everybody's born of a woman, aren't they? How many of you were born of a woman?
Now this is why this is unique, first of all, this is a reference to Jesus' virgin birth. Let me show you what I mean. Jesus was born of a woman, but he was unique in that he was born only of a woman. His father was God himself, and that was part of prophecy. Second, pardon me, Isaiah 7:14, written 740 years earlier said, behold, a virgin shall conceive. Why is that essential? I could spend a whole series talking about the necessity of the virgin birth. But here is one reason why it was absolutely necessary. It is the only way he would be qualified to be the Messiah, and sit and rule on the throne of David, forever and ever.
Let me show you why that's true. According to 2 Samuel 7:12, the Messiah would have to be somebody who was a descendant of king David. In fact, in 2 Samuel 7:12, God said to David, "I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom". Every Jew knew the Messiah had to be a descendant of David. And that's why when you come to the Gospel of Matthew, which was written to the Jews, Matthew goes through that long genealogy of Jesus, that makes many of us give up on our read through the Bible in a year program, after we get to Matthew 1. We think, "Oh my gosh, what does this have to do with anything"?
The point is Jesus was the Messiah, because he met the qualifications of the Messiah. Matthew shows all the way from David through Joseph, down to Jesus, how Jesus was qualified to be the Messiah. And that's why when you turn to Matthew 1:16, it says Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. That phrase, by whom, is in the feminine, singular in Greek. That means by whom does not refer to Joseph and Mary, it only refers to Mary. When we talk about children today, we say they're the son or daughter, and we named the parents. Here, it only says, Jesus was the son of Mary, a reference to the virgin birth. I think this phrase born of a woman, first of all, relates to Jesus' virgin birth, but secondly, it is a reference to the humanity of Jesus. Jesus didn't come into a world as some other world alien. No, he came as a human being. Jesus was 100% God, but he was 100% man as well. And because of that, not only was he qualified to be our sin substitute, but he also is able to understand you, and understand me.
And there is nothing you experience, no heartache, no temptation, no disappointment that Jesus hasn't already experienced. He what it's like to be deserted by family and friends. He knows what it's like to be betrayed by the person closest to you. He knows what many of you have faced, even this past year, of standing at the grave of somebody you love dearly. He knows all of that. He's been there. He understands the minor irritations of everyday life. Having a sore throat, crawling out of bed early in the morning, when you don't feel like it, to go to work. He's been there before, and that's why the writer of Hebrews says, in Hebrews 4:15-16, talking about Jesus, for we do not have a high priest, who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, and yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. No matter what you're going through, you can talk to Jesus about it, knowing he understands.
Isn't that a great truth? He was born of a woman. Where, where did this happen? Look again at verse 4, he was born under the law, born of a woman, but born under the law. What does that mean? It means that, as Jesus said, he didn't come to abolish the Old Testament law, but to fulfill it. You see, the Bible says cursed is every man who does not obey all things written in the law. You may obey more things than I obey in the law, but it really doesn't matter. If we break one of the laws, we're guilty of breaking all of the laws. That's why we need a Savior. Jesus came, and he met all of God's requirements. If Jesus had broken any of the laws, when he died, he would have been dying for his own sins. But the fact that he obeyed God completely, fulfilled the requirements of the law, again makes him the only adequate substitute for our sin. He was born under the law. And then finally, why? This is the most important. Why did God go to all of this trouble, and make this elaborate plan to send Jesus into the world? Well, he answers the why question this way.
First of all, he said in order to redeem us, to redeem us. That word redeem is a beautiful word in the Greek language. It's the word exagorazo. "Ex" is a prefix that means "out of". Agorazo comes from the word agora, which refers to the marketplace in both the Greek and the Roman cultures. In Paul's day, if you wanted to buy a slave, you would go to the agora, the marketplace. Now, that's the word picture of redeem, exagorazo , means to pay the price, to take the slave out of the marketplace. Ladies and gentlemen, you and I are born into this world, shackled to Satan himself. We are slaves of Satan. We are born alienated from God. Satan absolutely hates us, and has nothing good planned for us in this life, and nothing good in the next life. We are born of slaves of sin and Satan, but the Bible says that God, for no other reason than the great love with which he loved you, he sent his son Jesus to pay the necessary price, to redeem us, to free us, to break Satan's death hold on us.
Ladies and gentlemen, when we trust in the payment Christ made for us, it doesn't mean that we no longer have a master. It doesn't mean we have no master. Redemption means we have a new master. Our new master is God himself, who loves us, and has nothing but our good in mind. But we do belong to him. That's why 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, do you not know you are not your own? You've been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. Why did he do this? First of all, to redeem us, to free us. But there's a second reason he gives, in Galatians 4:5, and that is that we might receive the adoption as sons. He did this in order to adopt us into his family.
Now stay with me for just a second, this may seem contradictory. It's true, we become servants of God. We have an obligation to him, but once we become a part of God's family, we are no longer slaves who have no rights. We don't even enter his family as children with limited rights. God places us into his family with sons, as sons and daughters with full rights, as an adult child of God. That's what he's talking about. You have to understand something about the culture, whether it was the Jewish culture, the Greek culture, or the Roman culture, there was always a time in a child's life, when they moved from childhood to adulthood. And it's against that background that Paul says when we enter into God's family, we do so adopted as sons. Meaning we have the same rights and privilege as God's beloved son, Jesus Christ, the co-region of the universe.
You know what that means specifically? When you become a part of God's family, first of all, you have the same position with God that Jesus has, the same position. That is, in God's eyes, you're sinless. He views you just as he does his own Jesus, his son, Jesus Christ, because you are in Jesus. He sees you as sinless, no matter what your flaws are. Secondly, you have the same privileges of Jesus, the son. That means you can ask God for anything. Is Jesus bashful about asking God for something? "Oh, I better not ask that, that's too big for God". He asked him for anything, and you and I can as well. That doesn't mean God answers our every prayer request with a positive reply.
Did you know, God didn't even answer every one of Jesus' prayers. Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, said, "God, let this experience of the cross pass from me". God said, "No". Jesus acquiesced and said, "Okay, not my will, but your will be done". But, we can ask him for anything. 1 John 5:14 says, and this is the confidence we have before him, that if we ask anything, according to his will, he hears us. We had the same position. We have the same privilege. Thirdly, we have the same power that operated in Jesus' life. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in your life, if you're a Christian, giving you power over temptation, over stress, over worry, and ultimately, power over the grave. We are adopted as sons, into the family of God. That's why he sent Jesus. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that he might redeem those who were under the law, and that we might receive the adoption as sons. God be praised for what he has done for us, through Jesus.