This Christmas I am reminded of the foment going on in that section of the population of the world, which labels itself “Christian”, much of which represents what amounts to nothing more than a “product” of the production line of the religious enterprise of Christianism .
As I read the newspapers, watch the TV, listen to the radio, and speak with people, I am astounded at the diversity of understanding amongst many of those who bear the Christian trademark. The “product” they represent would never get past the quality control of any manufacturer, no matter how lacking in rigour.
One matter which comes to mind is revealed by Pauls statement to the Roman Christians, "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20).
The Mosaic institutions, the Law of which Paul speaks including the Ten Commandments, were institued because of sin. The result was that a spotlight was shone upon sin, the common attribute of every member of humanity. The introduction of the Mosaic institutions, was designed to highlight the prevalence of sin. Without the law sin wasn't an issue.That's what Paul understood when he said, “...I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died ” (Rom.7:9), and that is the result for all humanity; the law reveals all as spiritually dead towards God.
The Apostle then says, “..where sin increased (abounded),” where the light of the law showed how wide spread and abundant the fact of sin was , “grace abounded all the more”.
An amazing word is used here. It's the only time it is used in the New Testament. It's the word which has been translated as “abounded” in this verse. There is no English word, of which I'm aware, which can replace the Greek word which Paul used. To understand what he is saying we would have to say that grace super-abounded, abundance upon abundance.
That's why, for a genuine follower of Christ, Christmas is the celebration by a sinner, who, through God's gift of faith in the person, and finished work, of Jesus Christ, has received the super-abundant gift of grace; the unearned, undeserved gift of God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
That's why the Bethlehem event is precious to genuine followers of Christ, and an occasion to be remembered and celebrated.
That which masquerades as Christian, the world of Christianism, it seems has tunnel vision which ignores sin. There is a constant emphasis on what I consider is a perversion of grace, a grace which winks at sin, a grace which is the gift of a loving, chubby cheeked, gray haired old fellow called “god”, who smilingly lavishes this “grace” upon a people who have no concept of their sinfulness, or the gravity of sin before the holiness of the Almighty God.
God's grace is no ordinary grace, such as the benevolnce and leniency of one human to another. When we speak of God's grace we are speaking about grace which not only offers judicial mercy and forgiveness from the consequences of God's just laws, but a grace which opens a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in fact SAVING GRACE.
God's gift of saving grace, revealed through the very same Jesus Christ, who lay in that manger in Bethlehem, is nothing apart from sin!
How can the kindness and compassion of mercy be understood as a gift of saving grace if the hard , legal requirements of God's justice are not understood?
How can teaching about God's pardon and the absolution of His forgiveness as a consequence of saving grace be understood apart from the cold facts of deserved, and just, condemnation and retribution of God's law?
To talk about grace without understanding this is a meaningless nonsense.
The first Advent, which we celebrate at Christmas; God coming to earth in human form (God incarnate), was necessary because of the insidious disease of sin which infects ALL human beings. It was the earthly beginning of thirty three years of the sinless life of the perfect Man , who lived the perfect sinless life, which made Him the only being eligible to be the sacrifice God's law required as a satisfaction of His justice.
God's law declared all human beings as guilty. The work of Jesus Christ satisfied the requirements of God's law for all who trust in His person and finished work, who come to Him, recognising they are guilty before, and justly condemned by, God's law, and who, desiring to turn away from the behaviour and tendencies which sin works in their lives, seek His mercy.
It is meaningless, if not impossible, to understand or teach God's gift of saving grace, without understanding and declaring the absolute need of such grace, which the law points out!
As Paul told the Roman Christians, “For the wages of sin is death (separation from God), but the free gift of God is eternal life (with God) in Christ Jesus our Lord. “
Many in Christianism moan about the “Xmas” abreviation as being Christless, but they have no qualms about speaking/writing about God's saving grace apart from man's sinful need !!
This Christmas, as always, I, and mine, will be reminded of our sinful need, as we are reminded of God's great grace in Jesus Christ, and we will praise His name and rejoice in the freedom He has bought for us..