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The Ugliness of Christmas

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
December 11, 2023 3:00 am

The Ugliness of Christmas

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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December 11, 2023 3:00 am

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Grace To You
John MacArthur

Christmas is this. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. There's no other way.

There's no other cure. Sin is a disease cured only by one thing, and that is the blood of the divine physician himself. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. On today's broadcast, John begins a series of messages that can help you focus on what matters most this holiday season, the birth of Christ. It's a collection of some of John's most popular Christmas sermons from over 54 years in ministry. John has titled this study, The Best of Christmas. Well, John, more of a personal question as we get this series started. After so many years of studying and preaching on the birth of Christ, what is it that still stops you in your tracks when you approach the topic?

Why will listeners want to stay with you over the next two weeks? Well, because the person of Jesus Christ is so utterly inexhaustible. Everything that occurred in his incarnation is in itself profound, and I've never been at a point where I've said, oh, okay, I've got all of that that there's possible to understand.

It is endless. We all know that there's a sort of a milk level of Christian truth and doctrine, and then there's a deeper meat level, and then you could go even beyond that. There's almost the heavenly food level where you just go even more deeply into the Word of God, and it goes from understanding to worship and adoration.

So, no, everything about Christ is inexhaustible. And because in the Scripture—take the birth of Christ, for example—you have so many passages that relate to that. Luke, you can go back to Genesis chapter 3, where the seed of the woman is going to bruise the serpent's head. That's the coming of the Messiah. You can go back to Isaiah 53, which talks about he comes as a root out of dry ground, and it describes him as a nothing person. You can go to Isaiah 9, that a virgin will conceive and bring forth a son, and you can go to four Gospels. You can go to what the preachers preached in the book of Acts about the coming of Messiah.

There's no end to it. The presentations of every aspect of the life of Christ are all around and through the Word of God. So, I never have trouble coming up with something to say, and hopefully something fresh.

We're going to take a look at that. This is going to be the best of Christmas series, the best Christmas sermons I've preached over half a century. So, this will be the best of those, the ones that people seem to appreciate most. So, stick with us as we look at the best of Christmas and hopefully make Christmas the best it can be. Here are some of the lessons we're going to look at, The Amazing Child of Christmas, The Marvelous Birth of the King, The Power of Christmas Truth, and the focus of today's broadcast, one of my favorite messages, The Ugliness of Christmas. Don't let the frantic pace of December keep you from meditating on the birth of the Savior.

That's right. Thank you, John. That is a helpful perspective. And, friend, make sure you're meditating on the Savior's birth this busy season. I encourage you to tune in each day for this series of lessons that can help you prioritize Christ this time of year.

So let's get to the first lesson. Here is John MacArthur with his look at the best of Christmas. The dark and ugly side of Christmas is sin. Sin.

The heart of Christmas is this. Christ came into the world to save sinners. Christ was manifest to take away sin. You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sin.

And the real beauty of Christmas is to understand the ugliness that it cures. Now I want you to face five questions regarding sin. Question number one, what is sin?

What is it of which we speak that has so blighted the world? John Bunyan prosaically said, Sin is the dare of God's justice. Sin is the rape of God's mercy.

It is the jeer of His patients, the slight of His power and the contempt of His love. But more than that, what is sin in simple terms? I believe the definition of 1 John 3, 4 puts it as clearly as any. Sin is the transgression of the law. Sin is breaking God's law. Any violation of God's law. In the Greek text of that verse, sin equals lawlessness. Lawlessness equals sin. It is living as if there were no God and no law, no authority, no standard, just like people live today and have always wanted to live.

Now that leads us to a second question. What is sin like? What is the nature of sin? What are the properties of sin?

What are the characteristics of this which has caused the Christ to be born as a savior? First of all, sin is defiling. Sin pollutes and defiles and stains and mars everything it touches.

And it touches everything in the human realm. Secondly, sin is also defiant. It is defiant as to its nature. In Leviticus 26, 27 God speaks of those who choose to walk in opposition to Me. It is defying God. Thirdly, sin is ingratitude. It seeks to dethrone and destroy the one who gave us all we have.

Unbelievable. That's the nature of sin. Sin also is incurable, humanly. Sin is humanly incurable. In Jeremiah 13, 23 the prophet said, can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?

The answer to that rhetorical question is no. The Ethiopian can't change his skin. The leopard by thinking, by doing something cannot change his spots. And then the prophet says, then may you also do good that are accustomed to do evil. As the Ethiopian cannot change the color of his skin and the leopard can't change the color of his spots, nor can you do good who are bent to do evil. There's nothing humanly that can change that.

Not all the resolution in the world, not all the self-effort, not all the religion. Sin is humanly incurable. In Isaiah 1 we read in verse 4, ah sinful nation of people laden with iniquity, loaded with it. A seed of evil doers. In other words, you just keep begetting evil doers. Children that are corruptors. They have forsaken the Lord. They have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger. They are gone way backward. Why should you be stricken anymore?

You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick. The whole heart is faint.

From the sole of the foot to the head there's no soundness. Nothing but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. That's how God describes a sinner. Total sickness. Sin is the incurable leprosy of the soul. It can't be legislated out. It can't be philosophized out. It can't be psychologized out. It can't be wished out.

It can't be pushed out by self-effort. John Flaval once said that all the tears of a penitent sinner, should he shed as many as there have been raindrops since the creation of the world couldn't wash away by his own tears one sin. And then he went on to say the everlasting burning of hell couldn't purify the flaming conscience from one sin because sorrow can't cure one sin and punishment can't cure one sin. Only Christ can cure sin.

And so Christmas is this. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. There's no other way.

There's no other cure. Sin is a disease cured only by one thing and that is the blood of the divine physician himself. Further, in understanding what sin is like, we ought to say that sin is also hated by God. It is detestable to God.

This must be obvious to us but let me pursue your thinking a little further. Sin is the only thing that God has eternal antagonism against. He damns no one except a sinner.

That's all. That's the very narrow category in which God has eternal hatred. God does not resist a man because he's poor. God does not resist a person because they are ignorant or crippled or ill or despised by the world or limited in ability or because they seem to have little to offer. No. There's only one thing that alienates a person from God and that is sin.

That is it. God is antagonistic only to the sinner. In Jeremiah 44.4, God says, O do not this abominable thing that I hate. That's God's word to wayward, rebellious, defiant, defiled sinners. You see our God is holy, all holy, only holy, altogether holy, and always holy. And the sinner is sinful, all sinful, only sinful, altogether sinful, and always sinful.

And how the two can be brought together? Only when sin is eliminated. And that is done by the work of Jesus Christ who came to save sinners. So sin is defiling and defiant and ingratitude.

It is humanly incurable. It is hated by God. And listen, sin, if I can add this, is hard work. It is the character of sin that it is hard work.

Have you noticed? All it causes is pain and yet people go through pain to do it. It's a strange compulsion our nature gives to us. In Jeremiah 9.5, the Bible says, they weary themselves committing iniquity. In Psalm 7.14, behold, he travails in pain with iniquity, describing Cush, the enemy of David, who was chasing David.

He's in pain trying to bring forth evil. And it says of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 24.12, she is weary herself with sin. Sin is hard work and people go after it with a vengeance. I'm reminded of Genesis 19 where those perverted, twisted in the city of Sodom came to the house of Lot because two beautiful angelic creatures had come to his house from God and they saw those magnificent creatures and they wanted to come and molest them in their vile, perverted way. And they wanted them to come out of the house so that they could do that to them. And of course, they would not allow that to happen. And the Bible says in divine judgment, God struck those perverse blind.

And you know what shatters my understanding? When they went blind, they didn't fall on the ground and crawl around. They didn't run and cry out for mercy.

They, with greater intensity, tried to beat the door down and get into the house any way they could. Actually going stone blind on the spot was not enough to overpower the incredible impulses of their lust. They ignored their blindness and went to extreme effort to reach the goal their lust drove them toward. That is the essence of sin. It is so perverse that ignoring the pain and the consequences, men go after evil and weary themselves in the process.

People go to hell sweating. What is sin like? It's defiling. It's defiant. It's ingratitude.

It's incurable. It's hated by God. It's hard work. All of that for men to violate the law of God. What a wretched thing. How many people does sin affect? That's our third question. I've received letters through the years from people who said to me, I don't know what you're so worked up about. I've never sinned.

I have. How many people does sin affect? The answer's in Romans 3. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. For there is none righteous. No, not one.

That's just for you who think you're the one. No, not one. Sin entered the world through one man, Adam. And by Adam, then came a whole civilization of sinners, like produces like. Job said it in Job 14 four. He said, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.

No one. In Psalm 58 three, the wicked are estranged from the womb. Psalm 51 five, in sin did my mother conceive me. Ever since Adam, it's been sinners and sinners and sinners and nothing but sinners. The only non-sinner was Jesus Christ. In him was no sin.

1 John 3 five says. Not only the guilt of Adam's sin, but the depravity, corruption, and pollution of it has been transmitted to us. We drink from the same poisoned well.

We inherit the same fallen genetics. Adam's sin clings to us as Naaman's leprosy clings to Gehazi in 2 Kings 5. With the flesh, Paul says in Romans 7 25, I serve the law of sin. Original sin in Adam contaminated the entire human stream.

And if you have a question about it, it's very simple to answer. The wages of sin is death. And if you die, you die because of sin.

That is simple and clear. If you look at your life and you want to know whether you're a sinner, ask yourself if you've ever been ill, if you're growing older, if you will die. The answer is yes and sin is the reason.

You cannot deny that. And the roots of sin are so deep, they are so deep that even after salvation, sin remains a problem for the Christian. Paul cries out, the things I want to do, I don't do.

The things I don't want to do, I do. I see the sin that is in me. And even when it was forgiven, and even when the Lord had put the righteousness of Christ over that sin, because Christ had paid the penalty for that sin, it's still there. The roots of sin are so deep. All of us are affected by it.

All of us. Even when we're Christians, sin is still a reality. And if you say you have no sin, you make God what?

A liar. And then a vital question. What are the results of sin?

What are the results? What does sin cause? Let me share this with you. First, sin causes evil to overpower us. Sin turns a person into a victim of evil.

Evil dominates the mind. It says in Jeremiah 17, 9, at the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It says in Ephesians 4 that the mind is dark, that the mind is alienated, that the life of God is absent.

It says in 1 Corinthians 2 that we cannot understand the things of God. In Romans 1 that the mind is reprobate. In other words, sin has dominated the mind so that its thinking process is overpowered with evil. It thinks evil. It plans evil. It conceives evil. And then we know too that evil also dominates the will.

I mentioned earlier quoting from Jeremiah 44, 17, but we will do whatsoever things proceed out of our mouths. The will is also dominated by the evil that overpowers the sinner. He is a total victim and if his thinking is overpowered by evil, so will his willing be. For he will will to do what he conceives and what he conceives is dominated by evil. And then evil dominates the affections. Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.

Their loves, their affections, their wishes, their wants, their desires, their longings are toward those things which are not right. And so man is overpowered by evil. As Paul says, sin that dwells in me, it hangs like blackness hangs tonight. And sin is in the nature even of a Christian. It's in the essence of a Christian. It's in the person of a Christian, like a sleeping lion and the least thing can enrage it. It is an overpowering thing.

It smolders sometimes high like a flame, sometimes low. The slightest wind of temptation fans it to fury. Secondly, in thinking about this matter of sin and the results of it, sin brings us under the dominance of Satan. People think that they're free, you know, they're free. Totally free to do whatever they want. We say they're free spirits. Listen, the only free person is one who's had his sin covered and is free to do what's right. A sinner's not free. He is under the total domination of sin and the control of Satan.

Ephesians 2, 2, the apostle Paul says in scripture that the sinner walks that is daily conduct according to the prince of the power of the air. The spirit working in the children of disobedience. Satan is at work.

He's in control. They bear the imprimatur of Satan. They bear on their faces the image of their father. And Jesus said it, John 8, 44, you are of your father the devil.

It was obvious. They were visibly the devil's children because they were manifest that way. They bore the mark of satanic control. Man is a slave to Satan. He is not free.

He is totally controlled. Satan works in him to accomplish his own will. Only Jesus said if the son makes you free, are you free? So the results of sin, sin overpowers and brings into the control of Satan. Thirdly, sin makes a person an object of God's wrath. It is sin that causes us to be condemned and damned.

It is sin that sends men to hell. We are exposed, Ephesians 2, 3 says, to the wrath of God. And the psalmist said in Psalm 90, 11, who knows the power of God's wrath.

That's why we don't want to mock. That's why Proverbs 14, 9 I think it is says, only fools mock sin. Because when you mock sin, you mock the wrath of God. God's wrath is not some momentary, whimsical passion.

It is a holy hatred. It is an act of His pure and holy will against that which is evil and unacceptable and He will destroy it. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God, of a mighty God, of a judging, wrathful, vengeful God. And so sin makes men the heirs of God's wrath.

And while they think they're feasting like Damocles banquet, there's a sword hanging over their head held by a thread and someday the thread will snap and judgment will fall. And then another thought about the results of sin that's very important. Sin subjects a person to all the miseries of life. Sin brings the worst of all there is on the individual. Job said in chapter 5 verse 7, man is born unto trouble and trouble becomes his name. Trouble is everywhere. Paul says the sin of Adam has subjected the creature to vanity, subjected the creature to emptiness, to uselessness.

There's something missing. There's an unsatisfaction so it's trouble and it's nothingness. You live a life of sin and you get trouble and nothing else. Emptiness. Solomon said vanity of vanities, emptiness of emptiness, all is nothing, all is nothing. What a conundrum, what a paradox. A man enters the world with a cry and leaves with a groan and nothing in between.

Only emptiness. Sin has torn man down from the place of honor. He has lost his dignity. He is robbed of peace. He knows no lasting joy, no hope, no meaning, no values. There is no peace says my God to the wicked. The wicked rather are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest whose waters cast up mire and dirt. And the wicked says Proverbs 28, one, flee when nobody pursues. They are hounded with the nothingness and the meaninglessness and the guilt and the absence of peace in their lives. Judas so terrified, Judas so wrought with guilt and horror hanged himself to quiet his screaming conscience. And even hell proves no rest. Listen, sin brings the worst things in life.

It exposes men to all the ultimate misery. The final result of sin is that it damns people to hell. In Revelation chapter 20 it says in the end at the great white throne judgment the Lord will gather all the unbelieving and cast them into the lake of fire that burns forever. Jesus taught the doctrine of hell. He was the one who framed it and articulated it in the gospels.

The apostles picked it up and it's repeated throughout the New Testament. And we need to know this, dear friends, 50 million people will die this year. 136,986 die every day. And hell awaits the vast majority of people. Spurgeon said, man is hanging over the mouth of hell by a solitary plank and the plank is rotten. And that is the fatality of sin ultimately.

What a horrible thing it is. Now why all of this? Because this, dear friends, is the ugliness of Christmas that brings us to the point of its beauty. You see, the beauty of Christmas is that Christ came into the world to what?

Save sinners. Now isn't that the beauty of Christmas? And who can understand the beauty of Christmas without the ugliness?

It isn't the cards and the trees and the lights and the presents and the fantasies and the snow scenes and the warm fires. The beauty of Christmas is that Christ came to cure the ugliness of the world. And Ezekiel Hopkins many years ago said, it is not man's cannot's but his will not's.

It is not impotency but obstinacy that destroys him. Men will not, obstinately will not come to the Christ who came to save. God determined to send His Son into the world, the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person, partaker of the divine perfection to die for us. That's Christmas. That's the meaning of Christmas.

And no matter what you may think and what sentiments you may have and what warm feelings you might have about Christmas unless you understand the ugliness of your own sin and embrace Jesus Christ who alone by His death and resurrection can save you from that sin, you don't have any connection with Christmas. Joseph Hart wrote, come ye sinners poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. Jesus ready stands to save you full of pity, love and power. He is able, He is able, He is willing doubt no more. He is able, He is able, He is willing doubt no more. Come ye weary, heavy laden, bruised and mangled by the fall.

If you tarry till you're better, you will never come at all. Not the righteous, not the righteous sinners Jesus came to call. Not the righteous, not the righteous sinners Jesus came to call. Shall we pray? Indeed our Lord, we know that this is the truth.

This is a trustworthy word and worthy of all acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Yes, that is the beauty of Christmas. That is the glory of Christmas, the wonder. The beauty is not a tree or decoration or lights or scenery.

The beauty is that the ugliness can be cured by the coming of the Savior. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. The lesson you just heard here on Grace to You is part of John's series, The Best of Christmas. And friend, if you'd like to listen to this message again, or listen to the other messages in this series, keep in mind you can download all six sermons from The Best of Christmas free of charge in MP3 and transcript format from our website when you connect with us today. Our web address is That's And remember that the series, The Best of Christmas, includes only six of 3,600 total sermons by John MacArthur, all of which are available for you to download for free in MP3 and transcript format from our website,

You can log on today and start downloading. Now, as December 25th gets closer, if you're trying to decide on a final gift or two, and you'd like something that will have value long after Christmas, let me suggest our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible. It has study notes, charts, and maps that explain even the toughest passages of Scripture. To order the MacArthur Study Bible, call 800-55-GRACE. That's 800-55-G-R-A-C-E. And our customer service team can help you find the right shipping option for pre-Christmas delivery.

You can also choose an express shipping option when you order from our website, Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week with Grace To You and be here tomorrow when John looks at important truths in the Christmas story that you may never have noticed before. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-11 05:42:35 / 2023-12-11 05:52:39 / 10

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