Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
The mad race of shopping is in full swing. Let's pause to reflect on why we do Christmas in the first place. During this holiday season, take a few minutes with Erwin Lutzer and consider Christmas from a different viewpoint, from a place far away and a time long ago. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, take us to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago and tell us about lots of space but no room. Well, you know, Dave, we have often pondered those words, haven't we?
There was no room for him in the inn. We don't know all the circumstances, but we do know that when Jesus was born, he was laid in a manger. There's something about the Christmas story that really touches our hearts. We're thinking of this baby.
We're thinking of Mary and Joseph. And we're thinking of the work of God coming to this world in such an ordinary way. But how thankful we are that he came. And, you know, as we think about the New Year, which is just around the corner, I have to say that we have a very special resource for you, and I'll be telling you more about that at the end of this message. But I want you to have a very blessed Christmas. And as you think about this weekend, always remember it has to do with Jesus. And of course, let's make lots of room for him and not squeeze him out because of busyness, even because of our friends and relatives and all the good times that people associate with this time of year.
From my heart to yours, may you have a blessed Christmas. And after I've spoken, you stay tuned because I have a special resource I'll tell you about. For the next few moments, I want you to go back with me in time. Back to that day when God was alone and nothing else existed in the whole universe. At that time, God made a series of decisions that affect all of us. First of all, he made the decision to create the universe, and that would mean that now there would be something else that would have existence other than God. Then God, in his wisdom, decided to choose this planet, planet Earth, one of the smallest of the planets.
And this planet would be the stage on which a drama would be played out, where the themes of good and evil and justice and injustice would be played up against one another. Eventually, of course, God showing his triumph in it all. And then as a part of that decision, God also chose that within the context of the fallenness of humanity, knowing all about Lucifer and Satan that would eventually come to be, God decided in the councils of eternity that he himself would become a man because there was a principle that was necessary to fulfill, and that was that God would have to become like unto the creatures that he would reconcile to himself to make an offering for sin. And so from eternity past, it was known that someday God would become a man.
The eternal word would be made flesh. So the angel comes to Mary in Nazareth. And we might expect that Mary, because she was pregnant of the Holy Spirit, we would expect that she would give birth there in the city of Nazareth, but that was not possible because years earlier a prophet had predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.
So Caesar Augustus gave a decree that all the then known world should be taxed and everyone had to go back to his own home. And because Joseph was enrolled in Bethlehem, they made the 80-mile trek. And the night they arrived, they were very frantically looking for a place to stay because Mary was about to give birth. So they went to the local inn at Bethlehem and they discovered that it was already full for the night, but the innkeeper said, you can stay here with the animals where people bring their donkeys and their mules en route to the different parts of the land. And so the Bible says in the second chapter of Luke, verse 7, which is my key verse for today, that she brought forth her firstborn son and laid him in the manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
Let me ask you a question today. Who was that baby that was laid in the manger? Who was he? Well, he was God.
King of kings and Lord of lords, the creator, the one about whom the Bible says by him where all things created both which are in heaven and which are on earth, whether they are visible or invisible, all things were created by him and for him. He was the owner of everything and yet treated as if he owned nothing. He comes from heaven to earth and he discovers a no vacancy sign in one of his own motels.
And so what happens is Mary and Joseph do what every poor couple gets used to doing and that is to make do with what they have and they spend the night in the stable where Jesus was born. You know that phrase, no room, is really symbolic of Christ's whole life. It's not just that there was no room when he was born, there was no room for him anywhere when he lived. People were trying to crowd him out of their lives and out of their schedules. For example, first of all, we noticed that there was no room for him in the business world. No room for him in the business world. I know that the innkeeper didn't realize that Mary was bearing the Son of God.
He thought that she was just your average peasant couple that needs to make do as best they can. And also it would be very difficult to ask some people to move after they had been put into a room for the night. But I venture to say that if Mary and Joseph had been rich, if they had had lots of money and if they had had had some prestige and some position in society, somehow somewhere arrangements would have been made that there might have been room. But there was no room for him in his ordinariness.
There was no room. Now what was true at his birth was true throughout his life. One day some disciples wanted to walk with Jesus and they came to Jesus and they said, we want to be your disciples. And he said, now before you sign up, remember, this is Matthew chapter 8 verse 20. He said, I want you to remember, he says, that the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests. But he says, the Son of Man has nowhere where he can put his head.
I don't own any houses and clothes and lands and investments, no silver and gold. If you follow me, make sure you understand who I am because I'm not a part of the world's values and attitudes. Why is it that Jesus somehow has no place in the business community of his day or of this day?
Why? It isn't because Jesus in principle is opposed to business. It's because he uncovers the greed that exists in the human heart. Jesus had a way of making enemies of respectable people. For example, in the 15th chapter of Luke he said, regarding those who loved money, that that which is loved by mankind, namely money, is detestable to God. That doesn't work on Wall Street nor in the marketplaces of Bethlehem. Jesus in effect said that if we loved money, we hated God.
Oh, how does that go over in a very active, exciting business climate? So you see, Jesus exposed the greed, he exposed the dishonesty, and all that comes to the surface in the presence of someone who is holy and pure and upright and just and who loved God the Father with all of his heart. Jesus exposes who we are.
By the way, have you ever wondered what Jesus must think of Christmas? I was doing some shopping yesterday and I was in a line and there was a woman about three ahead of me who was trying to argue with the cashier about one of these coupons that she pulled out of her purse. Why in the world advertisers do that?
I don't know. But the cashier was saying that it was out of date, that no longer it applied and she was saying it did, so the cashier had to leave her place and go call somebody else. And here's this whole line of people waiting to pay and as I saw the exasperation on their faces, I said to myself, they might be preparing for a birthday party but they don't look very happy.
And you know, that was understandable but it was even worse than that. I'm somebody who loved Jesus. I love Jesus and I wasn't very happy either. So I did something that I've promised myself a thousand times I would never do.
I switched lanes even though my average in terms of being benefited by such a switch is not very good. And I can understand now a little better the words of the boy who prayed and said, oh Lord, forgive us our Christmases even as we forgive those who Christmas against us. I want you to think for a moment. Just for a moment, put yourself on Christ's throne. You are king, you are Lord, you are God, and the world is throwing a multi-billion dollar Christmas party for you. That sounds good.
But when you look at the fine print, it doesn't sound maybe quite that good. Number one, none of the gifts are for you. None are for you. They are all for other guests who invite themselves to your party. Secondly, even worse than that, not only are none of the gifts for you but you yourself are not even invited. You're not a part of the celebration. You're only the occasion for it.
Think about that. You know, I think it is a scandal beyond irony to think that Jesus who so disdained commercialism, that Jesus who himself had no place to lay his head, and Jesus who so exposed greed should be the occasion for an event whose success is not measured by how much love we have in our hearts for Jesus. Nobody even pretends that's what Christmas is all about.
But the benefit of Christmas is measured solely on the basis of what it means to the economy of our nation. I want to tell you very candidly that if Jesus were to walk into the business world of today, he would be politely shown to the door and he would say, we have no room for someone who believes in such honesty and in such integrity and such eternal values. No room, no vacancy here is the door. But secondly, not only was there no room for Jesus in the business world of his day, but there was no room for Jesus in the religious world of his day. Now we might think that surely Christ would find a home within the religious community.
After all, he is generally thought of as being a religious man. But I want you to know today that Christ's most ferocious enemies were those who propagated the official religion of the day and it has ever been so throughout the pages of history. Who was it that really instigated the crowds to cry up and say, give us Barabbas, release Barabbas, but not this man, put this man on the cross.
Who was it? It was the priests, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees who hated Christ with a passionate hatred. You do not know what hatred is until you see those who hate Christ.
Why? Oh, he exposed who they were. He exposed their hypocrisy, their long prayers that they prayed, not for the benefit of God, but for the benefit of themselves and what other people would think about them when they were praying. He showed for all generations to come the fact that every one of us can claim to be devoted to God, but that devotion to God may be nothing more than a disguised devotion to ourselves because all of us can hide behind religion and hide our sins behind a religious robe. And so Jesus showed all that. Jesus let everyone know that they were neglecting that which was most important. They were keeping all of the outward pageantry and the observances and their hearts were so far from God, and Christ had a way of pinpointing that so that it was clear and unambiguous. You know that today America is still a religious country, but we have basically accepted generally in society a kind of religion that is a mishmash, a hodgepodge. You have a little bit of the Eastern religions and then you have some bits and pieces of Christianity thrown in with some ideas of your own, and it is mixed to your own taste, and everybody is a law unto himself. And I want to tell you today that a religion like that is an enemy of Christ, even if it claims to make a bit of room for him. Let me speak plainly. To say that Jesus is one God among many, to say that Jesus has a part in a religion that is mixed up with all kinds of other philosophies and bits and pieces of other religions is an insult to the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the God of very God. And he's being insulted today day by day by the kind of weak religion that has been created by people who don't like Christ for all that he really is. Well, my friend, I want you to know that your heart and mine, we simply do not have enough room in our hearts for two thrones.
If we crown Jesus King of Kings, there's no room for other philosophies, other religious teachers. It is Christ and Christ alone. I don't know about you, but we have certain Christmas traditions. I grew up in a Christian home in Canada, a farmer's home. We had a tradition where the youngest child read the Christmas story, and because I was the youngest among five, I had that opportunity. Rebecca and I have carried on with that tradition. Now, of course, our grandchildren are involved and we always have the youngest read the Christmas story, and then we pray together before we open our gifts. You know, this is a time when our hearts are strangely warmed by the good news of the gospel and the reminder that we belong to Jesus. Let me use this opportunity to wish you a very blessed Christmas. And I hope that you include in your celebrations those that are lonely, those who are going through difficult trials and difficulties. Let us invite them into our lives and into our homes so that we might also give to them the warmth of Christmas. And I want to thank you so much for your investment in this ministry, Running to Win. It's because of people like you that we can continue and we can expand as the gospel goes around the world. We have a special resource for you, and this is one of the last days we are making it available. It's a wonderful book about God's creation, 365 readings for every day of the new year.
For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337, or go to rtwoffer.com. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. An anonymous listener is written asking this. My husband told me that his boss was reading the book Heaven is for Real. It's the story of a four-year-old boy who went to heaven and came back during surgery. The story was told by the boy's dad, who is a pastor. I want to know your take on the book and topic.
Also, a second question. Is it normal for a kid brought up in a Christian home to doubt her salvation? Our daughter, who is 10 years old, has a lot of questions regarding her faith.
Is the Bible really true? Is she really saved? She says she wants to make sure because she wants to hear Jesus say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, and she wants to be with us in heaven.
She's very disturbed and cries about this. That's why I want to know your opinion of that book and about heaven. Well, my friend, first of all, thank you so much for connecting with us. I've only read part of the book that you referred to about Heaven is for Real, and so I'm not giving a definitive answer, but I do have a couple of comments. First of all, I think it is possible for someone to die and to see heaven and return.
I mean, that certainly is theoretically possible. It's interesting that Stephen, when he was being stoned, saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God the Father. It was as if Jesus was saying, Be faithful, Stephen, because I'm here to welcome you. Interestingly, however, the Apostle Paul had an experience of going to heaven, evidently, as he tells us in 2 Corinthians, and yet he said that he would not tell us what he saw.
He felt so overwhelmed, perhaps, or he felt it best that we not know all of the details, so he was quiet about it. So I take the book about the little boy with a great deal of caution, and I would like to read a passage of scripture that comes from the book of Jeremiah. It says this, Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.
What has straw in common with wheat? What God is saying is this. There may be people who have dreams and visions or who claim that they've been to heaven and back, but we must look at their revelation as straw. Wheat is the word of God. Speaking about another book where somebody went to heaven and returned, I read about half of that, and I thought to myself, I don't think that this sounds legitimate.
So we have to be very cautious. Perhaps it's true, but see it as straw and not wheat. Ultimately, that which is sure is God's holy word.
And we should not become enamored with those who claim to have seen the other side. Now in reference to your other question regarding your 10-year-old daughter, absolutely children doubt their salvation. You know, as a boy growing up on the farm, frequently I used to pray that Jesus would come into my heart, and I always thought that he didn't. And I had really no assurance until my parents prayed with me at about the age 14, and ever since that time I had the grace of assurance through the Spirit, through the word. Your daughter is going through a normal time of questioning.
What you have to do is to encourage her, you have to continue to give her the promises, and you have to just let her work through this. Doubts in themselves are not wrong, as long as they're honest doubts. Now if you're a dishonest doubter, that's a different matter. But an honest doubter, even Thomas was an honest doubter. I think it can be said that the faith isn't really yours unless at some point you've doubted it in the process of making it your own. John the Baptist had his doubts.
Here's an amazing thing. He's in prison, and he begins to wonder whether Jesus is the Messiah, so he sends a delegation to ask, are you the true one, or should we look for somebody else? And Jesus said that of the people born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist.
Now follow this. Jesus made that amazing statement about John even when he was still doubting. Doubts are okay as long as they lead you to the truth, as long as they are honest doubts. Encourage your daughter. She will come, I can assure you, to the assurance of faith. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. On our next program, more thoughts on why so few have room for Jesus, and why so many people have hated Jesus through the ages. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-23 05:48:07 / 2022-12-23 05:56:19 / 8