Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
We've put away the gift wrappings and begun eating leftovers. But remember this, the holiday has roots in a far different culture at a very different time and place. Listen today as Erwin Lutzer brings us down to earth with another view of Christmas. 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, there was no room for the baby Jesus that holy night and for many people there is still no room.
You know Dave, you're absolutely right and it ought to break our hearts. The fact that Jesus Christ came to live in this world, to die, to be raised, to redeem us. And yet at the same time as we have gone through the Christmas season, so many people have misunderstood him.
They've ignored him. Jesus often is like a book on a shelf. You take it off when you are interested in reading it, but then you put it back. Well, Christmas may be over, but I pray that in our hearts, our worship of Christ will continue. This is the last day we're making a very special resource available for you. As you consider the new year, this book has 365 readings. It's a book that is illustrated, color illustrated I might say, emphasizing God's creation.
If you want to learn about butterflies, fish, flowers, all of these things point toward God the creator, intelligent design. It'll be a wonderful opportunity to give someone a gift that will go on giving every day of the year. And as you give, thank you in advance for helping us. I like to always emphasize that we are listener supported. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And as you listen, let's make sure that there's plenty of room in our hearts for our savior. 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, and 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. Let me also say very candidly that there are some of you who are listening to this message today who do not know Christ personally, and you are turned off to Christ because you have been turned off by religion, a religion of emptiness, of hollowness, of empty phrases that are said, and you've been turned off by that.
And down deep in your heart you know that there must be something else to fill the emptiness of your life, but you have tried religion and it has failed you. Well, I want you to know today that Christianity is not a religion in that sense at all. If you understand it correctly, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ that is true, that is real, that is daily, that is vibrant, and that can be fulfilling. And that's what you want, not the popular religions of the day who basically say there is no room for Christ. Let me say that oftentimes what happens in religious circles is that Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of Kings, he is defanged. He is made into a tame Christ, a manageable Christ, a Christ whom we like. And he is not seen as Savior, as Judge, and Coming King. Basically today we see all over, even in religious circles, if we understood it properly, a sign that says, no room, no room.
No room in business, no room in religion, no room also in the legal world, the legal world. You know, Jesus experienced at least six trials before he was crucified. Some of them were secular trials. For example, he came before Herod and Pilate, but some were religious. He came before the Sanhedrin and the high priest.
But those who have studied those trials carefully point out that Christ did not receive any justice, even according to those standards of justice. He was railroaded. Those courts were setups, because when you want to get rid of somebody, you use the law in order to do it so that you can give the pretense that you're doing this right.
And then what you can do is to get rid of him and get him out of the way and use the law to do it. I speak with a heavy heart, but that is what is happening in the United States of America today. The Supreme Court, you know, and the ACLU are working to make sure that Jesus Christ does not have room. I think, for example, of the President's Park in Washington, D.C. A Christian choir came from Romania and began to sing in the park and have a concert and they were asked to leave because there can be no use of secular parks for such religious purposes because this, after all, would constitute the establishment of religion, you understand.
Now Satanists had a concert in that park, but that's okay. I studied this and discovered that did you know that the name Christ and God can be used in our schools as swear words? You can curse God and Christ and have constitutional protection while you are doing it, that is protected by free speech. But Christ and God cannot be spoken of reverently in our schools because that would seem to indicate a sanction of religion and you can't have that. And then I think of places like Ottawa, Illinois, where they used to have the pictures of Christ at Christmas time and because of one call to the ACLU had to take them down, not because people asked the community, oh no, no, no, democracy is circumvented. And then the Supreme Court's confusing rulings regarding a Christmas creche or a Christmas arrangement. Oh, it's very confusing.
I read this yesterday. It's hard to know what the court really means because what they said was that you can actually have the baby Jesus and you can have the manger scene as long as it doesn't stand alone. You have to mix it up. You have to put Jesus and hide him behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And if you get enough secular symbols in there, then it can pass. But don't let Jesus have all the limelight.
Get rid of him. No room for Christ. No room in the schools. No room in the parks.
And there are powerful voices saying no room for him in the government. No room, no room, no vacancy. You are the Creator.
You are the King. But the answer is get out of here. Now that's serious, but in the closing moments of this message I want to talk to you about something that is even more serious. And that is that there are some of you who are listening to me right now and Christ has no room in your own heart. Maybe in your mind you admire him, but there's no room for Christ in your own heart.
You give him a little itsy bitsy bit of room, maybe even once or twice a year, but really he isn't welcomed the rest of the time. You know the reason for this is because of the fact that we emphasize the physical and not the spiritual. We are so wrapped up in that which pertains to time that we forget that we are going to live eternally. You know there are some people who just live as if they forget that someday they will stand before Jesus as their judge and he will ask, what did you do with me when I was on earth?
People live as if that isn't going to happen. Well, I'm here today to tell you that it is going to happen because it isn't just the baby in the manger. It's the strong powerful king of the universe who was born there in Bethlehem and we forget that. I must speak candidly and tell you that sometimes I am deeply grieved by the number of people who give some kind of allegiance to Christ, perhaps once a year, maybe during Christmas and Easter, and literally blow God off the rest of the year and forget about it. That's terrible.
It's terrible. It's an insult to the king of kings, to the Lord of Lords, and no matter how many nice words might be said, if the truth were known across many a heart there are two words written, no room filled with pleasure and money making and aspirations and careers and all the other things, but for Jesus in the mind, yes, but no room in the heart. And we come with mixed motives. We come because we want to add Christ to all the other things and we forget that Jesus Christ comes and invites us to open the door of our hearts to receive him that we might be cleansed and forgiven and welcomed and then he wants to go into every single chamber, into our reading room, and then he wants to go into the living room, into the den where we watch TV, and in all of the rooms of our heart Christ comes to cleanse and to be Lord and to be God and anything less insults him. I need to remind you today that we are not saved because of what happened in the crib at Bethlehem. We are saved because of what happened at the cross in Jerusalem. The lowest time of Christ's dissension was not in that manger and even though it was smelly that was not it.
It was when he was on the cross and he said, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me as he became the sacrifice for my sin and for yours, God, a very God. In London there was an old poor woman by the name of Miss Betty and Miss Betty never came out of her apartment because she owed so much money to so many creditors she was afraid that she would be arrested and so she stayed inside almost all the time. There was a minister who knew her and heard about her plight and decided he would do something nice.
You know, occasionally ministers do do something nice. Just remember that. And he decided that he would raise money for her and pay off all her debts. So he did. And then he went to find her to give her the news, ask the neighbors where does she live. They said, you know, you go up these stairs and she's over there. So goes and knocks on the door. No answer. Waits a few moments, knocks on the door. No answer. Finally leaves and some neighbors say, did you find her?
No, no, no answer. They said she's in there, but she thinks that you're a policeman or you're a creditor. That's why she doesn't open the door. So he went back and knocked on the door and said, I'm a minister.
Let me in. And he identified himself. She opened the door. He said, I want you to know today that we raised enough money and we paid all your debts. And he gave her the receipts to prove it. She was so embarrassed and so ashamed. And she said, you know, I almost didn't let you in, even though you're the one who paid my debts. You see, that's what happened.
That's what happened. Jesus died on the cross and a payment was made for those who let him in. He died that we might be able to be reconciled with God. And yet throughout this nation, there are millions of people who've closed the door of their hearts to the only one qualified to forgive them, to reconcile them to God.
And they have lots of space in their lives for a thousand different things, but no room for Christ. Oh, my friend, if you've never believed on Jesus Christ, take this opportunity to do so. I want to ask you another question. Are you blessed as a result of the ministry of running to win? Did you know that it is because of the investment of people that this ministry can continue?
There are many of you who perhaps have never connected with us. This would be a great opportunity to do that, to encourage us, but also to give you a special resource. It's a book entitled Have You Considered? The subtitle is Evidence Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. It's a book with 365 readings, one for every day of the new year.
It helps us to understand the intricacies of God's creation. It's an attractive book, color photographs. And this is the last day that we are making it available.
For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
Now, perhaps I said that too quickly. I hope you have an opportunity to get a pen or a pencil to write this down. But thank you so much for helping us. And as you think about the end of the year, we encourage you to think about us and this ministry that you are a part of. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Romans 13, 8 tells us to owe no man anything but to love one another. Lending money can be a trap, as an anonymous running-to-win listener can attest. Here is his story. In Mark and Matthew, Jesus says, If you do not forgive someone else, God will not forgive you.
What exactly does this mean? If I don't forgive someone who is not a believer, will I go to hell? I've never had a problem with forgiving anyone until recently. My wife and I tried to help my brother-in-law and sister get out of debt by paying off their credit cards and getting them back on the right track financially. They agreed to pay us back interest-free with monthly payments that they were paying the credit card companies. It's been two years.
We've not seen a penny, yet they go on vacations, leave work early, pass up overtime opportunities, and recently they purchased a car. Whenever I try to lovingly hold them accountable, they verbally attack me, as if I was in the wrong. My heart is broken. I'm hurt.
I feel betrayed and robbed. How can I forgive them? I try to forgive them in my heart and prayers every morning, but then by lunch I have reheated my bitterness. I try to love them when I'm around them, but inside I'm sick to my stomach.
Please help me. First of all, before I begin to answer your question, I want to say that I love that phrase for its vividness when you say you have reheated your bitterness. I think that all of us have had that experience, haven't we, where we have tried to forgive, but the bitterness comes back, sometimes worse than it was in our lives before.
Well, my friend, a couple of comments. First of all, with reference to the words of Jesus, if you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. That's a very puzzling statement, isn't it? Because obviously Jesus is not saying that he would revoke forgiveness or take our forgiveness away. Jesus certainly is not saying, I won't forgive you till you forgive somebody else, as if we're the ones that make the first move. That would be contrary to other verses of scripture. This really occurs, at least the one that I'm thinking about occurs in the book of Matthew in a parable. And I think that what Jesus is talking about there is the suffering that we go through if we do not forgive, at least in the parable, where the man was thrown into prison until he should pay the last farthing. And we pay that last farthing, the last cent. If we are bitter, it corrodes our soul.
So Jesus may be speaking there about temporal forgiveness, that if we don't forgive others, we aren't forgiven, and we continue to live lives where our soul becomes corroded as a result of our unforgiving spirit. But now with reference to your issue, you say that when you confront your sister and her husband, they begin to berate you. Have you ever confronted your sister privately? I think you have to.
After all, you are brother and sister. And so what you need to do is you need to sit down with her. You need to help her to understand why this is a serious business. And it's not just that you get your money back, important though that may be. It's a huge character issue.
What kind of people are these who will make a promise and they can keep the promise they have enough money to, and they don't? I'm sure that that hurts you doubly, but you have to confront her. Now, if she is unresponsive, all that you can do is you can go to the church. If you're going to the same church, I think the elders of the church should get involved because this is a very important issue. And maybe even they should be subject to church discipline.
I think that we would do that if the circumstances were as you described them. Encourage them to go to arbitration. There are Christian ministries that have arbitration where you present your case, they present theirs, whatever.
Now, here's the bottom line, my friend. If none of this works, you just have to take the loss. Consider the loss to be your payment of tuition for having done something very foolish. The Bible says you should never co-sign for anyone. And you either give them the money or you don't do it.
Because believe it or not, what your sister and brother-in-law are doing is very common. And no longer should you give people money with the intention of them repaying it. If you give it to them, give it to them. But don't expect it back.
Don't co-sign. And give your bitterness to God and walk away free. Some wise counsel on finances from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer.
If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. When the economy falters, the real story is people losing jobs, homes, and ultimately hope. What do you do when life is hard and options are few? Next time on Running to Win, the first of two messages about tough times and how to handle them. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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