Merry Christmas 2010

It's Not About What you Know; It's About Who You Know

As a child growing up, the subjects of religion and politics rarely came up in our home. It wasn't expressly forbidden, it's just that there was no real interest. We were a very typical secular family. It was in that context that we celebrated Christmas, which was a great time of the year. Oh sure we might get out to a Christmas eve service now and then, but Christianity was checked at the church door as we left. It was time to go home and get on with the real exciting part of Christmas.

As children we laid awake at night wondering what was under that tree. My parents, who were not wealthy, were very generous and we were never disappointed. My two sisters and I made out like bandits on Christmas morning.

On top of that, family members, like grand parents, aunts, uncles and cousins would gather on Christmas day to eat a great feast. My mother knew how to put together a great turkey dinner and we got as stuffed as the bird. Christmas was a special time of the year and religion had little to do with it.

Given my experience as a kid, I find it hard to imagine why some people want to kill the holiday and celebration.

So if you are not religious and are celebrating the Christmas holiday, I want to wish you a very, Merry Christmas. May your celebrations be grand, and I hope you enjoy the holiday and the time with your family and friends. Above all, give thanks by helping someone that you don't have to help. No matter how secular or religious, the theme of Christmas is "gifts and giving".

Having said that, I would like to tell you how my Christmas celebrations became much merrier.

As a young adult I discovered Jesus, or should I say, He discovered me. Actually He knew about me all along, it's just that I spent the first 19 years of my life walking around blind and oblivious. I can't tell you just how much the meaning of Christmas changed for me when I moved from being blind to being able to see. Suddenly the tree, food and presents were not nearly as important. Christmas became a time of the year to stop and reflect on God's greatest gift. As good as Christmas was as a kid, it got a whole lot better after I found the Christ of Christmas.

Christianity is not about what you know, Christianity is about "who you know". It is without a doubt the simplest of any major religion. Christianity is all about Jesus and what Jesus did, and of secondary importance is what I do or have done.

For example, if you die and find yourself at the pearly gates, and Peter asks "Why should I let you into heaven?", what is the answer that gets you in? Now I have watched people answer that question on numerous occasions and generally it is often something to the effect that "I've lived a good life" or "I've tried to live a good life". Most people honestly think it all about how good a life they have lived.

The answer for a true Christian is much easier. When Peter asks why should I let you in, the response is "Because Jesus paid the price of my admission when He died for me".

Now many Christians would want to correct me and say that's too simple an answer. They will argue it's more than that. Well the truth is it isn't. The promises of the Bible are quite simple and straightforward. Let's take a look:

I think that is a very simple statement and the promise is made several times:

And that is actually not a new promise, but an old one that was first made to the Jews. Consider this:

Are there any tricks in that promise, are there any restrictions? Let's take a closer look:

First, what does the word "saved" refer to. Save is defined in the dictionary as:

If someone saves someone else, then that someone else must have been in trouble, in some kind of predicament.

In the Biblical context, I would argue that the term saved relates to a "heaven or hell" meaning. If you are saved you are saved from hell, you get to go to heaven. I know, that's not very Christmas-y but here are a couple more passages from the Bible with the words "saved" in them:

I know that there are those who can make a bigger and broader case for what we are saved from, but that's enough for me. Being under God's wrath and condemned by God is a big predicament and being saved from it is huge.

So who is this offer made to? You will see the words "everyone" and "whoever". But is it really "everyone"? You have to keep in mind that many of these words were written by Jews for Jewish readers. What about those of us who are not Jews? That is cleared up here:

I really don't think that needs any explaining other than to say that it does not matter your ethnic background, your cultural background or your religious background, the offer is good to everyone and no one is excluded.

The fact an offer is made to everyone does not complete the transaction. Someone can come and offer to pay me money for my house. Is that it, is the deal done? Of course not, the offer is only the initial part of the transaction. The offer must be accepted. If I don't accept the offer, then the house does not change hands.

It's even simpler than that. First, you have to believe that the offer is a real and genuine offer. If my 6 year old neighbor comes over and says he/she would like to buy my house, I might tend to discount the offer as not genuine and dismiss it out of hand. Suppose someone came to your door with $500,000 in cash, telling you that they would like to buy your $250,000 house? You might be a little concerned about where the money came from and might reject the offer as "too good to be true". If the money is from drug dealers, you may find you lose your house and that money.

So the first step in accepting the offer is to "believe" that the offer is real and that the person making the offer can make good on that offer. That's why the Bible says:

Being able to "believe" is a huge hurdle. If you don't believe what the Bible says about Jesus, then there is no way you are going to accept the offer. After all, if you do believe what the Bible says about Jesus, and what He offers, how could you turn down such a super deal?

But no one who now believes in Jesus started out believing in Jesus. All people begin life as unbelievers and we are all cursed with being blind and oblivious; just as I said I was. In that regard I like to remember these portions of the Bible.

It is quite clear that our ability to "believe" is a gift of God. If we lack the ability to believe, we simply have to ask Him to help us believe. In fact I go one step further, I pray and confess my unbelief to God and confess that I have no ability to believe without His help. Try that prayer, it puts you in the right frame of mind. You would be surprised what God can do for those who confess they need His help.

So let's review the original Biblical promise again, and see if we have missed anything:

"Whoever calls on the name of the Lord...". What is the name of the Lord? It's simple. The name of the Lord, the name of God, is Jesus. I know, I know, some will say, "Hold on a minute, Jesus is the name of the Son of God", not the name of God. Two things in that regard. First, consider this passage:

Now clearly we know that the "Holy Father" is God. What Jesus is saying in this passage is that He has given His daddy's name. So when you call upon the "name of Jesus", you are calling upon the name of God, the name of the Lord. If you go back and re-read all the Biblical references I have provided, you will see that the name of Jesus appears in many. Once again, it is belief in "Jesus" that is the key.

And then there is this passage from the Old Testament of the Bible:

Do you see it? A "child is born" and that child shall be called "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father". Now if that child was not Jesus, I would really like to know what other child was born that is the Mighty God and Everlasting Father.

So I began this Christmas greeting saying that Christianity is not "what you know, it's who you know". I have tried to make the case that the Bible is clear, the "who" that you need to know is God and if you really know God, you will know him by His name, "Jesus". After all, is it possible to say that you know someone but do not know their name?

Jesus is the ticket to being saved, the ticket to heaven. It's not about what we do, it's about Jesus and what He did for us. Sure, if you don't accept the offer, then it's about what you didn't do; but if you do accept God's generous offer it's still all about what Jesus did for you.

So at this Christmas, I hope that you remember that the "child" who was born is Jesus, and He is the Mighty God. Knowing Him is the key to heaven and that's one great Christmas gift. Merry Christmas!