…Christ uncrowned himself to crown us, and put off his robes to put on our rags, and came down from heaven to keep us out of hell…he came from heaven to earth that he might send us from earth to heaven.” — Pastor William Dyer (1632-1696)[i]
In our hectic holiday season, many have neglected the true miracle and meaning of Christmas — the coming of Jesus to our world. He is why we celebrate Christmas. Why? Because God sent His only Son to the earth to die for our sins that we might inherit a free gift of eternal life through personal trust in His Son (John 3:16).
Philippians 2:5-8 points out that the sovereign, infinite, omnipotent, eternal second Person of the Godhead actually took on finite human nature through the virgin birth[ii] (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38). Why? The Bible specifically teaches that Jesus came to be our representative and die for our sins on the cross of Calvary (Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).
God sacrificed Himself for us – yes, died for us, even His enemies (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:3)! He willingly[iii] took upon Himself the infinite penalty due our sins so that He could graciously offer us a free gift of eternal salvation. Jesus’ atoning death opened up the door for us to live in Heaven forever with a God of infinite love, joy, grandeur, wonder, peace, adventure, beauty, and splendor — to be with the greatest Treasure in the universe everlastingly.
Jesus’ birth was unlike any other; ours is a destiny unlike any other. The theological term for His coming, the incarnation, is a doctrine unlike any other because it reveals who Jesus Christ truly is.[iv]
Like the One it celebrates, Christmas offers its own paradox; a time of joy and celebration for many but for others a time of discouragement and depression. In its own unique way, the season tends to shine a light on the color of our souls.
Particularly at Christmas, people have searched for both meaning and happiness in life. In this season of joy, it seems we often need reminded that God is actually the only possible source of genuine meaning and enduring happiness.
As the ancient and wisest King Solomon learned the hard way,[v] a person can acquire virtually everything the world has to offer yet remain as unhappy and empty as ever. Material and temporal things of any sort can never satisfy beings who are both personal and eternal — only an infinite Person who truly loves us can satisfy us forever.
It was for this reason that God sent His own dear Son: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
When the Bible speaks of “salvation” and “eternal life” as a free gift (Romans 6:23) it is speaking of a specific, astonishing, and excellent quality of life everlasting only God can give. In Heaven we will find more love and meaning and contentment and happiness and joy and peace and fun and excitement and adventure than we can possibly dream of — and it will last forever — even increase forever throughout an eternity of eternities.[vi]
All of this is possible only because of the incarnation or earthly birth of Jesus Christ. But we need to personally trust in Jesus and honor Him for who He truly is. However, with the birth of God staring us in the face, another irony of the often self-absorbed Christmas season seems to be that no matter how we may try to ignore it, life isn’t about us; it’s about Jesus. Getting what we most desire in life doesn’t really make us happy. Whether we have what we want or not, that’s why many become depressed and wonder about life’s meaning. We just aren’t big enough or good enough to satisfy ourselves. Nor is anyone or anything else. As the famous French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out, only an infinite reference point can give our lives meaning. this famous atheist yearned for God: “That God does not exist, I cannot deny, that my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.”[vii]
Some speculate as to how they could really and truly ever find God. After all, given the many religions in the world and their conflicting beliefs, where does a person start?
Actually it’s a lot easier than most people might think. As someone with a PhD in comparative religion I can tell you honestly that whatever good religions may otherwise offer, of all the professed gods and religious prophets, founders and leaders throughout human history (e.g., Buddha, Mohammad, Brahman, Allah, Moses, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, “Krishna”, Zarathustra, Joseph Smith, etc.), Jesus Christ alone has done the following:
1) Incarnated into the world and specifically through a virgin birth (in such a manner that He was undiminished deity and full humanity in one Person);
2) Did this and scores of other things in precise fulfillment of literally dozens of Old Testament prophecies written hundreds of years in advance, proving for all time that He was and is the prophesied Jewish Messiah, Son of God and God incarnate;[viii]
3) Performed unparalleled miracles[ix] such as healing those blind from birth, controlling nature, and raising the dead;
4) Provided unequaled, striking teachings unlike any other person living or dead. No one ever claimed what Jesus claimed, not even close. In other words, Jesus taught and claimed what no one else has throughout the vast expanse of human history;
5) Was born perfectly sinless[x] and,
6) After being betrayed by one of his own disciples and the Jewish leaders and thoroughly abandoned by all his other disciples; after trials and torturous beatings; after being crucified just outside of Jerusalem by the Romans and dying a horrible death — He nevertheless rose physically from the dead on the third day in fulfillment of His many predictions.[xi]
One last point: Among all the religions of the world, only Christianity has a God who incarnates in space-time history and has proven He actually was God through physically resurrecting from the dead (Acts 1:3; Luke 1:1-4).[xii] As God incarnate He is an infallible authority by definition. This is why He told the Pharisees who rejected Him, “That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).[xiii]
Unfortunately, few people tend to consider and recognize the genuinely startling implications of the historic facts of the incarnation and resurrection, or the fact that Jesus proved He was an infallible authority. In essence, His birth and resurrection prove a number of critical things:
1) who the one true God is (the God of the Bible);
2) what God expects of us (to trust in His Son);
3) what God has done for us (given His Son for our sins that we might freely be forgiven our sins and inherit eternal life as a free gift through faith), and
4) they prove beyond all reasonable doubt that there is really only one religion on earth that is fully true (biblical Christianity).
Yes, a few other religions may claim an incarnation such as the ancient mystery religions or Hinduism or (allegedly) Buddhism, but these are widely conceded as mythology, not history.
The incarnation is why one of the most gifted thinkers and finest writers of the 20th century G.K. Chesterton, once remarked that the incarnation of Jesus Christ “makes nothing but dust and nonsense of comparative religion.”[xiv] It may not be politically correct; it may offend some, but it’s nevertheless true.
Those sincerely searching for God need to ask themselves, How and why does only one religion in the world have a true historical incarnation and physical resurrection from the dead of its founder — things which must have been demonstrated in space-time? If Jesus was not the only incarnation of God and never resurrected physically from the dead, it is simply another historical fact that Christianity could never have come into existence.
Why does the evidence point to only biblical Christianity being true? The fact that the Church exists (and has for two millennia) is proof of who Jesus is. This is why Christmas should be celebrated for what it truly is, not what it has, unfortunately, often become.
Christianity alone has a God who in His incarnation, actually weeps over our rebellion and sin (Luke 19:41); who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15); who weeps over our death (John 11:35) — and who suffered beyond imagination for our sins, actually dying the most torturous of deaths in order to purchase for us a free gift of eternal life — all because He loves us with an infinite love. His temporary death defeats death forever. Only Christianity has a God who adopts us as His own children, spiritually unites us to His Son, and comes to live within us forever through His Spirit.
Of all the gods of the peoples, of all the gods who ever existed, only the Christian God does this; only He has not abandoned us in our undying dilemma to face the darkness by ourselves. Only He has delivered us from our sins for eternity. We win forever. That’s one reason that only He is worthy of our adoration and worship.
In conclusion, we end by returning to the incarnation. Come Christmas morning the wealthy will open many gifts while the poor may have few or none. But wealthy or poor, the one Gift that can always be opened and can never be taken away (John 10:27-30; Hebrews 13:5) was given 2,000 years ago. Everyone who opens this Gift will receive the greatest Wealth imaginable, the greatest Treasure conceivable. All other gifts pale forever by comparison.
[For those who realize they do not know God personally through Jesus Christ yet desire to know Him and have their sins forgiven once for all time, please see the homepage of www.JAshow.org.]
[i] William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles"; http://www.gracegems.org/09/09/sailing.html
[ii] Few people seem to understand how critical the virgin birth is, including many Christians. For an explanation, see John Weldon, "The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ: All or Nothing"; http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php?title=The_Virgin_Birth_of_Jesus_Christ:_All_or_Nothing.
[iii] John 10:11,15,18.
[iv] As such, the virgin birth becomes one of the central doctrines if not the central doctrine of Christian faith.
[v] See the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament.
[vi] See John Weldon, "Heaven — a World of Love", http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php?title=Heaven_-_A_World_of_Love.[vii] “Quotations of Jean-Paul Sartre”, Atheism; http://atheisme.free.fr/Quotes/Sartre.htm.
[viii] See John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Walter C. Kaiser Junior The Case for Jesus the Messiah: Incredible Prophecies That Prove God Exists; http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-Jesus-Messiah-ebook/dp/B003ICXKH2.
[ix] For some very worthwhile studies, see the classic by CS Lewis, Miracles; Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (two volumes); R. Douglas Geivett, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History; and Norman L Geisler, Miracles and the Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles
[x] This is declared some half dozen times in the New Testament and predicated upon the virgin birth.
[xi] There are some dozen such predictions in the Gospels which, given their specificity, are impossible to account for unless Jesus was who He claimed to be, the Son of God, God incarnate. See note 20.
[xii] For additional evidence and documentation of Christ's physical resurrection from the dead see my articles: "The Resurrection as Historical Fact?" The John Ankerberg Show; http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php?title=The_Resurrection_as_Historical_Fact%3F and, "Miracles, the Shroud of Turin and the Implications", in press, and John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Passion and the Empty Tomb: the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (2005), available at www.Amazon.com.
[xiii] In John 8:21 Jesus seems to have prophesied His resurrection and that the Pharisees would look for His body to disprove it, but be unable to find it. (Cf. 8:12-58)
[xiv] In The Everlasting Man, excerpt taken from "GK Chesterton: The Everlasting Man", July 29, 2007; http://www.theeverlastingman.com/?cat=6
In our series “How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God,” we discuss the vital teachings the Bible offers on this important topic. You’ll be encouraged and equipped to better know the Lord and to share Him with others.All Sermons by Dr. John Ankerberg