Family and HOA in dispute over a cross they added to their Christmas decorations. HOA – show us in the Bible where the cross has anything to do with Christmas. To do so takes the whole Bible.
We don’t always make the connection because we typically read the Bible as a collection of stories and not as one book with one story. At times we see that more clearly than others, but there remains one overarching message.
That message is God’s Plan of Redemption. It runs from cover to cover. The basic characters involved in this Plan are collectively called the Family of God. First, the Jews, starting from Adam, begotten through Abraham, then drawn down to a specific family – Judah – from the sons of Jacob, and winding up with a young couple in a stable in Bethlehem. Then comes the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. At that point the Christians are brought into the Plan. They now join the Family of God, being adopted into the original family through faith in who Jesus was and what He did.
To show that transition from Old into New, John wrote: John 1:11-13 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Prior to the Cross, to become a member of the Family of God you had to be born a Jew or choose to convert to Judaism. That birth or decision placed you into the stream of God’s Purpose set before the foundation of the world.
That Purpose saw God designing life with a means for people to have a relationship with Him and He would use those people to carry out His plan along the way. This people would be the Family of God. He formed that family with Adam and Eve. Family lineage was the key. However, upon that family lineage, God placed expectations. The interesting thing is, He was placing these expectations on the entire Family not just to the Jewish portion of the Family. So, when Christians came into the picture, the same expectations applied.
Moses said: Deut 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Jesus repeated it: Mark 12:30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'
Habakkuk said: Hab 2:4 The righteous will live by his faith.
Paul repeated it: Rom 1:17 "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Even the writer of Hebrews: Heb 10:38 but my righteous one shall live by faith;
For the combined Family of God, the requirements are the same: Love the Lord your God and live by faith. Now I have to admit those are both loaded commands. The love God expects isn’t a felt love; it is a love that consumes our lives: heart, mind, soul and strength. Also, living by faith isn’t a declaration we make with words from our mouths but a demonstration that in all things we trust God implicitly: without question, doubt, or hesitation.
Both the old system and now the new had the same requirements of faith – relying on the work of God to sustain your life. It was a faith by which a person surrendered to God’s will. By that surrender, God would declare someone righteous.
In the Jewish phase, God used the evidence of Loving the Lord your God and living by faith to declare people righteous.
Heb 11:4-6 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Gen 15:5-6 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Now, when God expanded the Family to include Christians, He added a requirement specific to Jesus. A family member was not just someone who loved and trusted God. They were now required to believe in who Jesus was and what He had done – that Jesus was the Son of God, sent to die for the forgiveness of their sins and by believing in Him, they would be declared righteous and then brought into the Family of God. This new requirement was met with violent rejection.
John 1:11-13 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
The ultimate demand was still there – to be righteous before God. But now, there was an actual transaction of faith, that came through Jesus. Before, they could be born of blood – born as a Jew, or born of will – chose to become a Jew. Now, there was more. Receiving the One sent who was the only One who could present them to the Father.
When the Cross came into the picture, believing in the fulfillment of God’s plan through Jesus was essential. God leveled the playing field by requiring everyone to pass through Jesus as the narrowed way to have relationship with the Father. A challenge to the Jews but a revelation to the Gentiles.
The idea was, if the Jews truly Loved God and Trusted Him, when He presented the greater revelation of Himself through Jesus, they would embrace Jesus. Instead, they rejected Him. So, from then on, being Jewish, without accepting Jesus as Messiah, left them incomplete – trying to sustain their religion with only part of the story. From Jesus on to today they live separated from God because they choose to stay in the past of what God used to do instead of embracing what He did presenting the Savior to the world.
Now, we have final terms (the completing requirement) through which God declares people righteous. 2Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. For someone to enter into the Family of God, they can no longer expect to enter because they have an assumed righteousness from their actions. They must be declared righteous. God does this when we surrender our lives to what Jesus did to make this all possible. Loving the Lord our God and living by faith are now driven desires from hearts set free from the entanglement of sin.
This being Christmas, why did Jesus come? A Canaanite woman (a woman from the world of mankind) asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Matt 15:24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But then John told us: John 1:11-12 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
John wasn’t saying God changed His mind midstream in some vengeful act driven by His disappointment in the Jews. This was in the Plan all along. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
God didn’t send Jesus because He so loved the Jews but because He loved mankind.
The Plan of Redemption set before the creation of the heavens and the earth scheduled the very moment the Jews would reject and the door would open to the Gentiles.
It goes back to the Beginning. God, who designed all that is with a purpose specific to His Plan, created mankind and then formed Adam and Eve. As we continue reading, we see how that Plan works out.
When the Plan of Redemption meets its climax in Jesus, what began with the Jews, has now expanded to the world. The Disciple John saw where God was taking the Plan in Jesus.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
What did Simeon see when he looked at baby Jesus: Luke 2:29-32 Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel."
What did Isaiah see prophetically: Isa 60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
What did the angel tell the shepherds: Luke 2:10-11 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Why was that a great message to the shepherds? Because, though they were Jews, they were excluded from the benefit of being Jewish. The Pharisees placed them in the category of the unclean because they lived out in the pastures and couldn’t fulfill the requirements of the Law. They were seen as ungodly and separated from God and no better than Gentiles. Then, God included them in His Plan.
God was making a way to all mankind: both Jews and Gentiles. That’s why we’re here today. We came into salvation from the world. Had God not, through Jesus, opened the way to a relationship with Him, only the Jews would be in God’s family and we’d still be living separated from Him without hope, and the Plan would have failed.
When John the Baptizer announced that Jesus was John 1:29 the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, he saw what Jesus came to do.
Sin has always been the hindrance keeping us from God. It is the wall of separation that prevents relationship with God. It is the defining cause of ungodliness and says we are unrighteous and unacceptable to stand in God’s presence. Sin declares us unholy and unworthy to even approach God.
To see that, let’s go back into the Adam and Eve story.
Gen 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened…
Why was eating from the tree God forbid them to eat from such a big deal? It was rejecting God as their ultimate Head and choosing to disregard His command. It was throwing the actions of an Agnostic world into God’s face – we don’t need there to be a God. We’ll be our own gods.
When did they decide that? When Satan convinced them they could eat the fruit and become like God. The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
It wasn’t until Paul explained that their actions defined sin and showed how the implications of that sin expanded to cover the entire world, that we learn of the real consequence to what they did. But from what we’re given in Genesis, we see two immediate results:
Gen 3:17-19 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return."
But notice this: Getting expelled from the Garden wasn’t their punishment. Their punishment was the harshness of life because of the curse. Getting expelled was actually an act of Grace by God. And moved His Plan into the next phase.
Gen 3:22-24 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
It wasn’t anger or punishment that got them expelled but Grace. God could not risk them remaining as they now were – cursed and separated from Him – forever. Remember, they were God’s representative people. They held the beginnings of the promise to the fulfillment of God’s plan. They were the A-team with nobody to back them up. They were essential to the Plan. So, God had to keep them in the picture but not in the Garden.
But watch what was going on: by moving them into the world that had been cursed, they also took with them the solution to the curse. The solution wouldn’t be found in the Garden. It would be found in a Baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. With them cast out of the Garden, God was setting the stage for the moment the ultimate gift of life, the fulfillment of His Plan set before Adam and Eve sinned ever sinned, when He would present Jesus to the world. That’s why that baby was born: to set us free from the curse of sin and make us holy and blameless before the Father.
What does the cross have to do with Christmas? It has everything to do with Christmas. It is the very reason for Christmas.
- Christmas is the reason for Creation.
- The Plan designed before the earth began is wrapped up in the Baby born in Bethlehem.
- God’s purpose is to provide the opportunity for all mankind to enter into a relationship with God through what Jesus did.
- When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we are given the right to become Children of God.