I’ll be honest; it is about this time every year that I need someone to save me. You see, I have waited too long to order Christmas gifts on line and have them delivered in time for Christmas so that is not an option. But I really don’t like going to the mall to buy gifts – so that’s not a good option. I’m stuck – I need a savior, a shopping savior. Maybe you feel like you need some kind of savior too. Maybe you are already over your credit limit and yet still have gifts to buy so you need a financial savior. Maybe you have committed to being in too many places at the same time and find yourself doubled booked from now until Christmas so you need a scheduling savior. Maybe you are feeling isolated, alone and depressed in this season of the year and need an emotional savior. My guess is that we could all use a little salvation right now and we are in luck because salvation is one of the purposes of Christmas.
This Advent season we have been looking at the message that the angels gave to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born because this message holds for us the purpose of Christmas. Today we hear the angels say clearly that the birth of Jesus is all about salvation. Luke 2:11. This is part of the good news that we celebrate – God’s love has sent us, you and I, a Savior. That’s what the angels said. To YOU is born this day in the city of David a Savior. God has given you and me a savior and he is here to help save us from whatever it is we are struggling with.
If we are worried about our finances – God has given us a Savior- he won’t pay our bills but he will help us find the real value in life. If we are stressed about our schedule and the pace of our life – God has given us a Savior. He can’t give us more hours in a day or days in a week, but he can help us prioritize what we have going on so we make the most out of our time. If we are feeling isolated and alone – God has given us a Savior who has promised to be with us, that’s part of the good news we heard last week. So the purpose of Christmas, the purpose of Jesus, is to bring salvation and we are not just saved FROM something but we are saved BY something and FOR something. Let’s start by looking at what we are saved FROM.
To put it bluntly, what God saves us from is ourselves. The biggest problems we face in life don’t come from other people, the circumstances that surround us, the government that directs us or the society that shapes us. The biggest problem we face is us. By our very nature we are selfish and self-centered and that is the root of all our problems. And it has always been this.
Adam and Eve were placed in paradise and told they could eat from every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Having almost everything wasn’t enough for them, they wanted one more thing. Selfish ambition and pride took over and they wanted to take control of their situation and do what they wanted to do and not what God asked them to do Adam and Eve’s problem wasn’t the circumstances around them or even the serpents cunning words to them, it was their own selfishness.
Adam and Eve took God out of the center of their hearts and lives and placed their own selfish ambition and greed in its place. They wanted to be in control and call the shots so they placed themselves in the center of their world and every time we do that it creates problems because we will get things wrong. We make wrong choices, we head in the wrong direction and we treat people the wrong way and when we miss the mark like this it is called sin. In fact, that is what sin means, missing the mark. God calls us to live one way but we choose to live another and when we head off in our own direction and stray from the path God has for us we have problems.
So sin is basically living our lives with ourselves in the center and the word “sin” even shows us this. I’m not sure I have ever noticed this before, but Rick Warren points this out in his book, The Purpose of Christmas. Look at the word SIN- what is at the center? It’s an I. When I place myself in the center of my world things begin to fall apart and here’s why. When we have a me-first attitude we immediately cut ourselves off from other people. We stop thinking about the people around us and what they need and how we can live with them and only think about ourselves. Selfish people aren’t interested in relationships – they are only interested in getting what they want and doing their own thing. Selfish people aren’t interested in solving problems or helping others, they only want to know what is in it for them.
So sin cuts us off from others, but it also cuts us off from God. When we place ourselves in the center of our lives and try to do everything on our own then we have left no room for God in our lives. God simply can’t get close enough to give us peace or provide any direction. When we live life our way, we cut off a relationship with God and separate ourselves from the life God wants for us. So sin cuts us off from others and it cuts us off from God and if you think about it, this is what creates all the problems in our life and in our world.
If you were with us last week you heard that God’s love for us is personal and universal, which means that God loves each one of us and every person in the world. Now there is a reason God’s love is personal and universal and it’s because sin is also personal and universal. Each one of us is a sinner and every person in the world is a sinner, look at Ecclesiastes 7:20. There is not a righteous person on earth who does what is right and never sins. And Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
I know it’s not popular to talk about sin and no one likes to hear about it this time of year, but we know this is true. We are sinners. We can look at our own lives and see that we don’t measure up to our standards let alone God’s. I don’t know about you, but I can find a dozen or more places in my life where I could have been more patient, kind, loving, faithful and forgiving. We not only know that we are sinners but we know that our sin has consequences. Every day we experience the brokenness that comes with our sin. Our relationships aren’t what we want them to be because of our sin. Because we feel cut off from God and others we try to fill that void with food, drugs and material possessions. We think these things will make us feel better and fill the emptiness, but they won’t and we know it. We know that our problem is something else, something deeper and more spiritual, but we just can’t seem to do anything about it. And that’s just it, we can’t do anything about it.
We cannot overcome sin on our own – we need a Savior. We can try to live the perfect life, we can try with all our strength and power to do everything the right way, God’s way, but we will fail. The Apostle Paul was one of the most faithful and dedicated servants of God and if anyone was going to give it their all and live a perfect life it would have been Paul, but this is what he said:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do and what I hate, I do…
I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing…
In my inner being I delight in God’s law but I see another law at work in my body.
So we all struggle with sin and we cannot overcome it on our own which is what Paul finally says, what a wretched man I am, who will save me from this body of death? Paul knew he couldn’t do this on his own and that he needed a savior and the truth is that we all need a savior. We all need to be saved from our sin and God sent us this savior in Jesus. That’s the message of the angels, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
So we are saved from sin and self, but how does this salvation work? Well in Ephesians 2:8 it says we are saved BY grace through faith. Let’s be clear, God doesn’t save us because we have earned it or because we deserve it, God saves us because he loves us. God forgives our sin because he loves us and all we have to do to experience this salvation and the freedom it brings is to believe this and accept it. Jesus said that the work we are to do is to believe in him so we just need to believe that through Jesus God has forgiven us. In Acts 16 two of the early leaders of the Church, Paul and Silas, were asked point blank, What must we do to be saved? Their answer wasBelieve in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Nothing has changed in 2000 years. We are still saved by God’s grace when we believe that through Jesus God forgives our sin. On the cross when Jesus said, it is finished, he wasn’t talking about his life, he was talking about our sin. In his death, our debt has been paid – our sin has been forgiven. Those final words, it is finished, is just one word in Greek - tetelestai which was the word that was written on a bill when it was paid in full. So if our sin is a debt that has to be paid to God, it was paid by Jesus. Our sin has been forgiven and all we need to do is believe this and accept it. We experience salvation, which is the freedom that comes with forgiveness, when we stop trying to earn it and just accept what Jesus has done for us.
So we are saved FROM ourselves and our sin and we are saved BY God’s grace through Jesus but we are also saved FOR a purpose, look at Ephesians 1:4. Before the creation of the world God chose us to be with him and God created us to be someone, so we are saved FOR a purpose. Look at Jeremiah 29:11. God has plans for us and he knows what they are and he shares them with us when we allow Him to come close and dwell in the center of our hearts.
In January we are going to explore how we can discover God’s will, but for now let’s just hear and accept that God has a purpose for us. It may not be to become the next Mother Teressa or Billy Graham, God may just want to use us in the job we have today and the church he has placed us in, but God does have a purpose of us and when we are free from sin and place God back in the center of our lives we begin to discover what that purpose is.
So the purpose of Christmas is salvation. The angels tell us this and Jesus showed us this. As Jesus was hanging on the cross people shouted to him, if you are the Messiah, come down from the cross. Save yourself. But Jesus didn’t save himself because he knew his purpose wasn’t to save himself but us. Christ was born to save. The purpose of Christmas is salvation, our salvation, so let us believe this, accept it and celebrate the freedom and life that Jesus brings.
We are saved:
FROM our self and sin, BY God’s grace, FOR God’s purpose.
1. Which part of this salvation speaks to you the most and why?
2. Jesus is our Savior:
• What do you need to be saved from today? (Worry, Fear, Debt, Addictions, Loneliness…)
• In what ways have you put yourself at the center of your life?
• Confess this sin to God.
3. In what ways have you tried to earn your salvation?
• How can you change this way of thinking and simply accept God’s grace.
• Pray a simple prayer asking Jesus to be your Savior. (There are no set words, just ask Jesus to forgive you and set you free. He will – it’s why he was born!)
• Celebrate God’s grace and love in one special way this week.
4. What would you say is God’s purpose for your life?
• Ask a trusted friend or family member what they believe God’s purpose is for your life.
• Ask God to show you His purpose for your life.
5. Our January Sermon Series will be, Discovering God’s Will. Commit now to being in worship as together we will explore valuable resources in this process.