After Christmas

Nativity scene, Christmas star on blue sky and birth of Jesus, illustration.

When I was in Navy boot camp, we had an Easter service in a large drill hall. None of us were thinking about Christmas. All the recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center were lined up by company. Hundreds of young men standing at ease as the Navy chaplain began his sermon.

I will never forget how he began. It’s as vivid now as it was when I heard it. “Now here it is Easter,” he grumbled, making it sounded like he’d much rather be somewhere else. “Most of you guys haven’t been near a church since Christmas, so how the hell are you supposed to know anything about Easter.”

That’s what he said. I really cannot tell you one word that followed because I immediately turned him off. If that’s the way God is going to talk to me, why bother? A couple of years later, I heard the message of the Bible from friends and a truly remarkable pastor. They got my attention.

As the years passed, I thought about what that chaplain had said. Although I completely disagree with his choice of words and his entire approach, the fact that many people go to church only on Christmas and Easter is worth thinking about and writing about.

The guy wasn’t entirely wrong. The Christian faith sounds nice when we hear about the birth of Jesus and learn of His remarkable life here on earth. The whole idea of Christmas presents, a baby being born, and singing carols is traditional and pleasant. But for so many it really does end there because they have not yet explored their faith. That process is called discipleship and simply stated it’s just learning the Bible.

Learning what’s in the Bible is discipleship

Think of discipleship this way—you receive a piano keyboard for Christmas, with an instruction book, but you never play it. Maybe you tinker a little, but you never learn how to play. You tell yourself it’s because the piano isn’t for you.

Many Christian believers get that wonderful, initial taste of the faith but never go farther. My wife and I went to one of those mega churches. The place sat 7600 people. They had over 10,000 members. The pastor’s sermon that day was about how they brought people into the faith, but they did a poor job in discipleship. People became “Christians” but they weren’t growing in the faith, there was no discipleship.

My mother never understood her Christian faith

My mother was a devoted Episcopalian. Cradle to grave, she never missed a Sunday. I have Bibles from her childhood church that had little commemorative notes hand written on the inside cover. She had perfect attendance.

But she was never discipled. She never spoke of her beliefs, nor did she talk to me about Jesus, or the Bible. When I came to faith as a young adult, I quickly realized that her knowledge of the Bible was extremely limited.

When I would quote from the Bible, or talk about stories from the Gospels, she didn’t believe me. It’s not that she wasn’t listening. It was just that she had no foundational frame of reference. She just assumed I must have been wrong.

I really never could discern her true, core beliefs. Even when I went through confirmation classes at our church, I didn’t learn about Jesus. I learned about the church. It wasn’t her fault. That’s the way she was raised and that’s what she knew.

My dad only listened later in life

My father grew up in a Methodist home and had strict parents. As a young man, he had his snoot full of religion and turned it off. In his last years, we really connected and he opened his heart to listen to God’s Word.

Unlike my mother, dad became convinced that I knew what I was talking about. He came to that position with the help of a local pastor where he was living. Dad used that guy to verify what I was telling him. Like my mother, his knowledge of Scripture was very limited. He was never discipled either and never went to church with us. It wasn’t his fault. That’s the way he was raised.

Faith is personal

Faith in the Bible is a personal thing. In previous posts I talked about not being able to prove the Bible, so God wants us to accept Him on faith. We are saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus. Simple message.

Who is the baby born on Christmas? Who is this Jesus? That’s why we need discipleship. Coming to faith is great, but that’s just the first step in a long and exciting journey.

But that leads to a big problem. Once we understand who Christ is, and what He is, we are accountable to God. Now what do we do? We can put it all aside, just like laying a book down on the coffee table. Or we can explore, ask questions, question answers and argue about what the Bible really says. It just reminds me of the old Gospel song, “His love is richer, deeper, fuller, sweeter, sweeter as the days go by.”

What comes AFTER Christmas is the best part.

Sin in the Bible

Sin in the Bible. We don’t want to hear about it: We don’t want to talk about it: We don’t know what it is, unless it applies to somebody else.

Sin is a controversial subject, but its definition is simple enough to understand—it is a purposeful act of disobeying God’s law. But at the same time, its definition is complex, because most people do not know where sin came from.

The root of sin is pride. From the very beginning, men and women had to deal with their own thoughts, words and deeds.

Sin in the Bible: Where It All Started

It did not take long for the first sin to occur in the Bible. In the very first book, Genesis, in the third chapter, we are told of the first sin.

Adam and Eve had been given the Garden of Eden, a utopia from God. There was no sin there, no death, no disease. Animals did not attack the two people, nor did the strong feed on the weak.

God had given them everything in the garden, except for the fruit of one tree. All was theirs for the taking, but God wanted that tree left alone. The explanation of this is found in Genesis 2:15,

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

God created woman

Right after that conversation, God put Adam to sleep, took one of his ribs, and made a woman, Eve, to be his wife. It all came apart in Genesis 3:3-7, which states,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

5 “For God knows that when 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 fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Serpent used pride to introduce sin

Eve was deceived. The serpent appealed to her pride. He suggested that God did not love them and was withholding things from them. Even though they had the whole garden to chose from, the idea of not being allowed to eat from the tree that God forbid them to eat from was seen through their prideful eyes as God withholding something.

She allowed herself to be deceived. She listened to the serpent and bought into the life. She embellished on God’s word by staying, “and you must not touch it.” God did not say that. He said “don’t eat of it.” Eve relied on her own thoughts to make a decision. She did not ask God, or think about God. She thought only of herself.

Both deceived because of their pride

Then there was Adam, right there with her. He did not step in and tell her not to eat the fruit, nor did he warn her about going against God’s rules. He watched. When she offered him the fruit, he ate it too.

When questioned about this by God, he blamed her for what he had done. She was created to help Adam, but he showed no desire to protect her, even though he knew as well as she that eating the fruit would have consequences.

Once sin entered everything changed

When they ate the fruit, as the Bible says, their eyes were opened. They realized they were naked and quickly covered themselves. They tried to hide their action. God, of course, saw it all and knew what had happened.

When God warned them about dying, he did not intend to strike them down when they sinned. God killed an animal and gave them skins to cover themselves. But the perfect life was gone. Sin has consequences, sometimes immediate, sometimes delayed, but always a reality.

Missing The Mark

The Apostle Paul wrote,

all have sinned and fall short of the glory mof God.” (Romans 3:23).

An archer picks up the bow, pulls back and fires. The arrow falls short of the target. That is a good example of our problem with sin. No matter how hard we try, we still sin. Paul goes on to say, in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Roots of Sin

Long before Adam and Eve, there was a rebellion. God created Angels to serve him. The most glorious among these heavenly hosts was Lucifer, the shining one, who stood at God’s throne.

Being the top angel was not enough for Lucifer, who decided that he wanted the glory. He and about one-third of the lesser angels waged war against God. They lost.

God cast them out of heaven and to the earth He had created. Being Angels and not human, they were not killed, but became demons and their leader was Lucifer, now Satan. Having lost the battle with God, Satan, which means accuser, set out to destroy God’s most precious creation, man. He his also known as the devil, meaning adversary.

Satan’s main purpose is to corrupt man and separate him from God.

Isaiah 14:12-15,

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote,

You were in Eden, the garden of God.… I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire.

You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you. … and you sinned. So I banished you in disgrace from the mountain of God. I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire.

Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. Your wisdom was corrupted by your love of splendor. So I threw you to the ground.  (Ezekiel 28:13-17)

Lucifer was a creation of God and was given a free will to serve God or to disobey. He chose to rebel. Likewise, for the same reason, PRIDE, man chose to rebel.

Our Struggle With Sin

Even those who follow Jesus, or dedicate themselves to following the Law, sometimes balk at the idea of being a sinner. Our pride gets in the way.

We rationalize our actions by trying to convince ourselves that while we may be sinners, the other guy is worse.

Even loyal church members cringe when a pastor talks about sin. People don’t want to hear it, so they try to change the narrative. In an effort to justify their own bad choices, they put the blame on God, for being bigoted, narrow minded, hateful and unloving.

God must be wrong if He disagrees with our choices. As a result, people put themselves on a slippery slope. By rationalizing their own perceptions, by watering down the Word of God in the Bible, they block out the truth, the absolute, eternal and never changing truth.

The Bible tells of this conscious decision, saying that good will be called evil and evil good. The Holiness of God, the beauty and majesty of God becomes corrupted in the minds of those who will not accept His Word, who pick and chose what they will believe out of the Bible and what they will reject.

Sin is a part of Human nature

Sin is a part of human nature. God understands this completely. That is exactly why Jesus needed to leave heaven and come to earth to do that which we could not do for ourselves—defeat sin.

Review – The Chosen

by Ned Wicker

Without question, my favorite show is not a Hollywood blockbuster, but a television series called “The Chosen.” It’s not a network production, nor does it have the big money entertainment companies behind it. Rather, it inches along with the support of its viewers.

It also isn’t about Christianity, as most people understand it, but about the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy through the coming of the Messiah. The drama is heavily steeped in both New Testament and Old Testament accounts, but it lovingly depicts what we know as “Christianity” as the fulfillment of the Law and the Jewish Prophets through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The beauty and richness of the Jewish tradition is honored in this work, as we see Christ as a Jew first and foremost, honoring all of their traditions. Called Yeshua in Hebrew, we see Jesus as a brilliant teacher, loving brother and companion, and an unquestionably authoritative Rabbi, whose intimate knowledge of the Scriptures is beyond that of the most learned scholars and authorities.

Here’s a description from The Chosen website, “The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you.”