The Grace by which I Stand

I found this article by Tullian Tchividjian on Churchleaders.com.  As Christians we will find living the Christian life is easier if we rest in the finished work of Jesus rather than trying to live up to our own man-made lists.

The litmus test that I use for myself is that if people walk away from my sermons thinking more about what they need to do than what Jesus has already done, I’ve failed to preach the Gospel.  The Gospel is the good news that Jesus has done for me what I could never do for myself.  And a lot of preaching these days is “do more, try harder,” like you said.  It’s behavior modification.  We come to church expecting God to give us a to-do list or the preacher to give us a to-do list.  As long as we are given a to-do list, we maintain some measure of control over our lives.  Just tell me what to do.

This message of radical grace, that “it is finished,” is difficult for the human heart, the sinful heart to grasp because we’re so afraid of control being wrestled out of our hands.  So we come to church saying, “Pastor, my marriage is in trouble…my children are going off the deep end…my business is failing…I’m coming to you as the expert to tell me what to do to fix my own life…”  And as a result, our lives get worse, not better, because we’re taking matters into our own hands.

So my job at the end of every sermon—and this is the grid by which I preach—I preach God’s law, and then I preach God’s Gospel.  Both are good.  The law diagnoses my need and shows me that my best is never good enough.  So I’m always trying to help our people realize that they’re a lot worse than they realize and they’re a lot more incapable than they think they are.  But the good news is that God is more than capable, that He’s already done everything we need for Him to do.  He’s already secured in Christ everything we long for.  So my job at the end of every sermon is to, in some way, shape, or form, encourage our people by saying, “Cheer up.  You’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but God’s grace is infinitely larger than you could have ever hoped or imagined.  It is finished.”

And what I’ve discovered is that the people who lean on “it is finished” most are the ones who end up being the most free and whose lives change the most.  It’s the people who constantly demand to-do lists and then preachers who capitulate to that demand and give them to-do lists, those are the people who get worse.  I’ve realized, and I’m only 39 years old, but I’ve realized the more I try to get better, the worse I get.  I’m just realizing I am a narcissist.  I think way too much about how I’m doing, if I’m doing it right, have I confessed every sin.  In other words, I’m thinking much more about me and what I need to do than Jesus and what He’s already done.  And as a result, I’m not getting better.  I’m getting worse.

I’ve come to the realization that when I stop obsessing over my need to improve, that is improvement.  When I stop obsessing narcissistically over my need to get better, that is what the Bible means by getting better.  That’s why Paul was able to say at the end of his life, “I’m the worst guy that I know, and the work of grace in my life is that I’m free to tell you that.”  I think the whole notion of what it means to progress in the Christian life has been radically misunderstood.  Progress in the Christian life is not “I’m getter better and better and better…”  Progress in the Christian life is, “I’m growing in my realization of just how bad I am and growing in my appreciation of just how much Jesus has done for me.”

All I Want for Christmas is Jesus

My Christmas list this year is quite simple—I want to Obey Like Joseph, Trust Like Mary, Seek Like the Shepherds, and Worship Like the Wise Men. When I looked through the Sears Christmas catalog as a little boy, I always knew I would get a few of the toys I put on my list. I also knew that I would get stuff that would never go on my list, you know—socks, jeans, shirts, and things that your parents put on the list. However, when it comes to making out a Christmas list from the Word of God, one thing is guaranteed; you will always get what you ask for. When we are living within God’s will and ask for anything in Jesus’ name, God will give us that gift. I’m not talking about cars, homes, or other worldly possessions. I am talking about the same godly attributes that Jesus demonstrated for us during His life here on earth.

So, what is it that you want this year? What is it that your heart desires? Is it salvation? Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Just call out to Jesus and He will save you. Are you in need of forgiveness? 1 John 1:9 tells us “if we confess our sins, He [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins.” Are you looking for peace? John 6:33 promises us that peace is found in Jesus. Are you looking for joy? Jesus taught His disciples that His joy would be our joy and that it would be made complete. It is only in Jesus that you will ever find true peace and joy. Maybe you are looking for rest. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…for your souls.”

Whatever you may be searching for, it can only be found in Jesus. Is it happiness, satisfaction, love, a spouse, a child, a loved on to come to Christ? No matter what it is, just ask Jesus. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

So tell me, what is it you want from God? Will you ask Him today? Regardless of what you need, God is more than capable of providing. He sent Jesus to provide a way to Himself. Now, He is waiting to pour out His immeasurable blessings on those who will humble themselves and come to Him. Won’t you come today? Bottom line, all I really want for Christmas is for you to know Jesus!

All I Want for Christmas is to Worship Like the Wise Men

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2.1-2, 9b-11 ESV).

I have no idea exactly where the wise men came from, but I do know they came with the solitary purpose of worshipping the King.  They set out on their long journey that they might look upon Him face-to-face and worship Him.  They could have stayed in their own country within their own homes and worshipped; after all, it isn’t the place where we worship that is important, but the condition of the heart.  Their hearts would not allow them to stay home and worship.  No, they understood that true worship calls for great sacrifice. So, they put caution to the wind and set off to Bethlehem, the city of David, to worship the King of kings in person.

Their worship was the result of a lifetime of searching. Because they had searched the Scriptures, they recognized His star when it appeared.  They understood that He would be a child and would be born in Israel.  They knew He would be the King of kings.  Their lifetime of study wouldn’t allow such a historic event to happen without their attendance; therefore, they traveled the long, long journey to worship King Jesus.

This year for Christmas, I want to worship like the wise men.

First, I want to emulate their anticipation for worship. In order to worship, they had to recognize the fulfillment of God’s Word by knowing Scripture. They recognized God’s sign when they saw the star, and they recognized God’s glory when they saw His light.  This created in them a desire for worship which drove them to make the sacrificial journey. I don’t want to be so busy with the “Christmas Season” that I miss the true reason for the season—JESUS! I want the fulfillment of Scripture, the Bright Morning Star, the Light of the World—JESUS—to penetrate my heart and create in me a desire for sacrificial worship.

Secondly, I want to emulate their act of worship.  They took the time to come into His presence, they looked into His face, they fell down and worshipped Him. Then, they gave of their possessions—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their worship was a complete fulfillment of their hearts desire to honor and glorify the King.  Upon seeing Jesus face-to-face they couldn’t help but fall down in worship.  The treasures they gave to Jesus meant nothing in their possession, but leaving them as an offering to the King became their greatest achievement. I want to offer up my feeble life and possessions for Him to use however and whenever He desires.

I want desperately to worship before the face of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.  I want to see His glorious face, fall down before Him, and honor Him with words of praise, honor, and glory.  I want my worship, like that of the wise men, to be the zenith of my existence.  This year for Christmas I want to worship like the wise men!

All I Want for Christmas is to Search Like the Shepherds

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:8-15 ESV)

During this time in history, shepherds spent months away from their families tending sheep.  Most people looked down on shepherds and considered them way down in social status.  Since God’s Son was coming to be the Good Shepherd, God saw shepherds differently.  God sent an angel to them to announce the birth of the Savior of the world—Christ the Lord.  This child would grow up to be the sacrificial Lamb of God.  The shepherds were told where to go to find the Messiah and to expect “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  To make sure they understood the importance of what was happening in their midst, God allowed them to witness a group of angels praising God for this event that would bring peace to men. After this, the shepherds left their sheep and went in search of the Savior.

This year for Christmas, I want to search like the shepherds.  Each day I want to be looking for the Savior to return.  He could come back at any time, and I want to be ready.  I want my life to look like that of the life Jesus lived while here on earth.  Others know when you are searching for the Savior because it shows in your life.

You search for the Savior when you serve others as if you were serving Him.  Visit those who are in the hospital and away from family.  Take snacks or gift-cards to the local Ronald McDonald House, purchase children’s games and donate them to the children’s hospital— regardless of what it is, do something for those who are going to be away from home this Christmas.

Search for the Savior at your local John 3:16 Mission, an assisted living center, the Baptist Home for Children, Big Brothers and Sisters of Tulsa, or any place—a visit, card, or gift would be a pleasant surprise.  Just showing that you care will be the best present you could ever give.

We search for the Savior by spending time in the Bible to see just how God has revealed Himself to us.  We take what we learn from Scripture and demonstrate those godly attributes to the rest of the world.  Let people know that the reason for your kindness is because of God’s great love for them.

This year, all I want for Christmas is to search like the shepherds.  The Savior of the world wasn’t exactly what they expected, never-the-less, they searched and searched until they found Him.  In searching for the Shepherd, I might find people to serve who don’t look much like Jesus; however, He taught us when we help those in need we are really helping Him!