You are Too Rich to be a Scrooge

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. At least, that’s how the song goes. As I’m getting older, it seems like Christmas keeps coming around faster and faster. The Scrooge in within me sometimes utters, “Bah Humbug, Christmas again?” Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, has become a classic story at Christmas time. It has been adapted many times to film. Towards the beginning of the story, Scrooge has a conversation with his nephew. His nephew comes into his office and says Merry Christmas! Scrooge responds, “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” His nephew joyfully responds, “Come, then, what right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Too-Rich-to-be-a-Scrooge-Post-Image

As Christians, we are too rich not to be merry this time of year. Though we might not have earthly wealth, we have been blessed with every spiritual gift in the heavenly places. We have been lavished with the riches of God’s grace. Because, for those in Christ, we understand the true significance and the true wonder of Christmas: the light of the world has come and that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it” (John 1:5).

Jesus not only enters into the darkness, but he overcomes the darkness! He slays our enemy. He rescues us from destruction. He absolves the darkness. How does Jesus overcome the darkness? Here are four ways Jesus overcomes the darkness.

1. He overcomes through his life as he is unstained by the darkness.

Every potential hero that emerges in the Old Testament falls victim to the darkness. No matter how much good they do, there are always horrible failures. From Abraham to Moses to David, no one is righteous, no not one. Yet, Jesus, the son of God, enters as the light of the world and he is unstained by the darkness. He does not succumb to temptation, but rather he overcomes it. Though tempted in ever way as we are, he is without sin. Where we all fail to meet the demands of God’s righteous law, Jesus fulfilled it. He fulfilled it not only through outward obedience, but through the internal motivations of his heart. He is holy, undefiled by sin. Where the first Adam fell to temptation in the garden of Eden, the new and better Adam in the Garden of Gethsemane crushed the serpent and overcome temptation. Jesus, the good son and the true Israel, obeyed where others failed. Throughout his life Jesus was unstained by the darkness.

2. He overcomes through his death as he is swallowed up by the darkness.

The perfect son of God was sent into this world as the light of the world, to die in the place of sinners. At the cross Jesus was swallowed up by the darkness, though he remains light. It was there on the cross that the full penalty for sin was poured out on Christ. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). So Jesus paid the penalty for our rebellion. He paid the price for our ransom. By his stripes we are healed. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that at the time of Jesus’ death darkness covered the whole land, indicating God’s judgment on his son as he bore the punishment for sin. Jesus overcame as he willingly laid down his life and was engulfed in the darkness of the cross—which is the great display of human sin and God’s judgment of it.

3. Jesus overcomes through his resurrection as he defeats the darkness.

The glory of the light of the world is that he did not stay dead. Though he was swallowed by the darkness, he was not defeated by it. Rather, on the third day he rose again in victory in resurrected new life. The suffering servant overcame and our great enemy was defeated. The lamb of God who was slain rose as the victorious lion of Judah. Yes, he died, but he rose again! The grand plan of God fixes the broken world through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

4. Jesus overcomes through his return as he achieves victory over the darkness.

Just as the light of the world entered into the world the first time as a baby born in Bethlehem, so too will the resurrected Jesus return at the end of days. He has put the fatal blow on sin and death, but will one-day return to establish his kingdom on the earth, defeating the powers of darkness once and for all. The consummation of his kingdom is coming. This is so important because the significance of the first advent can only be understood in light of the second. Jesus’ first coming is so important, because it points us to his final coming. The King will return for his throne. The husband will come back for his bride. The light will remove the darkness.

You’re Rich Enough to be Merry

Isn’t this what Christmas is all about? Even now as we sit in the sorrows of our suffering, isn’t our hope in Christ? Even now as we may groan in pain, our hope is in the light of the world who will return in victory over the darkness! Yes, darkness may surround us now, but the victory is already one. The light of the world has come and defeated sin and death, and he will come again. The significance of the first advent can only be understood in light of the second. This Christmas, you may be wondering is God fixing this broken world? The answer is yes—look at Bethlehem. Look at the God of light who became one of us to rescue us. The baby boy Jesus is the crucified son of God. The crucified son of God is the resurrected King. The resurrected King is the rider on the white horse who brings about the victory of the God!

So I’m not sure if you are in the Christmas spirit or not. Perhaps today you feel a bit like Scrooge inquiring, “What have you to be merry about, your poor enough, your suffering enough, you’re in pain enough, your hurting enough?” If you are a Christian this morning, I would simply reply back to you the same way Scrooge’s nephew replied to him, “Come, then, what right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” For, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it.”

3 Easy Ways to Build Relationship with Non-Christians

It is so easy to find yourself stuck in a Christian sub-culture. In fact, it is so easy most of us do not realize we are in one. Jesus commands us to be both salt and light (Mt 5). Both illustrations assume that Christians are involved in the rotting decaying world of darkness. In order to transform the world with the Gospel we must engage the world. Yet our temptation is to seclude ourselves into a spiritual bomb shelter. We create a large institution with all kinds of Christian programs so that we never have to interact with the lost world around us. Many churches and Christians have found themselves in a secluded sectarianism. Yet we cannot be salt and light if we stay hidden in our spiritual bomb shelter waiting for the apocalypse. Jesus is coming soon. We must leave our holy huddles and engage the world.

Am I in a Spiritual Bunker?

Are you trapped in a christian sub-culture? Well here are a few diagnostic questions to ask yourself.

  • How many non-christians do you know by name?
  • How many of those people do you have in your contacts on your cell phone?
  • When was the last time you had lunch with someone who didn't know Jesus?

If we are honest with those three questions I think we will be ashamed of their answers. For many of us (including myself) we simply do not know people who don't know Jesus. We have become so isolated in our christian sub-culture that we cannot function as salt and light because we don't know anyone to be salt and light too.

So if you are like me and tend to get trapped in the spiritual bunker, what are some practical ways you can get out and engage the world for Jesus? Here are three easy and practical ways:

1. Find a Hobby or Activity Apart from the Church

Do something that is not associated with the church at all. Rather than joining an upward basketball team go join the rec. league and meet people who don't know Christ. Go join a community bowling league. Go hang out at high school football games. Be active in your child's PTA. Be involved and active in things that are not church related and do not apologize for it. However, do these things as a missionary, participating for the good of the community and for the evangelization of the lost people and friends you will make.

2. Be a Regular at Local Establishments

An easy way to get to know people who are lost is to be a regular somewhere. Go to the same restaurant every week. Go to the gym at the same time every day. Put a smile on your face and interact with people. Be kind and tip well. Ask the employees questions and strike up conversations. Get to know people and be their friend. You will be surprised how many opportunities you will have to share Christ through those relationships.

3. Invite Your Neighbors Over for a Dinner Party

Everyone loves a party. Christian hospitality is a wonderful gift and a huge catalyst for relational evangelism. Invite your neighbors on your street over for a BBQ. Grill some burgers and get to know each other. Become friends and see where God will take that relationship. God has placed you in your neighbored to be a missionary to your community. Begin praying and looking for ways to get to know the people who live around you.

Functioning as Salt and Light

Be intentional about looking for opportunities to make new friends who don't know Christ. We tend to drift towards the spiritual bunker more than we drift towards missional engagement. Be disciplined and pray that God gives you opportunities to get to know new people. These three tips are things anyone can do and anyone can put into practice. Get out of the Bomb Shelter and go be the children of the light empowered and redeemed by the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I recently preached a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16  on what it means to be salt and light. You can check out the sermon audio here.