The Gospel – The Hope of the First Christmas

by John Holbrook Jr.
A Biblical View, posted December 18, 2017

Although we have entered the season when our cities, towns, buildings, and homes are decorated inside and out with pine boughs, colored lights, and red ribbons and most people shop for presents, revel, and sing songs, not many people actually know what Christmas is really about. What started all this hoopla?

It was started by the birth of a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, Israel’s City of David.[1] Hebrew prophets had been predicting the event for millennia and when it happened, it was surrounded by miracles. God himself entered his creation in the form of a baby, the most helpless of creatures, in order to die on a cross 33.5 years later to atone for the sins of mankind and reestablish the peace between himself and mankind which had been lost when the first man, Adam, disobeyed God’s first – and, at the time, only – proscription: “…of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Thou shalt not eat….” [2] Since then, men and women have been deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil, the result of which has been almost 6,000 years of worshipping false gods, crafting idols, blaspheming the name of the true God, ignoring the Sabbath, dishonoring parents, and murdering, lusting after, stealing from, bearing false witness against, and coveting the spouses and possessions of others (all of which are forbidden by God in the Ten Commandments [3] which he delivered to Moses).

The baby’s name is Jesus, and His birth almost 2,000 years ago embodied the hope of a restoration of peace between God and mankind. That hope is embodied in the Gospel.

The Gospel

Every person – regardless of gender, race, nation, or other circumstance – finds himself in the same situation with respect to God – a situation which is captured in the Bad News and the Good News of the Bible:

The Bad News – Every person is a sinner,[4] and, because God is holy[5] and hates sin,[6] every person begins his life alienated from God.[7] Sin is embedded in him, in his very nature, and thus he is a sinner from the moment of his conception[8] and born separated from God. Sin is systemic – that is, it affects everything that he thinks, says, or does. Moreover, sin blinds him to his own sinfulness and deceives him into believing that he can be good – or at least good enough[9] – and therefore deserving of God’s favor. Finally, the sinner is helpless. Sin holds him in bondage. He cannot stop sinning on his own.[10]

The Good News – Every person whom God-the-Father calls[11] can avail himself of the solutions to these problems which God himself has provided:

Salvation – The death of Jesus, God-the-Son, on the cross at Golgotha[12] atones for the past, present, and future sins of everyone who repents of his sins and accepts Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Once a person so repents and professes Jesus as his Savior and Lord, Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to him, and he becomes a child of God and an heir to God’s promises to those who love God. His separation from God has ended, and he can be assured that he has become a member of the company of the redeemed,[13] which is called the Body of Christ.

Sanctification – The infilling of God-the-Holy Spirit increasingly enables the believer to resist the temptations of the Devil and equips the believer for ministry in the Body of Christ.

Both salvation and sanctification are free gifts from God, but they must be sought and accepted by the recipient with the clear understanding that he does not merit them, he cannot earn them or buy them, and his acceptance of them constitutes an admission that he is utterly dependent upon his Savior and Lord for his every need.

The above explains the difference between false religion and true religion.

False religion – All false religion is focused on man and what man can do to render himself acceptable to its god or gods. At its core are man-initiated requirements that man must meet and rites that man must perform. All false religions say: Do this and don’t do that, and you will be acceptable to our god(s).

True religion – True religion is focused on God and what God has done to render his creatures acceptable to himself. At its core is a God-initiated relationship between God and some men. The one and only Creator God says essentially: “Neither you nor any other man[14] can make you acceptable to me. Only I can make you acceptable to me.[15] But rejoice! I have done all that is necessary to render you spotless in my sight. I entered my creation once in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and died on the cross to atone for your sinfulness. If you accept[16] Him – and Him alone – as your Savior and Lord, I will accept you.”[17]

The sole criterion by which God will determine a person’s fate – either an eternity in God’s company (Heaven) or an eternity separated from God (Hell) – is whether or not during this life he opened his heart to and accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

Note two important things. First, God is not interested in your – or any other – religion; he wants a relationship with you. Second, God’s invitation to you to have a relationship with him is both inclusive and exclusive. It is inclusive because it is addressed to all persons – all men, women, and children on earth, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. It is exclusive because it is issued by one person – the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” [18]

If you have not already opened your heart to and accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord,

do it now – for Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”[19] What a promise from the Lord of Creation!

© 2017 John Holbrook Jr.

[1] Although we currently celebrate this event on December 25th every year, I believe that it actually occurred on August 28, 2 BC (Gregorian calendar), which was Tishri 1, the Day of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and the first day of the 7th month in the Hebrew calendar.

[2] Genesis 2:17.

[3] Exodus 20:1-17.

[4] Genesis 6:5, I Kings 8:46, Psalm 53:3, Proverbs 20:9, Isaiah 53:6 & 64:6, Romans 3:10-12 & 3:23, I John 1:8.

[5] Exodus 15:11, I Samuel 6:20, Psalm 99:9, Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 15:4.

[6] Deuteronomy 25:16, Psalm 11:5, Proverbs 6:16, Zechariah 8:17, Luke 16:15.

[7] Isaiah 59:2 & 64:7, Hosea 5:6.

[8] A condition customarily referred to as “original sin” or “the inescapable depravity of man.”

[9] People downplay their own sinfulness by comparing themselves to others whom they believe to be worse than themselves – for example, Hitler. Some people cite Hitler as the epitome of evil. From God’s perspective, however, there is not much difference between Hitler and the rest of us. We are all sinners. If, in the final seconds of his life, Hitler repented of his sinfulness and accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, he will be among the redeemed in heaven. There is no sin that God’s grace cannot cover.

[10] This helplessness is seldom acknowledged, but it is nonetheless an essential characteristic of the depravity of man.

[11] God-the-Father predestined his children before the foundation of the world, and God initiates the saving of a sinner. Unless God calls a person to repentance and faith, that person will remain in his sin and unbelief. There is no aspect of salvation for which the beneficiary can claim credit.

[12] I believe that Golgotha – the Place of a Skull (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, John 19:17) – was the 1st century AD name for the stone escarpment which is located just over 200 yards north-by-northeast of the Damascus Gate on the north side  of Jerusalem’s Old City. It resembles the face of a human skull. In the 1s century AD, it would have been easily visible from the road running north from the Old City to Nablus and Damascus. It is currently called Jeremiah’s Grotto. Moreover  it is adjacent to the Garden Tomb, where I and many others believe Jesus was buried and which is now maintained by the non-profit Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association in the United Kingdom.

[13] Romans 10:9-10, 1 John 1:9, 1 John 5:13.

[14] Such as a priest; excepting the man Christ Jesus, who is the believer’s High Priest.

[15] John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5.

[16] Trust in.

[17] Ephesians 2:8-9.

[18] KJ21 John 14:6.

[19] KJ21 Revelation 3:20.

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