CHRISTMAS IS THIS WEEK!
WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS?
A SAVIOR WAS BORN TO NOT ONLY RESCUE US FROM GOD’S WRATH,
BUT TO RESCUE US FROM OURSELVES.
I have learned so much from the seekers and agnostics in our evangelistic Bible study. I have learned how unclear I can be, how important it is to really listen and understand what they are saying. They often stun me into silence. I remember the day when Debbie was so upset about a statement in the guide that said believers should not marry unbelievers. “Why, that’s so judgmental! That’s like saying you shouldn’t marry someone in a wheelchair!”
Another adamantly agreed. “Yes — it is healthy for people of different religions to marry because it teaches them tolerance. My daughter is an agnostic and her husband is a Catholic — and they made an agreement that the children could be Catholic but it was up to him to teach them. And it has worked out just fine.”
I pondered why they would have this reaction — so foreign to me. Why would you ever encourage a relationship bound for strife?
And then I realized — it was because they were thinking of religion rather than relationship. Religion can be compartmentalized, confined to a morning each week and a few special holidays. Relationship cannot. And yet to say that could so easily offend? How could I say it?
I find testimony is less offensive than making didactic statements. So I said, “When Christ came into my life, He turned my whole world around. His presence invaded my whole life and affected every decision — about sex, about money, about relationships, about everything. I would have been in constant disagreement with someone who didn’t have Christ invading his life.
Another way to turn the light on is with word pictures. Tim Keller uses a GREAT one in the sermon this week. He said that the Bible’s definition of a Christian is someone in whom God has come to live. (We will finish our memory passage next week with “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (or as KJV says, “tabernacled” among us) When God comes to live in you, when He invades your life, it is like you have brought an elephant into your apartment. There is no way you can ignore him or confine him.
CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT MAKE GOOD MEN, BETTER MEN,
BUT RATHER, IT MAKES DEAD MEN LIVE.
WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT BECOMING ETHICAL
BY STUDYING AND APPLYING TRUTHS,
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT RADICAL HEART SURGERY,
WHEN GOD, AND ONLY GOD, QUICKENS US,
AND BEGINS TO CHANGE OUR HEARTS OF STONE
INTO HEARTS OF FLESH.
CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN US, QUICKENING US, FOR HE IS OUR
IMMANUEL, WHICH MEANS
GOD WITH US.
Suggestion for Christmas Eve. Put a large candle on a table and give participants small candles with a protective shield (you can make them out of paper or foil) for candle drippings. Say the opening five verses, and when you get to verse 4, light the big candle. Then say verses 6 through 9 and have each person, afterwards, light their candle and share a way Christ has been a light to them this year. If possible, e-mail them ahead of time so they can think about their answer.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Is Christ invading all of your life this Advent? If so, share a specific.
We are continuing our memorization of the prologue. Print this off and put it in a plastic sleeve.
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(2) He was in the beginning with God.
(3) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
(4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
(5)The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
(7) He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light,
that all might believe through him.
(8) He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
MONDAY: Review 1-11.
3. Can you write it down without looking?
4. What new contemplations do you have on 1 to 11?
5. Take a verse from this section that quickens you and use it as a springboard for prayer.
TUESDAY: Review 1-11 and add 12.
6. C. S. Lewis talks about the difference between nice people and new men. Keller talks about the difference between being ethical and being born again. Before you listen to the sermon, see if you can come up with some contrasts:
A nice “ethical” person A born-again person
7. What are some characteristics and privileges that a child of God has?
WEDNESDAY: (Christmas Eve) Review 1-12 and add 13.
8. How has Christ been a light to you this year?
9. Will you be able to do the Christmas Eve exercise? If so, be sure to tell us how it went!
Thursday: (Christmas Day) Review 1-13.
10. What does it mean to not be born of:
B. Nor the will of flesh
C. Nor the will of man
11. What contemplations do you have on verses 12 and 13?
Friday: Keller Sermon and Review 1-13.
12. Share your notes and thoughts.
13. What is your take-a-way and why?