And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men. - Luke 2: 8-14 (KJV)
"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" This is the cry from Charlie Brown during the annual Peanuts Christmas special. This is the 49th anniversary of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and ironically today the question posed by the title character may as well be asked inside churches across America this year. Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? Sometimes the writings in these pages may seem too surreal. When I write about Star Wars reproductions for a Resurrection Sunday service it should serve as a wakeup call. A call to take a look around where you call church home. Do they understand that a Savior has been born to us? Let's take a quick trip up to Yakima Washington and MorningStar Church. It is a mega church meeting in two locations. Your typical hipster relevance church, filled with seeker friendly theology and purpose driven marketing. Here is the actual text from the advertisement for their new sermon series this Christmas season:
"Join us this weekend as we kick off our new series, Christmas At The Movies. If you've never been to church this would be a perfect time! We will be watching a movie and seeing how to apply it to our life. Don't miss this weekend. Ohh and one more thing, Santa will be at both locations to take pics with your kids 1 hour before all of our services."
This is spiritually criminal on so many levels. That you would take the arrival of our Lord and Savior and cheapen it down to this level. That you would waste the opportunity to preach about the birth of Jesus to watch a movie! To make matters worse; to then mock the Word of God by instead applying the lessons of the movie to our lives? Santa at both locations? Can we make Satan's job any easier? Seriously? This is not even seeker friendly anymore. It is nothing more than a carnal disregard for the person of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for humanity. Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Thankfully the answer is yes. 49 years ago and every year since, Linus has told Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. He has preached the true meaning of Christmas even if it has escapes many preachers today. The challenge this season for anyone who fancies himself a pastor or a preacher is to preach with the boldness of Linus. If you need help remembering, what Linus preached are the key verses today, taken from the Gospel of Luke. Linus was a King James Version preacher. Let's take a look at what he was preaching 49 years ago and what we ought to be preaching still today.
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock. The analogy of shepherds is used through the entire Bible. Why were the shepherds chosen to be the first to hear of this great news? The Pulpit Commentary takes on this question by reminding us that God has a different order for mankind than we would abide by. Those who are last will be first. Those that are humble will be exalted. There was no lower trade in these days than that of a shepherd. The Talmud reveals that they were not even allowed in courts as witnesses. So what better people to be the first witnesses of our Lord? I also would be remiss here to not point out the role of the shepherd is to abide in the field and watch over the flock. This is the proper role for pastors beloved. Not to be rock stars in learjets and limousines. Andy Stanley once said the word shepherd should be done away with because it is not "culturally relevant" anymore. Besides revealing that Andy Stanley should not be a pastor, that statement reveals the dire need for real shepherds today to minister in the fields to the flock of God.
Lo and angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were what? Were they so stoked that they wrote a book about seeing the presence of God? Did they make a movie about being taken up to the third heaven? No beloved, they were sore afraid. It is time this Christmas season to bring back a healthy fear of the Lord. The Bible says that it is the beginning of wisdom. How is it that a mega church pastor thinks nothing of promoting movies at Christmastime for life applications instead of the Word of God? How can he not even blink when making sure someone dressed up as Santa is at all of his services? He either does not know the Lord or at best, he has no fear of Him. He has no fear that he will one day stand before Him and answer for the movies he ran instead preaching the Gospel. The people he entertained with the glitter of this world instead of showing them the light of Jesus Christ. You have people across Christendom making a mockery of God, His presence, and His Word. Pastors every week pretending God speaks to them directly and audibly. Like He is on their speed dial. People like Kat Kerr who claims to have visited heaven over 30 times. David Taylor who claims Jesus has appeared to him face to face over 1000 times. Worship leader Kim Walker Smith who personally testifies about a demonic visitation but she thinks she went to the throne room of God and met the Father face to face. It never ends, but it needs to.
Fear not! For I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people! Oh beloved we throw around the phrase good news so frivolously. We do not pause and consider how surpassingly great this news is! Movies? You can keep your movies! I want to hear more about this babe lying in swaddling clothes who is going to change the course of all mankind! Give me that! Celebrate that! Preach that! Not only is it good tidings but it is of great joy! Not happiness because worldly happiness is fleeting. Here one minute and gone the next. It is conditional. I will be happy as long as this or that. But once things don't go our way, there goes our happiness right out the window. Jesus does not bring us happiness beloved. He brings us joy. That is a permanent condition not a temporary position. Hallelujah! Not only is it good tidings of great joy but it will be for all people! Everyone is included! Everyone is invited! No one is left out. We may try to leave them out because we give into the hate this world propagates but Jesus is always about love. Not the diabetic love the world tries to sell us from the pulpits each Sunday but real love. Love the hangs on a cross for something He did not do. Love that allows a crown of thorns to be shoved into his brow and a spear to be thrust into His side for me. Tell me about the love found on the Via Dolorosa. You can keep that fake love. The one that comes adorned with the baubles of this world. That love does not last because it is not real. Calvary love however; that is eternal.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. So we come to the reason why pastors and preachers today do not have the boldness of Linus. Make no mistake about it. It is this verse right here. There are two words in this one verse that are anathema for the seeker-friendly, purpose driven pastoralship. Those words are Savior and Lord. Let us deal with them one at a time.
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. - 1John 4: 14 (ESV)
Jesus Christ is not your cool friend that you can hang out with. He is not your business partner or your advisor. He is not your co-pilot. He is not your betrothed or your lover either. When we look at all the lies of the devil the church has swallowed it is disheartening at best. Beloved, Jesus Christ is our Savior. Why is that word shunned in the "Friend of God" theological circles? Because it inherently implies that we need to be saved! That is deemed most seeker unfriendly. Too bad! We need saving desperately. We are slaves in this world. We are enslaved to Satan the lord of this world. We are enslaved to sin. We are shackled to it. We are yoked to it. A yoke is a piece of farming equipment that joins two head of oxen together with a heavy wooden slab. It forces the two to work together in the farming of the land. Before Jesus came to earth, we were yoked to this world. Now we can take His yoke instead:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11: 28-30 (ESV)
It does not start with singing Friend of God. It does not start with singing about how much God loves us. It starts with an angel telling a shepherd that unto all of us - a Savior is born! I would venture to say a very hard lesson here - unless your journey into Christianity came as a result of realizing that you needed to be saved; I am doubtful if you are saved at all. It is not about "inviting Jesus into your heart." It is about turning your heart over to Him. That brings us to the second word here and that is "Lord."
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? - Luke 6: 46 (ESV)
Here is where the rubber meets the road. The problem with seeker friendly, purpose driven theology is that it makes Christianity all about you. It is about what God can do for you. It is about how much God loves you. It is about how special you are. It is about what your purpose is. This is a problem of course because the Bible is actually about Jesus. It is not about us. And in this relationship, Jesus is supposed to be our Lord. The Bible dictionary definition of Lord is someone who is the Master, having dominion over His subjects. This is also why we call God our King. Why Jesus is the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords. These are not meant to be trite little sayings. They are to denote who He is in relation to who we are. He is Christ the Lord. As such we are supposed to give Him control of our lives. We are subject to Him. That is certainly not a sugar coated message for the unsaved but it is what they need to hear. The problem within purpose driven philosophy is it believes it is more important to make sure people come to church than it is for them to come to Christ. If we are not going to do as He says, then we should stop insulting Him by calling Him Lord. Stick with "friend' but realize this. Abraham was called a friend of God but not until He was his Lord first. Not until he was willing to pick up and leave everything behind to go to a land God told him to go to. Not until he was willing to take a knife to the throat of his only child. If we are going to sing about being friends with God we ought to preach about how to get there. We ought to preach about a manger. We ought to preach about how the shepherds were sore afraid because of the glory of God that surrounded them. Forget your Santa and movies scheme. I want to hear more about the glory of God.