Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. -- 2Timothy 2: 23-26 (NLT)
There is a war we find ourselves in the middle of as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a serious war that requires serious discipline and training. It requires committed diligence and utilizes mighty weapons within it. There are eternal lives at stake every single day in this war. The eternal lives of our unsaved family members. The eternal lives of our friends and co-workers. The eternal lives of the myriad of people God brings through our paths every day. It is a war on the souls of men. It is a war fought with the Spirit of God. What it is not however -- is a war on Christmas.
The enemy does a masterful job with the weapons he employs against the children of God. One of his favorite weapons is distraction. The devil will bring up any side show, nonsensical and divisive thing into the Christian's sight to distract him from the true war he is supposed to be fighting. Chief among these in latter day America is the absurd notion that Christians should be up in arms over an alleged war on the secular holiday known as Christmas. I say secular for the obvious reasons of what Christmas has devolved into in modern society. We could discuss the roots of the holiday being pagan or the established fact that Jesus was probably not born anywhere near December but that is not really the point. The point is what our role as Christians is supposed to be -- as determined by God in His Word. This is not to say Christians should not celebrate Christmas. I think anytime we stop to recognize the birth of the Savior of mankind is a good idea. What we need to do though is remember what God has instructed us to be. The key verses today map this out for us in light of the dreaded war on Christmas.
Working backwards in the verses we first are reminded that the very people we seek to change to our worldview are held captive by Satan. They do not realize this of course; just like when we were in the world we did not realize it either. We can act sometimes however as if they should be able to see what we see. The Bible teaches us differently:
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. -- 2Corithians 4: 4 (NLT)
Do we truly get this beloved? The god of this world is the devil and he has blinded the minds of the people we are supposed to reach with the Gospel. Another verse reminds us that they cannot understand the things of God because they are spiritually discerned. It says the things of God are foolishness to them. So when we insist that the baby Jesus be left in the town square they simply do not understand the argument we are making. To them saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas is being polite and inclusive. When we stamp our feet and scream at them it is us that look foolish to them. We are the ones who look intolerant. More importantly, the witness for Christ is diminished. We could do a lot more good for the kingdom to love people who are not saved than to tell them how wrong they are for doing something they are completely blinded to. Keeping the nativity scene in the department store window will not save one soul.
The next important truth from the key verses is something I think we often forget in Christianity -- God is the one who changes people's hearts. I remember the day I was saved. I remember the altar call. I remember the weight of my sin bearing upon me so greatly that I knew I had to respond to God. The pastor gave a great sermon I am sure. I do not remember it of course. The sermon is what drew me into listening for God's voice. The sermon did not save me. God saved me. We see this mistake played out on grander scales in the modern church. The latest theories of church growth assume that there is something man can do to save more people. Nonsense. Sure you can draw more attendees by having extra parking, good children services, and snazzy musicians but without the Spirit of the living God the church becomes the whitewashed tombs Jesus warned the Pharisees about. All nice and clean on the outside but within -- full of dead men's bones. Here is the description of the church as God intended:
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. -- Acts 2: 43-47 (NLT)
They shared together. They fellowshipped together. They worshipped together. Who added to their fellowship daily? Was it their director of marketing? No! It was God. The war on Christmas is part of a fundamentally flawed view of the role of Christianity in the world. It is a view that says we need to forcefully affect the culture around us. In essence -- we need to change the secular culture to a Christian culture. Nowhere in the Bible is that supported. In fact, we see the opposite:
Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia--both Jews and Greeks--heard the word of the Lord. -- Acts 19: 8-10 (NLT)
The world around him became stubborn, so Paul moved on. In fact, throughout Paul's missionary journeys we see this same pattern play out. Paul was not trying to influence the culture -- he was trying to save people from it by preaching the Gospel. God changes the hearts of men.
The next truth for us to grasp from the key verses today is how we are supposed to behave towards those we would hope to see come to the cross for salvation. The verses break it down into four specific instructions. We are to be kind to everyone, able to teach, patient with difficult people, and gently instruct those who would oppose the truth in God's Word. There is nothing kind, teachable, patient or gentle about people who argue the Christian side of the war on Christmas. There are often heated words and exchanges followed by arguments. Those arguments are usually carnal in nature and do not serve the cause of Christ. I always cringe when I hear things like "God has been removed from the schools." Really? So the almighty creator of the entire universe can no longer gain access to schools in this country? Is that really the argument being made? God is on the sidewalk wishing He could get in? Enough already! It is time to deal with people as God intended us to. First of all we are supposed to be kind to everyone. Not just to the people who are nice to us -- to everyone.
"You have heard the law that says, "Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! I n that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. -- Matthew 5: 43-48 (NLT)
We know these verses but do we live them? Are we kind to the person that is fighting to remove the baby Jesus? Are we sneering at the man who says happy holidays and screaming in his face -- merry Christmas! If so, what message does he walk away with? Besides being kind to everyone we must be able to teach. This goes to the heart of being prepared as a Christian to provide unbelievers with the reason we hope. The Bible says to study hard and then divine the Word of truth. It seems sometimes as if people skip that first part. Studying hard will make us more aware of how we are supposed to behave when it comes to the very people we claim we are trying to reach. We talked about the real spiritual war we are all in at the start of this devotional. Without arming ourselves with the Word we are at war, defenseless. Thirdly, we are to be patient with difficult people. When Samaritans refused to hear the teachings of Jesus one day James and John asked if they should call down fire from heaven! It seems that is how we tend to behave when dealing with the world. What? They don't want to say merry Christmas to me at my local superstore? Jesus -- should I call down fire from heaven? Patience beloved -- that is what we are supposed to show. No one would get angry at a blind man for walking in the wrong direction but that is exactly what we do when we engage in these petty and silly arguments and trump them up into a spiritual cause. All the while pushing people farther and farther away from Christ. Lastly from this small group of instructions we are reminded that we are supposed to gently instruct people. The Bible is a two edged sword but too many Christians wield it like a blunt instrument. Quoting Scripture or pronouncing judgment upon people is not going to win anyone to your side of the argument and is certainly going to drive them further away.
And what is the ultimate goal anyway? What is the goal of Christmas for Christians? Is it to ensure that people who are going to hell because of their separation from God say merry Christmas to us? Is it to ensure that there is a baby Jesus in the town square but nowhere in the hearts of the people living in the town? That brings us to the final truth from the key verses for today. God cannot be any clearer beloved. We are to have nothing to do with foolish and ignorant arguments that only start fights. First of all the war on Christmas is made up of foolish arguments because we are played like a fool by the devil. We are distracted from the real war that is raging all around us. The war for the souls of our family and friends. The war to distract us within our own walk and have sin contaminate our lives. The war that requires us to battle spiritually. To pray and fast. To be found reading His Word. We sometimes cannot wrap our finite minds around these things so we target something we can see and feel -- like the manger missing from the store window. But that is not the enemy: