And So It Begins! #TraditionallySouthside

And so it begins. Christmas Season 2015. Some of you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, so let me fill you in. Sonya and I attended our first Christmas party of the year, and it was a wild one. We celebrated with about 30 ministers and their wives who serve in churches across Morgan County. There was loud music, lots of laughter, great food, and memories of Christmas and all it means to us. The common denominator among all of the ministers and their wives was how much Christmas was about family. Even as we speak of the birth of the Baby Jesus who came to give us life through His sacrifice, we relate it to the concept of family. He has made us to be a family. One family. Regardless of race or socio-economic standing or worship styles, we who have been born again through the shed blood of Jesus are one family. As Paul said, there are no Jews or Greeks, no male or female, no slave or free when we come to Jesus. There is no large church or small church, no Baptist or Methodist when we are washed in His blood. We are family. Brothers and sisters in Christ joined together by a common bond for a single purpose with a powerful hope.

The bond, of course, is the blood of Jesus. We are who we are because He gave Himself on Calvary’s cross for our sins. He lived a perfect life on Earth so that He would be qualified to die in our place, to pay the price for our sins. We cannot earn that. We certainly don’t deserve that. But that’s what grace is – God’s unmerited, undeserved favor. It is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. It is the gift of forgiveness and abundant life on this Earth and the promise of eternal life in heaven. That’s also what mercy is. Many people tend to equate grace and mercy, but while grace is getting something we don’t deserve, mercy is not getting what we do deserve. We deserve to be punished for our sin. We deserve to die and be eternally tormented in hell, but God, in His mercy, has provided THE ONLY WAY to escape the power, penalty, and presence of sin. THE WAY is believing in Jesus. Acknowledging His sacrifice – His death, burial, and resurrection – as God’s gift to you, confessing that you are a sinner and turning from your sin to God, and proclaiming Jesus as Lord of your life. That is our common bond.

Our single purpose is to tell the world how they can experience what I shared in the previous paragraph. We are saved by God’s grace so that we can tell others how they can be saved. We are made disciples of Jesus so that we can make disciples of Jesus. True followers of Jesus are called to show others how to be true followers of Jesus. That only happens when we preach the gospel and practice God’s grace. We must proclaim to the world the truth of salvation. There is no substitute for preaching. Yes, you must preach. The Bible says that is God’s choice method for reaching lost people. Then, once they have been reached, we must practice grace. We must live the Christian life through the power of the Holy Spirit so that by our words and deeds we are making disciples.

And that leads me to our powerful hope. That hope is heaven. Understand that Christian hope is not like the hope of the world. For instance, I am typing this thinking, “I hope I get a new car for Christmas.” Now I want a new car, but I know that no one is going to give me a new car. That kind of hope is just wishful thinking. Christian hope is certain because it is not dependent on the whims of men. It is only dependent on the promises of God which are always sure. How do I know this? Because of Christmas. Because God loved us so much that He chose to become a man, Immanuel (which means God with us), so that He could come to Earth and demonstrate His love for us. Every promise God has ever made, He has kept. That’s why our hope is certain.

So this Christmas season, why not accept the greatest gift in all of eternity: God’s grace. And why not give the greatest gift in all of eternity: Christian hope. Merry Christmas!

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