The Danger of Shallow
Have you ever looked at a 3-D Picture? You know one of those pictures that really messes with your mind and makes you think that you are looking through a window rather than just a picture. What if someone set up a picture like that so that it looked like the window, and it was not until you got close to it that you realized that it was simply a picture? Would you feel like you had been lied to? Would you think that the picture was as good last the real thing? This time of year, Christmas that is, there are all kinds of shallow representations of the holiday. They look okay from a distance but as you think about them and get closer to them you start to see some issues. To use another analogy, have you ever played a game where you have two pictures and you are supposed to spot the differences? Some can be really easy and others quite difficult. Sometimes you really have to know the original to spot the mistakes. Both pictures, the 3-D one that makes you think it is reality, and the picture with the differences, can teach us a lesson. The lesson is that it is not enough to just look at the surface. If you want to know the truth you have to dig a little deeper.
A Strange Time
Christmas is a strange time. For Christians, especially those who know their Bible, it is a time filled with inconsistencies and wrong additions. For example, much of what we commonly think of as Jesus' birth narrative, is not found in scripture. But another strange thing is the wide and varied number of Christmas celebrations that take place. Here is one that is strange, in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, they set up the most expensive Christmas tree in history, to celebrate Christmas. Let that sink in for a moment, a Muslim nation that utterly rejects that Christ was anything more than a man, can celebrate Christmas without any issues. Here in the states, we see constant signs to "Keep Christ in Christmas." But why does it matter? Why does any of it matter?
Why it Matters
It matters because it shows something on the surface that is often hidden. For this devotional, we have been going through the historic Heidelberg Catechism. Our question today helps us to understand what is going on here a little bit. Question 30 asks;
"Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?" (Q. 30)
To put it another way, can someone really say they believe in Jesus as the only way if they seek their salvation through something else, such as saints or themselves? The question strikes at the heart of the issue. Can someone simply use Jesus' name and make everything okay? This kind of thing, using Jesus' name, and yet not actually seeking after him, is something constantly present in our world, but at this time of year, it becomes even more visible. Just because someone says they are a Christian, does not mean that they are. Just because someone says they want to keep Christ in Christmas does not mean that they are following Christ. Being a Christian and following Christ is more than words. The answer to the catechism question goes like this;
"They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Saviour; for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour; or that they, who by a true faith receive this Saviour, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation." (Q. 30, A)
Either Christ is the only savior, or he is no savior. To use C.S. Lewis's words;
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." - C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity
Our Shallowness on Display
Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He is the Lord of all creation. King at his birth. Do not be fooled into thinking that just because you say you are a Christian that will be enough. Our Lord himself tells us that not everyone who says Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven. We must do more than say. We must do. Do not be like the imitation, be the real thing. Real things have depth. Christians should also have depth. So seek the Lord in his word. He has given us his word so that we might know who he is and what he has commanded us. He is good and gracious to his children. Are you one of those children? Or are you someone who just name-drops? Be diligent this Christmas season to spread the Christ of Christmas, as he is revealed to us in scripture. Do not accept cheap imitations, go to the word and read the Christmas story. Read how Isaiah and many other prophets spoke of him before he came. Read in Matthew and Luke's gospel accounts how the angels and the very heavens above revealed his coming. And most importantly read about how we are to worship and honor the one who took on flesh so that we might become sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
Soli Deo Gloria
1 Cor. 1:13, 30, 31; Gal. 5:4; Heb. 12:2; Isa. 9:6; Col. 1:19, 20, 2:10; 1 John 1:7, 16.