If we could ask Jesus – the reason for the season, the baby in the manger, the God that visited the planet, the one that we learned last week is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the one who created all that there is – what if we would ask Him, “What do You want for Christmas?
How about not, “What do You, Jesus, the little baby want?” although that’s true. But what about the Jesus who lived the perfect life, died upon a cross, paid for the sins of the world, was resurrected, walked on the planet for forty days in a resurrection body, five hundred witness, ascended in broad daylight, sits at the right hand of the Father, and now rules all things and is coming back and if we could ask Him, “So what do You want this Christmas?” personally? “What does He want?”
The answer is in the book of Colossians. This isn’t the Luke chapter 2 and the wise men. All of that is the story and it’s wonderful. But I wanted to stop this year and say, If we could just pull back a curtain and, from heaven, looking down from God’s perspective, what is this Christmas story all about?
And we find it tucked in a little book that was written to a group of new Christians. The apostle Paul had never met them personally but Epaphroditus was one of the servants and ministers and he had gone there and he is writing them a letter to actually straighten out some things, some false teachers came in, and in the letter, he ends up answering this question.
It says, “Once,” speaking of these new Christians, “you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through His death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.
“And this is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
And so here is what I want you to know: If you could ask Jesus this very day, “What do You want?” I can tell you four things He wants for you and a little bit later, there are four things He wants from you. But the first thing He wants for you is this: He wants you to receive His pardon.
He wants you to receive a gift. Most people, you give a gift. He wants you to receive one.
Notice the text says, “Once you were alienated from God.” The word means: estranged. And then he says that it is because, in your mind, you were God’s enemy. In other words, God is over here and you are over here and you are enemies.
And he says, “You are enemies because of your evil behavior.” But he says that the great news is you have been, the tense of the verb, you have been reconciled. It has happened and it happened by what Christ did on the cross, paying for your sin and mine, for the whole world.
Now, this word, “alienated,” “estranged,” if you have ever had a falling out with a friend or if you have ever been separated from your mate or your supervisor and your boss, you really got into it. I mean, it was really bad. To be estranged or if you have been through a divorce, that is estranged.
And all the emotions that go through it. That was the position that you and I and everyone have been in, apart from God. And the gift is we are reconciled. The word reconciled, do you know what it really means? It’s when two people that are enemies become friends.
Here’s the truth. Jot this down. Here’s what He wants. Jesus made it possible to be friends with God. Now, think of that. Jesus made it possible for you to be friends with God.
Now, sometimes we just throw this stuff around. Think about what a real friend is like. Not just this distant God who created things or a religious ceremony but, “I’m a friend.” At least in my life, a friend is someone you can depend on.
A friend is someone that, this is what I like, they love and care about you for you, not what you do or what you can do or who you know or what you have accomplished. The people that I really call “friends” in my life is I can share anything with them and I don’t get judgment. I also don’t get a pass. But I can say, “This is what I’m struggling with and this and this and this and I have this attitude. I know it’s not quite right but I’m really ticked off.” And they listen.
And then they give wise counsel. A friend is someone that, at least the ones I have that are really close, everything they have, when I have been in a jam, I have called people at one in the morning to pick me up. I got in an auto accident and called a guy at one thirty in the morning, “Would you come?” And it never entered my mind that he wouldn’t jump out of bed and come, and he did.
See, a friend is someone who is there for you, who loves you just for you. Have you really thought about, Jesus wants to be your friend and He has made a way to close the gap so that you could be God’s friend?
And this Christmas, He doesn’t want you to know about Him or have a religious belief or try harder to be a bit more moral. He wants to be your friend. But the response is two things have to happen. We need to repent and to believe in order to become His friend.
The word repent just means you need to have a change of mind. An enemy is, “I am going this way with my life, I am going to do my thing, God, don’t You tell me what to do. I don’t want Your direction. You may have made me and all that stuff, but I’m doing this.” Repent means you turn around and say, “If You really made me and You love me and You died for me, okay, I want to go this direction with my life.”
So there is a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior. But then the real power is you just need to receive a gift. It’s a gift. In John chapter 1, it’s the story of the life of Jesus. And it’s all around this idea of, So, why did Jesus actually come? And in John chapter 1 it says, “He came unto His own, His own people, and those who were His own, didn’t receive Him.” In other words, they rejected Him.
He came and said, “I want to be your friend, I want to forgive you, I want to love you,” and the great majority of people said, “We don’t want You.”
But then verse 12 says this, “Yet those who believed in Him, who believed on His name, He gave the right,” or, “the power to become children of God.” Those who received Him, those who said, “You know what? I want the pardon, I want the gift.”
I heard a story a number of years ago and I was told it was a true story but this was an old, old story. But it was just stuck in my mind.
It was a story of a guy that was on death row and it was in the Midwest, I don’t know, like, Indiana, Minnesota, somewhere in there. And the guy was on death row, was really hardened and bitter, but his family was just torn up by it. And they had appeal after appeal after appeal and finally the governor was going out of office or something and they just asked, “Would you please, please, please?”
And so the governor decides he is going to pardon this guy. And so he actually does. He pardons him of his sentence. And I can’t remember whether he was really old or what the situation was but he pardoned him.
And the guy was so hard hearted he said, “You know what? I don’t want your blank pardon.” And the governor, true story, said, “Let it be known, in this state, on this day, that so-and-so will be executed but he will not be executed because of his guilt. He will be executed because he refused the pardon.” His guilt was forgiven but he refused the pardon.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems rather dumb. Could we agree on that one? If that was your dad or your brother or your friend, just, are you kidding me?
And yet, that’s what people do to God all the time. All the time. And, by the way, it’s not an intellectual issue.
Notice he says that we were enemies in our minds, notice the little phrase, “because of our evil behavior.” See, the fact is that we are all narcissists to a high degree and we want to please me and my world and I want to be king! I want to be my own god. And I want to do certain things and certain behaviors and because of that I say, “I don’t want You.”
And God, here’s the thing, are you ready for this? He doesn’t want you to fit into some little religious mold. He longs to forgive you and give you a pardon, invite you into a relationship, and be your friend and be better than any friend you have ever, ever had, who would be available, who would accept you as you are, that would help you grow, that would deal with issues of your past, who would always be willing to listen, and give you the strength and the resources – whatever you need – to become who you long to become and, better, who He wants you to become.
The second thing Jesus wants this Christmas is He wants to make you holy and whole. Okay, He doesn’t just want to give you a gift and take you from this kingdom of darkness and put His Spirit inside of you and say, “Okay, you are My child.” He wants that to begin a process of transformation.
The text says, “In order to present you holy in the Father’s sight, without blemish, free from accusation.” This is a picture where Jesus says, “My blood paid for you and has covered it. And when you come to faith and turn to Me, then I want, on a certain day at a certain time, before the final judgment, to present you to the Father, holy.” It means pure. Set apart.
The word unblemished here is a picture like an Old Testament offering where you would bring a cow or a goat, but it had to be unblemished, no defect. And without accusation, in other words, no one can bring up charges and say, “Oh, this person should never have a relationship because he did this and she did that and what about here and what about the past here?” He says, “Absolutely.” He says, “I want you to be holy, I want you to be presentable.”
But the word even holy in our language, it comes from the idea of wholeness. This isn’t just some spiritual transaction. He wants you to be restored. He wants to address the dysfunction. He wants to give you peace. He wants repair to happen in your heart and in your soul. He wants to make you whole.
He doesn’t just save us out of something. He saves us into life and light and relationship.
Now, notice there is a little condition. It says, “If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope,” and the hope is the return of Christ, all the promises of God, held out in the gospel. And he says, “This gospel is what you heard.”
And so the truth is that Jesus has freed us from the penalty and the power of sin. Now, think of this. There is a penalty. “The wages of sin,” there are consequences to our actions. “The wages of sin,” there is a penalty – it’s death. He has freed us from death. But sin has power.
If you would make up a whole new set of rules, I don’t care what they are, thirty days, you can’t keep your own rules. In fact, once you start making rules, breaking them, just, there’s something in us, If I, it would be kind of cool to find out what it would be like if I broke my…
You could make your own rules, but God has made some and they are really clear and they reveal His character, they are called The Ten Commandments. And they were never designed, in any way, to save or forgive anyone. They were just to give you a bar of clarity to know, This is what God is like. This is really what is best for you. These are the boundaries that make life and relationships work.
And then everyone who tries, realizes, I fall short. And He says, “I knew that. That’s why I sent My Son.” See, you have to be pure. And maybe you’re like me. You grew up a little bit, I didn’t grow up reading the Bible or church or anything.
And I sort of grew up with, I think it’s an American concept, but it’s pretty ancient from what I have read. I had this idea that there is a big chalkboard or whiteboard in the sky or, in our day, we would say there is a computer screen.
And all your good deeds and good thoughts would go on one side and all your bad deeds go on the other side. And I thought, at the end of your life, more good deeds than bad deeds, right?
And I always have graded myself pretty liberally. So I figured I was doing great. Everyone grades on the curve, except God. But if you read the Bible, the Scripture is very, very clear. And Jesus was very clear. One little mark on the ledger of bad deeds or thoughts or a lustful thought, or a single lie, or hypocrisy, eliminates you from relationship with God, because He is holy and perfect and pure.
So to have a relationship with God, your score has to be one hundred, not ninety-nine point nine. Well, that makes it really hard to get in. But that’s His character.
And maybe Billy Graham and the Mother Teresas and a handful of people around the world are ninety-twos and ninety-fours. And axe murderers are minus fives.
I’m just telling you, most of you, you’re in the seventies and eighties, all right? But you know something? If you have to get one hundred, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a minus five or a ninety-four, you still fail! And the point of Scripture and the point of Jesus is He atoned for and He paid for your sin. He reconciled you once and for all so that you could be His friend, so there could be a relationship.
And this little clause, “if,” it really has the idea of “since.” It’s what is called “a first class condition” in Greek. It’s, “Since you won’t be moved, the infrastructure and the foundation that you have can’t be changed and you can’t,” it’s that second word, firm, as a picture of someone who is seated and something that can’t go from one location to another.
He says, “If indeed you have actually trusted the gospel of Christ, which you heard, that God, being fully man and fully God, lived a perfect life upon the earth, died upon a cross to pay for, as your substitute, your sin, and rose from the dead, and you place your faith in that and that alone, to have new relationship, he says, “You won’t be moved.”
But what he also says is that when that happens, there is a progress that occurs. God wants to make you holy for that last day, but the Bible talks about two things. It talks about positional righteousness or sanctification and practical righteousness or holiness and sanctification.
And so the moment a person recognizes your need, and I did it when I was eighteen, after going to church for years and rejecting it all, and I heard the gospel and realized it was a gift, not performance, I asked Christ to come into my life and forgive me and I trusted in Him alone. I was transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. His Spirit literally came inside my physical body. My sins were forgiven.
And God, as a judge, legally, goes, “Step one: You are justified.” It means, literally, God, from that moment on or any person that has trusted Christ, it is just as if you have never sinned. All your sins are taken away, legally.
But that’s just half of it. Then the very righteousness of Christ is imputed to my account. It’s like if it was numbers it’s like all your debts go, whooo. And then all God’s resources go, shoooo. And it’s called justification.
And so God sees us, legally, or positionally, in that way. But then that begins a process where His Spirit wants to practically work out what is already true of us.
Let me give you a picture of this. We have some friends and they have three kids. And there was a student that came from another country. And she was on a thirty-day visit to America and not a little baby, but a pre-teen, I think.
And she stayed with them for about thirty days and after thirty days, they just fell in love with this girl. And they went, for the last year, through this process and there are some good parallels here. They loved her. They chose her. They adopted her.
But she went back and lived in this other country while all this was happening. And though she lived in this other country, at a certain day at a certain time, the adoption went through. And though she is in that country and they were in this country, except for three weeks ago, that girl is their daughter. Do you get it? It’s positional. It’s true. She couldn’t be more their daughter.
But her experience of life in their family didn’t occur until about three or four or five days ago when they all got on that plane and the whole family went there for about three or four weeks. And now the whole family came back and she is now living, and you know what she is learning? She is learning how this family walks and talks and eats and loves and, see, that is God’s plan for you.