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About this series
What Child is This?
The Baby that Changed the World
At Christmastime, if we think about Jesus, most people focus on Him as the baby in the manger. Have you thought about what it took for Him to leave the splendor of heaven and come to earth in the form of a human baby? And if He did that, that He and His Father had specific purposes in that grand plan? Chip gives a very clear explanation of who Jesus is and who He wants to be in our lives. If Jesus really is God, and if He really did come to die for our sins, have you considered that maybe there’s something He wants from us? Chip helps us understand what that is, but he takes it further to explain that there are lots of things God wants FOR us!More from this series
Do you know what the most commonly asked question is in December of every year? It’s not a trick question. It goes like this: “What do you want for Christmas?” Think of the millions of times that has happened, just all over the world.
When I was very, very little my grandparents, they would come by and we would go visit and, “So, Chip, what do you want for Christmas?” And it was a ridiculous question because you were going to get socks and underwear every year.
And I just remember getting the soft package and going, Oh brother, you know? But that’s what grandparents ask of little kids. And if you have ever seen one of the Christmas movies, right? There’s the Santa or if you go to the mall, sometimes they have a big area and the little kids get on Santa’s lap and what does Santa ask every little boy and little girl? “So, what do you want for Christmas,” right?
Or, for some of us, it’s a little more serious. It’s sort of like that person that you love very, very, very much and sometimes it’s a friend, a mate, one of your kids and you’re thinking, What do I get them? What would really express what is on my heart? I want it to be special. And you think about it and, What do they want for Christmas? That’s the question.
And then, for some, and I don’t want to pick on us men. But this question keeps us wandering the malls on the twenty-third, on the twenty-fourth, I’m supposed to be back. I can’t even get this thing wrapped. It’s seven thirty at night, and you just wander because you don’t know the answer, What should I get him? What should I get her? What about, right?
Here’s a question for you: If we could ask Jesus – the reason for the season, the baby in the manger, the God that visited the planet, the one that 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? What do You really want?”
But here’s the thing, 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 witnesses, 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? And that’s what we are going to talk about.
The answer is in the book of Colossians. This isn’t the Mary or the Joseph story. This isn’t, “Hark the Herald Angels” this isn’t, “Away in a Manger,” 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. They were a group that were new in the faith. 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.
We pick it up at about verse 19 or 20. It says, “For God was pleased for all the fullness of deity to dwell in Christ, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things in heaven or things on earth, making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
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 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.
What would happen if you believed, as a believer and follower of Jesus, that He actually lives in you, that He is not down on you, that He is the best friend that you would ever have, that He knows what is going to happen next week, next year, that He has a plan for you, that the unlimited resources of all of heaven, the One who created and spoke everything into existence would like to make you holy and whole and every single day direct you about that decision, help you work out that issue in your marriage, bring you peace as you wrestle with, Are you going to be single? Is God going to bring someone into your life?, give you discernment about what role and what job, what to do with one of your kids that’s having a struggle, that He would be a Father and a friend and a lover of your soul?
And you would never have to get in line. God, I know there are almost seven billion people, oh wow. It doesn’t work that way!
In fact, Jesus was explaining this to His disciples. And for some of us, you have been a Christian for a while and you have read the New Testament and, Oh yeah, yeah. Well, it wasn’t, Oh yeah, yeah, for them. Now, imagine this itinerant preacher. He comes and starts speaking and all the religious people say He is a wacko. And He is a liar and a blasphemer.
But once you see a handful of people raised from the dead and He walks on water and He fulfills all these Old Testament passages and pretty soon you’re realizing, I think this is the real deal.
And so, unlike a lot of people, you follow Him wholeheartedly. You are in. And the kingdom is coming and He is the Messiah. And you see things that people have never seen and maybe you’re Peter, John, or James and, literally, the cloud came down, you heard God’s actual voice and you’re thinking, This is awesome!
And then He gets near the end and He goes, “You know what? The plan is a little different than you guys. See, you guys only want to read half of that Old Testament. Yes, I am the Messiah, but the Messiah is a suffering servant and I am going to die for the sins of people. And then in three days I’ll be risen from the dead and I will come back a second time, but there is a little delay here.”
And if you are these guys, you are thinking, I don’t really think this is a great plan. And He goes, “No, no, it’s really better for you.” Well, how is that? And they are trembling and they are realizing – public opinion is going south. Religious leaders and rumors about an assassination are everywhere.
And He gets them in this room and they take the Lord’s Supper and He washes their feet and they sing a hymn. And then He takes them out to this place where they have been hanging out and praying – the Mount of Olives.
And He says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Don’t be uptight. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” And then He goes on, “If it weren’t true, I wouldn’t have said it.” And He goes, “You understand that I am going to the Father,” and I love it. I can just picture Thomas raising his hand and goes, “You know what? I don’t really get this, okay? If these other guys do, fine. I don’t get it. What do You mean, ‘If we have seen You we have seen Your Father?’ None of this makes sense! Would you talk English? Or Aramaic or Hebrew or whatever You’re talking. But shoot it straight, because this makes no sense to me.”
And He says, “Thomas, if you have seen Me, You have seen the Father. It is better that I go.” And then He begins to explain. He goes, “In fact, there is another One,” it’s a very interesting word, “another of the same kind like Me, and He is not going to come until I leave. And He is the Spirit of truth. And when I leave, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit is going to come and dwell inside of you and you will have access, 24/7. And He will bring to your remembrance the things that I taught and He will direct you, He will convict you, He will empower you. Whatever you need. My Father and I, as you trust and remain and abide in Me, We will be with you, We will never forsake you, and you have access and you’ll have intimate relationship with the Creator and the Savior of the world, 24/7, 365.”
And I think at that point they are starting to get it. But then in John chapter 15, because this is the way God works, He always speaks in a way we can understand. It’s an agricultural world. They understand about grapes and pruning and vinedressers.
And so on that very last night, He goes, “Look, My Father is the vinedresser. I am the true vine. You are the branches.” And then He gives them this parallel about how the life comes through the vine, into the branches, and the supervision of the Vinedresser, who is the Father.
And in John 15 He says to them, “This is how the intimacy will go on.” He says, “Abide,” or, “remain in Me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man, if a woman, if a student remains, abides, stays in, connected to Me and I in him, you will bear much fruit, because apart from Me you can’t do anything. And if anyone doesn’t abide in Me as a branch, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers and such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire. But if you remain and abide and stay connected to Me, you can ask whatever you wish. If my words are in you and you are in Me, you can ask whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.”
That is what God wants. And so He says you need to make room for Him every day. That’s the response. I meet Christians all the time and we all have struggles. But I meet Christians all the time and I get it. I’m busy. You’re busy. There are demands. But I will tell you what, if you would remain and be connected to Jesus the vine, in this next year, your whole world would change.
If you began and just said, “You know something? Twenty minutes that will change not only my life, but probably my eternity.” If you said, “The first twenty minutes of every day, I am going to abide or remain.” And then, If You’re really a friend, I don’t know about this religious stuff, I am just going to talk to You like a friend. No “thees,” no “thous,” no jargon. Hey! This is me. I’m really angry about this, I’m really struggling about this and this marriage isn’t going the way I think it should. Will You help me? One of my kids is going through a really tough time in school and I don’t know what to do. Would You help me? And by the way, thanks for what You did yesterday. And here are some dreams I have on my heart.
And you just begin to talk to a friend. And, By the way, I don’t get it all. If You show me something to do, I’ll do it. Okay? I can’t do it on my own, but I’ll do it. You spend the first twenty minutes and then each time you pull out your phone, make that just a little memory of, Oh, I’m going to check in. I’m going to check in. Some of you would be praying a lot.
You know what will happen? You’ll abide. You’ll be connected. The Spirit will flow. The truth will flow. Temptations will lessen. Marriages will improve. Your perspective changes. All of a sudden, some things that you loved to do that were a little questionable, you’ll go, Yeah, yeah, I don’t get it. You won’t have the desire. It won’t be about external things. It’ll be God changing you from the inside out.
He wants you to receive His pardon, He wants you to become whole and holy, He wants you to be certain. You can be certain of heaven if Christ lives in you.
And fourth, Jesus wants you to be spiritually mature. He wants you to be a grown up. Look at verses 28 and 29. The apostle Paul writing says, for him and Timothy, “We proclaim Him,” Jesus. In other words, they tell people, they are bold. “We want you to know about Jesus, the Savior of the world. He has come. Emmanuel! And we don’t just proclaim and tell people the story. We are admonishing everyone and we are teaching everyone that we, on a certain day at a certain time, could present them before God as complete or mature.”
And, by the way, he says, “You know what? This is my passion. For this purpose I labor, struggling, according to His power that mightily works within me.” In other words, I am pressing out. I am working hard. I am energized. I am focused. Because here’s what I want to do. I don’t want you all just to come and make a decision and have Christ live in you. That process of becoming mature, that’s God’s dream. I want to be a part of you becoming all God made you to be.” The truth is, God wants you to be spiritually mature.
Notice the truth. God uses His Word, His people, and every circumstance to make you like His Son.
He is actually working, every moment of every day, a lot of us it’s, have you ever had like you go to 3D movies and you’re watching the movie and it’s kind of like this and it’s really weird and someone gives you glasses, you put them on, and all of a sudden, whoa!
He is saying, “I want you to get on new glasses, that you see life in a completely different way.” You start listening and learning and applying.
In fact, that’s the application. We must habitually listen, learn, and apply God’s Word, and notice it’s in the context of community. You do it with people.
Some of you maybe have been like me. I have coached little league and I have coached high school and coached various sports, and some of you are supervisors in your work, or you’re a boss, or you’re a parent.
And have you ever had someone come to work or a kid on one of your teams, I have had this happen multiple times, and you just want to go to someone you really trust and say, “This is unbelievable. This kid or this worker. I mean, they have got gift oozing out of their ears. Like, in the workplace, it’s like, man, she is smart, she is quick, she’s got people skills. It’s just unbelievable. She could run this place in five or ten years!”
Or, like in my world, it was like, “My lands, are you kidding me? You’re in eighth grade, you’ve got a thirty-eight vertical jump, you can do a cross-over dribble, you’ve got great hands, you understand the game.” This kid is going to be in the NBA!
And there is all this gift, and yet, if you have been around very long, you have seen people with all this gift and all this potential and they kind of ride their gift. And they get promoted because of their gift. But they don’t discipline themselves, they don’t structure, they don’t work hard like other people. And then they crest early.
And what you knew was their potential was here and they landed here in work. There are a lot of marriages like that. There are a lot of kids, this was their potential, this is where they landed.
And as a boss or a coach, as a parent, is there anything that makes you more sad than when you see the potential that could be and then you just see, Wow. That’s how God feels. He wants you to be spiritually mature.
That word mature is teleos. We get our word telescope. A telescope is something that looks far into the distance. It’s the idea of: God wants you to personally fulfill His ultimate design, that what He made you to do, who He made you to become, that you would have the kind of character and the kind of love, the kind of skills, that you would discover the plan, and that you would just mature.
That’s what He wants for Christmas. He wants to pardon you, He wants to make you holy, He wants to remove all fear so that you would know, every day, I am on my way to heaven. Not because of what I have done. But I am tasting it because I am abiding and I am walking.
In fact, I love the last portion of John when He is talking with these disciples and He is trying to help them. He is really trying to help them get it. Because this was very foreign to them.
We have a couple thousand years to look back to say, “Hey, this really works.” But they didn’t. And so when He sums it up, He says to them in John 15, beginning at verse 8, “This is My Father’s glory,” and that’s one of those Bible words. But this is what enhances the Father’s reputation. This is what lights it up. This is what brings Him joy. This is what helps people see Him for who He really is.
“This is My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing,” or, “demonstrating,” or, “proving yourselves to be My disciples.” That’s what it means to be mature, you bear much fruit.
And in the Bible there are two kinds of fruit. One kind of fruit is love and joy and peace and patience and goodness and kindness and gentleness and self-control. It’s character. And the other kind of fruit is that you accomplish things for the living God and they used to be like this but now they are like this, because of you. And you bear much fruit.
And then He gives the motivation. He says, “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now,” here is our word again, “abide,” or, “remain,” or, “stay connected in My love.” And then He tells you how. It’s really simple. “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed the Father’s commands, and remain in His love.”
And then verse 11 is one of my favorite in all the Bible. It’s His motives. “These things,” think of that early first day, “I say to you disciples, and I know you are scared to death, these things I am saying to you about the Father and the vine and the branches and abiding, that My joy could be inside of you and that your joy could be full to the brim.”
God wants to be your friend! He wants to make you whole. He wants you to taste heaven every single day. And He wants you to grow up and be who He made and designed and deep in your heart and spirit you long to become.
That’s what He wants! It’s a pretty cool Christmas present to give to Him. When we talk about Christmas and what God wants, that is all what He wants for you. And I just want to touch on what He wants from you, because as you know, sometimes receiving things is really, really, really, really awesome. But there is something about, at times, when you can give some things that it is equally awesome and sometimes even more powerful.
So let me just highlight and I have given you some passages to check out. Here are four things He wants from you. One, Jesus wants you to share in His suffering for His body, the Church. Paul said he rejoiced.
See, we’ve got a whole world that suffer, suffer, suffer, anything that is painful, I don’t want it, I don’t want it, I don’t want it. And we have missed the point. You are going to suffer! It’s a fallen world. There is pain. There is difficulty. People mess up! They will betray you. There is injustice. There is corruption, right? You are going to suffer.
Jesus says, “Why don’t you suffer for Me and for what really counts? Why don’t you join in My suffering? Why don’t you get your expectations out of, Is everything going right for me all the time? And why don’t you take the difficulty of life and why don’t you turn it around and leverage it and do it for Me?”
I built a relationship with a lady. I didn’t know much about her. And she began to write me. She listened on the radio probably fifteen, sixteen years ago. And we began to write back and forth and she had this beautiful handwriting and was an artist who would send me a picture and, over time, I learned that she was a nun.
And she was a nun up in San Francisco and she would get up at four thirty in the morning and copy the message on these little cassettes and then give it to Mother Superior and to other nuns. And apparently Living on the Edge was going hot in the, I think it’s called a cloister. It was a special group of nuns that never left this place. One day a year they went out of this place.
And she shared her life story. She went in as a woman in her early twenties and she was in her eighties by the time we finally met. And she was in her eighties and we didn’t agree on everything. But she was as born again and loved God and she had a spirit about her that was sweet. I mean, super sweet.
And I got where I could call her on the phone and they would bring her to this phone and we would talk. And then she had some sort of bone deterioration, had extraordinary pain and had real problems. And so Theresa and I drove up to see her.
And they had these bars, type place, and she could be on one side and we were [on the other], it was sort of like prison. It was a little weird to tell you the truth. But, you know, I don’t always get, it’s amazing, God does a lot of amazing things in lots of different groups.
But she had spent her whole life praying and worshipping and loving God and praying for people. And she was in excruciating pain and I said, her name was, “Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit,” and I accidentally, early in our relationship, I called her and I said, “Well, Sister Mary,” and she just stopped me. “My name is not ‘Sister Mary.’ My name is, ‘Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit.’” I said, “Okay.”
I guess you get to choose your name in there. But she was precious. And I remember asking her about it and it was excruciating and they have tried this, they have tried that. And she said something I don’t think I have ever heard the most famous Christian leader in the world say.
She said, “Every time I have sharp pains that shoot up the back of my neck and then it goes down my leg and many nights I can’t sleep, I just lay there and I think of how much Jesus has suffered for me. And I think of, even in my physical body, that I could, at any way identify with the fellowship of His suffering. And if I could take any of these things and allow these suffering moments to be prayers that I offer up for other people, I think, Oh that I would be worthy to suffer and experience a small portion of what He suffered so that I could understand how much He loves me.”
And I thought, I never preached that one before. And I learned a lot from Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit. Would you be willing to sign up for some suffering for the right reason in the right way and leverage your difficulty, instead of running from it, avoiding it, or complaining to God that everything isn’t just the way you want it? That would be a nice gift to give Him this year.
The second thing He wants from you is He wants you to be a servant, to present God’s Word to your world. Paul said, “I became a servant to present His Word in all of its fullness.”
There are two types of Christians. Some are fans and some are followers. Fans are like a 49er game. I can be a fan. I go to the store, I get a jersey, I put this number on it, I get a baseball hat, I put it on backwards, I buy season tickets, I go to the game, they play the game, Yeah! Go! Yeah! I go to the tailgating party. Oh man, I’m a 49er! This is awesome! You are a fan.
When you’re on the team, you go to two-a-days. You go to the weight room. You come back from injuries. You prioritize your life around, What does it take for this team to be all that it is supposed to be? And what is my role on this team? How do I make my teammates better? And I will pay the price, whatever it takes, for this team to win.
And Paul said, “That’s what I was. A servant.” I’m not asking God, How can You make my life work out for me? I am asking God, As Your servant, what would You like to do in me and through me to fulfill Your purposes on this little ball that spins around in space called ‘Planet Earth’ until all things are reconciled unto You?” That would be a good gift to give to Jesus.
The third thing He wants, is Jesus wants you to help others become spiritually mature. In other words, He wants you to be a disciple-maker. So often you hear, “Join a small group,” or, “For your own benefit it would be really good to get into the Bible or talk with God and here’s how we, if you have been through this, we have a program for that. And if you have been through that, we have something to help you here.”
Here’s what I can tell you. All those things are wonderful. But He wants every single person in whom the Spirit of God lives, that your vocation is to make disciples. Helping other people come to know Christ and then once they come to know Christ, you admonish them. It just means you coach them.
You help them figure out, What do they do in the difficult relationship? And, What do they do with all their debt? And, What do they do with the thoughts and issues and pains from the past, their dysfunctional family? And then you instruct them. And you spend time with them and you mentor them. And you go through thick and thin.
And you know what happens? They become more and more and more and more like Jesus. And you do too as you make disciples. Didn’t Jesus say, did Jesus say, “Go, therefore, into all the world and build big churches”? “Go, therefore, into all the world and pray a prayer. Go into all the world and be nice, moral people.” What did Jesus say? “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Followers.
And then He says there is a special time where they will actually go public, “Baptizing them,” and there is certainly water there for sure, but the idea was identification, “from their old life to a new life, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
And then just don’t leave it, “And then teach them everything I taught you.” Well, what did Jesus teach us about time? What did He teach us about money? What did He teach us about marriage? What did He teach us about our enemies? “You teach them everything I taught you.”
So that we have these little Christs, these little mirrors, in a fallen world. And they meet moms and dads and workers and businesspeople and students who are very imperfect, but just keep reflecting, progressively, more and more, what Jesus is like. And then people start thinking, You know what? There may be something to this. Not religion but to the person of Jesus and who they are talking about.
Finally, what you could give Him for Christmas is He wants you to exert energy and work hard, in His power, to help Christians live like Christians.
Sometimes we just so want everything easy. The greatest disciple-maker I have ever known is a bricklayer who helped me when I went to college. He had a high school education. His job was laying brick. His vocation was making disciples. And I went into his living room with three or four other guys. Three years later there were two hundred and fifty college students.
He then moved his family, not for a job, but to start it on another campus as he laid brick during the day, asked me to join him. I ate with his family. I stayed in the garage apartment in the back. I worked for him and learned what work looks like. We did Bible studies together. He gave me books to read. I watched him raise his kids.
He was, I think it was for me, I really needed this because I was so intent on wanting to be cool. He was very uncool. He didn’t dress cool, he didn’t talk cool, he wasn’t dynamic. In fact, some of the Bible studies were just downright boring and biblical.
And after about three or four years around him, I didn’t know whether God wanted me to be a lawyer or a basketball coach or a scientist, because I changed my major; tried them all.
But I knew one thing. It really wouldn’t matter much. What I want to be is I want to be a man of God like Dave. I want to have a marriage like Dave. I want to be a dad like Dave. And I want to be a Christian like Dave.
And I want you to know that your job description is to make disciples. And you can do that as a stay-at-home mom, a CEO, a construction worker. You can do that as a student. But that reorientation is what we give to Him in response to all He has given us.