How quickly do the hands of sinful men corrupt that which is holy!
How contrary to our flesh are the things of God’s kingdom!
We simply cannot allow the spiritual to have the preeminence in our lives, and we fight against the truth of God’s Word by trying to cover it up with that which is material and of this earth, earthy. Let God do a wonder-work and man quickly gets to work to press it into the service of his flesh. As soon as God reveals His glory, man seeks to rob Him of that glory and appropriate God’s creation and works for his own glory.
What else can you expect?
We are not a better generation by nature than Adam was when he listened to Satan’s lie and ate in order to be like God. In some respects we may say in truth that we are a far more evil generation than that which first sprang forth from fallen Adam and Eve. In a material sense we may have made many advances. And at the end of the year men of the world like to list the achievements and show the progress we have made. In science, in medicine, in social improvements, in education, and in the arts the steady advance of man is traced. There are those dark spots that are recognized but not explored. But we are a highly cultured, civilized, refined generation that lives upon the face of the earth in this twentieth century. And the world lets you know that too. No, the educators, philosophers, and psychologists will tell you, the present generation is not really worse than the preceding ones. It just looks that way. Parents quite naturally are concerned with the well-being of their children and, not remembering their own pranks and lust for pleasure wherever and in whatever way they could find or make it, see their children’s actions in a wrong light. Actually we are getting better and soon will have that “Great Society.”
Yet we must not overlook the fact that there has been a steady and rapid development in sin! No worldly educator or psychologist or philosopher will want to admit that. No, we came from the monkey, but we are not going back to him. We are taught evolution, but not devolution. We are on the upgrade and not on the downgrade. We are getting better, even though at times the troubles of, the moment may seem to deny this. Just have faith in our youth and faith in mankind; and we will eventually solve our problems to make a world-wide peace. So the world talks; and in the future it will seem to have spoken the truth, when the Antichrist will rule the whole world in a temporary reign of peace and unprecedented prosperity for all mankind. But Scripture denies all this and condemns it in no uncertain terms. The world was soon after the fall ripe for a flood of judgment. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. What an indictment! EVERY imagination of his heart! ONLY evil! And CONTINUALLY! How could you state it more strongly? How could you ever express total depravity as being anything else than absolute depravity, even if you want to quibble about words? And that was thousands and thousands of years ago. Since that time we developed even further in our evil with better means and more resources to rebel against the living God and to strive still to be like Him.
Therefore, when He performs the wonder-work of sending His Son in our flesh and sends His angels to sing of glory to God in the highest, we have to counteract that glory in the highest and see if we cannot change it to glory to man in the highest and peace from God’s wrath by getting rid of Him! O, we do! We want to get rid of Him. He is always in our way, as we are by nature. And when He did come in our flesh, were we could touch Him, we did get rid of Him,—or so we thought—and nailed Him to the tree! Had we only known it before, when He came in Bethlehem, we would have helped Herod find Him and would have gone even as far as Egypt to try to wipe out the life of that Babe in swaddling clothes.
This generation would do otherwise?
Look about you when the Christmas season rolls around again next year. Go back in your thoughts only twenty-two days, and take careful note of what you saw and will see. O, it is beautiful. Beautiful because of God’s works and beautiful to the eye because of man’s works. He lays a pure blanket of dazzlingly white snow. And in regions far removed He has brought forth a beautiful tree of evergreen foliage. Man has fashioned lights of every color of the rainbow and other decorations that are a delight to the eye to fix on that tree standing in the dazzling snow. Man has done so much to turn his thoughts away from that Son of God and to turn the glory of God upon himself. He must make something material out of that which is spiritual. And unless you mean a peace on earth which allows sinners to do their evil without punishment, he is not interested in your Christmas message.
You will never hear the natural man say with the shepherds, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.” He teaches his children instead to go and see Santa Claus, who also sits in judgment, rewards good little boys and girls, and has a record book of their activities. And his children in effect are taught to sing, “Praise Santa Claus from whom all blessings flow.” His good must come down a chimney, and his Saviour must also come down that chimney, instead of going up on a cross. You just simply cannot let God be the one from whom all blessings flow. You simply cannot for the sake of your own pride, let Christ be the One who brings us good. You must at least preach a fallen man who can still desire salvation. Surely, there must a man somewhere, a jolly old fellow, who can do us good even though we are totally depraved and inclined to all evil. And so we do not go to Bethlehem to see this thing, but we go to Santa Claus and ride around town to see the pretty lights, and trees, and tinsel and ornaments which man has fashioned!
But you and I who went to Bethlehem? . . . .
Or did we only think that we went to see this thing which is come to pass? Did we see the glory of God? Did we see this thing which is come to pass as it was told us? And who then told you about it? Did you see it as men described it to you? Or did you see it as God told it through His angel? Without that Word of God, without His explanation, there is nothing to see there that will assure you and me of peace on earth. There is absolutely nothing that would in any way whatsoever show you that this is a Saviour. Rather would it indicate one who is in need of a Saviour. “Where is the power and wisdom of God?” you would ask if you had come into that stable or grotto to get your camel or donkey and be on your way back home, with the work of registration over for you. Some did, no doubt, come into that stable or grotto before or after the shepherds had come there. This was no private dwelling place. The birds have nests, and the foxes have holes; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head! The cattle have to give Him their feed box. Mary, Joseph, and the Child have no privacy. He came into His own world, and His own received Him not! Today they think that they celebrate His birth with lights and trees and tinsel and ornaments. But He was not on that day greeted by any earthly pomp or celebrations. But few among men there were who came purposely to see this thing as the thing that had been told them.
Few people have seen it that way this past Christmas. There is a universal observation of the day and a worldwide “celebration.” Yet few have come and seen Him lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes and yet born as King of the spiritual Jews and as the promised Saviour Who took away the sin of the world. Churches with the best display of color and light, of trimming and decoration, with the most elaborate and life-like manger-scene,—with the folly of having the wise men there as well,—preach a Christ who was not in that manger and never came to this earth. You have to explain all things in the light of scientific findings of men, you know. If it does not answer to our rationalization, we must take the word of unbelieving scientists and discredit such a silly thing as a virgin birth. We are not children anymore to believe such fairy tales. And so we do not see in that manger in Bethlehem a Saviour as it was told by the angels, but one as it is told by those who have no part in Him and hate Him. Then, with tongue in cheek, we sing and speak of peace on earth and whistle in the dark, when we can almost hear nuclear bombs whistle their warning of our destruction. But a Saviour, born of a virgin by a wonder-work of God and Whose fundamental purpose in coming is to save us from sin we do not want by nature and do not see in Bethlehem.
This is due to the fact that by nature we still want sin. We want to be delivered from the punishment and consequences of sin. But for us a paradise, a utopia must be one where we can satisfy the lust of our flesh, the lust of our eyes, the pride of our life and never suffer the consequences. We must have a heaven wherein we can rebel against God all we please and still have Him smile down indulgently with a love for the whole world that denies Him His own glory. Not glory to God in the highest, but glory of man at the expense of God’s glory and the vindication of His divinity is our desire according to the flesh.
Did you go to Bethlehem and see by faith?
Well, the evidence will be seen today, twenty-two days after Christmas, as well as on Christmas day itself. You feel that this article is out of date? You ask the question, “Why write about Christmas now when we have almost forgotten it?’ Ah, but is that not again another indication that we have replaced God’s works, or at least tried to, with our own? It simply for some does not seem like Christmas, if there is no snow on the ground. Why? What in the world does snow have to do with Christmas? It does not seem like Christmas if there is no tree with its decorations. Well, why? What have these to do with salvation from sin and the thing come to pass as the angel made known unto us? And that, because of unemployment or depression or the like, we are not able to give and receive gifts it does not seem like Christmas means that we have become so dull spiritually that we cannot see and appreciate God’s gift to us.
But we said that the evidence will be seen today whether we went with the shepherds to Bethlehem and saw what God said was there. And that evidence may be seen in our return from Bethlehem. We read that so beautifully in Luke 2:20 in connection with verse 15. The shepherds said one to another,—and therefore we have no reason to believe that any one of them stayed behind to tend the sheep,—”Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.” And in verse 20 we read, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had seen and heard, as it was told them.” What is more, we read in. verse 17, “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”
Is our Christmas thrown away after New Year’s Day and as pathetic a sight as the discarded “Christmas” trees that disfigure vacant lots and front lawns today? Is our Christmas put in a box with the lights and ornaments till another twelve months are come and gone? Indeed, there is that all-important return from Bethlehem. There is that tell-tale return from seeing that which God said has come to pass. In His fear we will return to our daily toils, back to our sheep, praising and glorifying God. And this will carry on throughout the year and until, with renewed zeal and spiritual light, we do it more ardently next year, because we have seen a little more of the wonder of God’s grace.
No room for Him in the inn!
No room for Him now in the world. Not only is He on His birthday pushed aside for good old St. Nick, but there are three hundred and sixty-four other days also where His praise is ascribed to men. “Oh,” the psalmist cries, “that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31.
The question is whether He goes back with us when we return.
A mere going to see this thing with the natural eye will do no good. If we have come and seen it with the eye of faith, then He goes back with us in our heart. He makes that room and fills us with that fear of awe and reverence that we do glorify and praise God. And then we say, “O God, how good Thou art!” If we see the Christ as He made Himself known to us, then we have seen God’s covenant faithfulness. Such cannot return to their daily toils and life without praising Him and ascribing glory in the highest to Him.
Did you have a blessed Christmas?