Typically in December we talk about the events surrounding the birth of Christ and we dig into a variety of viewpoints, a potpourri of perspectives. In recent years we’ve looked at a biblical account through the eyes of Joseph and of Mary, the shepherds and the wise men and King Herod. We’ve even looked at the innkeeper’s perspective, even though the Bible never specifically mentions an innkeeper.
We’ve looked at the Christmas Story from all of these different perspectives, but not this year. This year we are going to open the door and we’re going to peel back the curtain in heaven and take a peek at what’s happening from heaven’s perspective.
Think about it – if God had a workshop in heaven, why would He handcraft a world that would need His one and only Son to die on our behalf? Well, I want to invite you to go behind the scenes with me, and let’s find out all the meaning that is wrapped up in this little baby; because it would be impossible for Mary and Joseph to have the slightest inkling of all the implications and ramifications of God becoming flesh and entering through the doorway of a stable.
So why did Jesus come? Who is Jesus? And what does He offer? Whether you know it or not, there’s a book in the New Testament that answers all three of those questions, and it’s in the opening chapter. It’s in the Book of Colossians, and we’re going to camp out there for this entire month.
But before we read from Colossians 1, it may be helpful for you to know something about the City of Colossae and why the Apostle Paul chose to write them a letter all about Jesus. So by way of background, Colossae was a very wealthy area. It was located right next to Laodicea, which was a wealthy city as well. So that particular region was very affluent. And sometimes affluence can breed cynicism, and when some discover that a lot of money doesn’t bring true joy, what they do is they begin to craft their own belief system together. There were a number of people in that time and community who didn’t truly understand why Jesus came.
You see, in the 1st Century in Colossae, there were two groups of people that departed from the truth of the Gospel. One group was that of the Gnostics. Now the Gnostics in the 1st Century believed that matter is evil, that flesh is evil. In other words, anything that you could touch was evil. But the spirit was good. Mark Driscoll describes them this way. He says, “In the earliest days of the Christian Church, it was the Gnostics who sought to upgrade Biblical truth with cultural trends.” And so they tried to make it more supernatural than natural. They tried to make it more heavenly than earthly. They tried to make it more spiritual and less physical. So you have the Gnostics on one side.
Then on the other side you have a group called the Judaizers, and these people just wanted to return people to the Law. They weren’t as big on grace; they were more into the Law. So in their minds Jesus wasn’t enough. You still had to earn your way into heaven even with Jesus. We might say that the Judaizers believed that Jesus plus something was what they needed. So good behavior, rule keeping—and they came up with their own pet list of rules.
Bob Russell says, “When you become a Christian you’re not just handed a Bible—a code of behavior to obey in your own strength. You are also given the Holy Spirit to live within you who will transform your old nature and enable you to live according to God’s will.” You see, the Judaizers put more emphasis on the rules than they did the Spirit.
The setting in which Paul writes this letter to the people of Colossae was that there was this mixture of Greek philosophy – a religious smorgasbord – as they would subtract and add to the Gospel message. So the result, Chip Ingram says, was you ended up with people who denied the deity of Jesus Christ because they deduced, “Since He came in the flesh, He must be evil, and so He couldn’t be from God.”
Many of the Colossae community took the story of the first Christmas and discounted it, because they couldn’t understand God coming in the flesh to earth. But we do. God sent Him in the flesh because “He was tempted in all points just as we are and yet He remained without sin.”
The Judaizers emphasized religiosity and rituals, and their skewed beliefs would eventually morally bankrupt the integrity of a church. Today, just like the people in Colossae, there are many people who are floundering. They are searching for significance. They are floundering for faith, for some type of ultimate meaning in life. They turn to psychics. They turn to astrology. They turn to anything to find some type of direction. But Jesus Christ alone offers us joy and fulfillment. Your life is not a meaningless journey to nowhere. Just as every thread in a tapestry has a function, so God has a plan for your life to fulfill you. And His plan begins with you turning your life over to Jesus Christ.
So only Jesus offers us salvation based on His work and not ours. There have been several religious leaders who have died martyr’s deaths, but only Jesus Christ died a substitutionary death for us on the cross. You’ve heard people point out that religion spells things “D-O.” Religion spells things “Do.” Christianity spells things “D-O-N-E, Done.” “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.” He’s taking care of things. Our trust is in Him, not in our feeble efforts, because we will get off course.
You know, it’s because of that that we want to do things for other people. It’s because of what Jesus did for us that we want to reach out to others. But can I tell you something? Christ did not come to earth to improve our morality or kindness by 15% for the last forty days of the year. Jesus Christ expects us 24/7, 365 days a year to be an ambassador on His behalf, to show His love. And the fact that Jesus walked out of that doorway of heaven and entered earth shows us of His love.
So Christianity is not an allegiance to some moral code; it is the worship of the person of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 – you know this passage – says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Now let’s dig into Colossians chapter one. Colossians 1:12 through 14: “And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
You see, this door up here on the stage…it represents transitions. And when Jesus departed the door of heaven and entered into the door of…into this world, He made our rescue possible. A door is a place of transition. It is a vehicle or it is a means to enter into another realm or another area. And in this one short paragraph in Colossians 1, I want you to realize today that there are four reasons why Jesus came, and they’re right here in the text.
Why did He come? Well, He entered the doorway of this world, first of all, to qualify you.
He came to qualify you.
He came to qualify you. You say, “Well, what does that mean?” If you have ever applied for a loan you know that you can’t get that loan until you meet certain criteria. They want to know that you are a wise risk. If you are not, then the bank is not going to roll the dice on whether or not you’re going to pay them back for what you have borrowed. But if you have been in the habit of paying your bills in timely fashion and if your character has proven itself through stable employment or a minimal debt load and you have had consistent income, do you know what happens? You will be approved for the loan. And do you know what they will say? They will say, “You have been qualified.” You’ve been qualified.
When you accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life and you committed that you were going to follow Him and you committed that you were going to be totally sold out to Him, can I tell you what happened that day? The God of all creation qualified you. He approved you. He said, “She’s mine. He’s mine. She belongs to me. I qualified them.”
Ephesians 2:4 and 5: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
So you have been qualified even though you don’t deserve it. I have been qualified even though I don’t deserve it. It’s because of the grace of God. Someone said, “He doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” And we’ve all been called to follow Jesus.
When Jesus left heaven and came to earth, He passed through the doorway to qualify you.
He came to earth to claim you!
Here in Colossians 1 it says that you have been named as an heir. Verse 12 says you have been qualified to share of the inheritance in God’s kingdom.
Now I want you to imagine with me. Let’s say that on Monday you’re going through your snail mail. I already know what’s in it. It’s a bunch of junk mail. It’s also a lot of bills. You’re starting to get a smattering of Christmas cards that are starting to come your way. But then, all of a sudden, you see an envelope, and in the return address you see it’s from an attorney’s office. It kind of piques your curiosity, so you open up that letter.
In this letter written to you, addressed to you personally, it invites you to come to the attorney’s office on December 19th at 1:00, as there will be the reading of a will, because you’ve had a distant relative who passed away. They say, “You need to be there because you are going to receive something that was willed to you from your distant relative. Prior to their death, they named you as an heir.” Now do you think you’re going to be there on December 19th at 1:00? Sure you will. And depending upon what you inherit, your life may never be the same. But notice this: It’s not because of what you’ve done; it’s because of the generosity of the one who has willingly chosen to share with you.
Paul says in Ephesians 1:13 and 14, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Listen to this: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” So this is another reason why Jesus came to earth and entered through the doorway of a stable, and that was in order to make you an heir to His kingdom.
But Jesus came for a third reason as well. Listen to verse 13 again. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”
Thirdly, I want you to see that:
He came to rescue you.
Rescue from what? From darkness. And Paul says, “From the dominion of darkness.” And I love that phrase. I love the wording of it. There are things people are willing to do in the darkness that they would never do in the light. There is a reason that Satan is called “the prince of darkness.”
In Jude 1:23—you may not have heard this verse—it says, “Save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” It says, “Snatching them from the fire.” That is a direct reference to hell. And The Message paraphrases it by saying, “Go after those who take the wrong way.” And we’ve all taken the wrong way.
C.T. Studd was a preacher decades ago, and he used to quote a poem sometimes in a sermon. He would say, “Some people like to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, but I’d rather run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” That’s the way he was wired—and you know people like that. They’re always reaching out. They’re on the lookout for the lost. They care about people.
And here is verse 23 of Jude 1, Jude is clearly saying, “Hey, let’s get actively involved in reaching hell bound people with the Gospel. Let’s prayerfully pursue them, regardless of where they might be spiritually.”
My question for you today is this: Are you doing that? Do you care? Are there people within your sphere of influence that God has planted you and placed you there to somehow come alongside of them and to say a good word on behalf of Jesus Christ? In this season, in this month, just to say something!
This is a time when people’s spiritual antennae are up and they’re open to invitations. They’re open to things that you might want to talk with them about. I mean, this is the time. We’ve got to take advantage of it. I don’t really care what their situation might be. They may be rebellious sinners. They may be self-righteous sinners. They may be good people who just have never heard about Jesus, but they lack the fulfillment and the completion that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And to think that you might have a hand in being a light that pulls them out of darkness! To think that you might be used in order to bring them a deeper walk with Jesus Christ!
Last week we enjoyed a big family vacation in Destin, and I’ve got to tell you, we had planned this for over a year because we wanted our entire family to be together. My parents are getting up in years, and we didn’t know if they were gonna get to come. It worked out, and it was the most major trip they’ve taken in a long time—the farthest they’ve ever traveled in years. And so we had an incredible Thanksgiving. We made so many memories with seventeen people from the Stone side of the family!
Saturday night while they were there, our immediate family worshipped at a church that we had never been to. We were talking with the pastor afterwards, and it came up in the conversation that we were visiting from Louisville. As soon as we said “Louisville,” he said, “Hey, don’t say it. Don’t say it.” He said, “Let me guess. You all go to Southeast Christian Church. Am I right?” And we all in unison said, “Yes, yes, we do.” And then he quickly added…he said, “Southeast…” He said, “Southeast… That’s where Kyle Idleman [Southeast Teaching Pastor] preaches, right?” And I wish you could’ve seen my son and daughter because Sam and Sadie…I mean, they were out of his sight, but they are making… “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.” So they said, “Oh, Kyle’s awesome! Kyle’s incredible!” You know? And when he said, “That’s where Kyle Idleman preaches,” I mean, we all answered in unison, “Well, yes.” And they are mocking me with their eyebrows the whole time behind me.
Then the preacher said, “Hey, Kyle’s book Not a Fan really ministered to me. It really changed me.” He said, “In fact, right now I’m reading his next book Gods at War.” I said, “Well, you know what? We will pass along to him that you enjoyed his books.” And he said, “You know him personally?” Again my family is trying to stifle laughs and I said, “Well, yeah. He said ‘hi’ to me in the hallway one time,” you know? Well, he did one time.
Somebody after last hour asked me, “Hey, was that story true?” I said, “It was all true.” I said, “I didn’t tell you the ending, though.” I said, “We’re getting ready to leave, and he went through every first name of every person in our family; and then he looked at me and he said, “Dave, what is your last name?” And I said, “My last name is Stone.” And he went, “Okay.” And that was it, you know? There was this pregnant pause, and I saw my family leaning in and he said, “Well, great to meet ya!” and we all headed out. And my family has not let up on me ever since then, and now I know Kyle won’t let up on me either, you know?
We laugh about that, but can I tell you something? You know what is really cool…what’s really cool is to see how God is using both Kyle’s preaching and Kyle’s writing to touch so many people. Sometimes when someone is rescued from the dominion of darkness it’s a person leaving a life of sin and degradation, but other times it’s a preacher who needs to be challenged by a book to have a deeper walk of commitment, or it’s a backsliding member who needs to return to the right path.
You see, there are varying degrees of darkness, and Satan will do whatever he can to keep people in darkness. Sometimes the darkness isn’t a life of extreme sin. Sometimes the darkness is just like the people of Colosse—just trying to add to what Jesus said or just trying to take a little bit away from it and making the Gospel something different than what the Word of God teaches.
This was prevalent in the 1st Century, but now today, in the 21st Century, we have swayed to the opposite end of the pendulum. Now we live in a culture that takes what is evil and calls it good, and anything goes because “Who are you to judge me and my lifestyle and may habits and my choices?”
There’s a fourth reason that Jesus left heaven and came through that doorway to earth:
He came to redeem you.
He came to redeem you. Paul points out that Jesus came so that you could be redeemed through the blood of the Lamb, through Jesus Christ and that you can be forgiven. When someone is redeemed, they are given worth; they are given value. If we were to boil it down to the very core of why Jesus came, redemption and forgiveness would be the leading motivation. The Book of Hebrews reminds us that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. It’s just that in our minds we just wouldn’t think that it would be the shedding of innocent blood. I mean, that sounds counterintuitive for us. For a baby to come and for Jesus to grow up and for Jesus to live a perfect life? I mean, boy, don’t sacrifice that person. That’s the guy we want to be like. But the Bible teaches us that it’s through His pure, perfect sacrifice that all of our imperfections can be paid for.
Paul says in Romans 5:7 and 8, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” For those who put their trust in Him, He redeems and He forgives. He gives us a fresh slate. He gives us a fresh start.
I tried to think this week of how I could help us to understand exactly what’s taken place—this miracle that takes place of our sins being forgiven and us having that clean slate. And my mind wandered back to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is arrested, and when He is arrested there is this detachment of soldiers that come up to Him and they’re armed. Peter, who has just said, “I will never deny you and I will never disown you”—Peter is in the moment.
Although he is vastly outnumbered, he has a knife in his pocket from the Passover Meal, and so without even thinking he decides to defend Jesus. He reaches in his pocket, and he takes that knife; and he chops off the ear of the closest person he can find: Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Luke chapter 22 and John chapter 18 tell us that Jesus scolds Peter, and then He touches where that ear was and immediately it was restored.
Do you see what happened? Where there was nothing Jesus made something. I am banking on the fact that someday on the Day of Judgment God the Father will reverse that miracle. When He takes a look at my life…a book of my life…and it is covered with all sorts of sins and things that I wouldn’t want you to read or hear…when God the Father looks at something, He will see nothing, and He will reverse the miracle. Because all He will see is not my sins; all He will see is the blood of His Son, a perfect sacrifice that covers over all the crud that I’ve ever done in my life.
And that is the difference that Christ makes. Someday He will reverse the miracle. That’s why He came: Because He wanted a sinner like me to have hope. He wants a sinner like you to have hope. And when He passed through the door of heaven, divinity took on the form of humanity. He left the hails of glory in heaven for the nails of Calvary on earth. John chapter 1 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Message paraphrases that and says, “God moved into our neighborhood.”
And why did He move into our neighborhood? To qualify you, to claim you, to rescue you and to redeem you. That’s why He came: To prove beyond any shadow of a doubt His love for you and me, for each and every person. And He would’ve come if you were the only person on the face of the Earth in need of salvation.
I read a story several years ago about a young family out west. The husband and wife had gone through some rocky times, and the young wife finally got so disillusioned with the stress of marriage and the responsibility of being a mother that she had to just get away. And one morning the husband awakened to a note beside him in their bed, but she was gone. And he agonized over her leaving but felt that she needed a little space, and so he didn’t try to follow her. He did call her cell phone that day and every day for over a week. He told her he loved her. He begged her to come home, and she listened to what he had to say. And he could often hear her softly weeping, but she stubbornly refused to come home.
As Christmas approached, the young father became more intentional, and he decided to go and to hire a private investigator to help him locate her. A week later, lo and behold, the detective stumbled across her in a low budget motel in a bad area of Las Vegas. And without alerting her to his discovery, he called the husband back in California. And several days before Christmas she sat on a lumpy motel bed all by herself in a dimly lit room. She felt about as lonely as she’d ever felt in her entire life, and suddenly she heard a knock. Softly at first and then it grew louder. And cautiously she walked across the room and peeked through the curtain.
Her heart skipped a beat when she saw her husband standing in the doorway. She slid the chain free; she threw open the door, and she fell into his arms. He repeated his familiar speech: “We love you. We need you. Please come home.” And this time…this time she was throwing the few clothes into her old suitcase and heading for his car. A week later the Christmas tree was now back in the attic; the children were in school, and he asked her, “Why did you wait so long to come home? I begged you to come back a dozen times. What took you so long?” And she said, “You told me you loved me. You told me you needed me. But those were just words until you came.”
Two thousand years ago the God of the Universe came. He left heaven and He came through the doorway of earth. He set aside His power. Why? To rescue and redeem you. And rather than you just hearing that God loves you, He decided to put it into action by coming to earth. And someone doesn’t come that far unless they love you and unless they want to have a relationship with you. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior. He is Christ the Lord.”
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we have gotten off of the narrow path and we have moved far away from Your plan for our lives. Lord, I pray for those who need to start afresh and head in the right direction. May You remind them, Lord, that You stand at the door and knock? And anyone who hears Your voice…anyone who hears Your voice can open that door, and You will come in and You will eat with us and You will build that relationship with us. So, Lord, our prayer is that people will do just that and that they will go through that doorway only to find You on the other side. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
You know, it doesn’t do a lot of good if Jesus is born in Bethlehem if He isn’t born in your heart as well. You may have come here on a snowy day and you wanted just to sit back and just to chill. Maybe today is the day for you to step out and to say, “You know what? I want Christ to be the Lord of my life.” Maybe this is the day for you to say, “I want this church to be my church home.” Maybe this is the day when you say, “You know what? I just could use some prayer because this is a difficult season for me.” Whatever your need is, you can meet me down front as we stand together and as we worship.
Dave Stone is Senior Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville KY
Unless otherwise noted: “Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. 2012, Southeast Christian Church of Jefferson County, Kentucky, Inc.