The Heart of and for Christmas 24/7/365! (Ezekiel 11:19)
Welcome marathoners in and for Christ! (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Breath deep.
Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible
Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed
Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment
If I had to choose one principle, one claim, one sentence, one practice… that would suffice for an answer to how to solve any problem, with any person, anywhere in the Milky Way… it would be this: “The heart of the matter is a matter of heart.”
1) Humankind’s heart was created by God in His first Image Bearers and our progenitors, Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27-28);
2) when God tested the free-will reciprocal love of humankind’s first heart, Eve then Adam chose poorly and man’s disobedience and first transgression plunged their hearts and all hearts thereafter—and the entire universe with it—into sin, enmity-hostility between God and Man, shame, darkness, hardness, separation, decay, and the indiscriminate declination of every-thing—Genesis 3; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:18-32, except for the intervention of God’s Common* and then Special** Grace; 3) therefore, in Christ the rescue (Romans 8), revitalization (John 17:17), and reclamation (Hebrews 6:1) and conformation to Christlikeness of the heart (1 Peter 1:13-25) is seminal, central, and the centerpiece of God’s Plan of Redemption:
3) Returning the heart to its former, Eden-like state by and in Jesus Christ… first in regeneration, then justification, faith, sanctification, sacrificial works in Christ’s name, and finally in the consummation when Jesus returns to usher in The New Heavens and the New Earth and make all things new (Revelation 21).
The God of the Bible’s is like no other lesser-idol-god. The Trinity’s love of the heart in the most inclusive form of exclusivity:
“For God so loved the world [all human hearts], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him [by a change of heart solely by grace via election, repentance, and faith] should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, parentheses added; John 3:3; Galatians 2:20; John 3:36; Romans 10:10)
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20, emphasis added).
*Common Grace: In the words of Reformed scholar Louis Berkhof, “[Common grace] curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees’ gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.” Said in another way, God’s hand intervenes and stays, protects the direct result of the destruction of the universe that occurred in the Garden of Eden. If God lifted His hand—which He will upon the return of Jesus—things would go way-bad… way-fast. So bad, in fact, it would melt our faces off before we could a gasp of utter horror.
**Special Grace: In special grace the Holy Spirit does not leave the sinner to his own self-determination, but continues to operate upon his resisting will until he subdues it. He “makes him willing in the day of his power.” (Psalm 110:3). He “works in him to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) He “makes him perfect in every good work to do his will, working in him that which is well pleasing in his sight.” (Hebrews 13:21) This grade of divine grace is higher than common grace. It is denominated “irresistible,” not in the sense that no resistance is made by the sinner, but in the sense that it conquers all his resistance. It is also denominated “effectual,” because it secures salvation. It is also called “regenerating,” because it changes the disposition of the sinful heart and will by “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)
ERGO… There is no circumstance or “riddle-me-this” of any kind anywhere in the universe that cannot be benefitted by Christ IN OUR HEART… the Spirit’s home (1 Corinthians 6:19); the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27); the repository of God’s story (John 3:3); and required the worldview, perspective, wisdom, and the most God-glorifying and appropriate action plan that sees all of life within the pale of God’s Story in, a) creation, b) the fall, c) Christ’s redemption on the cross, and d) consummation.
“The heart of the matter is a matter of a BORN-AGAIN! heart.”
The Heart of My Christmas Message: Scare Tactics? Sacred Calling? Both?
Scare Tactic: Hell is real and so far beyond scary it’s not worth trying to convince most of it. But the love and truth of Jesus do just that! Do you know in the deepest realms of your heart—by rebirth, discipleship, self-sacrifice and redemptive suffering—exactly why The Trinity “parted company” and condescended further than we could possibly imagine by Jesus Christ coming to earth to be incarnated, born, crucified, resurrected, ascended, and imparting the Holy Spirit to save humankind—the predestined hearts whose names were written in The Lambs Book of Life before time began—from eternal hell?
Jesus warned of the reality of HELL more than anyone in the Bible: THAT JESUS CO-AUTHORED!
“Jesus said, the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50)
“Jesus said, and if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire… where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mark 9:43, 48-49)
“Jesus said, and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him [Jesus] who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5)
Sacred Calling: Yes, yes, yes… Hell is well worth avoiding at all costs, but the part of heaven that begins at conversion is all about having the most important sense of MEANING and PURPOSE for one’s life. Celebrating ALL of Jesus Christ MUST take into account that He spoke and warned about Hell more than any other person in the Bible. Jesus Christ came to save the world—those who would be repentant, be justified, and believe in Him by faith (John 3:16)—from the just punishment of our inherited Sin (Romans 3:10-18; 5:12) and habitual sinning (Romans 1:18-32) eternally in hell: All people will be resurrected… some for heaven and eternal bliss; some for hell and eternal punishment. Choose this day (Joshua 25:15-16)—to be saved (John 14:6; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 2:8-9) or to celebrate Jesus (Psalm 119; 150:1-6; 1 John 4:18).
Christmastime can indeed be a heavenly thing; but ONLY if we’ve been born-again and delivered from hell, my friends. Otherwise Christmas is merely a reason to buy gifts—because we’re trying to avoid and compensate for The Gift of God in Christ. Do you have a deep, abiding sense of God’s gift-giving mercy… on you… those in your immediate circle of concern and/or influence?
The reality of hell should humble us and scare the sin and pride out of us SO THAT God, in Christ, and through the Spirit can breath heaven’s sacred life into us for time and in eternity!
Yes indeed, the reality of Christmas and the bastardization of it in much of the world—but especially the Western Church—is rife with irony, paradox and a vast array of upside-downness especially in these last days: During this season of shopping, hopping, and non-stop bopping around PLEASE STOP, LISTEN while you shop and bop around. Please listen carefully… Maybe, amidst the din of dropping dollars, you’ll hear some familiar yet unknown, unused, and/or under-utilized lyrics, truisms from a world-wide famous hymn, Handel’s Messiah… a few for your heart to consider:
Handel’s Messiah, George Frideric Handel, Part 3
SCRIPTURES CONTAINED IN PART THREE:
I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.
And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.
(1 Corinthians 15:20)
Since by man came death,
by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed in a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
(1 Corinthinas 15:51-52)
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption
and this mortal must put on immortality.
(1 Corinthians 15:52-53)
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
(1 Corinthians 15:54)
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
(1 Corinthians 15:55-56)
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57)
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?
It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?
It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again,
who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,
and hath redeemed us to God by His blood,
to receive power, and riches, and wisdom,
and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him
that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
I Went to Hell and Heaven on Christmas Night
On Christmas night  I fell to my knees in the snow next to my mortally-wounded father—who was under great distress and committed suicide that particular night so that there would be as many people as possible to comfort my step-mother. Yes, another irony…
On Christmas night, of all nights, I was visited by hell on earth. The fallenness of this world, that came crashing down on me and many that night, was allowed by God for one Reason: SO THAT Jesus Christ, the logos, “the Word made flesh to dwell among us” (John 1:1) would be lifted up on high: to save us from hell; to secure us in heaven; and to provide meaning in this life and beyond. As I knelt with my father, blood pooled around him in the white, cold snow, I was visited by the Spirit of God and passages of His Bible… all written to bring to fruition the blood-soaked robes of Christ for the salvation, the propitiation of the sins of the world. Hell and heaven met that night and radically transformed my heart.
The sacred, miraculous, and hellish time with God and dad reminded me once again how my sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb.
And I was reminded of how much The Trinity desires you and I… all mankind who would believe… spend eternal life with Him, Father, Son, Holy Spirit as well as the way we respond to the unavoidable trials of life will SHAPE US FOR TIME AND ETERNITY. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Where exactly is your heart “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8)?
Amen. And Amen.
Respectfully speaking, Beloved of God, just because far too many leaders, standing behind podiums in the church today, do not have the heart for preaching and teaching on HELL, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist… (Ezekiel 13:10). It’s just another sample of hell come to earth in our day (John 15:22-23). I pray the church’s leadership will take into account the WHOLE counsel of God found in the Bible (Acts 20:27).
May your celebration of Jesus Christ be spread SO FAR abroad in your heart that it overflows to others 24/7/365!