The Holiday Season brings about a variety of unique situations. We unite with family and friends to spend a day being intentionally thankful for everything that we have, for everything that has happened the past year, and to enjoy a meal together. The very next day we exert our energies (and finances) to shop at absurd hours in order to get the best deal on stuff. We may be thankful, but we are selfish.
Then we take a break for a few weeks, preparing for our second round of family celebrations. We decorate our houses, we drive ourselves crazy and broke looking for the perfect gift for aunt so-and-so. We get in arguments with people who would greet us saying “Happy Holidays” because they have removed Jesus from Christmas, but yet we never slow down to consider Him in our festivities.
We are almost always disappointed with how the holiday season unfolds. We each have different love languages, and those who need gifts to feel loved are rarely satisfied because the gift giver was not thoughtful enough with the purchase he made, those who need quality time feel overwhelmed by the masses and chaos, those who need words of affirmation get lost in the hubub and it is all but impossible for everyone’s expectations to be met.
Because of the root of almost all of our sin:
Our ego and selfish desires are what naturally drive us until we begin the discipline of the Christian walk. Until we recognize our sinfulness and our deserved damnation, our worldview revolves squarely around what we think, what we want, and what makes us happy. We may learn the art of compromise or mutual respect: giving to others what they want in order to get what we want, but it is always to the end of our personal gratification.
When we meet Jesus, however, we are transformed from the core. In order to enter into a relationship with Jesus, in order to assure our eternity with Him, in order to “be saved”, we must recognize our sinfulness and His provision of forgiveness by paying our debt of death and damnation. You cannot be saved if you do not recognize your sin, understand the wrath of God against that sin, and ask for forgiveness while repenting from it.
The very nature of salvation is humbling. There is nothing that you or I can do to earn merit with God. We simply cannot be good enough. We are not worthy. But He loves us anyway, and offers us salvation in spite of our wickedness.
Thus our pride is consequentially slain.
Salvation means recognizing your guilt and inability, and submitting to Jesus.
The death of our pride will be slow and often painful. Jesus commands us to love our enemies – the same way He loved us while we were His enemies (Matt 5.44, Rom 5.10). It is not easy to love our enemies, to pray for them, to bless them, or to give ourselves to them. It is even more difficult to truly desire in our hearts for them to be saved. We may be able to discipline our actions, but it takes much transformation by the power of God to care for our enemies on a heart level.
Jesus teaches us that the way to learn the discipline is to remember that which you have been forgiven:
“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
– Luke 7.47
The more deeply you understand your own pardon, the more freely you can give it to others and love them. And this is a necessity, not an option. Jesus said,
– Matt 6.14-15
This sounds like a threat, but it is a teaching method of cause and effect much like we use with children. The result of having been forgiven is that we forgive and love others. If we do not forgive and love others, we prove ourselves not to be in Christ, and therefore we have not been forgiven. The result of our salvation is humility and offering love and forgiveness in the manner we have received it. If you do not offer it, you have not received it.
The cross is the most humbling aspect of Christianity. Jesus took the punishment that you and I deserve and paid for it.
The glory of the cross is that it puts us in right standing with God, and we can approach the throne of grace with confidence:
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
– Heb 4.16
Our confidence is not within ourselves, however. It is in Christ and what He did. We cannot draw near to the throne of grace in pride. If anyone thinks He deserves to draw near to the throne of God, He will be greatly disappointed. If anyone would attempt to draw near to the throne and consider another unwelcome, he will receive a terrifying judgment. Because God alone is the judge and if we understand our own guilt, we would never pass condemning judgment on another who would seek to repent and be saved.
In the same manner you have been forgiven and loved by God, you will forgive and love others. The cross is the very symbol of our guilt, and we cannot approach it in pride. It is morally impossible.
Therefore, as we continue to wade our way through the holiday season, let’s take a moment and die to ourselves and turn to Jesus. Are you thankful for His provision for your life which He paid on the cross? Did you stop and thank Him over our weekend of Thankfulness? If not, do so today. As we approach the day which has been set aside to remember His birth, be mindful first of all of the sacrifice He made in simply coming to Earth, and most importantly for paying our debt. And let the measure of your own forgiveness and the love which He has lavished on you be the measure of love you pour out on others.
Put your family and friends before yourself these next few weeks. Does someone else desire and expect gifts? Then love them in that manner. Does someone else long for quality time and good conversation? Then make the time. Is there anyone whom you have not forgiven or against whom you are holding a grudge? Then get over it, for by the same manner you judge you will be judged (Matt 7.2).
Remember Jesus first. Love others second. And let us lay down our pride.