Christmas: Religious But Lost
Here is a sobering thought from the Christmas story—there were a group of very good, and very religious people in Christ's day—which missed Heaven by only 18 inches.
Can you imagine how horrible it would be to miss eternal life with God in the place He is making for us, and instead spend eternity in the blackness of darkness, suffering the searing pain of eternal fire?
Today as we turn to Matthew 2:1-6, we are asking the sobering question, “How close can someone get to Christ, and His gift of salvation, and not be saved?”
God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to save lost people from their sins. But, the saddest story of Christmas is how those closest to God's Word, God’s Worship, and Christ's birth—completely missed that first Christmas; and that tragedy has continued to this day. You can be so close and yet so far away! They were:
Immersed, Exposed, and Yet Lost
Matthew 2 and Luke 1 introduce us the chief priests and scribes. The most religious people of Christ's day had a schedule that daily immersed them in the Scriptures, exposed to endless hours of handling of all that God had left to point to Him and His salvation. But they were lost: God was only near in their mouths—but not in their hearts.
Missing Jesus and His salvation is seen most vividly in the story of Christmas. In both Luke and Matthew’s record we find that you can grow up living in the very shadow of God’s Temple; and hear God's Word read, sung, and explained every day of your life; and personally have met the Wise men themselves; and even know God's Word well enough to personally explain the Old Testament to them—and still miss everything. God was not inside their hearts and minds.
Christmas is a time to remember that Jesus came to save us from sin and live within us. Beware of getting so close to Christ in every way—but in your heart. Beware of being acquainted with Christ but never knowing Him, as we meet those:
ONLY ACQUAINTED WITH GOD
So who were these students of God's Word that were as close as anyone could be and yet missed Christ's coming, and Christ's gift of salvation? They were the Chief Priests and Scribes. They were perhaps the group of individuals more acquainted with God than nearly any other people who ever lived. Think of what these men had:
- They lived in the presence of God as He accepted the offerings and sacrifices all day long at His Temple: which is kind of like growing up in a godly home.
- They saw all day long the symbols and pictures of salvation in the substitutionary deaths of countless animals offered in atoning sacrifices to God: which is kind of like going to regular celebrations of the Lord’s Supper at church.
- They held the Holy revelation of God's Word in their hands as they read; and in their minds as they quoted the sacred commands of God each day: which is kind of like having several personal copies of the Bible.
- They sang each day from the Scriptures in public and private worship: which is kind of like listening to good Christ honoring music on a regular basis.
- They recited, memorized, and discussed the Word of the Lord from their earliest days—and often knew many chapters by heart: which is kind of like growing up in Sunday School, youth group, Awana, Word of Life, and with Christian Schooling.
Yet all that exposure to God ended up only in their heads, not in their hearts.
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