The light of the Gospel shines brightest at Christmas

If I had to choose one word for our 2014 year, it would be gospel. For us, this year has been about learning to live in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ—learning that no part of our lives is untouched by this good news. It is the gospel that must shape our marriage, our work, our parenting, our play, our time management, and our very identity. The gospel must be our ultimate hope and satisfaction. It is the gospel–not our work, our achievements, our income, our children—that defines us. The gospel is not just the spring board that launches us into salvation. It is the pool into which we dive and remain.

So what exactly is this gospel? Whether you’ve heard it many times or never before, understanding and dwelling on the gospel of Jesus is a daily necessity for each of us— often a greater necessity than we realize. In the Bible, the Greek word for gospel (translated euangelion) literally means good news. The gospel proclaimed throughout the Scriptures is simply the good news of what God has done through His Son Jesus Christ to reconcile humanity back to Himself. This good news is the whole reason we started celebrating Christmas in the first place. But the reality is, we cannot fully grasp and appreciate good news until we have a proper understanding of the bad news regarding our helplessly hopeless situation. The good news of the gospel is only necessary and gloriously good when shining brightly against the dark and dirty backdrop of our ultimate human problem: Sin.

We like to believe that human beings are born basically good and are later corrupted by the evil that already exists in our world, but the Bible tells a different story. The Bible tells us that, at the core, all human hearts are deceitful and sick with a wickedness that can’t be shaken in our own power (Jeremiah 17:9). When Adam and Eve, our first parents, failed to trust God and instead rebelled against His good rule in disobedience, sin and death entered the world: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all had sinned” (Romans 5:12). From that point on in human history, all men and women have been born with a sinful nature that leads us to break God’s law and defame His glory by committing sinful deeds (Romans 3:23). We are born into this world physically alive but spiritually dead—separated from God and controlled by our sin nature (Ephesians 2:1). Although our Creator God is a perfect, beautiful, loving, gracious, sovereign King; in our sinful state,we want nothing to do with him (Romans 3:10-12). We utterly reject His good rule in our lives in order to govern ourselves according to the corrupted desires of our own hearts (Ephesians 2:3). The result is a broken world filled with evil, sickness, sorrow, tragedy, pain, and, eventually, physical death for all (Romans 6:23). And the worst part is that we are powerless to fix our sin problem. No amount of good deeds can change the deep-rooted condition of our hearts or keep us from committing more sin. Our attempted righteousness is still filthy when held up to God’s perfect righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Even our greatest virtue is faintly tainted by selfish ambition and pride—tainted by hearts that love self more than God.  Because our God is holy, pure and perfectly good, He cannot tolerate evil. It is in conflict with the very essence of His being. Left to ourselves, we are destined for God’s just wrath against sin and bound for an eternity separated from Him in Hell.

The picture is grim and seemingly hopeless, but it is against this dark backdrop that the good news of the gospel breaks in as a bright light of shining hope. The Light was foretold many years before He appeared on the scene to shine fully into a dark world. The prophets proclaimed that God would send a Rescuer who would illuminate and overcome darkness, bringing hope to a sin-oppressed people: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. . . For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. . .(Isa 9:2,6). The promise of this Light-to-come flickered in the hearts of God’s people, igniting a tiny flame of hope. And many years later, that promised Light entered the world fully. On the first Christmas, The Word {Jesus Christ} became flesh and dwelt among us. . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:14, 4, 9). God sent His own Son from Heaven to Earth to shine light into a dark world and also to shine light into our darkened hearts: For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus came to earth to shine His light on our ultimate problem: sin-darkened hearts. And He came to illuminate the truth that He alone is the solution to our problem. Only Jesus can transform sinful hearts and make them clean and right before God. Only Jesus can bridge the separation between God and man.

Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live–a perfect sinless life. He met all of God’s requirements perfectly. Despite His perfection, He died a death that we deserved to die when he served as our substitute and bore God’s wrath against sin in His own body on the cross. He didn’t stay dead, however, but rose from the grave to overcome sin, darkness, and death once and for all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). One day, Jesus is coming back to judge evil once and for all and to make all things new and right in our world.

During this season when I enjoy the beauty of tiny white lights illuminating the dark boughs of our Christmas tree, I am reminded of the true Light that shone into a dark world on that first Christmas night. As I watch lights twinkling from bushes, trees, and porches against the blackness of a night sky, I am so thankful for Jesus who shone His light into my own darkened, powerless heart—forgiving and transforming me. Christmas intensifies my longing for those blinded by the darkness of sin to have the eyes of their hearts illuminated by the light of Christ. God’s Word promises that when we repent or turn away from sin and the desire to rule our own lives and trust only in the good news of what Jesus has done to give us clean hearts, we will be saved and made right before God (Mark 1:15). It is the gospel that is that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), and it is the gospel that is the power of God for daily living. God, through Jesus, has provided the remedy for my ultimate problem and made me His child, bound for eternity with Him. That changes everything in my life. Jesus, the true Light of the World, offers hope for today and for eternity if we will only trust in Him. May the light of the gospel shine brightly in your hearts and from your homes this Christmas. 

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