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Unwrapping the Theology of Christmas

The word theology simply means the science of God. Understanding theology isn’t always easy, but to grasp the true meaning of Christmas you have to make one presupposition. Since Old Testament prophets write about the coming of a Messiah, human beings need to acknowledge their need for a Savior. The presupposition individuals must make is that you can’t save yourself. Without this realization, Christmas is just another holiday as a Savior is not sought out.

As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. 11 No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! – Romans 3:10-12

In the passage above, the apostle Paul drives this point home to members of the church at Rome. Referencing an Old Testament prophet, Paul explains that no one is perfect. No matter how highly you may regard yourself, every day, week, month and year people stray from God’s law. Regardless of what disciplines, focus and safeguards are put into place, sooner or later you will break, cut corners or deviate from commands in the Bible.

For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23.

The best way I know to unwrap the theology of Christmas is through an illustration I learned from Evangelism Explosion. The passage above is part of a diagram using the Grand Canyon. Human beings are on one side of the canyon and God is on the other side. However, Jesus is offered as a free gift, dying on a cross to save mankind from sin. Those who accept the gift of eternal life through a personal relationship with God have access to cross this canyon by faith. This invisible bridge is in the shape of a cross. The moment Jesus was born, salvation and eternal life was made possible, 1 John 5:13. May these words sink in as Christmas Day approaches.

by Jay Mankus

On or Off?

When you enter a room at night, it’s pretty obvious whether or not a light switch has been turned on.  When I drive home in the dark from work at 4:30 in the morning, other cars and streets lights point me in the right direction.  Yet, as the sun rises, open windows may provide as much light as a ceiling fan or lamp.  Determining if a light switch has been turned on or off during the day is not as clear as the sun replaces man made lights.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on by people [when the walkways are wet and slippery], Matthew 5:13.

This same concept applies to faith.  On Sunday’s, turning on Jesus is natural as believers enter their local house of God.  Yet, after this service is over or as a hectic work week begins, turning off my faith has become a common occurrence.  The light of others has blinded me from my own lame state, stuck in a casual faith, turning it on and off when I want.  Whether I like it or not, I have enabled my sinful nature to block, interfere and stunt my own spiritual growth.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

This on and off analogy came to me last night during an interaction with a co-worker.  While getting a cup of ice water, I glanced up at the score of the Little League World Series game that was on in our break room.  As I turned to leave, an associate approached with a condensed gospel presentation.  After his two minute spiel, I told him I am already a believer, briefly sharing about my writing ministry.  Yet, as I went back to work, this encounter consumed my soul with conviction.  It’s time that I stop turning on and off my faith.  Instead, I need keep the light of Christ in the on position so I don’t blend in or disappear in the dark.

by Jay Mankus

Knowing, Believing and Claiming

To promote higher forms of thinking in education, Dr. Benjamin Bloom introduced six learning domains in 1956.  Each domain serves as a building block, applying knowledge one level at a time.  Today, Bloom’s Taxonomy uses remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating to ensure that words spoken in classrooms don’t fall upon deaf ears.  On the spiritual side of knowledge, D. James Kennedy developed Evangelism Explosion in the 1970’s so that individuals introduced to the Bible would go beyond just knowing.  One of the terms Kennedy crafted within training materials is mere intellectual assent.  This theological saying refers to people who knows something to be true within their minds but doesn’t act upon this information.  According to the brother of Jesus, faith without deeds is dead, resulting in a shallow foundation, susceptible to being completely uprooted by schemes of the Devil.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder, James 1:19.

Belief is based upon awareness to something that makes sense or convincing evidence which gives credence to what you thought to be true.  The closer one gets toward the truth, doubt slowly disappears.  However, if the source for what you believe contains contradictions, inconsistencies and misleading statements, faith will be stunted.  Jesus’ earthly brother James brings up a valid point when considering belief in the passage above.  Merely believing in God doesn’t make you special as even demons, servants of the Devil acknowledge this fact.  Thus, if you regularly attend church, give a monthly tithe and strive to do good works, this is a good start but not the top of the mountain.  The author of one New Testament book dedicates an entire chapter, Hebrews 11 to illustrate what genuine belief looks like, faith in action.

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it, John 14:10-14.

If Benjamin Bloom were to create spiritual learning domains today, knowing, believing and claiming would suffice for the initial three stages.  Early in the first century the illiteracy rate was high, forcing the uneducated to rely on hearing rather than reading.  Romans 10:17 reveals that churches gathered together in homes, synagogues or down by a river to publicly read out loud parts of the Old Testament and available letters written by apostles.  Meanwhile, James 1:22-27 encourages individuals to become doers of the Word, practicing belief.  Sensing religion is worthless without applying what you believe, James urges his audience to care for orphans and widows.  The final level of faith is introduced by Jesus in the passage above.  If you know and believe, claiming God’s promises is the next logical step.  This spiritual exercise is accomplished through praying over passages of the Bible.  Depending upon what you are dealing with, modern technology can give you a verse in seconds with a click of a mouse, providing a powerful weapon.  Those who mature from knowing to believing and onto claiming may begin to experience untapped potential, taking Jesus at his word to bless those who believe.  I pray that these words inspire you to take your faith to the next level by claiming God’s promises in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

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