“May it never be that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14
Last weekend I heard of a term that I had not been familiar with: “Chrislam”. It is a philosophical goulash of Christianity and Islam that originated in Nigeria in the 1980’s. If you “google” the term you will see that some have described it as a syncretistic blend of the two world religions, a term that implies an attempt to merge incompatible beliefs. Another way of putting this is to say that Christianity and Islam are oil and water; it would be foolhardy to try and combine them. But, as I‘m sure you have heard, nothing is foolproof to the sufficiently enterprising fool! It’s what I call, “Man’s Plans”: messing with God’s salvation so that we can take some credit for it. Though there are similarities between Islam and Christianity, at the core their teachings are mutually contradictory. For example, the Q’uran teaches that Jesus is a prophet and did not die on the cross. Whereas, the Bible teaches clearly that Jesus is the Only Son of God (John 1:1-4,14), who died on the cross for the salvation of the world (Matt 1:21; 20:17-19), who rose again on the third day (Luke 24:36-43) and commanded His followers to proclaim His Gospel (Mark 16:15-18) that all who believe in Him would inherit eternal life (John 3:16).
As we look at the New Testament it’s clear that the first Apostles were proclaiming a revealed faith; that is, it was God’s idea, not humanity’s. The only part that we played was our neediness. Genesis 6:5 contains a triple declaration of the depravity of man just prior to the Flood. As Paul said at Romans 3:23, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s the bad news that made necessary the Good News. The name, Jesus means “The Lord’s Salvation”. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection was God’s salvation of humankind. That’s why Paul could talk of boasting in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was something that God has done, God’s salvation. The only way to possess it was to submit to it, and every day stand under the cross so that the old life of the world is crucified to us and we to the world.
A word/picture of this would be the popular Christmas Carol, “In the Bleak Mid Winter” by Christina Rossetti. The first stanza states the problem of humanity:
“In the bleak mid winter, frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.
In the bleak mid winter, long ago.”
The hardness of the bleak mid winter reflects the hardness of the human heart, wasted by layers of sin and self destruction. Into this sad world comes Jesus Christ. Not just a prophet this time or some holy man, but the Only Son of God. The second stanza continues:
“Our God, heav’n cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain
Heav’n and earth shall flee away, when He comes to reign
In the bleak mid winter, a stable place suffic’d
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.”
What should our response be to God’s salvation? In the last stanza it is beautifully and simply told.
“What can I give Him, poor as I am
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
What can I give Him; give my heart.”
This is the true meaning of Christmas: God’s Son coming into a lost, sinful world and bringing God’s salvation, the cross of Jesus Christ. And surely the only worthy response to God’s amazing love is to give Him our hearts.