Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

How Christmas Isn’t Just about a Savior Jesus came not only to save us from hell, but make us holy as well

Two thousand years ago, when shepherds came and bowed down to a newborn baby boy in Bethlehem, they weren’t bowing to merely a savior; they were bowing to a new way of life.

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Christmas has become the time of year we celebrate Jesus, remembering His miraculous birth. But if we’re not careful, Jesus gets relegated to just a savior. He saves us from hell, from eternal damnation.

Because of Jesus, we have hope beyond this life, right? We will live with God in Heaven, forever! And that is certainly something worth celebrating!

But it’s not the whole story. Jesus didn’t come just to save us from hell. He didn’t come only to die and take our place in judgment. Jesus came to live a life in perfect harmony with the Father so that once He died and rose again, transferring us from darkness to life, we can live that life, too.

Jesus came to earth to make us holy.

 

If you’re like me, the word holy causes your back to bristle. I don’t really know why. The best answer I have for that is it seems many people who push holy living or emphasize the holiness of God lose touch with God’s heart of love and mercy. Hearing about a holy God makes me think of someone austere and distant—disconnected from me and my world, but looking at me with expectation. And when I think of holy living, I feel a tremendous sense of failure and inability to live up to the expectations placed on me.

But it’s hard to read the Bible and ignore the reality that God is holy. It’s also difficult to read the New Testament and get around all the exhortations to live a holy life. Is Christianity as brutal and strict as holiness implies?

I think what is wrong isn’t so much that Christianity points to a holy God and demands holy living, but that we have misunderstood holiness and how we become holy. We have too often tried to define a holy lifestyle and get people to live it without coming back to the foundation for Christian holiness in the first place.

That’s where Christmas comes in.

 

Or more specifically, the life of Christ.

You see, if Jesus came only to die and be our penalty for sin, He could have come as a grown man—if man at all. He would not have had to take the time growing up, and certainly wouldn’t have needed to spend three years in ministry.

But Jesus didn’t come just to be our penalty for sin. Christmas isn’t just about a savior. Isn’t not about his death and resurrection.

It’s about His life. Jesus came to live, so we could, as well.

We should celebrate Christmas not only because of eternal hope; but because of new life, right now.

 

Paul tells us in Colossians that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven. (Col. 1:18-19)

We were dead in our sin. All of us are dead as we walk in sin. (Eph. 2:1, Ro. 3:23) Nothing on earth was alive before Christ was born. Not in the way God had designed His creation to have life. So, God Almighty came down to live with His creation. He came to restore it to what He intended it to be all along.

Jesus, the firstborn from the dead. That means there are others to follow that would no longer be dead.

Jesus is, then, the hope of this earth, the joy of Heaven.

 

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. . .so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4-7)

Because of Jesus we are made alive. And, certainly, this new life comes through His death and resurrection. But this new life is exemplified to us through His life on earth, from His birth in Bethlehem to His death on Golgotha.

Paul tells us husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church. He loved the church by giving Himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27)

If the only part of the Gospel we celebrate is that one day we will live with God in Heaven, we are missing half the Gospel.

 

The great mystery of the Gospel is that today you and I can walk in a new life. God has placed His Spirit in us. (Ez. 36:26) He has made His home in our hearts.

Christmas, then, is all about the ability to walk in victory today. It’s about the freedom we have to not live according to the wisdom and patterns of this world. The birth of Christ is the beginnings of our own birth into a Heavenly Kingdom. We who believe on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, who have repented and turned away from sin, can now walk against the grain of this world.

Some of us are coming into this Christmas defeated. Most of us are, in one form or another, flirting with things of this world. We are trying to enjoy the pleasures of this life and experience the reality of Heaven all at the same time.

What we don’t realize is that when Jesus said no man can serve two masters He was telling the truth:

Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.

 

While I believe many well-intentioned Christians have misrepresented holiness and how we live a holy life, to be honest, I’m beginning to wonder if our reaction to the idea of holiness doesn’t come more from despise God because we have become so devoted to the master of this world.

Oh, we love God: our idea of God. But when it comes to the reality of new life—letting go of bitterness, jealousy, anger, lust, health, or wealth—we get uncomfortable.

Are you walking in moral freedom? Or are there things you do, thoughts you think, in private that you’d be ashamed to tell your wife?

When someone shows their flaws, do you get impatient, judgmental, or angry?

When was the last time you gave one of your extra sweaters to someone who didn’t have any?

Most of us are so caught up in making our own ends meet, consumed with our own lives and pleasures, we’ve become blind to the ways we could help those who have nothing.

 

But I wonder, do we even want to help? Do our values mirror Matthew five, six, and seven? Or do they mirror the values of this world?

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. 

The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Is. 62:1-5)

Through Jesus Christ, God has sanctified His people so that their righteousness may go forth as brightness and all the nations see.

Is your righteousness going forth as brightness? Are people around you praising God because of the new life they see in you?

 

Or have you become blended into the mural of those around you?

The reason we may get a feeling of failure when we think of holy living is because we, indeed, cannot be holy without Christ. We cannot work ourselves into holiness.

We are holy because of Christ. He works righteousness in us. (Ro. 8:3-4) But if we continue to live according to our flesh, we obviously have little, if any, confidence that Christ actually sanctifies us as we follow Him.

Stop living according to the emotional and psychological patterns of this world. Set your eyes, your mind, your heart completely on Jesus Christ. He will give grace and work His sanctification in you and make you wholly His.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving pow’r,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

(Hark! the Herold Angeles Sing – Charles Wesley)

Do you experience the reality of Christ in your life every day? Tell us, if you wish, how that looks. You can do so in the comments blow.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Wendell Martin

    Wow! thanks for the inspiring article! Thank you, Jesus, for becoming flesh and proving to us who are in the flesh that we can really become sons of God!