The Christian way of salvation—the way of the manger—lacks the luster that appeals to man’s fleshly, worldly appetite. But the cost of humility is minimal compared to the hidden treasures His life brings into yours.
- Unlike Christmas gifts under your tree, peace cannot be purchased with dollars; it comes only in Jesus
- Deliverance from years of bondage is found only in Him
- Joy beyond measure comes only in knowing Jesus and inviting Him to live in you
- And security is possible only in trusting the One who holds the future in His hands
Count on this: Jesus will never take anything away from you unless He offers you something much better in its place. He will never ask you to make changes or sacrifices, or endure hardship of any kind, unless He’s prepared to reward your humility.
That’s why there was no room for Jesus at the inn. By choosing to be born in a stable—when He deserved the very best accommodations known to man—Jesus showed us the way of humility, the path to salvation and all the treasures in Christ. That’s the true meaning of Christmas.
TO WARN US ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL DANGERS ON PLANET EARTH. Do you see the irony? There was no room at the inn; and yet there is room in this world for every conceivable form of sin.
- In our universities, there is room for the pride of man’s theories, however far-fetched they may be
- In the halls of government, there is room for greedy programs and self-aggrandizement
- In financial markets, there is ample room for conniving, and the lustful pursuit of wealth
- In the great temples of religion, there is abundant room for hollow, ceremonial display
- And, in most people’s lives, there is always room for self-gratification
But, when the Son of God appears to save men and women from themselves—when He comes with the plan of heaven for their lives—there is never any room.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11).
Common Substitutes for the Heart
Are you expecting Jesus in this season? Is there room in your heart for Him? You may think you’ve made a place for Him there, but take a second look—just to be sure. Sometimes, without even knowing it, we offer Jesus everything but our hearts. Let me suggest three common substitutes.
BEAUTIFUL CHURCH BUILDINGS. Throughout history, men have tried building a stately material temple in place of the inner sanctuary God seeks in us. But, no matter how much we spend, or how beautiful it is, that temple of stone cannot satisfy God.
RITUALS. We also build rituals in which to house our Lord. We spend countless hours designing reverent and dignified ceremonies for the Lord to inhabit. The more glitter the better, especially when it comes to worship. But, once again, God is not interested in how well we “mouth the truth”, but in how we live the truth. Jesus defined religious hypocrites as those who “say things and do not do them” (Matthew 23:3). “They tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matthew 23:4). Rituals go beyond outward forms of religious ceremony, however. They can also masquerade as “holy safeguards” or boundaries. Jesus was born in a manger so He could identify with man’s suffering. But so often, we refuse to involve ourselves in the lives of others who are hurting. It takes too much time and effort. It’s too costly emotionally. It’s much easier to set limits on what we’re willing to do for Jesus.
CREEDS. Some people build houses for God out of creeds. They’re massive and rock-solid! Every beam and brick is well defined and firmly in place. The entire structure is held in place with a mortar of passion, zeal and devotion. From inside this house of doctrine, passers-by can hear its occupants shouting, “This is what I have built for you, O Lord. I am jealous for the honor of this house. Here is a home fit for a king.” God’s response? “No thanks.”
For What Kind of Home is God Looking?
If impressive church buildings, rituals and creeds aren’t suitable for divine occupation, what is? The answer lies in Isaiah 66:1-2. “Where then is a house you could build for Me?” Jesus asks. “And where is a place that I may rest?...But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my word.”
Do you tremble at God’s Word? Do you willingly seek to obey God regardless of the cost?
Obedience is one of the most painful lessons we must learn as Christians. Obedience is the mark of genuine faith. It demonstrates the depth of your love for God. It speaks of your humility before Him. But, humility is costly and often painful. So to make obedience more comfortable, we water down God’s commands, and reinterpret His Word. Or, alternatively, we obey while it’s painless and convenient, and ignore God’s commands thereafter.
- I know of businessmen who are honest until their integrity costs them sales or profits.
- I know of husbands and wives who appear committed to their marriages until working through their problems demands too much time and energy.
- I know of Christians who are patient and kind until someone rubs them the wrong way.
It’s easy to obey when it doesn’t cost you anything—or you’re rewarded for good behavior! But that’s not the way of the manger. The Lord of Glory seeks the warm inn of an obedient heart, but the world only offers Him a manger of stone. What are you offering Jesus?