|This article is printed by permission of Rev. David Scudder. Rev. Scudder has served as senior pastor of Bethel Chapel Church at 4100 K St. in Philadelphia since 1992. His blog is printed weekly in the Juniata News, a local paper in Philadelphia. www.BethelChapelChurch.com
I thought that Christmas is supposed to be a time of good news, but wow, we sure have been flooded with bad news lately, haven’t we? Ebola, police shootings, the beheading of Christian children by ISIS in the Middle East, inflation, rising health care costs, almost daily reports of huge identity thefts, and I could go on. Just listing those things makes me depressed.
What is even more depressing is that we probably only hear a small fraction of the bad news. That makes me wonder what God thinks when He looks down on us. Actually, though, I guess I don’t have to wonder. God has already told us. God said that humans “do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (Psalm 82:5).
There is no doubt about it. We live in a broken world. As we look at all the bad news, though, there are at least two lies you and I must be careful to avoid.
Here is the first lie: “I’m not one of the bad guys.” It’s easy to look at all the hurtful and hateful things that other people do and then secretly feel a little superior. We convince ourselves that we are not part of the problem. Is that actually true, though? Some people certainly do much worse things than others, but how does God feel about our “respectable” sins.
“…there is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:1b–3). Wow! Could it possibly be true that “there is no one who does good”?
The answer depends on the definition of “good.” The Bible explains that, left to ourselves, we can’t do anything to measure up to God’s holy standards. Even when we do what we think is good, our intentions are not always pure. Overall, we tend to be self-focused instead of God-focused. Jesus “died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). If we aren’t living our lives focused on Christ, we’re still part of the problem.
Here is a second lie we tend to believe: “We just need to do a better job of controlling people’s behavior.” Our thinking goes something like this: What we need is a better justice system with swifter punishment, more police, politicians that aren’t corrupt, or something along that line. There is some truth in both lies, but the Bible NEVER says that we just need more self-control or bigger police forces.
Not one time does the Bible propose more laws as the solution to our broken world. It should be obvious that more laws and stricter punishments won’t really solve the problem. Remember that our government is passing more laws all the time. How has that helped?
Here is the key to our trouble. The heart of our problem is our heart. The sad truth is that we have been born with hearts that are terminally ill.“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus could not have made it any clearer: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21–22).
What will solve our heart problem? I’m glad you asked.
What we all need is a radical change of heart and only God can do that. You could think of it as needing a spiritual heart transplant. No one can perform that kind of surgery except God. The good news is that God is willing to do that when we are tired of our sinful ways. God promises to “give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
If you turn to Christ, you can celebrate this Christmas with a new and joyful heart. With King David you can say, “I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). If you have any questions or would like some assistance in doing this, feel free to use the information at the top of this article to contact me. Turning to Christ is the only way to have a genuine, authentic, Merry Christmas!