Christmas: It’s the time of year we all live big. Big get-togethers. Big decorations. Big meals. Big expenses. Big fun. Let’s admit it. We like “big.”
The truth is that what what we all want is a “big life.” Ever hear the expression “bigger than life” to describe something that exceeds normal experiences? That’s what we all want. It’s the kind of life we hunger to enjoy. Christmas is a time when a manger reminds us that authentic Big Life comes outside the temporal realm. In fact, the Best Gift of the Christmas season is the Eternal Life who came to embrace us and show us that we are His and He is ours. Don’t miss the point of Christmas. Many do.
Albert Camus once wrote, “Because I longed for eternal life, I went to bed with harlots and drank for nights on end.” Ironically, the very act of sin is a cry to experience a large life. Every person is born with an insatiable thirst for transcendence, the opportunity to experience something that takes us outside ourselves to a place where we are so enthralled that every fiber of our being feels fully alive. We all long to know what it is to experience being one with something bigger than ourselves. We get a little taste of that at Christmas.
The best we can do alone is to manufacture a mundane monotony that we instinctively sense is a pale substitute for the Life we hunger to experience.
The vulnerability is that in an effort to escape the land of Mundane Monotony, we sometimes listen to the sultry sirens that seduce us into sin. We mistakenly believe that there is something out there that can scratch the nagging itch in our souls, only to discover after sinning that we weren’t itching there at all. Apart from divine intervention, a person can spend a lifetime trying to satisfy a yearning that refuses to be squelched by artificial means.
James said that we sin when we are drawn away by our desires. (James 1:14)
Drawn away from what or whom? Temptation is the lure to have our focus be carried away from Jesus Christ. Sin happens when we allow ourselves to turn from Him and to something else in order to try to find life elsewhere.
When we sin we soon discover that it never accomplishes what we really want. Sin can gratify, but never satisfy. It’s like stuffing yourself on Christmas Day when you haven’t had a meal all day. It gives you an instant rush of gratification. You feel suddenly energized and it seems like making the choice to gorge yourself if right . . . for a short time.
Then the rush disappears and as the blood sugar level suddenly and drastically drops after eating, and you find yourself feeling in what could almost be compared to a stupor. You’re left feeling fatigued and remorseful. You know what you’ve done and promise that when the New Year comes, you’ll eat right!
It’s the same with spiritual hunger. Albert Camus acknowledged that he searched for life in harlots and drunkenness. Where do you seek to find Life when you are drawn away from Jesus? What have you been tempted to gorge on and allowed to take His place? It doesn’t have to be something as garish as harlots and drunkenness. It could be something much more respectable to other people than that.
James described the process like this:
“Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:14-17).
It begins when we experience a hunger within us. Often the hunger itself is not inherently wrong but temptation comes when we try to fill the hunger in an inappropriate way. For example, the hunger to experience the deep joy that can only come from Christ may be substituted by seeking the rush that drugs can bring. The desire to be loved, one that our God is more than willing and able to meet, may reach out to be met through an illicit relationship. Many a legitimate need that could readily be met by Jesus Christ can become a temptation when we allow ourselves to be carried away to try to have that need met in another way.
Once we have crossed the line of decision to sin (when lust has conceived), we commit the sin. Like eating a candy bar, there may be an immediate sense of pleasure but it doesn’t last. Sooner or later, we experience the death that always accompanies such a choice.
Sin is always a dead-end in one way or the other.
There is a subtle danger that a legitimate hunger can seek to be met through things that don’t look wrong on the surface. Many people have tried to satisfy their hunger for an intimate relationship with Christ by substituting church work. Have you done that? It’s often easy to know the answer to that question based on this: If I were with you right now and asked you to tell me about your relationship to Jesus Christ, what would you say? Think about it. What would you say to me?
If you would immediately start to tell me about your church and your involvement in church, that should be a red flag. There is a big difference between religious activity and a relationship with Jesus Christ. In the culture of the modern church, it become easy to substitute what we do religiously for who we are in Christ and what we enjoy each day with Him. Our grace walk is not defined by religious activity but by our union with Him. Of course, authentic spiritual service is an overflow on an intimate relationship to God but that’s not the same as religious business that masks as something eternally real.
Whether it is cheap wine or even church work, anything we look to other than Jesus to satisfy our hunger becomes a sin to us. Christ alone will satisfy your hunger. Only He will offer the transcendent pleasure of being fully alive. Don’t be drawn away from Him. He loves you and offers you life to the fullest. Anything else is to eat from the wrong table. At this Christmas season, enjoy the Gift of a Life larger and more fulfilling than anything else can provide!
PS) I’ve recorded a teaching series called “The Gift” that would be particularly appropriate to encourage you during this season. It’s a teaching about who Christ is as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Everlasting Father. I really think you’ll like it. Get it by here.