You might consider it a little strange that during the Christmas season my mind turns to Christ's death and resurrection. It's not that I don't enjoy the Christmas season; quite to the contrary, I love to hear the nativity story and sing and hear the familiar traditional carols. However, I can't help thinking about his death, at this time of year when we celebrate his birth. I think that it is that without the cross, Bethlehem would have been meaningless and conversely the cross would not have been possible had Jesus not been born in Bethlehem. It all ties together. So not only is it appropriate to consider the cross at Christmas time, but it is absolutely essential to understanding the plans and purposes of God for the world in general and for us as individuals.
With this in mind my text is one of my favorite verses for this season. It is a verse that focuses on the big picture and explains to us the reason Christ came, humbling himself in taking on the likeness and appearance of mankind. Our text is found in 1 John 3:8.
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
Apart from some atheists and certain ACLU activists most Americans are not offended by the thought of Christmas, nor are they against nativity scenes. I suppose that most people, even those who are not committed in faith, look at the manger scene with a sense of nostalgia and affection. After all, what reasonable person would be against a baby who was born in difficult circumstances, far away from home? Maybe you are wondering why I would select as my text, for a Christmas message, a verse that speaks of Jesus destroying the devil's work.
In some ways I believe that it is strange the way we celebrate Christmas, which is after all, the commemoration of Christ's birth. When most of us celebrate our birthdays, our family and friends do not pull out our baby pictures and then pass them around, commenting on how cute, or not, we were as a baby. Quite to the contrary, when we are young, we will hear comments about how much we are growing up. Or how much taller we are since our last birthday. And then as we get a little older, the comments change and get a little more difficult to hear. There is a little more gray and a few more wrinkles. The point is, our birthday celebration is about who we are in the present and not about remembering the way we looked in diapers.
I think in many ways, the reason that we celebrate Christ's birthday by remembering him as a babe in a manger is that it is less threatening for many people. Jesus is no longer a babe in a manger, but rather he is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and he came to Earth for a purpose. And according to our text of that purpose was to destroy the works of the devil.
What is the devil’s work?
In order for us to have a full appreciation of Christ's purpose here on earth, we must first remind ourselves about the devil's work.
First of all, Satan has been deceiving and scheming against God and God's people since the beginning of time. Beginning in Genesis, when he deceived Adam and Eve by enticing them to eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden, to his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and his plan to put an end to God's plan of redemption by crucifying Christ on the cross, until this present day as he tries to deceive us into not following the Lord with everything that we have. Satan is a liar, who has been scheming to thwart God's plan and take captive as many people as possible in order to rob them of the great and precious promises available to us through Christ.
We are told, and encouraged time and time again to be alert and watchful and to guard against being deceived. Listen to what Paul says to the Corinthian's about the consequences of unforgiveness.
After all, we don’t want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we’re not oblivious to his sly ways! 2 Corinthians 2:11 (The Message)
Satan employs many allies in his effort to deceive God's people. But please do not be mistaken. They are slick and offer just enough truth to be extremely dangerous. In the same way that it can be very difficult to detect counterfeit currency, it can also be very difficult to detect the Devil's counterfeiters. Read how Paul warns the Corinthians.
They’re a sorry bunch—pseudo-apostles, lying preachers, crooked workers—posing as Christ’s agents but sham to the core. And no wonder! Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light. So it shouldn’t surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God. But they’re not getting by with anything. They’ll pay for it in the end. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (The Message)
The purpose of Satan's deceiving and scheming is simple; his doom is sealed, but he wants to take as many with him as he possibly can. Deceiving and scheming is merely a prelude to Satan's ultimate desire, which is slavery and death. As Satan goes about deceiving and scheming, he very carefully masks his intentions. He promises excitement and every sort of pleasure, but he delivers slavery and death.
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (NIV)
As I said earlier, Satan enlists allies in his effort against us and one of the most powerful allies that he has, is our own flesh, which is our own nature with its desires and ambitions. Paul illustrates this to the Romans.
Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. Romans 6:19-21 (NLT)
Why Did Jesus Come?
According to the Bible, there are many reasons why Christ came to earth. He came to fulfill the law and not to destroy it. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He did not come to be served, but rather to serve and in John 6:38. It tells us that he came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but to do the will of him who sent him. I want to focus on five reasons why Christ came, as they relate specifically to destroying the devil's work.
He came to die
First and foremost, I believe that it was his purpose to come and be born, so that he might die in order to pay the price to cover our sins and restore Fellowship and relationship between God and mankind. As I said earlier, at Christmas time, I cannot help but think of the fact that that little boy in the manger in Bethlehem came to die for my sins. And as I have said before, this was not God's reaction and response to a sinful world that caught him by surprise, but rather the Scriptures tell us, "that Christ was slain from the foundations of the earth." God's justice demands a perfect sacrifice, and not only that, it must be a sacrifice of flesh and blood, just like we are. Jesus came to die so that we might live. Read how the writer of Hebrews explained the necessity of Christ's death and destroying the work of the devil.
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 (The Message)
I hope you can see with me, why I believe that it was absolutely essential for you and me that this little baby had to be born in Bethlehem and grow up and live a perfect life without sin and then voluntarily surrender his own life, laying it down so that we might live. Until Christ died on the cross, every human being was without hope, beginning with Adam and Eve. Animal sacrifices were not sufficient. They only served as a shadow example of the only way that we could be released from the penalty and consequences of our sin. It was in dying, that Christ gained the victory over death and sin. Look at these words to the Colossians.
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT)
You see from the time Jesus was born, Satan was on a mission to destroy him. When one Jesus was born, Satan provoked Herod to murder all of the male children under the age of two in the region of Bethlehem. When Jesus began his ministry with a fast of 40 days in the wilderness, Satan attempted to derail him by tempting him with power, possessions and flattery. And then when Satan thought he had gained the victory by having Jesus crucified on the cross in an instant he understood his defeat. When Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "It is finished." It was at this point, that Satan's doom was sealed.
Jesus fulfilled his purpose of destroying the devil's work by voluntarily allowing himself to be crucified on a cross so that we might have life with him.
He came bring us light
Secondly, he came to bring us light and illuminate our understanding and knowledge of God. This illumination provides us with a greater understanding of God's nature, and his plans and purposes for us. When Jesus came, he illuminated the darkness and mankind's understanding of God increased exponentially. After the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden sin destroyed the relationship between God and man. Through the ages God revealed more and more of himself to Abraham, Moses and David, among others. Progressively, each succeeding generation understood more of God's character and nature. However, when Jesus came and it was though someone had turned on the light and there was a fresh understanding of the relationship that God desired between himself and us. Paul put it this way to the Corinthians.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)
Now see what John said in his gospel regarding the impact of the light that shines brightly, when Jesus came into the world.
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out. John 1:4-5 (The Message)
He came to rescue and save
The third reason that Jesus came was to rescue and save us. In Luke 19:10 Jesus says, "for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
And the thing that is so amazing about that is that we didn't even know that we were lost. We were blissfully ignorant of our condition, we were not looking for God, but he was seeking to save us. The greatest transaction and transformation that can possibly happen to us happened when our eyes were opened and our hearts changed when we accepted Christ's offer of salvation to us. A tremendous Scripture is found in Colossians chapter 1.
For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT)
When these verses truly get a hold of us we will understand that what took place when we were born again is a more dramatic transformation and transaction that will occur when we die. Death is a mystery, but we are assured that to be absent from the body is to be present with God, but when we accepted the gift of salvation. We have been set free from captivity and enslavement to sin and Satan.
He came to give us abundant life
The fourth reason he came was to give us an abundant life. Satan and the world promise excitement, fame and fortune but ultimately deliver sorrow and death. Jesus not only gives us the promise of eternal life, but we can have the expectation of a satisfying and fulfilling life here on earth. Jesus contrasted his purpose with that of the enemy in John 10:10.
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10 (NLT)
Death originally came into the world because of one man's sin, but Jesus came to correct all of that.
If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! Romans 5:17-18 (The Message)
Jesus will give us a life that is far more than just getting by. Another reason for coming is to give us an abundant life.
He Came to Show Us the Love of God
Finally, chief and foremost among the reasons that Jesus came to us was the love of God. Almost everyone knows what it says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not die but have eternal life." He was motivated by love for you and me.
At this Christmas season let us ponder once again the reasons why Jesus came. He came to destroy the devil's work, and he did that by offering himself as a substitute for a debt we could not pay. He came to this earth to die so that we might have life. He came to bring us light so that we would not walk in darkness, but rather our understanding of ourselves and of God would be illuminated so that we can understand his great love for us. He came to rescue and save us and to facilitate the transaction that liberated us from the bondage of sin. And he came to give us life that is rich and fulfilling and full of purpose and meaning.