Links Daily Devotional

Uncomplicating Christmas

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17, NIV)

I was playing recently with one of the best players at our club. In his fifties now, he told me that he had never in his life had a swing lesson and was thinking about going to see somebody. I was first amazed that he could become a scratch player without any golf instruction, but then I began to wonder why in the world he would consider it now. Last year he qualified for a big national tournament for the first time, and I think he felt like he needed to go more in-depth to get better to play at this new level. He was about to make the same mistake that we have seen many professional players do: overcomplicate his golf game and risk losing what he originally fell in love with.

As much as we complicate the game of golf, we complicate Christianity all the more. We refuse to keep it simple. We are obviously familiar with the “world famous Bible verse,” John 3:16. But do we really accept it?

I would argue that very few of us, including me, truly and fully receive God’s beautiful gift of Jesus. For some reason, we “accept” Jesus, but then put the remainder of the responsibility of our salvation and right-standing with God on us. We even lay the burden on friends and family. We complicate the gift that God gave us and look to establish rules, practices, and rituals that we believe put us on an even better platform before our Creator (or at least in the eyes of those around us.) Because of that we—both in the body of Christ and against those outside the faith—argue over so many things that reach beyond the “Good News” of Jesus, God’s one and only Son: that whoever “believes in” Him will have eternal life.

I recently learned that when John wrote this passage of Scripture, he used a phrase never seen in any Greek writing prior to his gospel. Instead of using the normal preposition for the word “in” following the verb “believes,” he used the preposition “into.” These were Jesus’ own words John was quoting! The Lord wanted us not just to “believe in” Him intellectually and then add religious actions; rather, we must “move into” or “place all of our weight and trust” into Him. That’s it!

Often, we hear John 3:16 and appreciate the gift God gave, but then fail to fully receive it. So we add to it our cultural or religious belief system because we are afraid God’s greatest gift to us is not good enough. Then out of our own insecurities, we try to bind others to our man-created system of rules. It’s no wonder that our society is growing in its rejection of Christmas. We often demote the significance of Jesus coming into the world as a gift to everybody by making Him the founder of a criteria-based movement with hoops and hurdles.

I hope that this year we all will be reminded that Christmas does not signify the foundation of a complex religion we believe to be best—not when it is about a gift that God said was Good News for everybody. Remember, John 3:16 is followed by this: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” In other words, it’s not conditional or complicated. It doesn’t expire, and it doesn’t require additional acts or registration of the warranty. Let’s do our best to uncomplicate Christmas this year and celebrate our Heavenly Father’s loving gift to us by simply “believing into” Him and receiving His love just as we would receive a gift from our closest family member.

Josh Nelson

December 21, 2011

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The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday through Friday and is archived by passage and topic at www.linksplayers.com.