At Christmastime we love to sing traditional carols about the birth of our Saviour. But is it even possible to have faith in a Saviour when you don’t have the foggiest idea what it is he is saving you from? Go ahead. Call up a random stranger and announce, “Hey! I have good news! There’s a Saviour! You’ve been saved!” I can guarantee the answer: “That’s great! Uhhh… saved from what, exactly?”
I once asked a group of (supposed) Christians to explain the Gospel. One answered, “Oh I love Gospel! It’s that black music, right?” Amazingly, only one could offer any explanation at all: “It’s the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection.” The others were totally at a loss.
I find it disturbing that so few ‘believers’ in the Gospel could even begin to explain it! Few in the younger generation can identify Jesus Christ as the Saviour, and almost none could say what it is that he supposedly saves us from. Although the one who mentioned Christ’s death and resurrection wasn’t wrong, they were only half-right. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost sight of the first half of the Gospel: that we are all hopeless sinners, living out our days here under a death sentence, and destined to burn forever in an eternal hell!
Ouch, right? Who wants to hear that? Well, almost nobody, as it turns out! In fact, people have proven to be so averse to hearing about sin and hell that many preachers have stopped mentioning it altogether. Instead of the Gospel being the Good News of salvation from our sins and the damning consequences of them, we’re now just saved to be more ‘spiritual’ or ‘fulfilled’ or have more "inner peace".
So let me be clear. We don’t belt out ‘Joy To The World’ because we’re so excited about a slightly improved lifestyle! It’s not just because we just love singing the same old songs every year. And it’s not because we’re just pumped about lights and trees and presents! We sing because we have been saved! We have been redeemed. Rescued. Reprieved. Let me make it personal: I was damned. Condemned to an eternity of suffering. I was undeniably guilty and irretrievably doomed. Destined to live out my days with no higher ambition than animal survival, then to die and face the judgement. A worthless wretch with no hope of either happiness or heaven. And there was nothing I could do to change my ways or save myself from the horrible, damning, eternal consequences of my own sins. NOTHING!
Being destined for hell is the default condition of every single human being. Without Christ we are, every single one of us, on death row, locked in a dark prison of sin, with no hope of escape. “He who does not believe, is condemned already…” (John 3:18) Condemned by our innate sinfulness, we are all guilty before the courts of the universe, and already sentenced to eternal damnation. It's not a case of our good deeds outweighing our bad ones. God isn't comparing our good with our bad. If you have sinned even once, you are a sinner. It's not a case of being better or worse than anyone else either. God isn't comparing us to each other. He is comparing us each to Himself! And that is where we fall far, far short. As the Apostle Paul said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." We are hopelessly lost and in very serious trouble. And there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Nothing. Until you fully grasp the horror of your spiritual plight - you can't really understand the unspeakable joy that Christmas is all about.
You see? The news of a Saviour is really only Good News, to those who know they are lost. How can you truly rejoice in a Saviour, if you’re not even aware that you’re in danger? How can you fully appreciate the amazing grace of God if you don’t also understand the terrifying prospect of eternal hell? How can you extoll the glories of redemption if you’ve never felt the slightest conviction of sin, let alone repented of it?
I hope you’re feeling that ‘lostness’ right now. Because I have some good news for you: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”