A Christmas State of Mind

by Levi Lusko

We are going to be in Philippians chapter 2 today, as we talk about this great story, the Christmas story. You know, normally you think about Matthew. You think about Luke. And we will reference a few of those details that we get in those passages. But Philippians has been called the most powerful telling of the Christmas story. And you might not have even realized it was there. But it’s truly what we celebrate at Christmas from the mouth of the Apostle Paul. I’m calling this message Christmas State of Mind. That’s what I hope that we can get out of this, that we will understand that God wants us all to have a Christmas state of mind. Jay-Z told us how to have an Empire state of mind. And we learned from Billy Joel to have a New York state of mind. But Paul is going to tell us we are to have a Christmas state of mind. And the question I want to ask you… I’m going to ask yo

When we talk about a state of mind, we’re talking about your emotional state. We’re talking about your mood. We’re talking about your attitude. That’s really a good synonym for state of mind. When we say we want to have a Christmas state of mind, we’re saying we won’t have a Christmas attitude, a Christmas perspective. What state is your mind in? And depending on what state it’s in, you’ll get different results, right? My kids have this thing they do whenever, we’ll just be walking down the street, and they’ll just punch me and say, Maryland, right? Why? Because of the state that license plate’s from. Punch. I’m always like confused. Like, why? I did not sign up for this. I did not agree to this game. But it’s not a game that ever has a start and a stop. It’s just an ongoing, Florida, punch. All right. They punch me because of the state that plate is in. What state is your emotional life in? What state is your mental life in? What state is your attitude in? That’s the question that I want to ask you. And depending on the different emotional states you could be in, different attitudes you could have, different perspectives that you could find yourself in, you could find very different things.

When you go from state to state geographically, right now especially, everything changes. I mean, you go from Washington to Idaho, which you could just cross the street, and now all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, oh this? Oh, oh this. Oh, I can go into a restaurant. Oh, I can’t go into a restaurant. And as you look at our country, it is very different. There’s divisions. There’s different ways that the governors are handling the pandemic and county health officials are responding. And hospitals and population and all those things drive that. But right now we’re living at a time when you have to know, oh, I’m in this state. This works. I’m in this state. That doesn’t work. Now part of the maturing process is learning that the same thing is true when it comes to your emotional states that depending on what state you find yourself in, what state you’re in, what is your mental state, what is your emotional state, different things will come as a result of that. What state are you in? What state is your life in today?

What I’m really trying to say is, how’s your soul doing? How’s your soul doing today, as we are now in the final few days moving towards this Christmas Eve reminder of Jesus coming? How’s your soul doing in these final days of 2020? Whatever state your life is in today, I believe that God wants to change your state of mind and help you to see life through a lens called Christmas, a lens called Christmas. Philippians, chapter 2. Here’s what Paul says, and literally, the first four words are going to reinforce what I’ve just said and show you what I have just said is true. As Paul says and we see it on the screen, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. Pause right there. Your attention, please. There’s lots of different minds you could have in you. I told our team a few weeks back during a staff talk, we got together, and I just felt like the Lord wanted me to tell them that the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit. That was my only assignment. We talked for an hour on it, but the assignment that God told me was to just say, just remember the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit. 

If you don’t think that’s true, then just drive around town and eventually you’ll find a liquor store, and they sell a whole bunch of different spirits. And you can be full of spirits that will intoxicate you, that will fill you. You can find dispensaries. And depending on what state you’re in, you now have different options to decide what state you’re going to be in, and whether you’re in any state to drive, you’re in any state to make decisions relationally or financially. There’s lots of different states you can be in, lots of different spirits you can be under. And listen to me. There’s lots of different minds that can be in you, lots of different ways of seeing, ways of deciding what you value, what you prioritize. And out of all the myriad ways of looking at life, Paul tells this church at Philippi, here’s what mind you should allow to be in you. He says, “Let this mind be in you”. Here’s how to see the world. He says, “the same mind which was also in Christ Jesus”.

The Christian life is a process of learning to think how Jesus thinks, which is different from how all of us think. So who is this Jesus? And that is how he decides to tell us the Christmas story. Paul says, this mind, which is in Christ Jesus, is the mind of someone who, verse 6, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no refutation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on Earth, and of those under the Earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Do you not find your Half soaring with these things? I realize the word “Bethlehem” wasn’t used. The word “manger” is not to be found. There’s not a shepherd or an angel specifically mentioned, although it says of those above the earth and on the earth and under the earth and those in heaven. So angels are implied there. But even though we’re not specifically introduced to the wise men and Herod doesn’t seem to be doing anything here, what I can assure you is what we have just read is one of the most powerful articulations of the Christmas story to be found anywhere in Scripture. And it has been said that these words amount to some of the most heavenly and majestic and incredible in the entire Bible. And so Father, we ask that you would, in these moments together, breathe on us in a powerful way. Your disciples were afraid. They were scared. They thought their lives were over. But then You appeared. You walked through walls. You walked right into the midst of what they were afraid of. And You breathed on them. And as You did, their eyes were opened. They saw things differently. And the fear was replaced by joy.

So Jesus, would you do it again? Would you take our fears right now and replace them with your joy? Would you cause in our hearts to swell the warmth and the passion and the power of this Christmas story? And we ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen. Inconvenience, disappointment, confusion, and shame. When you think about these words, well, you might be tempted to think that I’m writing the biography of 2020. What a crappy year. Someone had to say it, right? The year has been full of inconvenience, disappointment, lots of confusion, and for some of us, shame because of how we’ve responded, shame because of what’s been surfaced in our hearts by the inconvenience, disappointment, and the confusion, which has led to even more shame. But when I made that list, I even checked it twice, I didn’t write it about 2020. I wrote it about Christmas, that first Christmas. Inconvenience, you want to inconvenience? How about I’m having a baby on behalf of God the Father and I have to go pay taxes? Because nothing screams joy to the world like sorting out your taxes.

Oh, you can’t mail them. You can’t e-file. You have to bring them on foot to the city where you were born, the state that you were born in. So you can’t give them in Galilee if you’re from Jerusalem. Or you can’t give them in Nazareth if you’re from Capernaum. You got a hoof it. Because there ain’t no Uber, baby, right? And so yes, it’s wonderful on the cards and the nativity scenes. But Joseph and his nine-month pregnant wife, dragging her along, I’ve read, commentaries, man. They’re not all created equal. I was reading commentaries this week on Matthew and Philippians and on Luke. And one guy said, O think that God prioritizes rest. Because in the Christmas story, you see rest. Mary and Joseph got to rest on the way to Bethlehem. What? I had to push something over to appropriately articulate my confusion and anger. Having been there for the birth of five tiny human beings, nothing about a trip on a donkey says rest… to pay taxes. Disappointment? Oh, you get to have the baby in a cave. But don’t worry there will be lots of strangers there

So we were, from Genesis 3, planning this birth. That’s the first time we read about Jesus, the snake crusher. God’s brewing this plan, but He couldn’t go to hotels.com and make a reservation. That’s disappointing. The level of precision and planning that went into this thing. And then as they go to the different inns in Bethlehem, no vacancy, no vacancy, no vacancy. All right. I wasn’t thinking Ritz Carlton. But at least the Red Lion of the tribe of Judah hotel or… right. That is a vintage joke. I’ve been using that for years. It’s been getting the same chuckle and polite response. But I’m never going to stop because I wrote it and I thought it was funny. And I’m just going to continue with it, all right? Disappointment inconvenience, confusion.

When this plan is articulated, Mary is told, you’re going to have a baby. And she’s like, that’s great. I’m down for whatever. Problem, I’m a virgin, right? And I don’t know if you know Gabriel, I don’t know if they have sex Ed up there in heaven, but here’s the thing. And God tells her this is not going to be a problem, that what to her is an objection, what to her is an obstacle, actually was a qualification. And I wonder today, as you think about what God’s called you to do, what objections come to mind? And I wonder if you’re aware of the fact that, to God, your objection is, in fact, a qualification. Because He loves to use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

God has a playbook that almost never makes sense when you look at it. You’re like, that doesn’t… nah. Right? And He just smiles. Because as He sort of stacks the deck against Himself, when He does something great through it, He will get all the glory from it. So if He wants to take out a Midianite army that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, surely He will whittle down the army down to 300. Doesn’t make any sense. And if He wants to reach a city in Nineveh that would be part of the greatest revival ever to take place in human history, of course, He’s going to pick somebody who hates Ninevites more than anybody, right? So that’s just how God rolls. He doesn’t think how a man thinks. He doesn’t look at the outward appearance. He looks at the inside. To God, a giant killer looks like a little boy. And so we can easily in our lives miss the very things that He wants to use the most. Because they almost never resemble what the finished product is going to be.

So if God wants to bring a baby into the world, of course, He’s going to look for a virgin. Because it doesn’t make sense. And some of you are even now in your life tempted to check out on the God-given dream. Because as you look at your life, it looks nothing like what God sees inside. But seeds seldom look like the harvests they contain. You just got to plant it. You just got to sew it. You just got to do what Mary did and say, let it be to me according to Your word. Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Because Gabriel unpacks the plan. She’s like, that doesn’t add up. I’m in. That’s what you need to get good at saying if you’re going to follow God and watch Him work in your life. Because a lot of us say, that doesn’t make sense. I’m out. But if we could actually pivot and in that moment say, I don’t understand it cerebrally but tell you what. Spiritually, I’m in. I’m down. I’m yours. Behold the manservant of the Lord. I want your will to come to pass in my life. It’s not great gifts that God is looking for. It’s great willingness, that you’re willing to be a part of Him working through you. How about shame?

When I think about Joseph, I think about the shame he had to carry his entire natural life. I’ve been, this year, really just feeling for Joseph and proud of Joseph and inspired by Joseph. Because, yes, Mary had this sort of glorious assignment. But Joseph had to shoulder and carry a massive amount of shame. And Joseph had to deal with the snickers and deal with the ridicule and the mockery of someone that he was willing to marry, who was pregnant with a baby that was not his. And this beautiful spirit of adoption, I’m willing to love a child that’s not biologically related to me. I love that. And it’s really incredible, if you think about it, the examples that you can think of in your life where a mother or father has chosen to adopt a child and love a child that’s not “theirs” when you talk about 23andMe but is theirs in every other sense of the word. And Joseph was an incredible dad to Jesus while he was on the Earth.

And if you don’t believe me, the thing that got me almost crying today was you’ll actually read, if you look into the story where Jesus got lost in the temple when he was 12, there’s this little detail that says, now Joseph and Mary took Jesus every year to Jerusalem for the Passover. And when you actually look into the way you celebrated Passover in that custom and in that culture, it amounted to a camping trip. And I just got to thinking about how, because we don’t know a lot about Jesus’s early years and his upbringing really. But we do actually when you think about, we know 12 times a year, Mom and Dad took Jesus camping. And it was a camping trip with a purpose. It was a camping trip that pointed to a bigger story. It was a camping trip that pointed to the goodness of a God who allowed a sacrificial lamb to be sent to this world So. That our sins could be covered.

Now Jesus was not only being told about this by Joseph and Mary, pointing to this in his Father. He was also that sacrificial lamb. But I love that Jesus’s entire life, for 12 years in a row, Joseph dutifully not only was present as a father and engaged but took him on these trips, took the time off from work in the carpenter shop and prioritized family time that pointed to Jesus, prioritized vacations, so to speak, believing they were going to really, in this feast, encounter God together as a family. And just that phrase, Joseph yearly took his family and Mary to Jerusalem for this feast of Passover. I just wonder what in the New Year you’re going to prioritize. I just wonder if you’re starting to even now think about what you’re going to choose to do and what’s going to be the most important to you. And I hope as you think it through that the most important thing is that you would say, as for me and my house, we will seek God. Father, Mother, let this be an important thing for your family, gathering together as a church, your children learning about God.

Some families will watch the worship experience in one time and then sit down and be able to focus on the kid’s programming. And I just think it’s so important. And whether it’s a youth small group or being to a Fresh Life group on Zoom, making sure your kids get into it. And we’re working so hard to make sure there’s quality programming from Fresh Life Kids to Fresh Life Students, Fresh Life Leadership College, I’m just telling you something. I’ve looked into the eyes of too many tear-streaked faces of parents of children who say, I don’t believe anymore. And I don’t want anything to do with church or Jesus. And I’m always saying, well, let’s pray. Let’s believe. It’s never over until God says it’s over. But sometimes they say, as I look back, there’s regret. As I look back, I wish I would have done things differently. These things weren’t important to me. These things weren’t a priority to me. And so my encouragement to you is to be like Joseph, who shouldered that shame and the fact that people are like, oh yeah, Mary was sleeping around before you got together. He didn’t care. He let them laugh. He let it just run off him.

People are going to talk. People are going to do what they do. He was a man with a single-minded vision. I got a job to do. I got to raise this boy. God has given every single parent that kind of responsibility, of course, not to raise the Messiah but to believe there is God-given greatness and destiny in the hearts of our children. And we got to raise them in the house. We got to raise them to know God. Come on. Spurgeon used to say, before a child reaches the age of seven, teach them all the way to heaven. And better yet, the work will thrive if it’s done before age five. So have you asked your child, you know, what do they know about Jesus? What questions do they have? And I’m really excited. One of the things I’m most excited for about Christmas this year is when we have the kids in to be able to have an invitation moment. And I’m a little nervous. You know, I don’t often do that. That’s normally done in Fresh Life Kids. But I’m excited for there to be an invitation moment where we invite every person, 80 down to 8, you know, whatever age they would be, would you like to give your life to Jesus Christ?

We always center our gatherings around that moment. We’re going to have one in just a little bit. You be thinking about what you’re going to do if you don’t know Christ. But that’s so important. And Joseph inspires me. A lot of that wasn’t planned for me to say. I just felt it so much. And I feel like God is even right now causing some of you sitting there to go, dang it, that was for me. And next year, there’s going to be some changes I’m going to make to my schedule and to our planning and to how we’re going to arrange things. And God’s not going to get our leftovers, not financially not with time, not with energy. He’s going to get our first fruits. We’re going to seek God first and believe that he’s going to add all these other things unto me. We’re not going to put soccer first. We’re not going to put the bottom line first. We’re going to put the kingdom of God first. Because when we are on our deathbed, we will give anything for the chance to go back and make sure that the priorities are in order. But we have the chance now to let what will be hindsight be our foresight. And so I pray that you don’t miss what the Spirit is saying to you.

Now Paul chose to use these words about the Christmas story in this book of Philippians for a very specific reason. And that reason is this, that oftentimes we miss the full scope of what Christmas is meant to do. Because we think about, at our worst, just as sappy story of a baby. And it’s not as feel-good and all the rest. But if we backed up a bit, we remember that this child was born to die, right? And death is a part of the Christmas story. He was born that men no more may die, born to raise the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth. So this manger he was in would be replaced. An unusual instrument, the manger, it was not meant for a baby. It was not meant for him. It was meant to feed cows in. And the manger, which was an unusual instrument repurposed, would give way to a cross not meant for him, a cross meant for Barabbas, a cross meant for another, a cross meant for a guilty party. Christ died on a borrowed cross just like He was laid in a borrowed feeding trough. And that cross ultimately speaks to our guilt and you and I and the wrong things we’ve done. Christ died on a cross not his own for the sins of another, the sins of Barabbas but the sins of me and the sins of you.

And so yes, I think we know, OK, so Christmas is meant to be a solution for our sin. And that’s an accurate theological way to put it. Paul, in fact, tells us very clearly that He not only died, He died the death of the cross. And that’s powerful. I’ll tell you in a moment why he would use that statement. But I want you to understand there’s more than just rescue from the punishment of sin, which is death and hell. Here’s how I wrote it. Christmas is not just a solution for your sin but also for your selfishness and your sadness and your struggles, too. An that means then that in a year where we feel like we’ve dealt with more than our share of inconveniences and disappointments and confusion and shame that the solution is truly a Christmas state of mind, that we need to look at our year, we need to look at our hardships, we need to look at our pain and to do so through a lens called Christmas.

And that’s why Paul brought this up in Philippians 2. Because in the church of Philippi, which was an amazing church, a church that was doing a lot of great stuff: supporting Paul’s ministry full of joy. So he wrote them in one of the most upbeat letters he ever wrote. It’s positive. It’s encouraging. It’s K-Love, right? No. It’s a very… I can’t say the word “positive” without thinking about, you know, I love K-Love. But he writes this letter. And he’s almost all like, you guys are the best. Keep doing it. You’re fantastic. Way to go. But there is one thing that he knew he needed to correct. And he comes out with it in chapter 4 because he had been told how things were going. And apparently, there was a conflict in the church. Apparently, there was a difficulty and discord in the church. And it was two Christians who were all fighting because they saw things differently. They wanted things differently. And maybe they didn’t like how things were being done or whatever it was. So they were causing a dysfunction in the church. And Paul addresses them like point-blank, man. The guy names names. He goes in verse 2, “I implore Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord”.

So you guys are great. But man, Euodia and Syntyche, y’all need to just get along. And what does he say to them? The solution is to be of the same mind, which is the same phrase he uses in chapter 2, verse 5 when he says, “Let this mind be in you”. What he was saying is, the way you’re looking at life, your attitude, the way you are making decisions is using Euodia’s mind and Syntyche’s mind. And if we do that, when we do that, it’s always going to be friction. It’s always going to be fighting. It’s always going to be, we end up passive aggressive or mercurial or triggered or always waiting to get wounded, hoping to get hurt, noticing what, oh, didn’t do that again. Oh well. Didn’t invite me. And oh, wel, I can’t believe Euodia would do that, Euodia. So he said, and the reason he gave this Christmas telling, was for them and anyone like them in the church to remember we’re supposed to have a mind in us. And it’s the mind of Christ Jesus. That’s the mind we’re to let be in us.

What I’m trying to get you to see is that Christmas is full of conflict. And Christmas causes conflict, right? Some of us are conflicted in this Christmas season because of pain, because of bad things we’ve been through. And this isn’t a happy thing. Or we’re all alone, and we don’t get to be with people we want to be with. Or we are hoping that the decorations and the cookies and the carols will fill an emptiness inside of us. I’ve never noticed so many lights on houses as I have this year. On our street, almost every single house. We were joking. There’s only one house that doesn’t have lights up. We were joking like, do we put some lights on their porch and just with a note that says, you know, come on, get the program a little bit here? But literally this year, it’s like almost everybody. And I get it. We just like, we’re looking, and we’re hoping. But listen to me. Lights can’t fill up any sense of perceived emptiness inside of you. And gingerbread can’t. And all of those things that we would hope would bring warmth will only disappoint. Because they’re going back into the box in just a week and a half or so, or March if you’re like me last year. It’s like, coronavirus. Now I finally can get the lights off the house, right? Can’t go anywhere, so we just finally take the lights down. But that’s a different conversation.

But listen to me carefully. Christmas is not just full of conflict, and not only does it cause conflict, but it’s also the cure for it. In this conflict in the church, Paul chose to give them a great big old dose of “ho ho ho”. And that’s why he told the Christmas story, to help Euodia and Syntyche work out their issues. If they would just have that mind in them, it will work out these other problems. Now it’s always counterintuitive. Because in fights, we tend to double down and think about how we’re right and focus on what they did. Well, I’d do apologize if they would. Well, they did this first. You don’t understand. I realize I’m a little bit of a jerk sometimes. But man, you don’t understand what my family’s like. And you don’t have any idea what I’ve been through. And what he’s saying is that the thing to do is to humble yourself. And he says, if you just humble yourself, it’ll actually work itself out. And again, when using the word “humility,” I have to clear up confusion. Because we have such a wrong connotation. We think, oh, just someone’s just humble. And they just kind of walk around, ah. I’m just so humble.

You know, it’s like, what’s wrong with your mouth? Ah. Like, wait. Why would you talk like that? Yeah. I’m just so humble Oh no. Don’t worry about me. No. That’s not at all humility. One of the best definitions I’ve ever read of humility was from CS Lewis, who said “True humility is evident when a man designs the most beautiful cathedral in the world and knows it as the most beautiful cathedral in the world, but he would be just as pleased if someone else had designed it”. So confident and aware, you can hold your head up high but not self-possessed, not self-obsessed, which is clearly what Euodia and Syntyche and Levi and maybe just maybe you struggle with as well. And Paul says man, it just only going to lead to problems. Why? Well, James put it this way. “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble”. And that is what we read, that Jesus was God of heaven. It wasn’t robbery for Him to think He was equal with God because He was fully God. But He chose to empty Himself. He chose to renounce the privileges that went along with deity. He maintained His identity as God and could not cease to be God, for He always was God, always will be God.

But while He was on the Earth, taking on the appearance of man, He chose to not have the use of any of His divine privileges or the glory that has always been His and to do so by choice. No one took His life from Him. On His own, He laid it down when He laid in that manger, as He was rocked in Mary’s arms and as those same arms of His were stretched out on the cross. It’s the upside-down kingdom. Because the result of Him doing that was high exaltation, super exultation. The name that has been given to Him, it’s name above all names, that He’s not just God. That He’s also Lord, Lord of any who would call on Him in faith, Lord to anybody who would believe in Him. And it’s that that makes no sense in our culture where we celebrate power. And we think that to be great you have to assert your dominance. You have to put yourself out there. You have to tear down anybody in your way. To be great, you have to do the opposite of what the disciples thought you had to do to be great, which was to cling to power. Just a couple of days before Jesus died on the cross, several of his disciples got into a fight about who was the greatest.

They were basically replacing Euodia and Syntyche’s fight ahead of time. And then two of the disciples sent their mom to ask Jesus if they could have the most preeminent position in the kingdom of God. And this took place, by the way, if you read in Matthew chapter 20, literally the next verse after He told the disciples about the cross. He said, you guys, I got to die on the cross. It’s what I came to do. And they go, got it. Mom, can you ask Jesus if we could be, it’s like the literal next verse. And they weren’t getting it. And that explains Jesus’s mysterious actions at the Last Supper, when he did the same thing Paul said he did in Philippians 2. Notice verse 2 of John 13. “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus”, here we go, here we go, “knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, He rose from supper and laid aside”, this is Philippians 2. He had deity from always and ever. But He “laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded Himself”. The appearance of a servant. “After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded”.

And essentially, He said to them, this is what real greatness looks like. Who am I? Where am I going? And what have I been given? These are questions that must be answered. Who am I? What have I been given? And where am I going? These are questions that I want you to ask yourself at some point this week. For it is the neglect of and the search for answers to these questions that drive almost all of our behavior. Who am I? What have I been given? And where am I going? Jesus knew the answers to these questions. The text says He laid aside his garments and took up the apparel of a servant because He knew who He was. He knew what He had been given. And He knew where He was going. You see, you don’t have to cling to what you know can’t be taken away from you. And many of us don’t understand our identity. Our soul doesn’t know its worth. And we don’t know our great destiny that God has for us. And so we’re insecure, and we’re frantic, and we’re anxious, and we’re worried about many things. And we’re territorial, and we’re possessive, and we think we ought to put ourselves out there. And we manipulate people. And we’re always working. We’re always scheming. We always have an angle. And we’re exhausted. Because we don’t know who we are, and we don’t know where we’re going, and we don’t understand, truly, what we’ve been given.

So like the disciples, we think we need to send our mom to Jesus to get us a good position. And we think we need someone to give us a favor and someone to put a good word in for us. And we’re always worried. We’re always anxious. Because we don’t know who we are, what we’ve been given, and where we’re headed. It comes back down to a state of mind, a state of mind. And Christmas will cure the anxiousness that’s going on in our minds, the problems, many of these things that are masquerading as mental health issues, which are really just spiritual dysfunction issues because we don’t have the attitude of Christ in us. So what do we need to alter our state of mind? Here we go. Nothing will alter your state of mind more than how you frame things in your mind, how you frame things in your mind. So you need a frame. Look at this. This is what we have written out. Faith, risk, awe, memory, example, frame. Faith, risk, awe, memory, example.

Yes, the Christmas story was full of shame and inconvenience and disappointment. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But every single character whose story we celebrate in the Christmas account, they chose to respond by framing things in their mind correctly. They put a frame up. So let’s think about Joseph and Mary and the faith it took to say, let it be to me according to Your word. What is that? I don’t understand how this is going to work, but God, I choose to believe this is how this is going to work. They responded to what didn’t make sense to them with faith. And then risk. I see risk all over the Christmas story, risk in Joseph stepping out and being willing to be the adopted father, risk of the wise men stepping out and giving a sacrificial gift when there was a King who was sort of scheming. They stepped out and risked everything in going back home a different way. There was risk. There was faith. We frame things in our mind correctly. There was awe.

We learned last week about the shepherds in awe of the glory of God, as the angels praised the Lord and told them what was happening, as they came and looked into this manger and saw that their King was a shepherd just like them, born in the city of David. Awe. Memory. Mary did what you need to do. Take snapshots and memories of beautiful moments. And choose to put those things into the frame. “And Mary pondered these things in her heart”. This is Luke chapter 2, verse 19. The moment the shepherds left, Mary took a snapshot. “And she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”. You get to choose what goes into the frame. Mary could have chosen to obsess over the difficulties and the darkness and the hardships. And there’s someone trying to hunt me and kill me. No, Mary chose to frame her heart with faith and with awe and with a spirit of adventure and risk. And she chose to make the memories that spoke of God’s goodness. She chose to ponder these things in her heart. And it would be the memory of this moment that would give her faith as she stood looking up at the cross seeing her son’s arms spread wide. She chose to take some snapshots.

Listen to me. You get to choose what goes in your frame. I have a frame here with my daughters in it, three of my daughters in it. And Alivia in it, and Lenya’s in it, and Daisy’s in it. And today, December 20, 2020, it’s a weird thing that it’s 12/20/2020. It’s the eight-year anniversary to the day of Lenya, in the middle, going to heaven. And you know, yes, is there disappointment and is there the shame and is there pain? Yeah, absolutely. But I have this picture here because it’s a memory of her giving me knuckles and saying, preach the word, Dad, before I got to preach. And so today as I preach, I’m choosing to remember what I ponder in my heart, that my daughter’s with Jesus, the birthday boy. And as I think about 2,922 days since she died, I also think to 2,922 days to being closer with her. I’ve moved forward to her every single time another day comes. And so I get to choose what goes in the frame. I’m not framing and holding up just pain and difficult and darkness. I’m saying God was there. He was with me. And you can choose to do this. You can alter your state of mind if you choose to specifically frame things in your mind. You need to choose to frame them the truth.

And then E: example. Example is what we find in Philippians 2. He’s like, “Let this mind be in you”. You’re like,I can’t do that. It’s like, well, Jesus did. And you’re like, well, but He was God. It’s like, oh no, he wasn’t. Yes, he was, but, it’s complicated. But He was also a man just like we were. And that was the point, that we have a God who put skin on, a God who had acne, a God who dealt with every temptation that you and I could deal with. And He passed it magnificently to give us an example and to give us encouragement and to give us hope to let this mind be in you. And as we begin to frame things properly in our mind, what are we doing? We’re building our lives on the solid bedrock of God’s Word. And this is so important to understand. If you want His mind in your head, you need to hide His Word in your heart. And so that’s what we’re doing. We’re hiding His Word. We’re building a frame. We’re choosing a way that we’re going to see the world. We’re not just going to respond by our reactions or our feelings or by culture or by what our cousin, who’s worked at 10 different places, telling, well, you should do this. Like, well, really?

Here’s what God’s Word says. That’s what I’m framing my life on. That’s how I choose to see things. A Christmas state of mind isn’t jingle bells or a one horse open sleigh. It’s facing things that could potentially bring out your darkest, shadowy side, make you want to snap or attack or escape, and choosing grace, humility, and in the process, laying down your ego and laying down control so you can find true life and participate in God’s plan to bring joy to the world one day at a time. What I’m trying to say is don’t just celebrate Christmas. Be Christmas. Live Christmas. Choose Christmas. Accept Christmas. Let this mind be in you. Let this mind be in you. What does that imply? He’s there trying to. Let someone in. That means they’re knocking. I’ll get the door. Let them in. There was a knock at the door. I was upstairs. I heard it. I said, Daisy, open the door. Let them in. I can see who it is. Let them in. They were trying to get in is the point.

When Paul says, “Let the mind be in you,” that implies that God is right there trying to get in. Don’t think of Him as cold and far off and busy and up to so many things that you’ve got to track Him down. He is standing at the door of your heart and your mind and knocking. And if you open it up, He’ll come in. And we normally think of that in terms of salvation. And that’s true. But it’s also true in every other area of your life. I’m going to give you three quick tools, and then I have one final question for you. And these are tools to help us build our life on that foundation of His Word. Those words are worship, service, and confession. These things, these are tools that we can use. Like, if you had a screwdriver and you have a hammer, you buy a… well, I have a saw now and now I have a drill and I have always these different tools. OK. These are tools that’ll help you build that frame to alter your state of mind, so you have a Christmas state of mind. So what do we do? We worship. That’s singing, but it’s also pointing our entire lives to God’s glory, orienting everything in our lives to magnify his name.

Service of our fellow man, service in the church, service in this world. And then confession, and when we hear the word confession, I think a lot of us think about just the negative side of it. I’m confessing a sin I’ve committed. And that certainly is a part of it, both to God and to each other. Because the Bible says, if you ask God for forgiveness and confess your sins to Him, you’ll be forgiven. But if you confess your sins to one another, you’ll be healed. Many Christians have been forgiven but not healed because they have missed out on the power of being in the body of Christ in community. But there’s another definition of the word confession than just confessing wrong things. You also have to confess right things. And that’s why we read Philippians 2, which has been called the Christ hymn, which is essentially a creed, which contains within it the oldest creed the church. And a creed is just a declaration of a faith confession. And we have on our website a confession statement, what we believe that we labored over, sought the Scriptures in, sought wise counsels we crafted. But have you nailed down your beliefs? Have you chosen to write in your journal, this is what I believe?

This is what I believe about God. This is what I believe about life. This is what I believe about death. This is what I believe about family. This is what I believe and to base that on Scripture. s is incredible weight and power to doing so. But the most important thing that you could contain within your confession of your faith is the four words Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ is King. Jesus Christ is Lord. For that is what the Scripture says everybody ultimately will have to admit, will have no option but to admit. Everything on Earth, under the Earth, above the Earth, at some point is going to have to come face-to-face with the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord. So here’s my question that I promised you. The question I want to end with us ringing in our hearts is this, if Jesus is indeed knocking, trying to get in, if we have to let this mind be in us, what part of your life is Jesus trying to get into today? What part of your schedule, what part of your thought life, what part of your week is Jesus right now knocking, wanting permission into? How can you allow this Christmas state of mind to be true for you?

Now as I think about the fact that there are no doubt people watching this and you’re here today, you maybe for the first time have clicked on to our service or maybe you’ve gone to church many, many, many times, but you’ve never allowed Jesus to come into your heart in the most important way, the most essential way, and that is to be your Savior, to forgive you, to change you, to give you the hope of heaven, to give you the promise of life eternally. And I want to encourage you from this text that you only have one verb to play in that. And if you read the passage we read, and you could for homework or extra credit or whatever, read it this week and circle any verbs you find. I circled eight verbs that belonged to Jesus. I circled four verbs that belong to God the Father. But I only circled three verbs that belonged to you and to me. And it all starts with this idea of “let”, let this in, let this in you. And then the two other verbs that belong to us in the passage are “bow” and “confess”. Let, bow, confess.

Now His verbs are much harder. They involve dying on the cross. They involve giving up privileges. They involve all these crazy things. He’s done, the point is, all these verbs, these 12 verbs, God has taken care of. He’s done the heavy lifting. He’s done the hard work. He died even the death on the cross, which in the Roman culture, they said to die on the cross was to die a thousand deaths. It was so painful and shameful. That’s why it says, He didn’t just die. He died even the death on the cross, a thousand deaths. Jesus has dealt with every death imaginable, every shame imaginable, all the guilt imaginable. Your part to play is let him into your heart. How? By bowing your knee and confessing with your lips that Jesus Christ is Lord. He’ll save you. He’ll change you. He’ll heal you. He’ll make you new. Eternal life can start right now for you. And it would be an honor and a privilege to get to pray with you as you accept Jesus into your soul. Listen to me. God drew you to this moment. And there’s no guarantee there will be another like it.


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