Recently, I attended a Christmas program given by a Christian school and church. The setting of the play part was a department store during the Christmas season. A young Christian girl gets left in the store when her Christian camp members accidentally leave her behind. When the girl goes to look for everyone, the store is closed and the mannequins come to life. The girl tells the mannequins the story of Jesus’ birth and the mannequins say they need a visual aid to understand. The girl encourages them to build a nativity scene and gives them details from the Bible.
Eventually the police come to rescue the girl along with a news reporter. Immediately, the reporter asks for the scoop. She notices the beautiful nativity scene and asks the store manager about that, too. There was talk about how we shouldn’t be taking Jesus out of Christmas. Another message the play introduced was that even a mannequin can hear the message of Jesus. I suspect they meant that even a “dummy” or a not so intelligent person can understand the message, so that includes everyone. At this point, I am applauding and thinking that was an interesting idea to mention the War on Christmas in an elementary school production. A controversial topic was introduced. That’s different.
I must admit that I felt a bit excited when I glanced at my program and noticed that the pastor was giving a message next. Usually at Christmas time the message at every Christian Christmas show is simply the story of Jesus’ birth, but this school added the absent nativity scene as part of the story. This could be good! The pastor begins by looking at the nativity scene and making a comment about how that scene shouldn’t be offensive. Is he going to explain this further? He mentions the fact that these scenes are being taken away and that just shouldn’t be! I heard: this scene shouldn’t be offensive, just look at it! It REALLY shouldn’t be!
That was the end of that. So I figured he had another topic in mind. I felt a bit disappointed because I am convinced that way too many Americans don’t realize how essential freedom of religion is to having any kind of real freedom at all. He could have also mentioned that the nativity scene might offend someone because they are still an unredeemed sinner in need of the Savior that was born in that manger on Christmas Day. There were clearly some great ideas introduced by the play that could have been expounded by the pastor.
The main theme of his message was giving ten different ways to do good deeds this holiday season. Now I had to control my eye roll. How original! If I do these good things, guess what? Everyone will just know that I am bringing the message of Jesus to them! Don’t we hear that we should be good for Santa Claus too? He not only watches us in that magic crystal ball, but now he has those creepy elves on the shelves looking for any excuse to put us on that naughty list! How do we decipher what good deeds are meant for Jesus from the ones that keep us off the naughty list or just make us look good to our peers or simply make us feel good? Does any good deed save a person?
I have absolutely nothing against being good and doing good things for people, but quite frankly this message is so incomplete and completely overdone. Sorry folks, but I really don’t think these types of messages are effective. Good deeds without a good message or a real, noticeable, transformation do very little for an unsaved person or a weak believer.
I think it is safe to say that we live in a world of do-gooders. An unsaved person can do good deeds too and they are still lost. A weak believer or unsaved person can easily be fooled into believing that good deeds are the way to bring the message of Christ without giving the message! It is too easy to conclude that we can earn our way into Heaven or gain God’s approval and get “blessings.” These types of messages dominate so many pulpits these days that far too many are even giving it a second thought.
These messages are half-truths and in my opinion, they are very misleading and dangerous. They pacify so many into believing that their final destination is Heaven because we feel too good to consider otherwise.
Ever since I became a Christian, one my frequent prayers is to never forget where I was before I became a believer. For the first 34 years of my life, I was on the slow, scenic route to Hell. It was full of “good” people, “good” deeds and half truths. I was really comfortable and so were all the people around me. Well meaning, sincere people are distracted from that real life-saving message because messages from too many pulpits are too weak and misleading.
These messages and good deeds mask that Cross so well that we are pacified into believing we are going to Heaven and we aren’t. I suspect very few unsaved people are on the Highway to Hell. I believe there are many more that are on the slow, steady path without even realizing it! For most of my life, because of all these distractions and half-truths, I never even questioned that I could be heading for an eternity without God.
Do you hear what I hear? I hear a lot of missed opportunities that could impact a sleeping public. This is only one example. Golden opportunities are not being utilized to connect the dots for lost people or weak believers that need some solid teaching. I imagine the demons are rocking in hammocks, smoking cigars, and drinking adult beverages in between siestas! They wear themselves out by laughing at us working away on our good deeds and pushing the lost further and further away from the one path to Heaven.
My son, Derek, believes that when Christ returns, if we continue this way, there will be a traffic jam on the Highway to Hell full of really “good” and really confused people.
“For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” — Ecclesiastes 7:20