Typically in December, we talk about the events surrounding the birth of Christ, and we dig into a variety of viewpoints, a potpourri of perspectives. In recent years we've looked at a biblical account through the eyes of Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the wise men and King Herod. We've also looked at the innkeeper's perspective, though the Bible never specifically mentions an innkeeper. We've looked at the Christmas story from all of these different perspectives, but not this year.

This year, we are going to open the door, and we're going to peel back the curtain in heaven and take a peek at what's happening from heaven's perspective. If God had a workshop in heaven, why would He handcraft a world that would need His one and only Son to die on our behalf?

I want to invite you to go behind the scenes with me, and let's find out all the meaning that is wrapped up in this little baby; because it would be impossible for Mary and Joseph to have the slightest inkling of all the implications and ramifications of God becoming flesh and entering through the doorway of a stable.

So why did Jesus come? Who is Jesus? What does He offer? Whether you realize it, there's a book in the New Testament that answers all three of those questions, and it's in the opening chapter. It's in the Book of Colossians, and we're going to camp out there this entire month.

Before we read from Colossians 1, it may be helpful for you to know something about the city of Colossae and why the apostle Paul chose to write the Christians in this city a letter about Jesus. Colossae was a very wealthy area. It was located next to Laodicea. You might recall from our study of the Book of Revelation that Laodicea was a wealthy city, as well.

So, this particular region was very affluent; sometimes affluence breeds cynicism, and when some discover that a lot of money doesn't bring true joy, they begin to craft their own belief system. At the time, there was a number of people in the community who truly understand why Jesus came.

You see, in the first century in Colossae, there were two groups of people that departed from the truth of the gospel. One group was the Gnostics, and they believed matter is evil, that flesh is evil. In other words, anything that could be touched was evil, though they believed the spirit to be good. So, their emphasis was on the supernatural rather than natural; that is, they tried to make everything more heavenly than earthly, more spiritual and less physical. So, there were the Gnostics on one side.

On the other side were the Judaizers, who wanted everyone to return to living primarily by the Law. They did not focus on grace; they were more concerned with the Law. So, in their minds, Jesus wasn't enough, and people still had to earn their way into heaven despite Jesus' work on the cross. We might say the Judaizers believed Jesus plus something was what they needed—good behavior plus rule keeping plus their own list of rules.

Bob Russell says, "When you become a Christian, you're not just handed a Bible—a code of behavior to obey in your own strength. You also are given the Holy Spirit to live within you who will transform your old nature and enable you to live according to God's will." You see, the Judaizers put more emphasis on the rules than on the Spirit.

The setting in which Paul wrote this letter to the people of Colossae included this mixture of Greek philosophy—a religious smorgasbord—as they would add and subtract to the gospel message. So the result, Chip Ingram says, was to end up with people who denied the deity of Jesus Christ because they deduced that because: He came in the flesh, He must be evil; therefore, He could not be from God.

Many in Colossae took the story of the first Christmas and discounted it, because they couldn't understand God coming in the flesh to earth. However, we do. We know God sent Him in the flesh because, "He was tempted in all points just as we are, yet He remained without sin."

The Judaizers emphasized religiosity and rituals, and their skewed beliefs eventually morally bankrupted the integrity of a church. Today, just like the people in Colossae, there are many people who are floundering. They are searching for significance. They are floundering for faith, for some type of ultimate meaning in life. They turn to psychics. They turn to astrology. They turn to anything (other than God) to find some type of direction.

However, Jesus Christ alone offers us joy and fulfillment. Your life is not a meaningless journey to nowhere. Just as every thread in a tapestry has a function, so God has a plan for your life to fulfill you. His plan begins with you turning your life over to Jesus Christ.

So, only Jesus offers us salvation based on His work and not ours. There have been several religious leaders who have died a martyr's deaths, but only Jesus Christ died a substitutionary death for us on the cross. You've heard people point out that religion spells D-O. Religion says, "Do." Christianity spells D-O-N-E. Christianity says, "Done. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe." He's taking care of things. Our trust is in Him, not in our feeble efforts, because we will get off course.

It's because of that truth that we want to do things for other people. It's because of what Jesus did for us that we want to reach out to others. Christ did not come to earth to improve our morality or kindness by 15 percent for the last 40 days of the year. Jesus Christ expects us 24/7, 365 days a year to be ambassadors on His behalf, to show His love. The fact Jesus walked out the doorway of heaven and entered earth shows us His love.

So, Christianity is not an allegiance to some moral code, but is the worship of the Person of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."

Let's dig into Colossians 1:12-14: "And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

When Jesus departed through the door heaven and entered this world, He made our rescue possible. A door is a place of transition. It is a vehicle or means to enter into another realm or area. In this one short paragraph in Colossians 1, I want you to realize today there are four reasons Jesus came, and they're right here in the text.

Why did He come?

First, He entered the doorway of this world to qualify you.
You ask, "What does that mean?" If you have ever applied for a loan you know you can't get a loan until you meet certain criteria. Lenders want to know you are a wise risk. If you are not, lenders are not going to roll the dice on whether you're going to pay them back for what you have borrowed.

If you have been in the habit of paying your bills in a timely fashion, your character has been proven through stable employment and a minimal debt load, and you have had consistent income, what happens? You will be approved for the loan. What do lenders say? They say, "You have been qualified."

When you accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life and committed to following Him—committed to being totally sold out to Him—the God of all creation qualified you. He approved you. He said, "She's mine. He's mine. She belongs to me. I qualified them."

Ephesians 2:4-5: "But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved."

So you have been qualified though you don't deserve to be. I have been qualified though I don't deserve to be. It's because of the grace of God. Someone said, "He doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called." We've all been called to follow Jesus. When Jesus left heaven and came to earth, He passed through the doorway to qualify you.

Second, He entered the doorway of this world to claim you.
He came to earth to claim you! Colossians 1 says you have been named as an heir. Verse 12 says you have been qualified to share of the inheritance in God's kingdom.

Now, imagine with me that it's Monday and you're going through your mail. We already know what's in it—a bunch of junk mail and a lot of bills. You're starting to get a smattering of Christmas cards coming your way. Then suddenly, you see an envelope, and in the return address is for an attorney's office. It piques your curiosity, so you open the letter.

You find this letter written to you personally, inviting you to come to the attorney's office on Dec. 19 at 1 p.m., as there will be the reading of a will, because one of your distant relatives has passed away. The letter says, "You need to be there because you are going to receive something that was willed to you from your distant relative. Prior to his death, he named you as an heir."

Do you think you're going to be there on Dec. 19 at 1 p.m? Sure you will, and depending on what you inherit, your life may never be the same. Notice this: The gift of the inheritance is not because of what you've done, but because of the generosity of the one who willingly chose to share with you.

Paul said in Ephesians 1:13-14, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation." Listen to this: "When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory." So this is another reason Jesus came to earth and entered through the doorway of a stable—in order to make you an heir to His kingdom.

Jesus came for a third reason, as well. Listen to verse 13 again. "For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves."

He entered the doorway of this world to rescue you.
Rescue you from what? From darkness. Paul said, "From the dominion of darkness." I love that phrase. I love the wording. There are things people are willing to do in the darkness they never would do in the light. There is a reason Satan is called the prince of darkness.

Jude 1:23—you may not have heard this verse—says, "Save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh." It says, "Snatching them from the fire" is a direct reference to hell. The Message paraphrases it by saying, "Go after those who take the wrong way." We've all taken the wrong way.

C.T. Studd was a preacher decades ago, and he sometimes quoted a poem in his sermons: "Some people like to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, but I'd rather run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." That's the way he was wired, and you know people similar to him. They're always reaching out, always on the lookout for the lost. They care about people.

Here in Jude 1:23, Jude clearly is saying, "Hey, let's get actively involved in reaching hell-bound people with the gospel. Let's prayerfully pursue them, regardless of where they might be spiritually."

My question for you today is: Are you doing that? Do you care? Are there people within your sphere of influence where God has planted you whom He wants you to come alongside and to say a good word on Jesus Christ's behalf? In this season, in this month, say something!

This is a time when people's spiritual antennae are up, and they're open to invitations. They're open to things you might want to talk with them about. This is the time. We've got to take advantage of it.

I don't care what their situation might be. They may be rebellious sinners. They may be self-righteous sinners. They may be good people who never have heard about Jesus, but they lack the fulfillment and the completion that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—and to think you might have a hand in being a light that pulls them out of darkness! You might be used in order to bring them into a deeper walk with Jesus Christ!

We recently enjoyed a family vacation in Destin, and I've got to tell you we had planned this for more than a year because we wanted our entire family to be together. My parents are getting up in years, and we didn't know if they were going to get to come. It worked out, and it was the most major trip they've taken in a long time—the farthest they've ever traveled in years.

So we had an incredible vacation. We made so many memories with 17 people from the Stone side of the family. Saturday night while they were there, our immediate family worshipped at a church that we had never been to before. We were talking with the pastor afterward, and it came up in conversation that we were visiting from Louisville.

As soon as we said, "Louisville," he said, "Hey, don't say it. Don't say it." He said, "Let me guess. You all go to Southeast Christian Church. Am I right?"

We all in unison said, "Yes, yes, we do."

He quickly added, "Southeast…That's where Kyle Idleman preaches, right?"

I wish you could've seen my son and daughter because Sam and Sadie were out of his sight, but they were saying, "Oh, yeah." So they said, "Oh, Kyle's awesome! Kyle's incredible!" When he said, "That's where Kyle Idleman preaches," we all answered in unison, "Well, yes." They were mocking me with their eyebrows the whole time behind me.

Then the preacher said, "Kyle's book Not a Fan really ministered to me. It really changed me." He said, "In fact, right now I'm reading his next book Gods at War." I said, "Well, you know what? We will pass along to him that you enjoyed his books." He said, "You know him personally?"

Again, my family was trying to stifle laughs, and I said, "Well, yeah. He said, ‘Hi' to me in the hallway one time!" Well, he did one time. So…somebody after last hour asked me, "Hey, was that story true?" I said, "It was all true." I said, "I didn't tell you the ending, though."

I said, "We're getting ready to leave, and he went through every first name of every person in our family; and then he looked at me and said, "Dave, what is your last name?" I said, "My last name is Stone." He said, "OK." That was it, you know?

There was this pregnant pause, and I saw my family leaning in, and he said, "Well, great to meet ya!" and we all headed out. My family has not let up on me since then, and now I know Kyle won't let up on me either.

We laugh about that, but can I tell you something? You know what is really cool? What's really cool is to see how God is using Kyle's preaching and writing to touch so many people. Sometimes when someone is rescued from the dominion of darkness, it's a person leaving a life of sin and degradation, but other times it's a preacher who needs to be challenged by a book to have a deeper walk of commitment, or it's a backsliding member who needs to return to the right path.

You see, there are varying degrees of darkness, and Satan will do whatever he can to keep people in darkness. Sometimes the darkness isn't a life of extreme sin. Sometimes the darkness is just like the people of Colossae—just trying to add to what Jesus said or just trying to take a little bit away from it and making the gospel something different than what the Word of God teaches.

This was prevalent in the first century, but now today in the 21st century, we have swayed to the opposite end of the pendulum. Now we live in a culture that takes what is evil and calls it good, and anything goes because, "Who are you to judge me, my lifestyle, my habits and my choices?"

There's one more reason Jesus left heaven and came through that doorway to earth.

He entered the doorway of this world to redeem you.
He came to redeem you. Paul pointed out that Jesus came so you could be redeemed through the blood of the Lamb, through Jesus Christ, and you can be forgiven. When someone is redeemed, he or she is given worth and value. If we were to boil it down to the very core of why Jesus came, redemption and forgiveness would be the leading motivation.

The Book of Hebrews reminds us that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. It's just that in our minds we wouldn't think it would be the shedding of innocent blood. I mean, that sounds counterintuitive for us. For a baby to come and for Jesus to grow up and for Jesus to live a perfect life—don't sacrifice that person. That's the guy we want to emulate. However, the Bible teaches us that it's through His pure, perfect sacrifice for which all our imperfections are paid.

Paul said in Romans 5:7-8, "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." For those who put their trust in Him, He redeems and forgives. He gives us a fresh slate. He gives us a fresh start.

I tried to think this week of how I could help us understand exactly what's taken place—this miracle that takes the place of our sins being forgiven and us having that clean slate. My mind wandered back to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested; when He was arrested, there was this detachment of armed soldiers that approached Him. Peter, who had just said, "I never will deny You; I never will disown You"—Peter was in the moment.

Although he was vastly outnumbered, he had a knife in his pocket from the Passover meal, and without thinking decided to defend Jesus. He reached in his pocket, took the knife; and chopped off the ear of the closest person to him: Malchus, the high priest's servant.

Luke 22 and John 18 tell us Jesus scolded Peter, then touched where the ear was supposed to be, immediately restoring the wounded man. Do you see what happened? Where there was nothing, Jesus made something. I am banking on the fact that on Judgment Day, God the Father will reverse that miracle. When He looks at my life—a book of my life that is covered with all sorts of sins and things I wouldn't want you to read or hear—when God the Father looks at that, He will see nothing and reverse the miracle because all He will see is—not my sins—but the blood of His Son, a perfect sacrifice that covers all the crud I've done during my life.

That is the difference Christ makes. Someday, He will reverse the miracle. That's why He came: because He wanted a sinner such as me to have hope. He wants a sinner such as you to have hope. When He passed through the door of heaven, divinity took on the form of humanity. He left the halls of glory in heaven for the nails of Calvary on earth.

John 1 says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The Message paraphrases that and says, "God moved into our neighborhood." Why did He move into our neighborhood? He did so to qualify you, to claim you, to rescue you, to redeem you. That's why He came: To prove beyond any shadow of a doubt His love for you and me, for each and every person. He would've come if you were the only person on the face of the earth in need of salvation.

I read a story several years ago about a young family out west. The husband and wife had gone through some rocky times, and the young wife finally became so disillusioned with the stress of marriage and the responsibility of being a mother that she had to just get away.

One morning, the husband awakened to a note beside him in their bed, but she was gone. He agonized about her leaving but felt she needed a little space. So, he didn't try to follow her. He called her cellphone that day and every day for more than a week. He told her he loved her. He begged her to come home, and she listened to what he had to say. He often could hear her softly weeping, but she stubbornly refused to come home.

As Christmas approached, the young father became more intentional, and he decided to hire a private investigator to help him locate her. A week later, the detective stumbled across her in a low-budget motel in a bad area of Las Vegas. Without alerting her to his discovery, he called the husband in California.

Several days before Christmas, she sat on a lumpy motel bed by herself in a dimly lit room. She felt about as lonely as she'd ever felt in her entire life, and suddenly she heard a knock, softly at first and then it grew louder. Cautiously, she walked across the room and peeked through the curtain. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw her husband standing in the doorway. She slid the chain free, threw open the door, and fell into his arms.

He repeated his familiar speech: "We love you. We need you. Please come home." This time…this time she was throwing the few clothes into her old suitcase and heading for his car. A week later, the Christmas tree was back in the attic; the children were in school; and he asked her, "Why did you wait so long to come home? I begged you to come back a dozen times. What took you so long?"

She said, "You told me you loved me. You told me you needed me, but those were just words until you came."

Two thousand years ago, the God of the universe came. He left heaven, and He came through the doorway of earth. He set aside His power. Why? He did so to rescue and redeem you. Rather than you just hearing that God loves you, He put those words into action by coming to earth. Someone doesn't come that far unless he or she loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior. He is Christ the Lord."

It doesn't do a lot of good for Jesus to have been born in Bethlehem unless He is born in your heart, as well.
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