Breaking and Entering

The headlines this past year have not been, by and large, what I would call very encouraging. In some ways, it’s easy to see think our American culture in particular is rapidly spinning out of control; the erosion of moral absolutes – widely-agreed-upon standards that were once common – has left a thick cloud of confusion where once we could clearly see the difference between “right” and “wrong.” (Can one even use those terms anymore without giving offense?)

As the depressing headlines stack up, it’s easy to despair…or at least succumb to the temptation to withdraw into whatever form of “safety” we believe we can construct for our lives. The preponderance of bad news not only numbs our souls to the pain of others, but mixed in as it is with an elevated sense of fear for our own physical safety, it’s entirely understandable that we might be tempted to give up, grab what comfort and security we can, and let someone else fix what’s wrong with the world.

Isaiah 9:6But if I am understanding the teaching of Scripture at all, however, it is precisely when things are going south that Christians, as part of their calling, should not only resist the urge to self-soothe but, quite to the contrary, leap into the fray.

In Matthew 12, responding to an accusation of demonic power leveled at Him by the Pharisees, Jesus uses the surprising word picture of “plundering” to describe His earthly mission. Not just plunder, but assault and bondage as well:

Matthew 12:28-30 (ESV)
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

How odd to picture Jesus – meek and mild – tying Satan to a chair and then relieving him of his worldly possessions! And yet, how foundational to our faith is the idea that we are all in a spiritual battle against the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:16) and that God’s decision to break into history and enter our struggle with His own flesh and blood was, after all, the only manner by which any of us could be made right with God. While the phrase “breaking and entering” has come to have such a thoroughly-criminal connotation, it seems to me that it is a clear redemptive picture when we link it not to some sketchy dude walking out our back door with our new flat-screen, but rather with Jesus smashing through the front door and carrying us out of our own houses of bondage.

This Christmas season, maybe it would help us to cast off the Currier and Ives greeting card images we normally associate with Christmas and instead consider how abrupt, shocking and unexpected was the life and ministry of Jesus. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that Jesus came to break and enter: to break down the walls of our hearts and enter in by means of the Holy Spirit. The way I see it, I can be plundered by my own idolatry – much of my life bears witness to this – or I can give myself over to the redemptive plundering of Jesus.

Lord, the “house” of my heart, and everything in it, belong to You. Knowing this, I set about the task of padlocking You out anyway; in Your mercy, You allow me the grace to make my own foolish choices. As You broke into human history, would You use this Christmas to break into my heart and carry me out of bondage to my own idolatry and foolishness? Help me to have the strength to rejoice as you smash all of the barriers that I have built up against You.

Lord, our world is a deeply-hurting and deeply-confusing place to live. Would You, in Your great mercy, break into our sad story of endless mass shootings, warfare and oppression and restore the moral foundations that we ourselves have been so busy tearing apart? Put Your Spirit in the hearts of those who lead, that they too may seek the good of the places where they live and hold sway.

Lord, Your people cry out for just treatment and fairness, yet we ourselves have been unjust and cruel to those who disagree with us. Give us we pray Your Spirit, by which we may exhibit the fruits (Galatians 5:22-23) that cause others to pause and reconsider their own harsh attitudes and hatred.

Whatever You have given me, Lord, I give back and confess that I am a terrible master of my own destiny.

Break in! Enter! Give me the wisdom that You alone possess to know how to manage what has been granted, and to trust You with what has been withheld. My mind struggles to fully understand the mystery of the Incarnation, but my heart believes even as it cries out to be forgiven for its unbelief.

Thank You for the scandalous overflow of grace and mercy that Christmas represents. As You have freely given, let me do likewise in Your name. Amen.

One of the cardinal distinctions of the Judeo-Christian worldview versus other worldviews is that no amount of moral capacity can get us back into a right relationship with God. Herein lies the difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’s offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.
Ravi Zacharias, Threads of a Redeemed Heart

Luke 2:1-14
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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