Even An Atheist Can Articulate the Gospel
The mid 1800s were approaching and a church organ in the south of France had recently been restored. The parish priest asked a friend to compose a poem to celebrate the event. That friend was a professed atheist named Placidde Cappeau. His poem was entitled “Midnight, Christians”. It was soon set to music by Adolphe Adam and would later be translated into what we now know as “O Holy Night”.
It’s been my number one favorite for many years now, although recent arrangements of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go, Tell It On The Mountain” by the acapella group Pentatonix now threaten its reign. Cappeau’s original text clearly marks Christmas as a celebration that God sent Christ to the world to eradicate the stain of sin. Wiki it and you may be astounded that an atheist could comprehend the facts of the gospel. Or, you may just be saddened that he, like many, would understand the facts, yet not respond as even he commands his listener:
“Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices.”
How Will You Surrender?
One day, we will all see the Christ, the risen Lord and returning King. The Bible teaches us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. It doesn’t say “every believer will bow”. It says “every knee”. In other words: whether we hear the gospel message and believe on it unto salvation or reject it as Cappeau did, we will acknowledge Christ as king.
From that point, we will either know Him as Savior King or Supreme Judge. The question is, will you surrender to the truth of the former while there is still time or surrender to the latter after time runs out?
As we approach the “New Year”, I want to encourage us all to remember – Christ is returning. Some say as early as this week. Others say years or generations off. Regardless, the gospel call is this: fall on your knees in surrender to the Lord as redeemer, savior, brother-slave, and coming King today. Celebrate His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection not only at midnight on a day that’s not even His real birthday, but everyday.
What Is Surrender?
I’ve long believed the Bible to be a collection of inspired and inerrant (in their original manuscripts) books that all ask the same question from the perspective of God: “Will you trust me?” That’s what this kind of surrender is all about: full time dependence on and trust in Christ. Not just uttering niceties one day or a few weeks out of the year…
We all have a tendency to be event oriented rather than process oriented. Salvation is both an event and a process – depending on how you understand “sanctification”. We err when we spend so disproportionately our money, time, and effort on one event when the eternal Lord is Lord of our process. Christmas shouldn’t be relegated to just one day or even a season – ransom from sin and death should be an everyday joy. I pray that now that “Christmas” is past (or approaching in another couple of months, depending on what sources you believe) that we (myself included) may begin to celebrate our Savior more fully regardless of the day of year.
Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, and everyday.
On our knees before the Savior,
My bad – here’s my favorite arrangement. North Point Community Church’s ten year old recording has held my #1 spot for a decade now. Thanks, to everyone who made it possible and Jeff Scott for the “money note” at the end.
Playing “Where’s Waldo” with Jesus…
But, first, a little teaser… No, this isn’t about a picture of Jesus appearing on a wall in South America or in someone’s latte. Just trust me on this for a moment and read on.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”Ephesians 2:6-7, NIV
Some people get really geeked out on the Old Testament prophecies that foretold the coming of the Messiah. Even more get wide-eyed about the prophetic scriptures that foretell the Apocalypse. Today, I want to talk about a different kind of prophecy – one that will encourage you today, where you are, in which Jesus “appears” in the Old Testament. Understanding this old story gives us an encouraging picture of our current standing “in Christ”.
Saul, chosen by God as first king over Israel, rebelled against God in disobedience and God rejected him as king. God then chose David (outside Saul’s family) to succeed him. Saul’s son, Jonathan became great friends with David and entered into covenant with him. Then, when Saul and Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, the nurse who cared for Jonathan’s infant son, Mephibosheth, dropped the infant as she fled for her life, crippling the child. Years later, when David became king:
“David asked, ‘Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?'” (2 Samuel 9:1)
Subsequent to that request, Mephibosheth, crippled since infancy, had all his grandfather’s lands restored to him and ate at the King’s table daily.
This is one of the coolest images of Christ in the entire Old Testament!!!
Here, in history, we have a picture (or, “type”) of Saul, depicting Satan:
- Chosen by God to lead (worship in Satan’s case, Israel in Saul’s)
- Rebelling against the Creator
- Rejected by the Creator
- Replaced by another (David)
- His position and possessions passed on to another (Mephibosheth)
Additionally, we have a picture of man in Mephibosheth:
- Broken and literally “fallen”
- He did nothing to receive the “curse” of being crippled, practically “born that way”.
- Unable to “walk with God”, both literally and figuratively, without the help of another.
- Descended from the rebel whose fall brought about his own.
- “Raised up and seated with the King…”
We also have a picture of Christ in David (from whose line the Messiah must come):
- King and agent of God
- Cutting a covenant (by blood) with the son of disobedience.
- Powerful enough to track down the descendents of the deposed/defeated king and kill them, yet showing restraint in not doing so.
- Showing mercy and kindness where he could have shown judgment
- Essentially “adopting” the broken and crippled (sitting at one’s table regularly was a big deal in that time and culture, even more so when it is the table of the king)
- Giving man regular and free access to the King.
Find Jesus, Find Grace
If you’re reading this and you get chills – you understand grace. If you get really geeked out by Ephesians 2:6-7, you understand grace. If you suddenly begin practicing how to say “Mephibosheth” so you can thank God for this story, you understand grace.
May you understand what you’ve lost through the fall. May you understand who God is despite the fall. May you grasp the truth about grace: regardless of how you were born and in spite of who you’ve descended from, Christ came to give grace to you. May you eat at the King’s table daily and know you are restored by the King to the place Satan was initially appointed: to lead worship of God forever!