Christmas time is great! Most of the people I know enjoy this time of year. It is when the message to the shepherds rings true for all who would receive it. You find that message in Luke 2:10-14.
The shepherds received this news, ‘good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ and they believed the message and later went and told others what they had seen and heard. This was truly good news to all people, the best news to ever be proclaimed on the earth. This was the news of salvation. People would no longer live under the weight of a law that they could not honor. Through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, they would no longer be required to offer the sacrifice of animals. The best news had come to them, but there is one problem with this good news.
The solution to all their prayers had come, but they would live another 33 years before the events of Easter that would bring that promise to fulfillment. The news is good, but they would spend most or perhaps all of the rest of their lives waiting for the promised change to come.
The situation they found themselves in after Christmas can be compared to our own after Christmas experience. Have you ever felt a letdown after the holidays? If your family practices advent, you spend a lot of time building up to the event and then on Christmas day it finally comes. We celebrate this amazing, indescribable gift from God, but in some sense, the gift isn’t fully opened until later.
In some ways, this is analogous to the Christian life here on earth. This message of salvation is good news to all people, including everyone here. I hope everyone who reads this understands the significance of Christ’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Through these events, we have hope for all eternity. In these events, Prophecy and History come together to change Eternity. If you haven’t accepted that truth, I encourage you to not wait, but receive that amazing gift today.
For those of you who have received it, congratulations on getting the best Christmas gift anyone ever received. But after receiving it, even though we have a complete and secure hope for all eternity with God, we continue to live here on this fallen world, surrounded by sinners like ourselves. This is the time in-between salvation and eternity. We have salvation and it is secure, but we haven’t received everything that comes with that salvation because of the reality that we live in.
The Christian life is normally not a straight ascension to Christ-likeness. It is usually filled with stalls and starts, great leaps forward and periods of relative stagnation. This wandering is a part of the journey. Our faith is not designed to be a cookie-cutter faith, produced in a factory, but a growing, living faith which reflects the dynamic relationship that Christ would have of all of us. When we give our lives to Christ, we are starting an incredible journey with Him. We have chosen to put our trust in Him and we trust that He will lead us along the way.
We know that one day, we will be with Him in paradise. One day, there will be no more tears, no more pain, but in the meantime, we are living here. That means the day to day grind on this fallen earth, with good days and bad days, mountain-top experiences and valleys of shadow. This is what it means to live in what is often called the “in-between”.
This is the time we have, waiting for the Glory of Christ to be fully realized. It is where we will spend the majority of our faith, walking and waiting with other fallen believers in that place between salvation and heaven. It is in this place that so many of us lose sight of who Christ really is and see our understanding of Him dim. Christ is still who He always has been in the in-between, but we can often lose focus on that as we walk upon this earth, waiting for heaven.
Waiting on God isn’t meant to be a bad thing, but it can be a trial. James talks about this in chapter 5, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, ESV)
In our walk with Christ, we “establish our hearts”. Continuing to have a clear view of the Lord is an active process. We establish our hearts in the Lord, by intentionally pursuing Him, not by ignoring our spiritual life. Christ desires that our hearts would align with His.
The choices we make about how we spend our time have consequences. If we spend more and more of our time on things that are contrary to our faith, our hearts will drift away from Him. By the same token, by building into our lives times with God and His people, we have regular reminders of His truth and grace. This is how we avoid drifting in the in-between.
All of us have a need for direction. We have a need to walk with faithful men and women, who will continually point us towards Him, as we return the favor in their own times of need. None of us should feel we are able to walk alone in our pursuit of God. We may have periods of time where we are physically alone, without church or fellowship, but we shouldn’t build our lives around such a lonely path.
This year, with the pandemic restrictions, we have experienced new challenges in meeting together to encourage one another. Jesus is enough for us, but He also blesses us with community in the Church and we benefit by taking advantage of it.
So, here we are, after Christmas, but before Easter. After salvation, but before heaven. We have the Good News that Christ is born. We have the truth of His salvation, but we live in the reality of our daily lives. Living every day in this in-between place of a fallen world and yet desiring so much for everything to be made right and just and true.
Every day we wake up and go out in the world (or maybe stay home to work because of the pandemic) and we deal with that struggle. We find a great encouragement for how to live during this time in Romans 12:1-2:
When the shepherds heard the message in that field, they were told about a new type of sacrifice, a once and for all sacrifice that could make all who received it holy in God’s sight, once and for all. Here you see Paul writing about a new type of sacrifice, only made possible in Christ.
Every other sacrifice ends in death, but Christ put an end to death for all who believed in Him. Now our sacrifice isn’t one of death, but one of life. It is a living sacrifice. Every day, living here in the in-between, we can recognize the great mercy of God and present our lives as a living sacrifice. We aren’t saved by this sacrifice, we are saved to be this sacrifice.
We succeed in following God, by aligning ourselves with Him, by learning to see Him for who He truly is and to transform our minds to align with His. Christ provides a means of persevering through the in between. As we gratefully close the door on 2020 and prepare to begin 2021, we don’t have to live bound up with the worries and concerns of the pattern of this world.
Instead, we can find peace on earth, resting in the favor of God, and provision to establish our hearts and minds in the Lord. That is the key to having a great 2021. It is not dependent on the dictates of government or the concerns of the day, but on the Holy One of God, the Savior, the Messiah, Christ the Lord. In view of that mercy, we can rest all of our hopes and trust in Him and encourage one another all the more as we see the day approaching.
If you want to read more about what it means to persevere through the in-between to grow in your relationship with Christ, some of this article was taken from my new book, Seeing God: For Who He Really Is.