(This blog post is a condensed transcript of the sermon I preached on Christmas Eve, 2015. If you prefer to listen to or download an audio recording the whole message, you can find it here.)
We hear the word “game-changer” thrown around with some regularity. If a sports team drafts a talented player, that might be a game-changer. If someone enters or exits a political race, that might be a game-changer. While those circumstances might be media selling consumption with hyperbole, some people really can be historically identified as game-changers. Not only has their work altered the course of civilization, they could see where their work could lead.
Nikola Tesla was a brilliant scientist/engineer. In 1926 he said, “When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.” Does that sound familiar?
Steve Jobs could see a whole different future for computers. He not only changed the way we use computers but he also changed the way we listen to music. When recruiting John Sculley, then CEO of Pepsi, to come and work at Apple, Jobs told him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
All I have to do is mention Martin Luther King, Jr., and everyone will know exactly what I am about to quote: “I have a dream…”
Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth we celebrate every Christmas, is the ultimate game-changer. He changed the course of history and the course of eternity.
Nobody, however, changes the world on their own — not even Jesus. Nobody can convince you to be a follower of Jesus. The Holy Spirit must convince you. The only thing followers of Jesus can do is talk about Jesus, perhaps share evidence for the reliability of the Bible, love others in Jesus name, and involve prayer.
There is a funny video going around the internet. There is a dog that won’t come through a glass door even though there is actually no glass in the frame of the door. The dog has been trained over the years to think that there must be something in that door that will stop him. The people even step through the door without the glass in it but the dog won’t follow them. Finally, they open the door and the dog happily walks through.
Life does that to us humans. Because we are trained by authorities and experience, we know “how things are.” But, like the dog with the glass door with no glass in the frame, we run the risk of assuming things are different than they really are.
Let me give you some evidence for the fact that God, through the Holy Spirit, is still at work in the world, still changing the game.
In Europe and North America, it is pretty easy to feel like the Christian church is dying. But that is only our limited perspective. In 1945 there were 950,000 Christians in China. Today there are 77 million. 250 churches per week are started in Latin America (with an average of 150 people per church). 50,000 people per week are being baptized in Africa.
And it’s not just the faith that is growing in waves around the world, it is the love for others that is the natural outgrowth of faith in Jesus Christ. 25 years ago, 45,000 children per day died of starvation or malnutrition. Today that number is 17,000. Still too many, but a lot less. 25 years ago 80% of the world was illiterate. Today that number is 20%. 25 years ago 1/6 of the world did not have access to clean drinking water. Today that number has been cut in half to 1/12. Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1976, just finished its one millionth home.
There are kind people from all over doing this good work, but statistics will tell you that the vast majority of this work is done by followers of Jesus of Nazareth, that baby whose birthday we celebrate every Christmas.
Jesus is a game-changer. He is the ultimate game-changer because of who he is. The Apostle Paul asserted that the fullness of God is seen in Jesus (Colossians 2:9). The Apostle John asserted that Jesus was the very essence of God come in human flesh (John 1:14). Jesus himself told his disciple, Philip, that looking at Jesus was, in fact, looking at God (John 14:9).
God was enfleshed in Jesus Christ. God continues to live in those who believe in him. Jesus changes how you see yourself, others and the entire world.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows the profound, crazy, tender love that God has for us. In Jesus, God sees us as his precious children. God thinks of us like a parent who quietly walks into a child’s room to watch them sleeping just for the sheer joy of it. That’s how God thinks of you! Can you believe it?
When you believe that God loves you with that kind of love, it changes the way you see other people. It changes the way you see the entire world. Everything becomes driven by love.
Christmas is an invitation to you to be born again into God’s love, to let Jesus change the game of your life.
Christians use the word “repent.” This word does not mean just feel bad about something you’ve done wrong. It means “turn your mind around,” “think differently.”
We celebrate Jesus not because we have no problems after trusting in him. We celebrate Jesus’ birth (along with his life, death and resurrection) because he changes the presupposition of our lives from “Who knows what life is all about?” to “There is a God who loves me and even though I don’t understand everything that happens to me, I can always trust God.”
Trust Jesus. He will come to you. You will grow to see yourself as God’s beloved child.
Trust Jesus. Seriously. It’s a game-changer.