When it came to the holidays, he didn’t have the best Christmas spirit? He vacuumed up presents; he stole Christmas wreaths; he broke Christmas ornaments; he even ate all the roast beast.
What was his motive for all of this?
"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.”
The Grinch saw that the Whos were happy. He saw that they enjoyed Christmas. He saw that Cindy Lou Who really wanted to see that Christmas tree up in the morning filled with toys.
But he didn’t care. He was motivated by selfishness.
Today we are continuing our sermons series called A Simple Christmas and we are going to talk about motive. Motives are huge. Motives affect everything you do. Motives determine your actions.
We are going to look at God’s Word and at the end of this I want you to be able to list (1) some bad Christmas motives; (2) God’s motives at the first Christmas and (3) come up with one simple motive for all of your holiday needs.
I. Selfishness Disguised as Christmas Platitudes
Take a look at James 3 to get our mind focused on some bad holiday motives. James writes in verse 14 “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” This is a pretty simple interpretation isn’t it? Envy is bad, selfishness is bad. Neither one of them are godly traits. No one writes on a Christmas card, “Merry Christmas to the most selfish person I know.” No one introduces their girlfriend at the office party, “Ted, this is Mary my girlfriend. She’s really selfish.”
Selfishness isn’t a good motive.
Which is why it is so amazing how so many secular motives find their root in utter selfishness. Take a look at a few.
1) Because It Makes Me Feel Merry.
This was the Grinch’s problem. He only did what made him feel good – which was destroying Christmas. Literally destroying Christmas.
Granted – you probably don’t desire to destroy Christmas. Am I right? Anyone want to raise their hand and admit to taking joy in seeing inflatable reindeer popped and little children crying? I didn’t think so.
But sometimes our desires for “I feel good” Christmas, makes others feel bad.
2) Because I Don't Want People to Think I'm the Grinch.
This one is sounds nice, right? But look at the heart of the message. It's goal is not being the Grinch, but not wanting others to think I am the Grinch -- even though I might be.
This whole motivation is selfish. It's all about looking good.
As a result, – it’s hard to identify. Because the whole point of this motive is to hide it’s bad motive. The goal is to look like St. Nick and to never have anyone call you The Grinch.
This motive may even get you doing nice things, but for all the wrong reasons.
3) Because I want my My Kid(s) to Love Me.
This one is tricky. It seems nice at first. We all have a longing to “roast chestnuts on an open fire” with family and to “Deck the Halls with kids.” It is especially nice to have your child saying, “I love you,” rather than, “I hate you.”
But there is a distinct difference between doing things “because I want my kids to love me” and doing things “because I love my kids.” One is selfish; one is selfless. One may cause you to spend a few mortgage payments at Toys ‘R Us; the other will avoid spoiling your kids amid cries of ‘unfair’ because you love them and want them to be less materialistic.
Which are you this Christmas?
Are you unsure if you have good motives or not? Go back with me to James. Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. Did you catch that? Selfishness results in disorder. Selfishness destroys peace.
That’s easy to see. If two kids want a Christmas cookie, what happens? They whine. They complain. They put each other in headlocks. They play mom and dad against each other. They might even bite, scratch, or pinch. Selfishness leads to disorder. If you hear your children fighting in the other room, you have a pretty good idea before you even go in there, that someone is being selfish.
Same is true for adults.
Is there disorder in your family? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Are your spouse and you not getting along? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Do you fight with your parents? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Do you have an inflammatory text message relationship with your coworkers? You might have a problem with selfish motives.
Are you a human being? You might (and probably do) have a problem with selfishness.
II. God’s Simple Motives
Do you want to know someone who did not have a very selfish motive? John the Baptist. John the Baptist lived in the desert. John the Baptist ate locusts. John the Baptist grew a long and wild beard. John the Baptist wore itchy, scratchy camel's skin. John the Baptist kind of sounds like one of the most unapproachable and strangest men in the history of the world.
But that wasn’t the strangest part about him. That belongs to his words. He spoke harsh words of rebuke – even if it made him feel uncomfortable, even if it caused others to not love him, even if it didn’t make him look good.
You heard some of his words earlier. He said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is here!” He called people sinners. He told them what they were doing was sinful.
Do people usually respond well to that? Not so much.
Do you usually respond well to that? Not so much, huh? It’s way easier to write them off as the words of some "crazy guy.”
But John’s words were not the words of some crazy guy. John’s Words were God’s words and they reveal one of God’s motives in his interactions with humanity.
Take a look at the prophecy from Malachi 3. “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” That’s talking about John. He was God’s messenger. His words were to get people to repent. Literally, “To turn from selfishness to seeking God.”
And if John’s words didn’t work? If someone ignored his calls to repentance? No worries. God would be coming to finish the job. Malachi continues “Suddenly the Lord…will come to his temple…And who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.”
Refining is something you do with gold. The fire of a gold refinery needs to be 1947 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot. It needs to be that hot in order to get rid of all the impurities that you might find on gold and silver. It burns off all of the smudges. It vaporizes all of the imperfection. It leaves the nugget shiny and in mint condition.
The launder’s soap is similar. It’s not just supposed to cover bad smells and mask the stench of the pets, but it actually, literally cleans all of the impurities. It connects with them, affixes to them, and destroys them. It leaves the garment clean and free of germs.
God is like that. He hates dirty. He hates sin. He hates selfishness. He hates it so much that he promises that he will purify his people.
If the repentance thing doesn’t work and selfishness infused itself onto your soul, such that you are now indistinguishable from your sin…he will purify you. He will burn you up like chaff. He will vaporize you like the impurities of gold. He will disinfect you from his people by wiping you out.
It’s better to repent, right?
2. God Wants You to be Saved
But God isn’t just a neat freak. He isn’t just about sanitization. He isn’t just about holiness. If he were, then he would have pulverized you, me – all of humanity a long time ago.
But there’s a second motive of God at work. A motive that is at work when John’s call to repentance reaches our ears. A motive that isn’t selfish at all. A motive that’s completely selfless.
“All mankind will see the salvation of our God.” Jn. 3:6
Did you see that? God hasn’t destroyed you yet, because He has as powerful motive right alongside the last motive. “He wants you to see his salvation.” He wants you to believe his salvation. He wants you to be saved.
This is the mystery of our God. He is completely holy and desires holiness from us, threatening punishment for all who are unholy. But at the same time, God loves us – he loves us in spite of our selfishness.
Where do this holiness and love meet? On the cross.
On the cross, God satisfies his holy rage. He wipes out all of our selfish desires.
At the same time, God shows his love. Jesus died for us. Jesus saves you. He saves us.
Talk about a selfless motive? Jesus didn’t do any of the impure things. Jesus didn’t deserve to be punished. Yet he was. He went through pain on the cross because his motive was saving you.
III. A Simple NEW Motive
Do you see how much God loves you?
Would you allow God’s Word to suggest two new motives this Christmas?
“Prepare the way for the Lord.” (Luke 3:4)
To do this, picture your heart like a construction zone. Not a government construction zone – I’m not asking you to stand around on your shovels sipping coffee. A real deal – on the move construction zone. Rocks need to be removed. The ground needs to be leveled. Concrete needs to be poured. A pathway needs to be laid.
Do just that, only spiritually.
Remove selfish desires. Flatten your pride. Knock down the desires of your sinful flesh. Make a smooth, clear path for the coming of your Lord and Savior.
Make that part of your motive this holiday season. Do what you do to prepare the way for the Lord.
But please, couple that guidance from God’s law with this Gospel motivation: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:19)
Everything you do this Christmas season, do it simply, because Jesus loves you.
Spend time with your family, because Jesus loves you.
Make Christmas cookies, because Jesus loves you.
Decorate your house, because Jesus loves you.
Forgive your spouse, because Jesus loves you.
Make amends with your family, because Jesus loves you.
Avoid sin, because Jesus loves you.
Come to church, because Jesus loves you.
Tell others about Jesus, because Jesus loves you.
Shout, “Joy to the world” because Jesus loves you.
May this simple motive be on your heart, now and always. Amen.
WORTHY OF JUDGMENT.
They were right. She felt the shame. She had been feeling it for months now. Secret rendezvous. Hidden moments. Lies. To her husband. To his wife. To her own children.
Now it was at the forefront. She’d been caught. The secret she had worked to protect was now public knowledge. What would everyone think of her? What would her husband think? What would his wife think? What would her own children think? She wanted to die.
Then, there was a commotion. The men were distracted. Someone was joining the mob.
It was Jesus.
The mob was excited, “Join us! This woman is guilty of adultery. Join us! Let’s give her what the Law deserves. Let’s rid the earth of her.”
The woman shed another tear.
Jesus responded calmly. “OK – why doesn’t the person without any sin, throw the first stone.”
It was quiet. The men looked at one another. They looked at the woman. They looked at Jesus. Then someone threw the first stone…on the ground.
Today we’re going to continue our series on Counter Culture by talking about Purity. The heart of purity is found in the Sixth Commandment. Anyone? “You shall not commit adultery.” Some might call it a no fun commandment. Or that God is a prude.
But God made us sexual beings. God made us to reproduce. God gave us the gift of sex as a special blessing to connect to human beings together in a special way that they won’t connected with anyone else. It’s a lot different than a handshake. It was aimed to seal and connect you intimately to your spouse.
But the greater the blessing, the greater the pain when it is abused. There is pain, hurt feelings, guilt, and shame. (They are a lot worse than when you steal someone’s pencil when they aren’t looking).
And unlike many other sins – this one affects your own body. It changes the chemical reactions in the brain. It reprograms you to have a connection with someone you aren’t married to. It confuses you. It makes you feel icky. It makes you avoid contact with someone else because they make you feel guilty.
God didn’t want you to have any of that. So God made this command for your good. God wanted to protect your purity. I guess you could say, "You shall not cause yourself and your neighbor all kinds of pain, shame, and terrible heartache."
What then does it take to be pure? Let’s discuss definitions.
I. Defining Purity
1) The World’s Definition
When I first started working on this sermon, I thought the best way to define the world’s definition of purity might be: “Do whatever you want.” That’s what we tell each other. It’s what the media preaches. It’s what the Facebook videos with the sappy music teaches us. Just let people feel, love, and do what they want.
Then, a certain Vanity Fair magazine cover came out.
And people had opinions. People like Chris brown. Chris Brown who, in his music, proclaims to have slept with hundreds of women and in his Instagram photos is grinding and twisting against all kinds of scantily clad women, tweeted very negatively about Jenner. In his mind, Jenner was the definition of sexually impure.
Then, Chris went right back to rapping and partying and sleeping around.
Chris Brown embodies the world’s definition of purity. It’s the definition that the Pharisees had. Sexual purity is “not doing the sexual sins that I don’t do.” If that’s the definition of purity, guess what? You’ll always pass! Because you’ll always have not done the sins you have not done.
Be careful that you don’t fall for the world’s definition of purity. It can happen while you watch TV. Suddenly, the TV portrays a homosexual encounter. You look away “That’s sinful! I can’t believe they show that on TV.” Then, you change the channel and settle on the TV show where the nice young detective is falling in love with the burly cop. They aren’t married, but it’s ok...who hasn’t done that?
TIME OUT! Where’s the outrage? That’s a sin too!
But maybe we don’t have the same outrage, because if we did, we’d have to outrage our own sins.
And we don't want to.
So we fall into the trap of defining purity by the world's standards.
2) God’s Definition
Brace yourself for moment. Then, when you're ready take a look at God’s definition of purity in Ephesians 5:3. “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…”
Listen again and write it down. God’s definition of purity means not even a hint of impurity. Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or greed -- because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking which are out of place!”
If purity were food, God wants his wholly organic! He doesn’t want even an ounce of a contaminate in his selections. He doesn’t want anything, not even a modified Food Starch here OR a bug repellant there to have ever touched his tomatoes.
God doesn’t want any kind of sexual immorality to ever touch his children.
When you compare your life to that definition, how does it match up? Can you really tell God that you haven’t ever had an action, a motive, a word, or a thought that is impure?
If you can’t, if even an ounce of impurity has ever touched you then…you are impure! Remember God's a stickler so even a 1 night stand or 1 explicit lyrics rap song or 1 inappropriate website on your browser history ruins the whole shebang!
Maybe you now understand what the woman was feeling a little better.
She was bracing herself with her eyes closed because she knew her punishment was coming. She knew she was about to face her Maker in all of her sin!
She closed her eyes and waited.
Then she opened her eyes. The crowd was gone. The only thing remaining was a pile of stones and Jesus.
“Did no one condemn you?” he said. “No one sir,” she breathed.
“Then, neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
If you have left an impure life in the past and are seeking his forgiveness, then hear Jesus’ words to you. God’s Word says to you, “Neither do I condemn you.”
How does that work? All who have hope in Jesus purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 Jn. 3:3) It’s just like that children’s lesson we did. God’s power is like Clorox bleach. It destroys and rids our souls of all impurities from before God. It’s God’s promise in Baptism. In your Baptism. Baptism is like God’s permanent divine Clorox bleach that remains running throughout the soul veins of your body. It purifies you from all sin!
Do you believe this? Then you are pure…Live in purity.
II. Why Live in Purity
But you might be wondering – what’s the point? Our world is so sexually driven – it’s everywhere. You get very little judgment for sexual escapades. Guys get a high five and women get a giggle from a friend. Why should we strive for this “not even a hint” definition of purity!?! It’s darn near impossible!
Here are 5 reasons to strive for purity from Ephesians 5.
1) You are God’s Child
Check out verse 1. It says, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.”
Did you ever want to be like your parents? I think that’s pretty natural for children. Girls want to wear dresses like their moms. Boys want to throw the baseball like their dads. One of the reasons I became a pastor was to be like my dad.
Spiritually speaking, God is your dad. He’s an awesome role model. He’s holy. He’s good. He’s never evil.
Do you want a good role model? Don’t make it some reality TV star who gets a bunch of girls or that woman from 50 Shades of Grey. Make it your heavenly dad and don’t let even a Hint of Impurity be in your life!
2) Christ Loves You
Verse 2 says this, “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”
Did you hear how much Christ loved you? He was willing to give himself up for you. He suffered extreme pain on the cross so that you won’t have to suffer any pain in eternity.
Porn -- doesn’t love you. That steamy romance author? Just wants your money. That television show? Just wants ratings. Your boyfriend…may love you…but not selflessly…in the moment…he may just want to use you.
Jesus always loves you and has your best interest in mind. Follow him and his direction. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be apart of your life.
3) Lust is Idolatry.
Check out verse 5. “An immoral, impure person…such a man is an idolater.”
Idolatry is a first commandment issue. In it’s simplest form, it refers to worshipping a small statue as a god.
But it doesn’t have to be a small statue. If you run to the internet for relief...if you run to the sights of the gym for enjoyment…if you study your romance novel more than God’s Word – who is really your God?
Don’t worship your own sinful desires. Worship God. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life.
4) There’s No Impurity in Heaven
This is probably the scariest and most difficult reason for a pastor to relay to his people. But it’s also the most obvious reason and I’d be a pretty terrible interpreter of the God’s Word, if I failed to mention this one. Read verse 5 in its entirety: “Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
You’re welcome to object. “No way that’s true.” But verse 6 continues, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such impure things, God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
Brothers and sisters, I want you in heaven. God wants you in heaven. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life.
5) You are Light.
As scary as verse 6 is, verse 8 is filled with comfort. It says this, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” In other words, you were once surrounded by the darkness of sinful lusts. Your lives were filled with erasing your internet browser, sneaking to hotels, making sure no one saw you looking at that magazine in the magazine aisle, and hoping no one noticed that you slept over at your boyfriend's house last night.
But now you know Jesus. Now you know the light. Now you are surrounded by the light of His presence. Now you are forgiven. Now you live for God.
Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life….Live as children of the light.
III. How to Live in Purity
So…how do you do it?
In America, we often approach these issues in the same way: “OK God…How far can I go?” How far is too far with my boyfriend? How long is too long for me to stare at the woman on the side of the road? How short is too short for this sexy shirt I’m wearing? How steamy is too steamy for this television scene I’m watching?
Stop asking how far you can go from God, but how far you can go in serving Him.
How can I stay pure as I go about dating? How can I serve my boyfriend with the way I dress? How can I serve my girlfriend with where I spend the night? How can I serve my spouse with the way I look at the internet? How can I serve my husband with my reading choices? How can I serve my children with the televisions shows that I choose to watch in their presence?
In short – Start asking how can I rid my life of impurity? Ephesians gives us three guidelines to keep in mind:
1) Come into the Light.
Look at what Ephesians says next, “Live as children of light…Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness…Expose these dark deeds. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
Isn’t it true that these kinds of sins often take place in the dark? Or at least when others are in the dark about that? Behind closed doors, when others are away, when the kids are in bed.
Jesus is saying here – stop hiding your struggle. Share it with a friend.
Yes – it’s a scary thought to ask another Christian for help. It’s humbling. But it’s also freeing. Ask someone for help. Ask an elder here. Ask me! Ask for help and---if someone asks you for help, don’t hold their struggle against them. Don’t be the Pharisee – “Ugh, Ugh, you struggle with that?” Don’t belittle them. They are coming to you for help – so praise God they are struggling and help them!
2) Be Wise.
In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon talks about a time he looked out his window and saw a young man walking down the street. As he was walking down the street, he saw a prostitute waiting for him. King Solomon thought, “Walk on the other side of the street. Get away from her! You’ll be safer away from the temptation.”
Instead, the young man walked right by her. She seduced him. He went with her.
Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
If this is a struggle for you, don’t be foolish. Use common sense. If you struggle when you’re alone, make sure you aren’t alone. If you struggle when you go to the gym, don’t go to the gym. If you struggle with a certain kind of book, don’t get that book at the library. If you struggle with a certain kind of television show, don’t watch that. If you struggle with a certain kind of website, don’t go there. In fact, block it! Use internet software to police yourself. If you are more prone to struggle with all of this when you’re drunk, don’t get drunk. Don’t spend the night alone with your girlfriend if you can’t control yourself.
Be wise and God will bless you with victory after victory.
3) Be Filled with the Spirit.
All of this serving God and struggling against sin takes energy. It's like a battle. An athletic context of divine proportions.
That means you're going to need to replenish your spiritual electrolytes. Therefore, you need to keep yourself hydrated with the time tested, proven, spiritually reenergizing Gatorade:
"Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If you want to live a pure life, you need to be filled with the pure Word of God. You need to be filled with his pure law for guidance. You need to be filled with His pure Gospel for the pure comfort of having a Savior who purified you from all sins.
Come back to our Gospel scene one more time that woman had heard Jesus’ precious words of forgiveness. She was filled with the Spirit as Jesus spoke words of forgiveness. She knew of God’s love when she didn’t deserve it.
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
You are not your sin. You are not an adulteress. You are my child.
Jesus changed her identity with one awesome sentence of Gospel.
Hear the same thing that God is speaking to you: You are not perpetually stuck in sin. You are not a sex addict. You are not disgusting. You are not a pornographer. You are not a homosexual. You are not an adulteress.
You are not your sin.
You are God's child. You are loved. You are forgiven.
You are PURE.