Faith: Does Jesus Make Any Difference?

Clutch & Grab Shopping

Shopaholism is a serious malady that has become socially accepted and expected—we live in a nation of raging shopaholics. Advertisers hold out the carrot, peer pressure applies the stick.

The idol of consumerism promises happiness and fulfillment, yet there is a near hollow-eyed emptiness in the crowds milling along the decked out halls. Masses move through the malls like lemmings blindly chasing after the latest fad, fashion, gimmick, or wizardry.

Unless there’s an extreme change in behavior, in the current Christmas marketing season, Americans will purchase 28,497,464 rolls or sheets of wrapping paper, 16, 826,362 packages of tags and bows, 372,439,684 greeting cards, plus 35,200,000 Christmas trees.

That doesn’t include all the toys, trinkets, and treasures we’ve become convinced are required to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

It’s tragically easy for believers in Jesus Christ to surrender—we have largely bought into the seductive lie that we are to give our children and loved ones the Christmas they deserve. And apparently to accomplish that involves extravagant spending and debt.

If we seriously believed what we say we believe, we would model humility, grace, and servanthood for our children and loved ones. Kingdom values would dominate our motivations, instead of being the flimsy lipservice tacked onto trappings that so frequently entangle us.

Providing the Christmas they deserve would be to demonstrate by our lifestyle choices that the babe in the manger—the One present at creation—embodied the principle of giving not getting. There’d be no wish lists or offerings made to the false god of consumerism.

42% of Americans say they would enjoy Christmas more if there were no presents, so here’s a crazy idea for Christ-followers: Why not set a radical example? What about graciously resisting the cultural norms? What if instead of tracking down the hottest bargain we overwhelmed our circles of influence by giving of ourselves in word and deed?

What if we intentionally gave away our time to be active listeners and encouragers? In the midst of the madness of clutch and grab shopping, could we calm others by deliberately blessing them with peace?

Jesus certainly has proven to have an annual affect on the bottom-line for merchants, but if that’s all there is to it, what’s the point?

Does Jesus really make a difference in our lives?

Matthew 1:18-25 - NIV

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Jesus

Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus with a focus on Joseph.

We see noble qualities in Joseph—his tender consideration for Mary, his willingness to bear ridicule. Little else is known about Joseph, for it is his adopted son who is the primary interest in Matthew’s gospel.

The word gospel means good news. Hints of just how good that news is occur in this passage, especially when one contemplates the nuance of the names by which the son of Mary was to be called—Jesus and Immanuel.

You are to give him the name Jesus. It was a common Jewish name, often used in memory of Joshua, which is the Hebrew form of the name Jesus. It’s interesting to compare these two figures of history.

Joshua led the nation of Israel into the promised land of Canaan—Jesus leads the people of God into the promised land of Heaven.

What is the significance of this name, Jesus?

Jesus means God is Savior. The son of Mary was rightfully called that—the angel said that he will save the people from their sins.

This was accomplished because Jesus freely sacrificed his life—his shed blood is the atonement for sin. Jesus saves the people from their sins by saving us from the guilt and penalty of sin.

Jesus rescues us from the power of sin by sending the Holy Spirit to help us break sin’s dominion—he delivers us from the consequence of sin which is the wrath of God to come—he removes us from the presence of sin when we depart our earthen vessels to be with the Lord.

So the name of Jesus should be invigorating to heavy-laden sinners—all those who desire salvation may draw near to the Father with confidence through Christ. It is the office Jesus holds—it’s his function, work, and purpose to show mercy.

Take a long, meditative look with fresh eyes at some words Jesus spoke to a high-ranking religious leader named Nicodemus.

John 3:16-17 - NIV

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Immanuel

As Matthew recounts what the angel told Joseph, he adds that the birth of Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in which it is said, they will call him Immanuel.

What is the significance of this name, Immanuel?

Immanuel means God with us. This name describes the Messiah’s nature. He is Diety—he is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is God, possessing the glory of God. He is the great I AM, the eternal Word who shared in the glory of the Father prior to his arrival as a newborn at Bethlehem.

Consider the bold declaration of the opening of John’s gospel, followed by the essential theology of the Incarnation as proclaimed by Paul of Tarsus in a letter written while he was imprisoned in Rome.

John 1:1 - NIV - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Philippians 2:3-11- NIV -Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Almighty appeared on earth
as a helpless human baby, 
needing to be fed and changed
and taught to talk like any
other child. The more you
think about it, the more
staggering it gets. Nothing
in fiction is so fantastic as
this truth of the Incarnation.
      ~J. I. Packer~

Consequential Effect

There is scholarly evidence that the Philippians passage was a common hymn or litany of the first-century church, being used possibly as early as 35 to 40 AD.

The theme of it cannot be mistaken: Jesus was equal with God, but willingly humbled himself—he chose to set his Godhood aside and step down to cloth himself in flesh. He put eternity behind him to be subject to the rules of time and space.

Our human minds are finite and feeble—we wrestle with this enormous mystery: Jesus of Nazareth was God manifested within the confines of being human.

What difference does Jesus-Immanuel make in our lives? Jesus means God is Savior—Immanuel means God with us. What influence do those weighty facts have on our lives?

Truth is marvelous, but truth must be applied—if not we’re merely shucking and jiving. Truth that is not put into practice is nothing more than poetic sounding words describing some powerful concepts.

Jesus means God is Savior—Immanuel means God with us.

If we believe this good news gospel message and implement it in our lives, it must make a difference—we cannot live willfully, haphazardly, or complacently. Putting God is Savior and God with us into action must have a consequential effect on our response to life—otherwise we’re just spouting pretty words.

God Gets It

There can be rough patches in life that knock us off kilter—moments or even seasons when we feel entirely abandoned and forsaken. We grind our way through the troublesome vicissitudes of life, and when we find ourselves on the verge of a free fall, we cling to faith by our fingernails.

In those heart-wrenching times of hardships and difficulties we can become desperate, with our emotions all over the map. Yet the significant implications of our Savior’s name beckon us.

Immanuel—God with us—God with you—God in the midst of our distress, discouragements, and defeats.

For having become flesh, God understands our human plight—God comprehends what it means to be fully human. The highs, lows, frustrations, brokenness, futility—God gets it.

The unfairness, despair, betrayals, broken relationships—God is fully acquainted with it all. Emotional turmoil, the sense of aloneness and of being cut loose from it all—God thoroughly grasps it.

There is nothing—no emotion, no feeling—that any one of us ever experiences that can surprise God. He has been sick, tired, and hungry—he has been worn out and exasperated by people. God has extraordinary empathy for our limitations, our fragility, our aspirations, our falling short, which is why we ought to always make every effort to utilize the truth personified in the name Jesus.

God is Savior. . .God with us—what sweet comfort to keep in constant view. In Christ, God is our Savior because he sent his Son to pay the price for our salvation—in Christ, God is with us hour by hour, minute by minute.

Jesus. . .Immanuel—thus they called the child born of a virgin and raised by a carpenter. By his resurrection from the dead he proved true to his name—this reality sincerely applied will be transformational stitches on the warp and weave of our lives.

Does Jesus make any difference? Yes, he is the One through whom God is Savior and who is God with us. May that marvelous difference flow from the well of our heart to spill into our day by day routines.

Amen—so say we all.

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Comments 36 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

My belief, not always practices, is "all things in moderation." Shopping and buying gifts is fine if people have the right motives for doing so. They should not spend money they cannot afford. On the other hand they should be generous to the extent they can afford it.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Ken, what a beautiful writing of the true and factual meaning of "Jesus, Emmanuel, our one and only Christ, but for him and his teaching and sacrifice, and resurrection, I would be as all others, never not ever good enough to receive the blessings he has bestowed unto one and all who is willing to submit their sins and short comings at the feet of our Lord Jesus that he might carry them to the pit and pitch them in, leaving us with robes white as newly fallen snow.

The very reason that the Bible gives us a time of his death and resurrection, that we might celebrate in worship that time above and beyond this coming holiday of less than what I believe, of less than eternal life with him.

May many blessings fall to you and your family, dipped in peace and an abundance of Love, Dusty


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dahoglund - Thank you for your good words.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Amen, Dusty. Thank you for sharing. Peace, blessings & much encouragement to you.


jasper420 5 years ago

theese words are so true this makes alot of since thankyou


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, jasper420. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Blessings.


Dee aka Nonna profile image

Dee aka Nonna 5 years ago

My mother would always tell us "if nothing else works just call on the name of Jesus". What I didn't know when she was tell us that--there is real power in the name of Jesus. Great hub Ken...thank you for this. You have no idea how much I needed the words of wisdom and the peace that came over me as I read this. My mother would also say "there is always something or someone who will try to steal your joy... well guess what? And, then I read your hub. I found it I will hang on to it by my fingernails if necessary. Thank again, I really needed this.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Dee. I'm glad this was an encouragement to you. Thank you for sharing words of testimony & wisdom. Blessings.


SirDent 5 years ago

As I read this the thought came to me that even with all the things money can buy, it cannot buy what you need. Money can buy you a house, but it cannot make a home. It can buy you a bed, but it cannot buy you rest.

Good hub and voted up.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Amen, SirDent. Good words. Thank you. Blessings.


itakins profile image

itakins 5 years ago from Irl

So much food for thought here.Maybe one of the better aspects of the financial chaos in the world is we will re-order our priorities,and what better time to start than the Christmas season!

Great hub...voted up:)


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

itakins - Thank you. I also appreciate your comments. Blessings.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

Ken, Thanks so much for writing this beautiful hub about Jesus and his true meaning. God bless.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Pamela. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Blessings.


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

In our house we do not exchange gifts, that's really for kids and we don't have any. Besides if I want to give my wife a little something, it does not require a special or specific day to do so.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks for sharing, Dave. Blessings.


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

I cannot even imagining it any other way. Our life without Jesus would be shallow, dark and empty.

Excellent Hub Ken!

:)


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Perhaps Dave Mathews has a great idea...


Richieb799 profile image

Richieb799 5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales UK

Great hub Ken, It has gone beyond, it is hard for parents to teach their kids true value when all the hype is going on around them. I just hope my kids appreciate what is truly important when I have some.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

CMerritt - Thank you. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dallas93444 - You may be exactly right. . .


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Richie. You're right about all the marketing hype. Blessings.


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 5 years ago from West Allis

It is amazing Ken, how the tradition of gift-giving is so entrenched in Christian people's pscyhe. I know too many who, despite the bad economy, despite their lack of funds, are still using credit to give their children and loved ones the Christmas they are accustomed to enjoying. They feel their faith is truly wrapped up in maintaining the traditions. And the thing most sacrificed is the memory and respect for the One who came to save. Peace.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

AM - Thanks for your good words. All too often they're sadly true. Blessings.


daravuthz profile image

daravuthz 5 years ago from Cambodia

Your article about Jesus is great. I know a lots here. Thanks!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

daravuthz - You're welcome. Thank you for your comments.


Writer Chuck 5 years ago

Jesus and Christianity have been demonized for years now. Jesus is still the reason for the season. And just as you say in your hub it's time that Christians put Jesus first. We must live our values of love, hope and charity. There's only one problem with the above. Christianity will be blamed for the demise of national retail sales. We just can't win with the media.

Merry Christmas


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Writer Chuck - Thanks for stopping in & sharing thoughtful comments. Blessings & Merry Christmas.


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada

Great hub, Ken. I like what you said about a Christian spreading the peace of Christ instead of getting caught up in the values of the world. Wow, that is really convicting. Thank you, and bless you ... take care!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

prairieprincess - Thank you for your encouraging words. Much appreciated. Blessings.


jo miller profile image

jo miller 5 years ago from Tennessee

My Christian faith is central to my life, and I celebrate the Christmas season with great joy. But, I must confess, I'm also one of those people who loves the gift-giving, not because it's expected, but because I enjoy doing it. I love the whole atmosphere of Christmas--the shopping, the cooking, the gift-giving, all the tacky stuff. I'm one of those who sings along with the canned music in the stores as I'm shopping. None of this detracts from my reverence of the "reason for the season."


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

jo miller - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Blessings & Merry Christmas.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

My feeling is that the spirit of Christmas is everyday. I don't buy gifts for Christmas- like you said, people are blindly and madly rushing into stores buying, buying, buying. It's disgusting. That is not a great expression of love in my opinion.

There is a part of me that loves the holiday cheer, the decorations. I don't believe Christ's birth is in December, and I don't believe the Christmas tree is part of God's expression of his love, but it is a big part of the perception that people have of Christmas, so I think it's a great time to celebrate Jesus and his sacrifice and I wish everyone I meet a Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you Ken.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Alexander Mark - Thank you for stopping in & sharing thoughtful comments. Much appreciated. Blessings & Merry Christmas.


pastorBabar 5 years ago

Praise the lord Jesus.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

pastorBabar - Amen, brother.

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