On December 8th, Stephen celebrated his eighteenth birthday. I was in Colorado Springs and missed the big day. As I chatted with him on the phone, he shared about how his school would not allow him or his friends to use the words, “Merry Christmas” for an upcoming drama presentation. The reason the teacher gave him was that the school did not want to offend anyone.
When a school official bans students from saying “Merry Christmas” with whom or with what is that official’s identity linked? I would contend that in this instance, the answer is with the world. Ironically, that educator could be a Christian yet, in succumbing to political correctness, chooses not to be identified as a Jesus-follower. Jesus said in Luke 9:26, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels.” What we are willing or unwilling to say or do gives people a framed picture of our identity.
Ezra 3:3—They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the LORD even though they feared the surrounding peoples.
There is deep meaning in the verse above. The Jews who were exiled to Babylon for over 70 years have returned to their land. Now, in the seventh month of their liberation, they gathered from their towns to meet in Jerusalem and celebrate the Festival of Booths as prescribed by Moses. When Jeshua and his priestly brothers along with Zerubbabel and his brothers began building the altar, they were making a definitive statement. Burnt offerings make smoke! In this case, that smoke was devoted to their Lord. In essence, the priests were saying, “We are back and we are determined to worship God!” But they were no longer the power brokers. They established their identity as Yahweh-followers amongst a population of pagans. They feared the surrounding residents, because those people had the capability of destroying them. They knew what it meant to be conquered and shamed and the thought of provoking attack generated angst. Nevertheless, they did a courageous thing. On an altar made of stones, burnt offerings ascended morning and evening to God.
You and I don’t offer burnt offerings. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for us. Instead of us earning God’s forgiveness through the blood of animals, our faith in His Son is sufficient. But what kind of smoke do we give off each morning and evening? Is it the fragrant aroma of lives unalterably linked to Jesus, our Lord and Savior? Or do we wear the smell of compromise, the odor of Satan the world’s presumptuous ruler? If we are afraid to link our identity to Jesus then we have supplanted (replaced) godly fear with futile fear. I’d rather make a statement than be made a statement. Merry Christmas! Merry Christ-more! Marry Christ! My identity is with Him how about you?
We are what we are interested in.—Oswald Chambers in He Shall Glorify Me
©2009 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)