Monday, November 30, 2009

'I Ain't Been Nuttin' But Bad' or Why I Need the Gospel for Christmas

I'm gettin' nuttin' for Christmas
Mommy and Daddy are mad
I'm gettin' nuttin' for Christmas
'Cuz I ain't been nuttin' but bad

So echoes the humorous chorus to a humorous song penned in the 1950s in which a bratty boy rattles off in verse his various sins of commission coupled with his refrain that "somebody snitched on me" before issuing an admonition to fellow and would-be rotten brats:
So you better be good whatever you do
'Cause if you're bad, I'm warning you,
You'll get nuttin' for Christmas.

It's a funny song, but it made me think of how it's a great springboard to discuss the Gospel.

After all, the Bible tells us about how we've been "nuttin' but bad" and how that badness is pervasive, stemming from the very core of our being and manifesting in numerous sins that are fruits thereof. Simply put, we sin because we are sinners, we do bad things because we are bad: [Romans 3:10-20;22b-23]:

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being [3] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
22b  For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
That's a very bleak indictment, but the good news comes in verses 21-28:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
We're bad to the bone. We're sinners, and our attempts to paper over the fact by modifying our behavior to be, publicly at least, good boys and girls doesn't square with God, who has no room for our boasting in our own efforts, but who judges the heart. As Paul wrote the Ephesians:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [2:8-9]
That means the self-righteous snitches are in the same boat as the sinners they tattle on.

After all, Christ came not for the self-appointed righteous, but to rescue repentant sinners [Luke 5:27-32]:
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
So what is real repentance?

It's certainly not expressed in the close of the song:
I won't be seeing Santa Claus;
Somebody snitched on me.
He won't come visit me because
Somebody snitched on me.
Next year I'll be going straight;
Next year I'll be good, just wait
I'd start now, but it's too late;
Somebody snitched on me.

So you better be good whatever you do
'Cause if you're bad, I'm warning you,
You'll get nuttin' for Christmas.
The kid in this song doesn't have a changed heart, he just sees a need to modify his behavior to mollify "mommy and daddy" and to sucker Santa Claus into coming by next Christmas with goodies.  In other words, he's concerned with outward pretense and manipulation of a gracious but mysterious higher power.

Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like how we treat God apart from a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

True repentance and the obedience of faith in Christ follows the good news of the Gospel: God in His grace gave undeserving, murderous sinners the gift of His Son.

Jesus took the wrath intended for our sins, even though he was nothing but good, wholly and purely righteous.

It's by faith in Him that we receive the unmerited free gift of salvation that was bought by Jesus's blood.

It's that astounding truth that leaves the Christian amazed and yields faith and repentance. We love because Christ first loved us and gave Himself as the propitiation for our sins [I John 4:9-10;19]. We love God not in hopes of getting something from Him, but because we are astounded at what He already has done for us in Christ.

We who believe on Jesus for our right-standing with God deserved nothing but wrath, but have known nothing but mercy, grace, forgiveness, and adoption as sons.

That's the best Christmas gift we could ever get and most certainly could never earn.



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