A CHRISTIAN CAROL

 

While I was on vacation last week, I watched the famous story, ďA CHRISTMAS CAROLĒ by Charles Dickens. As I was watching it, I couldnít help but see a great lesson that every Christian should learn from the concept of the story. I think I would be safe at saying that this movie has would certainly rank in the top 5 of all stories that have been retold in one for or another.

 

While my lesson this morning will be based on this story somewhat, mine will be from a different perspective because I will be focusing on living the Christian life and have a Christian spirit instead of focus on Christmas and having a Christmas spirit.

 

When the movie starts out we are introduced to a very greedy uncaring man named Scrooge. He had business partner who had died 7 years before, who comes to him on Christmas Eve to warn him about his the way he is living his life. His old partner shows him the chains and the weight he bears from his greedy lifestyle and how miserable he his. He tells him that each link of the chain was formed by each of his selfish deeds he lived in life. While the weight of those deeds cannot be seen while you are living, you will feel the weight of them when you die.

 

From this part of the story, I want to point out two things. First, it is not possible for someone to leave the realm of the dead to come back and warn some one no matter how bad they would like to we can see this in the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

 

Luke 16:19 " There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.20 "But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,21 "desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.22 "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'25 "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,28 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'29 "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'30 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "

 

Once this rich man experienced how horrible it was to live a uncaring and sinful life in the afterlife, every fiber of his being wanted to warn his loved ones so they would not have to experience what he was going through. I can guarantee that he is not alone. It is sad think about, but there are many people who have died and gone to this same place as the rich man. As they have plenty of time to reflect on how they rejected God and His ways and how they wish they would have done things differently, they too cry out wanting someone to go back to the earth to warn their loved ones that living like them so they might change their ways.

 

While the make believe story has Scrooge being warned by his old partner, that will not happen to us. Instead, we have the Word of God. It warns repeatedly to change our ways before it is to late because once we die the only thing that remains is the judgment (Heb. 9:27). We will be judged by the Word of God (Jn. 12:48).

 

Second, I really like the idea that Scroogeís old partner paints for us. Remember, he said that we cannot see the links of chain that we create while we are living by the dirty deeds we do, but when we die, we will feel their weight. This is very true. Many times people that live in sin and do wicked things to others do not see the immediate consequences to their actions. In fact, some will even mock God because they donít think exist since their lives seems to be going so well, just like the rich man thought his life couldnít be any better, but what they donít realize is that they will feel the weight of their sin when they die.

 

When that happens, they will no longer be mocking God or others because they will be in great misery wishing they had done things differently. No one will escape the judgment. As Paul said:

 

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

 

While is bad enough to be separated from God and to spend eternity in hell, the Bible teaches us that some will receive a punishment then others based on how much sin they have in their life:

 

Matthew 23:14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

 

Hebrews 10:29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

 

We must understand that sin separates us from God, which is bad enough, but if we keep adding sin on top of sin, then we will receive a much greater punishment in hell. Donít fool yourself into thinking that sin is ok especially if seems that you are not suffering any immediate consequences from it because I can promise you are links to you chain that you will feel the brunt of his weight when you die. Of course, the best recourse is to avoid hell by living your life for God so that you will never have to feel the burden of your sin.

 

Thanks to Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross he has given us a way to escape the punishment of hell and allows us to remove our chain and live burden free in heaven when we take heed to the warning He has given us in the Bible.

 

Sometime I wish we had a visible chain because then we could see each link as they form and we could feel the weight that it bares. If we could see it and feel the burden of it, it would help remind of us of the need of change in our life. I am not for sure that even something like a physical chain would be enough to wake some people out of their sin.

 

Since we donít have a physical, we must work on being aware of what we are doing and how we are living our life. As Paul tells us:

 

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified.

 

Once Scroogeís partner leaves, Scrooge begins to think that he dreamed it all because of something he ate, but he soon finds out that it wasnít a dream because he does get visited by the 3 spirits just as a partner said he would.

 

The first spirit to visit him was the spirit of Christmas past. This spirit takes him back to his childhood to show how he was before greed entered into his life. As the story continues, he Scrooge how his greed for money slowly destroyed his chance of love and how became the man he was at that moment.

 

Unlike the story, we donít need some spirit to take us back in time to look at our life because each of us can reflect on the events in our life that have made us into the person we are today. Each of us has a unique past that has shaped the way we think about others and ourselves.

 

Our past can be a very powerful influence in our life. It can cause to deal with situations and people differently than other would. For example:

 

  • Someone that grew up being lied to all the time is going to have a difficult time take people at their word because they will feel like everyone is going to lie to them.
  • Someone that was raised up in an abusive home will feel like that is the normal part of life and when they get their own family, they have tendency to be abusive as well.
  • Someone that was raised up being prejudice against another race are going to find it hard not to be prejudice against that race.
  • Someone that grows up in a home with two homosexual moms or dads is going to be hard to convince that such a lifestyle is wrong in the eyes of God.
  • Someone that grows up as atheist is going to be difficult to convince that there is a God.
  • Someone that is raised up in a denomination that made by man is going to find hard to believe that their denomination is not following the pattern of the Bible.

 

While our past certainly plays a role in what kind of person we are today, our past does not have to define who are. Our past is not like concrete that has set and cannot be moved. No, it does not matter what our past is or what we thought was right, we can retrain ourselves with the truth and put our past behind us.

 

Paul is great example of this. He was man that raised from his youth as a Pharisee. We need to understand that Paul was not raised up like many of us raise our children in the Lord. He wasnít sent of to public school where he was exposed to worldly ideas and worldly peers. He training wasnít just a couple hours on Sunday and an hour on Wednesday, with maybe a few life lessons from his parents a few times a month. No, training was very focused from his youth. He was even raised by one of the most famous teachers of his time. He ate, slept, and breathed the lifestyle of a Pharisee. There would have been very little outside influence in his life. Paul said this:

 

Acts 22:3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.4 "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,5 "as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

 

Even though this is what his whole life was about and he excelled at, even Paul was able to put his past behind and change his ways. Granted it took Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus to help break him from his past, but he was able to it.

 

Paul was able to see that his past and what he used to think was true was wrong, which is why he wrote:

 

Philippians 3:3 Ö have no confidence in the flesh,4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

 

You and I must learn this lesson as well. Whatever we taught in our past does not have define who are our how we treat others. We can change our ways even when they are polar opposites of what we used to think was true. As Christian we must not allow our past experiences to cause us to keep going against what the Bible teaches us to do.

 

I understand that this is not easy thing to do and you will continue to wrestle with your past, but it is imperative that we live our live our lives in accordance with Godís Word and nothing else because this is the only way that we can be Christ-like and the example that God wants us to be.

 

The second spirit the visited Scrooge was the Christmas presence. Basically, he showed him what he was missing out on by not joining in with his family and how the poor were suffering during that time in the streets with no table to join around to eat a nice meal together and of course he was shown Mr. Cratchitís house and his familyís dinner along with little Timmy who had something wrong with his leg.

 

The basic idea was to show him what he was missing out on and how others were suffering that day that he could have helped out if had not been so greedy. Keeping to himself, and be greedy was not doing anyone any good.

 

In a similar way we must not the kind of people that only think ourselves. Instead we need to be the kind of people that enjoy being around others and serving one another. Too many times we waste a lot of our time on silly things that will not amount to anything. We hoard our money, like we think we can take it with us when we leave this earth.

 

God has given a reasonability to love each and to love our neighbors. We are to compassionate and will to help those that we can. Like Scrooge, he was a wealthy man that had the ability to do a lot, but at the moment he was doing nothing. Paul gave these instructions to the rich:

 

1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

 

There is nothing wrong with having lots of riches as long as we donít make it first in our lives. We donít want to be like the rich young ruler who would not follow after Jesus because his great wealth. Instead, we want to be people that put God first no matter what and realize that our treasure is in heaven and not in material things. As Jesus said:

 

Matthew 6:19 " Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

As Paul said:

 

1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

 

Let us take control of today by not allowing our past to define who are, but let our lives be governed by the Word of God and let us be the kind of people that loves each other, serves each other, and always puts God first in our lives.

 

The third spirit that visited Scrooge was Christmas future. He showed Scrooge a man that was dead that no one cared for was even making fun of because of the way he lived his life. Finally, the spirit shows that the dead man was Scrooge.

 

Again, we donít have to have a spirit to show us that in the future we are going to die. The only way that we will not die physically is if the Lord returns before our death. Other than that, we will die. The question becomes, how will you be remembered? Will you be known as a faithful Christian or as some scoundrel that wasted away his time and money on sinful ways?

 

You and I are in control of our future to a degree. Now we cannot know what day we will die on or some of the trials we will face, but we can make sure that we will be remembered as faithful Christian and we can make sure that our destination is heaven. Paul said:

 

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

In order for us to control the outcome of our future we must first forget those behind us, which I like said earlier, we must put the things of our past behind us. We cannot allow them to define who are. Instead, we must look forward and press on toward of the goal of heaven, by training ourselves and redefining who are by the Word of God. Paul continues and says:

 

Philippians 3:15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things.20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

 

As the story of Scrooge come to a close, he wakes up in his bed and realizes that he must change his life for the better, and he does. Thanks to his partner and the 3 spirits of Christmas, he was able to open his eyes to the truth and was able let go of his past and reshape his presence and his future.

 

How about you? Will the story of your life end in triumph or in sorrow? Since you are not going to have the privilege of being visited by someone that has died to warn you about the way you are living your life, you are going to have to examine your life by yourself. One you start examining the person you are today, if you see that it is not the life of Christian, I hope that you will wake up from you sinful slumber and realize that it is time for you to change your ways. Do not delay in making these changes in your life because tomorrow may never come for you. Your future is in your hands, the question becomes do you see heaven in your future or hell.

 

As Paul said:

 

2 Corinthians 6:2 Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.