Summary: Salvation by grace or works-you decide!

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“You’d better watch out, You’d better not cry, You’d better not pout I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice; Santa Claus is coming to town! He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good; so be good for goodness sake!”

Christmas is a boon for parents! With all of the headaches of shopping, decorating and entertaining comes a bonus. They get the chance to threaten their kids into good behavior. “If you don’t quit crying, Santa Claus won’t bring you anything!” “Pick up your toys and clean your room or Santa won’t bring you anything new to play with.” “Go to bed and get to sleep or Santa won’t come tonight.”

Did you ever wonder about a guy who “sees you when you’re sleeping?” What does he have, x-ray vision? Maybe he uses all those security cameras that are in stores, and even at intersections. And what about this list of his? Is he the final arbitrator on what is “naughty or nice?” And while we are asking questions, how about asking a few more? How does he make it around the entire world in24 hours? How can he be in all the malls (and in two or three places in some malls) all at the same time? How does he get into my house seeing I don’t have a chimney? And finally, How old is this guy, anyway!?

Let’s look at the evidence:

· He knows everything there is to know about each of us.

· He is everywhere at the same time.

· He has the ability to give us anything our heart’s desire.

· He keeps a list of all those who are “good.”

· He is the one who judges our every deed.

Hmmm, sounds like someone else we know-except we might use terms like omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, the “Lamb’s book of life”, and the “White Throne Judgment.”

I am not going to be so naive as to equate Santa with God. Some ultra fundamentalists may look at Santa as a pagan intrusion and an assault on truth. But what I would like to do this morning is to point you to another, potentially more dangerous myth-that is, the idea that we must earn the good things that we receive. For the sake of this lesson, I’ll call it “THE PROBLEM WITH SANTA CLAUS.”

The whole idea behind Santa is that you must be good in order to receive presents. Those who are good will receive much, while those who are “naughty” will be singing “I’m Getting’ Nuttin’ for Christmas.” Too many Christians have the same opinion of God. They feel that if they do all the things they are supposed to do, God will bless them. If they live the way they are supposed to live they will make it to heaven. I just recently saw a church sign that asked the question “Are you good enough to go to heaven?” In a poll of the Lutheran Missouri Synod, a vast majority of clergy expressed the viewpoint that if they did what was right, they would have eternal life. (I found this particularly interesting since Martin Luther was a driving force behind the Protestant Reformation who’s main thrust was to refute this very idea!) Another large percentage of clergy denies the whole idea of hell or eternal punishment. Similar responses are found across many denominational lines. I trust that before we are through we will understand that our works will never get us to heaven, and that we must rely totally on the grace of God. We will not make it any other way! We will also look at the role of “good works” in a Christian’s life. Let’s not make the “Problem with Santa Claus” the “Problem with Serving God.”

Text: Ephesians 2:8-10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

Paul makes it abundantly clear that we are saved by grace. In fact, although he states that we are saved by faith, he places the origin of faith with grace. In other words, it is the grace of God that allows us to have faith in the first place! Grace gives us the faith to believe unto salvation. That faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.

Grace has been defined as “Unmerited Divine Favor.” It is God working in us even though we don’t deserve it. I realize this is a heavy subject during this busy holiday season, but we must guard against becoming legalistic in our walk with God. When we place our salvation anywhere but in the grace of God, we become no different than the Pharisees Jesus scathingly rebuked.

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