The people who will experience the fullest meaning of Christmas on Tuesday are the people who know and feel that there is something in them that needs to be destroyed. It is true, as John said (John 3:17), that "God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." But he saves by destroying. Like a doctor who amputates a foot full of gangrene or cuts out a cancerous lung.
Jesus Came to Destroy Something
Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous but sinners" (Mark 2:17). The only people who understand Christmas and embrace Christmas for what it is are people who feel sick, and who desperately want their sickness destroyed. Unless you welcome Jesus as a destroyer in your life, you can't have him as a Savior.
The point of this morning's message is taken from 1 John 3:8, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." Christmas is the celebration of the appearing on earth of God's eternal Son. And the reason he appeared is to destroy the works of the devil. So the reason there is a Christmas is because God aims to destroy something. Or if you like the imagery of contemporary space odysseys, picture Christmas as God's infiltration of rebel planet earth on a search and destroy mission. Or if you come from the Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey era, picture Christmas as the arrival of a single brilliant doctor in an isolated Appalachian village ravaged by a deadly virus. Or, if you antedate all that, picture Christmas as the arrival of John Joseph Pershing as full commander of the U.S. 1st Army on the Western Front of the Argonne Forest in the fall of 1918.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. The spaceship has landed, the doctor has arrived, the general has taken command—mission: search and destroy the works of the devil.
Three Questions About the Christmas Mission
There are three questions I want to try to answer in relation to this Christmas mission.
- What did the Son of God come to destroy?
- How did he destroy it?
How can we participate personally in his victory?
1. What Did the Son of God Come to Destroy?
1 John 3:8 says he came to destroy "the works of the devil." What are the works of the devil? Let's work out in concentric circles from the term "works of the devil" in 1 John 3:8. The closest concentric circle is the sentence before in verse 8a and the sentence after in 1 John 3:9. Verse 8a: "He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning." Then comes our text that the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:9: "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God."
The "Works of the Devil" Are Sins
First, John says the devil sins and those who sin are his. Then he says Christ came to destroy Satan's works. And then, he says, so no one born of God commits sin. Wouldn't you agree then that the "works of the devil" which the Son of God came to destroy are sins? Surely we should put the word "therefore" at the beginning of 1 John 3:9. "The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil. Therefore no one born of God commits sin." When people commit sin, it is a work of the devil. The work of the devil is to tempt people to sin. When they sin, his work is accomplished. So what the Son of God came to destroy is not just the guilt of sin (which might enable us to stay like we are and go right on sinning into heaven) but actually sinning. The Son of God came to destroy sinning. The enemy on the rebel planet is sin. The deadly virus in the Appalachian village is sin. The force to be conquered on the Western Front is sin. Christmas is God's invasion of enemy territory to rescue a people from the devil and destroy the sin in their lives.