Lots Of Space, But No RoomErwin W. Lutzer | December 20, 1992
Selected highlights from this sermon
When God was alone and nothing else existed in the whole universe, He made these decisions:
He decided to create the universe. Then He chose the planet Earth where the themes of good and evil, justice and injustice, would be played out.
And within that context of fallen humanity, He decided that He Himself would become a man in order to save us—to reconcile us to Himself.
God decided to be our offering for sin—and the Word was made flesh.
Is there room in your life, your “inn,” for Jesus?
For the next few moments I want you to go back with me in time, back to that day when God was alone and nothing else existed in the whole Universe. At that time God made a series of decisions that affect all of us. First of all He made the decision to create the Universe, and that would mean that now there would be something that would have existence other than God.
Then God, in His wisdom, decided to choose this planet, Planet Earth, one of the smallest of the planets. And this planet would be the stage on which a drama would be played out where the themes of good and evil and justice and injustice would be played up against one another, and eventually, of course, God showed His triumph in it all. And then as a part of that decision, God also chose that within the context of the fallenness of humanity, knowing all about Lucifer and Satan that would eventually come to be, God decided in the councils of eternity that He Himself would become a man, because there was a principle that was necessary to fulfill. And that was that God would have to become like unto the creatures that He would reconcile to Himself to make an offering for sin.
And so from eternity past it was known that someday God would become a man. The Eternal Word would be made flesh. So the angel comes to Mary of Nazareth, and we might expect that Mary, because she was pregnant of the Holy Spirit, would give birth there in the city of Nazareth. But that was not possible because years earlier a prophet had predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. So Caesar Augustus gave a decree that all the then known world should be taxed, and everyone had to go back to his own home. And because Joseph was enrolled in Bethlehem they made the 80-mile trek, and the night they arrived they were very frantically looking for a place to stay because Mary was about to give birth. So they went to the local inn at Bethlehem and they discovered that it was already full for the night. But the innkeeper said they could stay with the animals, where people bring their donkeys and their mules en route to the different parts of the land.
And so the Bible says in Luke 2:7, which is my key verse for today, “She brought forth her firstborn son and laid him in the manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Let me ask you a question today. Who was that baby that was laid in the manger? Who was He? Well, He was God, King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Creator, the One about whom the Bible says, “By Him were all things created both which are in heaven and which are on earth. Whether they are visible or invisible, all things were created by Him and for Him.” He was the owner of everything and yet treated as if He owned nothing. He comes from heaven to earth and He discovers a no vacancy sign in one of His own motels.
And so what happens is Mary and Joseph do what every poor couple gets used to doing, and that is to make do with what they have. And they spend the night in the stable where Jesus was born.
You know that phrase, “no room,” is really symbolic of Christ’s whole life. It’s not just that there was no room when He was born. There was no room for Him anywhere when He lived. People were trying to crowd Him out of their lives and out of their schedules.
For example, first of all, we notice that there was no room for Him in the business world. I know that the innkeeper didn’t realize that Mary was bearing the Son of God. He thought that she and Joseph were just your average peasant couple that needs to make do as best they can. And also it would be very difficult to ask some people to move after they had been put into a room for the night. But I venture to say that if Mary and Joseph had been rich, if they had had lots of money, and if they had had some prestige and some position in society, somehow, somewhere arrangements would have been made and there might have been room. But there was no room for Him in His ordinariness. There was no room.
Now what was true of His birth was true throughout His life. One day some disciples wanted to walk with Jesus, and they came to Jesus and they said, “We want to be Your disciples,” and He said (in Matthew 8:20), “Before you sign up I want you to remember that the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere where He can put His head. I don’t own any houses and clothes and land and investments, and no silver and gold. If you follow me, make sure you understand who I am because I’m not a part of the world’s values and attitudes.”
Why is it that Jesus somehow has no place in the business community of His day, or of this day? Why? It isn’t because Jesus in principle is opposed to business. It’s because He uncovers the greed that exists in the human heart. Jesus had a way of making enemies of respectable people. For example, in Luke 15, He said regarding those who loved money that that which is loved by mankind (namely money) is detestable to God. That doesn’t work on Wall Street, or in the marketplaces of Bethlehem. Jesus said in effect that if we loved money, we hated God. Oh, how does that go over in a very active, exciting business climate?
So, you see, Jesus exposed the greed. He exposed the dishonesty and all that comes to the surface in the presence of someone who is holy and pure and upright and just and who loved God the Father with all of His heart. Jesus exposes who we are.
By the way, have you ever wondered what Jesus must think of Christmas? I was doing some shopping yesterday and I was in a line, and there was a woman about three ahead of me who was trying to argue with the cashier about one of these coupons that she pulled out of her purse. Why in the world advertisers do that I don’t know. But the cashier was saying that it was out of date, that it no longer applied. And she was saying that it did. So the cashier had to leave her place and go call somebody else. And there’s this whole line of people waiting to pay, and as I saw the exasperation on their faces I said to myself, “They might be preparing for a birthday party, but they don’t look very happy.”
And you know that was understandable, but it was even worse than that. I am somebody who loves Jesus, and I wasn’t very happy either. So I did something that I’ve promised myself a thousand times I would never do. I switched lanes (laughter) even though my average in terms of being benefited by such a switch is about as low as the batting average of the Cubs. It is not very good. And I can now understand now a little better the words of the boy who prayed, “Oh Lord, forgive us our Christmases, even as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”
Now I want you to think for a moment. Just for a moment put yourself on Christ’s throne. You are King. You are Lord. You are God. And the world is throwing a multi-billion dollar Christmas party for you. That sounds good, but when you look at the fine print it doesn’t sound maybe quite that good. Number one, none of the gifts are for you. None are for you! They are all for other guests who invite themselves to your party.
Secondly, and even worse than that, not only are none of the gifts for you but you yourself are not even invited. You are not a part of the celebration. You are only the occasion for it. Think about that.
You know, I think it is a scandal beyond irony to think that Jesus, who so disdained commercialism, that Jesus, who Himself had no place to lay His head, and Jesus, who so exposed greed, should be the occasion for an event whose success is not measured by how much love we have in our hearts for Jesus. Nobody even pretends that’s what Christmas is all about, but the benefit of Christmas is measured solely on the basis of what it means to the economy of our nation.
I want to tell you very candidly that if Jesus were to walk into the business world of today, He would be politely shown to the door, and He would be told that we have no room for someone who believes in such honesty, and such integrity and such eternal values. There’s no room; there’s no vacancy. Here is the door. That’s secondly!
Not only was there no room for Jesus in the business world of His day, but also there was no room for Jesus in the religious world of His day. Now we might think that surely Christ would find a home within the religious community. After all, He is generally thought of as being a religious man, but I want you to know today that Christ’s most ferocious enemies were those who propagated the official religion of the day and it has ever been so throughout the pages of history.
Who was it that really instigated the crowds to cry up and say, “Give us Barabbas; release Barabbas but not this man; put this man on the cross?” Who was it? It was the priests, the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, who hated Christ with a passionate hatred. You do not know what hatred is until you see those who hate Christ. Why? Oh, He exposed who they were. He exposed their hypocrisy, and their long prayers that they prayed, not for the benefit of God but for the benefit of themselves and what other people would think about them when they were praying. He showed for all generations to come the fact that everyone of us can claim to be devoted to God but that devotion to God may be nothing more than a disguised devotion to ourselves because all of us can hide behind religion, and hide our sins behind a religious robe.
And so Jesus showed all of that. Jesus let everyone know that they were neglecting that which was most important. They were keeping all of the outward pageantry and the observances, and their hearts were so far from God, and Christ had a way of pinpointing that so that it was clear and unambiguous.
You know that today America is still a religious country, but we have basically accepted generally in society a kind of religion that is a mish-mash, a hodge-podge. You have a little bit of the eastern religions, and then you have some bits and pieces of Christianity thrown in with some ideas of your own, and it is mixed to your own taste, and everybody is a law unto himself. And I want to tell you today that a religion like that is an enemy of Christ even if it claims to make a bit of room for Him.
Let me speak plainly. To say that Jesus is one God among many, and to say that Jesus has a part in a religion that is mixed up with all kinds of other philosophies and bits and pieces of other religions is an insult to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and God, the very God. And He’s being insulted today day-by-day by the kind of weak religion that has been created by people who don’t like Christ for all that He really is.
Let me also say very candidly that there are some of you who are listening to this message today who do not know Christ personally and you are turned off to Christ because you have been turned off by religion, a religion of emptiness, of hollowness, of empty phrases that are said, and you’ve been turned off by that. And down deep in your heart you know that there must be something else to fill the emptiness of your life, but you have tried religion and it has failed you. Well, I want you to know today that Christianity is not a religion in that sense at all. If you understand it correctly, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ that is true, that is real, that is daily, that is vibrant and that can be fulfilling. That’s what you want, and not the popular religions of the day that basically say there is no room for Christ.
Let me say that oftentimes what happens in religious circles is that Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the King of kings, is defanged. He is made into a tame Christ, a manageable Christ, a Christ who we like, and He is not seen as Savior, as judge and coming King. Basically today we see all over even in religious circles if we understood it properly a sign that says, “No room.” No room in business, no room in religion, no room also in the legal world!
You know Jesus experienced at least six trials before He was crucified. Some of them were secular trials. For example, He came before Herod and Pilate. But some were religious. He came before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, but those who have studied those trials carefully point out that Christ did not receive any justice, even according to those standards of justice. He was railroaded. Those courts were set-ups because when you want to get rid of somebody you use the law in order to do it so that you can give the pretense that you are doing this right. And then what you can do is to get rid of Him and get Him out of the way, and use the law to do it.
I speak with a heavy heart, but that is what is happening in the United States of America today. The Supreme Court, you know, and the ACLU are working to make sure that Jesus Christ does not have room. I think, for example, of the President’s Park in Washington, D.C. A Christian choir came from Romania and began to sing in the park and have a concert and they were asked to leave because there can be no use of secular parks for such religious purposes because this, after all, would constitute the establishment of religion, you understand. Now Satanists had a concert in that park, but that’s okay.
I studied this and did you know that the names Christ and God can be used in our schools as swear words? You can curse God and Christ, and have constitutional protection while you are doing that, that is, protected by free speech. But Christ and God cannot be spoken of reverently in our schools because that would seem to indicate a sanction of religion, and you can’t have that.
And then I think of places like Ottawa, Illinois, where they used to have the pictures of Christ at Christmastime, and because of one call to the ACLU, had to take them down, not because people asked the community. Oh, no, no, no, no! Democracy is circumvented.
And then there are the Supreme Court’s confusing rulings regarding the Christmas crèche or Christmas arrangement. Oh, it’s very confusing. I read this yesterday. It’s hard to know what the Court really means because what they said was that you can actually have the baby Jesus, and you can have the manger scene as long as it doesn’t stand alone. You have to mix it up. You have to hide Jesus behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And if you get enough secular symbols in there, then it can pass, but don’t let Jesus have all the limelight. Get rid of Him. No room for Christ! No room in the schools! No room in the parks! And there are powerful voices that are saying no room in the government. No room! No room! No vacancy! You are the Creator! You are the King, but the answer is, “Get out of here.”
Now that’s serious, but in the closing moments of this message I want to talk to you about something that is even more serious, and that is that there are some of you who are listening to me right now, and Christ has no room in your own heart. Maybe in your mind you admire Him but there’s no room for Christ in your own heart. You give Him a little itsy bitsy bit of room, maybe even once or twice a year, but really He isn’t welcome the rest of the time. You know the reason for this is because of the fact that we emphasize the physical and not the spiritual. We are so wrapped up in that which pertains to time that we forget that we are going to live eternally. You know, there are some people who just live as if they forget that someday they will stand before Jesus as their judge, and He will ask, “What did you do with Me when I was on earth?”
People live as if that isn’t going to happen. Well, I’m here today to tell you that it is going to happen because it isn’t just the baby in the manger. It’s the strong, powerful King of the Universe who was born there in Bethlehem, and we forget that.
I must speak candidly and tell you that sometimes I am deeply grieved by the number of people who give some kind of allegiance to Christ, perhaps once a year, maybe during Christmas and Easter, and literally blow God off the rest of the year and forget about Him. That’s terrible. It’s terrible. It’s an insult to the King of kings, to the Lord of lords. And no matter how many nice words might be said, if the truth were known, across many a heart there are two words written - no room! The mind is filled with pleasure and moneymaking and aspirations and careers and all the other things. There is room for Jesus in the mind, yes, but no room for Him in the heart!
And we come with mixed motives. We come because we want to add Christ to all the other things, and we forget that Jesus Christ comes and invites us to open the door of our hearts to receive Him that we might be cleansed and forgiven and welcomed, and that He wants to go into every single chamber. He wants to go into our reading room. And then He wants to go into the living room, and into the den where we watch T.V., and into all of the rooms of our heart. Christ comes to cleanse, to be Lord and to be God, and anything less insults Him.
I need to remind you today that we are not saved because of what happened in the crib at Bethlehem. We are saved because of what happened at the cross in Jerusalem. The lowest time of Christ’s descension was not in that manger, even though it was smelly. That was not it. It was when He was on the cross, and He said, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” as He became the sacrifice for my sin and for yours. God, the very God!
In London there was an old poor woman by the name of Miss Betty. And Miss Betty never came out of her apartment because she owed so much money to so many creditors. She was afraid that she would be arrested, and so she stayed inside almost all the time. There was a minister who knew of her and heard about her plight and decided he would do something nice. You know, occasionally ministers do do something nice. Just remember that. And he decided that he would raise money for her and pay off all her debts, so he did.
And then he went to find her to give her the news. He asked the neighbors where she lived, and they said, “You know, you go up these stairs and she’s over there.” So he goes and knocks on the door and there was no answer. He waits a few moments and knocks on the door again. No answer! He finally leaves and some neighbor said, “Did you find her?” He said, “No, there was no answer.” They said, “She’s in there but she thinks that you are a policeman or you are a creditor. That’s why she doesn’t open the door.” So he went back and knocked on the door, and said, “I am a minister. Let me in.” He identified himself and she opened the door. He said, “I want you to know today that we raised enough money and we paid all of your debts.” And he gave her the receipts to prove it. She was so embarrassed and so ashamed, and she said, “You know, I almost didn’t let you in even though you are the one who paid my debts.”
You see that’s what happened. Jesus died on the cross, and payment was made for those who let Him in. He died that we might be able to be reconciled with God, and yet throughout this nation there are millions of people who have closed the door of their hearts to the only One qualified to forgive them, to reconcile them to God, and they have lots of space in their lives for a thousand different things, but no room for Christ.