Jesus in America: Merry Christmas
December 07 04
This week's edition of Newsweek features a poll of some 1000 Americans concerning their beliefs about the virgin birth. Seventy-nine percent of the sample believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. However, only 67% say they believe the entire Christmas story as recorded in the Bible. Almost one-fourth of the sample said they believe the Christmas story was invented by man.
What's interesting is that although 79% of respondents said they believe the virgin birth is true, only 55% of those polled believe that the entire Bible is true. So while 82% believe that Jesus was God or the Son of God, not anywhere near that many believe that the book He authored is 100% true. And again, while the vast majority say they believe in Jesus' deity, only 52% believe that He will return to earth some day.
People are confused. Most believe in Jesus, yet they do not believe the entire Bible is true. So, if Jesus is "God or the Son of God," then these respondents do not believe that God is always accurate in His written word. The survey did not ask the question, but I would imagine that the parts of the Bible that many Americans don't think are of God are those parts pertaining to sin, hell, and the devil. Most Americans would rather believe in a God who makes no judgements, never created a hell, and will welcome everyone into heaven when they die.
Most Americans believe that Jesus came simply to teach us how to live on this earth. While Jesus did teach us a lot of things while He was here, His primary purpose was to die on the cross, to shed His blood for our sins. That is where many Americans leave the building. Americans have some knowledge about Bible stories, yet when it comes to really knowing God, many would rather watch television or go to the movies. Americans like stories. It would seem that, in America, the Bible stories are just...stories. There is an American version of Christianity that says that God is real and Jesus really came to earth, born of a virgin. He said some really profound things and we especially like the Golden Rule -- you know, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I heard that a lot growing up.
Americans like the Ten Commandments. Oh, we don't like having to think that we've broken them, but we like to say that they are good for us. It makes us feel like good, moral people. We like rules and regulations. We make our own laws, too, to add to the Ten that God gave us. We argue that the Constitution was written by Christians and this is a Christian country. We equate patriotism with Christianity.
But how many of those 82% who believe that Jesus came as God in the flesh would also say that they have given their lives to Him? How many of them would see the connection between Jesus' death on the cross and those Ten Commandments? How many of them would say they are born again? Try asking folks that. That's where the rubber meets the road. We can say we believe in Jesus, but it doesn't do any good to just believe. Even the devil believes; in fact, he believes the entire Bible. It's not just what you know that counts, but in whom you put your trust.
So as you enjoy this Christmas season, you may try thinking about all those folks around you who are putting up trees and buying presents. What are they celebrating? The birth of Christ? Why? What does it mean to them? Do they know that the story doesn't end there? Are they born again?