Costly Reality not religious ritual

There is incredible misunderstanding about the Christian faith. Two millennia of history have revealed all sorts of unhelpful, even antagonistic activity, not just without but also  from within  the professing Christian church.

Many today won’t give Christianity a hearing. What they have heard is enough to put any one off. But there is a fundamental faith which is pure and worthy and right, and should  be considered by everyone at least once in their life.

It is to the fundamentals of living the faith that we come this week in our progress through the gospel account of Matthew. In chapter two and verse 11 we read these words encapsulating the essence of the faith.

and when they [the wise men] were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him [Jesus] gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh

They fell down and worshipped because this was God almighty come in the flesh to live as a human being, to show and teach us the way to be.

And we too must come and fall down and worship Christ as God who alone is worthy – not any man or organisation of men; not any particular belief system dreamt up by human beings, be that non Christian or professedly Christian; nor any false idea arising from the failings or abuses of others who profess the Christian faith. And certainly not any place or physical item as if it were somehow divine, whether or not it is supposed to be associated with some miracle power of Christ.

No, we are to worship the Jesus described in the New Testament of the Bible – not any perversion or manipulation of that God-Man. And we can never understand or know God unless we come to our knees in our heart of hearts and acknowledge him as our Creator and the One to whom we owe everything, even the very breath we breathe – and the One to whom we ultimately return when this mortal life ends, and our eternal life starts…

Man is a mere mortal but God is everything. And until we get that, we get nowhere in understanding or coming to one who is our Maker and our Judge.

So what did the Wise Men bring who came to visit the baby Jesus, and why is it so vital and fundamental ?

They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.

All three were essential ingredients in the Old Testament ritualistic worship.

Let’s remember here that Matthew’s Gospel links the Old and New, explaining how Christ replaces the ritualistic religion of the Old Testament and the Jewish nation.

The Old Testament religion and its Tabernacle/Temple ritual is superceded by faith in Jesus Christ – and his Church is now the temple. These 3 substances have highly symbolic value in pointing us to critical truth about living the Christian faith.

All 3 substances were identified by God as required in the construction of his place of worship and in its functioning. God gave Moses the design for his place of worship and Moses was warned to do everything exactly as God directed.

It is absolutely critical to note here, that God determines the way in which he is to be worshipped – not men, nor men’s ideas – but God, according to his ways and his ideas. And if there is a problem in the history of the church, it is because men think they know better than God: men have done what they think best, not what God has ordained.

So what do these 3 items each represent ?


Gold was the finish on everything in the Old Testament place of worship.

The Israelites fled Egypt with precious little. They had no idea where they would go. But they fled in obedience to Moses instruction from God.

A collection was made, and they gave what gold they had – the only means they had to gain the necessities of this world. They voluntarily gave up the only capital they possessed.

This is the symbol the wise men bring to Christ. To give up all that is precious in this material world to Jesus. Jesus himself ,of course, gave up all for us when he went to the Cross to die for us. He gave everything. And we are called to give up our lives to him. Not to be a literal sacrifice on a cross [though persecution in this world does lead to that at times] but to be a living sacrifices, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans [chapter 12].

That’s the deal – total surrender to Christ. To gain eternal life with him.

To live out his resurrection life in us, in this world. That in itself is a crucifying experience, I can assure you. Not literal, but mental and emotional in the face of this world’s hostility to those who obey God.

Gold speaks of obedience, not counting the cost. It speaks of SACRIFICE.


Frankincense. This was an essential  ingredient in the incense burnt on the altar of incense in the Holy place in the tabernacle worship. Incense was what God wanted, and from Luke chapter 1, verses 9 and 10 and from Revelation chapter 8, verses 3 and 4 we know it to be associated with PRAYER.

Prayer is the place of dependence. We pray because we realise our need of God, and that only God can meet our need. We pray because we look to him – not ourselves, nor man, nor the ways of this world to get by, but to God. God our Provider, God our Protector,  God our Patron. And we are to pray because we are to recognise and know our place of utter reliance on God – for all in this world, but especially for the life to come.

Because all our righteousness is as filthy rags, as the prophet Isaiah said.

Prayer is the place of DEPENDENCE.


Myrrh was an essential ingredient in the anointing oils which were applied to all the holy items  and to the priests in the Old Testament tabernacle/temple ritual. It speaks of being set apart unto God. It speaks of holiness.

It speaks of DEVOTION.

Utter devotion to God, and refusal to live and think like the self serving world about us. To be different and to be Christian.

Different in attitude – not necessarily different in dress. 

And myrrh was also associated with anointing for burial – it is associated with the place of Death.

The Christian life is a life of going through the cycle of death to self, and living in the resurrection power of God, for God.

Jesus showed us the example in dying in the cross, and being raised to life by the power of God.

Baptism by full immersion in water acts out this life cycle of the believer. Going down into the waters represents death to the old, sinful life – just as Christ died on the cross and was buried; and coming up out of the waters represents living in the new life of Christ’s resurrection power.

And as any true believer in Christ can tell you, they live a life in which God calls them little by little to die to selfishness in an area of their life, and start living Christ centredness instead.

To live among unbelievers normally  – not in a monastery !

The act of full immersion baptism in water speaks of the continual death-and-life cycle of the follower of Christ. It is a sacrament [a means of imparting God’s grace]; it is a reminder of the fundamental lifestyle to which the Christian is called by God.

It sums up the meaning expressed in the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Christian Preacher

By Christianity

The personal icon photograph shows God's creation, the world. It reminds us that God is the Creator of all - the almighty, the all knowing and all present - the one who is most important of all. The one to whom we owe all, and the one to whom we will answer for all. The site's header image of the Bible [King James Authorised Version], a map, a light and a compass represent to us that God's word in the Bible is our spiritual map, illumination and guide through this life. Those who obey his teaching will know his presence and power - Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 23

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