The Gospel According to Scrooge

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The Gospel According to Scrooge
John 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17

A. “A Christmas Carol, A Ghost Story of Christmas,” by Charles Dickens
1. You may have never read “A Christmas Carol, A Ghost Story of Christmas,” by Charles Dickens, but surely you have seen one of the many theater, film, or television productions of the classic story.
2. I have learned from Brother Herb Hodges that many of the classics are really treasures of truth!
a) All of these books contain great truths.
b) That is why they are classics!
c) Of reading, Bro. Herb says, “After you read it casually, then read it carefully, and then your can read it pleasurably.”

B. Charles Dickens
1. Although Charles Dickens died more than 160 years ago, his Christmas story is timeless.
2. It is said that Dickens wrote the story to generate some much-needed cash.
3. Still, the powerful story reached the hearts of multitudes from the very beginning.
4. Many theories have been given to account for its popularity:
a) The ghost story genre,
b) The recreation of the look and feel of Victorian England,
c) The attack on basic human greed and selfishness.
5. The real reason it rings so true to people is that it contains major pictures of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
6. We are going to explore some of those pictures in this study.
7. So we are going to interpret “A Christmas Carol” through a Gospel lens.
a) Direct Gospel References
b) A Picture of the Bad News
c) A Picture of the Good News

I. Direct Gospel References
A. Jacob Marley’s Personal History
1. Several overt Gospel references in the Scrooge story reveal that the story was written under the Gospel umbrella.
2. When the ghost of Scrooge’s former business partner, Jacob Marley, appeared and talked with Scrooge, Marley remembered his personal history with these words: “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!”
3. The tragedy is that Marley realizes his mistake too late to correct it, and from the life beyond death, wonders why he could have missed the message.
a) This will be the history of many people who walk on this earth.
b) They never look up to see the opportunities God has placed before them to see Him in their everyday life.

B. Dickens’ Commentary
1. In a second reference, when Scrooge is taken away to the home of his nephew, Dickens writes these words: “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
2. Dickens really understood the wonder of the coming of Jesus as a child.

C. The Little Cratchit’s
1. When Scrooge was transported to the home of Bob Cratchit in the final segment of the story, the “little Cratchits” were sitting “as still as statues in one corner, and sat looking up at Peter, who had a book before him.”
2. Scrooge heard the words, “And He took a child and set him in the midst of them,” and he wondered where he had heard those words?
3. Well, they came from the story of Jesus in the New Testament and or the need to come to Jesus as a little child (Matthew 18:2).

II. A Picture of the Bad News
A. Scrooge’s Story
1. The Scrooge story presents a vivid picture of the bad news which provides the background for the glorious Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. The pre-conversion picture of Ebenezer Scrooge is an excellent illustration of every human being as a sinner.
3. Listen to Dickens’ description of Scrooge:
“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”
4. Those words form a tragic portrait of a wretched man.
a) The portrait of Scrooge is consistent throughout the story until his redemption at the end.
b) Charles Dickens is well known for his exaggerated characters, but is Scrooge a caricature?
c) I do not think so!
d) The greatest characteristic of sin in a person’s life is that they are selfish.

B. The Definition of Sin
1. According to the Bible, sin may be defined in its simplest meaning as focus on self.
2. Let the letters of the word “S – I – N” form an acrostic:
Self – Ish – Ness
a) Sin is self-law that keeps the person apart from God.
b) If not corrected, this choice will last forever.
3. To define sin as selfishness may sound innocent, but remember that it was selfishness that:
a) Created Satan,
b) Caused the fall of man,
c) Led to the construction of hell,
d) Keeps every human sinner in bondage forever, and
e) Crucified the loving and glorious Son of God.
4. George Macdonald was right when he said, “The one principle of hell is – ‘I am my own.’”
a) So all the protest of self-centered man against the idea of hell is totally unwarranted.
b) Hell is just God giving to sinful human beings what they have always wanted – life on their own terms, to “go it alone”, doing without God.
5. This is the very same selfishness that hides in the heart of every one of us!
a) It will produce the same final effects in each one of us that it had in Satan if we leave it unresolved by the grace of God!
b) Deep down inside, each one of us is hopelessly selfish.
c) This selfishness is the very essence of sin!
d) We see this clearly in the person of Ebenezer Scrooge.

C. The Loneliness of Sin
1. The loneliness of Scrooge in Dickens’ story is a picture of one of the major consequences of sin.
2. Remember Dickens’ description of Scrooge, “Secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” And again, “there he sat alone, quite alone in the world.”
3. Though many sinners surround themselves with people here, and some try to have warm relationships, there is no way they can reproduce “the fellowship” of believers.
4. The Bible pictures unbelievers in eternity as being like “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 13)

D. The Bondage of Sin
1. The “Christmas Carol” clearly pictures the truth that sin has a binding and enslaving effect upon the sinner.
2. Dickens presents this devastating truth in a graphic way.
3. The appearance of Marley’s ghost in Scrooge’s bedchamber – “a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant’s cellar.”
4. When the ghost of Jacob Marley appears before Scrooge, “the chain he drew was clasped about his middle, and it was made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.”
5. Scrooge says to the ghost, “You are fettered. Tell me why?” “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” “Scrooge trembled more and more. ‘Or would you know,’ pursued the Ghost, ‘the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!’ Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing. ‘Jacob,’ he said, imploringly. ‘Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!’ ‘I have none to give,’ the Ghost replied. ‘It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.”
a) Let me encourage you to read the previous paragraph several times, and meditatively.
b) Many Gospel dimensions can be detected in the words of both Scrooge and Marley’s Ghost.
6. In the words of Jesus, “Whoever commits sin is the bondslave of sin” (John 8:34),
a) Paul, “You belong as slaves to the power which you choose to obey, whether you choose sin, whose reward is death, or God, obedience to whom means the reward of righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
b) Sin in any of its forms has an enslaving power, and there will be eternal consequences.

III. A Picture of the Good News
A. God Intervenes
1. The good news forms the very heart of the Gospel as seen in Dickens’ story.
2. In the story of Scrooge, visitors from another world interrupt his greedy life.
a) In the same way, God intrudes, intervenes and interrupts our lives with His redeeming love and grace.
b) He loves us so much that He simply refused to live without us.
c) However, if we stubbornly insist on our own way, God will not force Himself upon us.
3. C. S. Lewis was right when he said, “There are only two kinds of people – those who say, ‘Not Thy will, but mine, be done,’ and they get their way and spend eternity with the person who fosters that selfish lifestyle, Satan, or those who say with Jesus, ‘Not my will, but Thine, be done,’ and their prayer is answered as they spend eternity with the One who modeled that lifestyle.”
4. The story of Scrooge reveals the need of every sinner for a personal transformation brought on by the intervention of God in his or her life.

B. God Shows Us Clearly Our Personal Sins
1. As in the story of Scrooge, the individual sinner is led by the Gospel to clearly and painfully sees his personal sins by a powerful revelation.
2. He will never realize how serious sin is to God without this revelation.
3. Dickens’ words in the “Christmas Carol”:
“‘You will be haunted,’ said the Ghost, ‘by Three Spirits.’ Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost’s had done. ‘Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?’ he demanded, in a faltering voice. ‘It is.’ ‘I – I think I’d rather not,’ said Scrooge. ‘Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, ‘you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.’”
a) The Ghost clearly says that Scrooge will never come to reformation without help, and the same is true of every sinner.
b) The necessary illumination and conviction are just as painful and unpleasant for the sinner as they were for Mr. Scrooge.
c) We must see our sins as God sees them, and we must agree with God about them
(1) The word “confess” is homologeo, which means to “agree with another”.
(2) If we do not agree with God about our sin, then God cannot remove them from us!
4. However a sinner cannot and will not come to this point without a miracle work of the Holy Spirit.
5. This miracle work is explained in John 16:7-9.
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
Every born-again person will admit that this is exactly what has happened in his life to bring him to God.
a) When conviction of sin occurs, the sinner sees himself as a helpless, shackled, just like Jacob Marley.
b) He is brought to a shattering awareness of sin that begins the “un-selfing” process.

C. The Crisis of Conversion
1. In the “Christmas Carol,” Mr. Scrooge obviously experiences a remarkable and thorough conversion.
2. In fact, it is presented as a kind of recurrence of childhood, and this is exactly the way the Bible presents Christian conversion.
3. Dickens explains the spirit of those in the household of Scrooge’s nephew by saying, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
4. Later, the thoroughly transformed Scrooge is exulting in his conversion.
“‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo! Ha, ha, ha!’ Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs! ‘I don’t know what day of the month it is!’ said Scrooge. ‘I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!’ He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. “

“Running to the window, he opened it and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!
“‘What’s today?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him. ‘Eh?’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder. ‘What’s today, my fine fellow?’ said Scrooge. ‘Today!’ replied the boy. ‘Why, CHRISTMAS DAY.’ ‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can.’”
5. Notice the “childhood” theme in the account of Scrooge’s “conversion.”
6. In the Gospel, Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become as a little child, you will in no wise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
7. Also notice the instantaneous nature of Scrooge’s “conversion.” “The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can.”

D. Continuing Conversion
1. A few minutes after the “crisis conversion” testimony, Dickens pictures the “continuing conversion” of the changed man.
2. Christian conversion, also, has both aspects
a) the transforming crisis of the meeting with Christ, and
b) the continuing change of a growing Christian life.
3. One of the deceits of Satan is to lead church people to think that the instant transformation of sinners is all there is to Christian conversion, but that is not true!

E. Reorientation of Life
1. In true Christian conversion the transformed sinner is re-oriented from self to service.
2. The inner “center of gravity” shifts from self to Christ and others.
a) If it does not shift to others, it has not shifted to Christ!
b) Every truly saved person is given a new compassion for all people the instant he is born again.
3. Again, this is illustrated in Scrooge’s change.
“He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps toward his nephew’s house.”
4. When he arrives there, he embraces the entire household in the arms of a changed man, and proves his transformation by doing the unthinkable – he raises Bob Cratchit’s salary!

F. Repentance
1. In Scrooge’s story repentance is shown to be vital in producing the transformation, and that opportunity must be seized when the spiritual intrusion has occurred.
2. In the throes of horror over his past life, Scrooge says, “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
a) This departure from the destructive course of sin is what the Bible calls “repentance.”
3. Scrooge pled, as he fell upon his knees before the Spirit, “Good Spirit, your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life! I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will not shut out the lessons that the Spirits have taught. Oh, tell me that I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
4. And Scrooge “held up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed.”
5. We can see conviction, repentance, and conversion all illustrated in the story.

G. A Permanent Change
1. Finally Dickens pictures the transformation of Scrooge as a permanent change, again a picture of true Christian conversion.
2. A “conversion to Christ” that does not last is a counterfeit.
3. With regard to some who professed Christ but did not possess Him the Apostle John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not of us” (I John 2:19).
4. The converted sinner is captured and conquered at that moment and forever by the glorious Son of God.
a) He is radically transformed in a real and the new nature he receives in that birth is his forever.
b) “Scrooge became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh. He paid little attention to them. He was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe for good, at which some people did not
5. The closing paragraph of the story records these words: “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
a) So his change was not the mere resolution of a fleeting moment, but a settled course for the remainder of his life.
b) When a person is saved, he is born anothen, from above, and remains God’s child.
c) He or she has a privileged place in God’s family and the privilege of God’s infinite care, forever.
d) Thus, he may legitimately join all of his brothers and sisters in saying, “God has blessed Us, Every One!”
6. Christmas as Charles Dickens knew well is so much more than decorations, and bowl games, and the buying of presents.
7. Christmas is about the spirit of good cheer, and joy and peace that comes from a heart that is filled by faith that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish”!