Introduction Here He Comes!

Introduction to Here He Comes

Here He Comes!

By

Ronald Christian

Advent Messages To Prepare For Christ's Coming In New Ways To Our Hearts and Lives

Introduction

If you wanted to communicate with someone of a different language, how would you try to communicate, if you could not use the vehicle of a common language? You probably would use a lot of so-called 'body language'. You might smile at the other person, or make a gentle bow to him, or use your hands to produce certain shapes or to point in certain directions. Perhaps you might, amidst your frustration, try to communicate through lip movements.

How does the infinite God communicate to finite man? The Bible says that God's ways and thoughts are higher than man's ways and thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth! So, how could God possibly communicate to puny creatures like man?

If God could not speak verbally to mankind, how would God communicate to mankind? What kind of so-called 'body language' do you think God might use in an attempt to get His message across to mankind?

God could try to communicate to mankind through Nature. Indeed, God does communicate to mankind through Nature. Listen to the Psalmist: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of His craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world." (Psalms 19:1-3, Living Bible)

God could try to communicate to mankind through man's conscience. God communicates a sense of 'right and wrong' even to those who are so-called heathen or pagan people. Romans 2:12 and following says, "He (God) will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God's written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God's laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them." (Living Bible)

Another way that God sought to communicate to mankind was through the Mosaic Law, written on tables of stone (Ten Commandments) when Moses was on top of Mount Sinai.

God further sought to communicate His ways and will through the God-inspired words and personalities of the Old Testament Prophets. No one can deny that God's communication to mankind through the great prophets was most wonderful. The ethical and moral teachings of he prophets are relevant to every age.

But as good and as helpful as God's methods of communication are through the wonders of Nature, through the dictates of conscience, through the commands of the Old Testament Laws, and through the ethical teachings of the Old Testament prophets, we must

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acknowledge that all of these forms of divine communication are less than adequate. These forms of communication are rather like the communication of 'body language' between two persons of different races, neither of whom understands the verbal language of the other person! 'Body language' is helpful, but 'body language' without verbal communication is inadequate and sometimes misleading!

How could God communicate best to mankind? If God could come to earth and use mankind's verbal language! A daring idea! How could God possibly 'speak' man's language? Only if God could become a real human and learn to speak real human language! And that is what God did! "Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets (in visions, dreams, and even face to face), telling them little by little about his plans. But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does mark him as God." (Hebrews 1:1-3, Living Bible)

"Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God." (Colossians 1:15 a, Living Bible) Just as a verbal word gives expression to a person's thought, so Jesus is God's thoughts and purposes and plans and will. Jesus is God's clearest communication to mankind, for Jesus is God's very Word! God no longer has to communicate through so-called 'body language' – i.e., through Nature and through Conscience and through the Law and through the Prophets. Jesus has come, and Jesus is God's direct communication to mankind!

Not only did Jesus – God's direct communication to mankind – make clear to a sinful race that God loves them in spite of their sin, but Jesus made it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God! "For God wanted all of himself to be in his Son. It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood." (Colossians 1:19-20, Living Bible)

"Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory – the glory of the Son of the Heavenly Father." (John 1:14, Living Bible) Notes E. Stanley Jones, "This verse the 'Word became flesh" – is the Great Divide. In all other religions it is Word became word – a philosophy, a moralism, a system, a technique, but for all time and all men everywhere, 'the Word became flesh' – the Idea became Fact.. .. The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – a little more moral, more free from contradictory elements, more lofty in its conceptions. It is that, but it is more – it is different in kind. Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one Gospel Religions are the Word become word; the Gospel is the Word become flesh." (The Word Became Flesh; E. Stanley Jones; page 5,8)

John proclaimed that "the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. .. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father." (John 1:9, John1:14)

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God created all things good, but man marred the perfect design of God. Through his willful disobedience, man plunged himself into the abyss of sin, corruption, and misery. Man became alienated from his Creator. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6: 5)

The story is told of a naturalist who viewed a procession of ants carrying pebbles to build an ant hill. To the naturalist, the ants seemed to be moving to and fro in great confusion, with little organization. With keen interest the observer watched and wished that he could communicate to the ants so that they would know how to move in an organized method to carry their pebbles. Wishing that he could alleviate them of their confusion, the naturalist suddenly realized that he could communicate to the ants only if he himself would become an ant.

God looked down and viewed man's rebellion, moral depravity, confusion, and ignorance, and realized that He could only save mankind if He became a man!

The Incarnate Word was fully God. Paul declared, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2: 9) Jesus' disciples, who knew Him most intimately in various circumstances, declared Christ as sinless. Peter wrote that Jesus "Did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (1 Peter 2: 22) John declared that "in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5) It is very significant for a Jew to declare a man as sinless. Basic to Jewish thought and theology is the doctrine of the universality of sin. Jesus stood the test of the critical Jewish eye, and was declared as uniquely sinless.

The Incarnate Word was fully man. Paul wrote that Jesus "took upon Him the form a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)

The writer of the Hebrews vividly described the purpose of the Incarnation. "Forasmuch then as the children (humans) are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." (Hebrews 2: 14-18)

"You know how full of love and kindness our Lord was: though He was so very rich, yet to help you, he became so very poor, so that by being poor He could make you rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9, Living Bible)

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Jesus came out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe – all because of His great love for a fallen race of people! He who was invested with the full powers of divinity, He who was co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and the Spirit – this powerful, eternal Christ became a lowly human!

Says Bishop Sheen about Jesus' humility and earthly poverty, as compared to his eternal glory: "In the filthiest place in the world, purity was born. He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting like beasts, was born among beasts. He who would call himself the living bread, descended from heaven, was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat … There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable … The stable was the last place that the world would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. No worldly mind would have suspected that He who makes the sun warm the earth, would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. That he, who, in the language of Scriptures, could stop the turning about of our tourists, would have his birth place dictated by an imperial census. That he who clothed the fields with grass, would himself be naked. That he, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That salvation would lie in a manager. That the bird which built the nest, would be hatched therein. No one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss him."

It is tragic that so many people "miss the Christ"! Even at Christmas Time, when everyone should be especially conscious of the coming of God to planet Earth, so many are preoccupied with the temporary and shallow concerns of "Holiday Celebrations" – filled with material pursuits and self-seeking pleasures.

This is a book on the Advent of Christ – God becoming a Man in order to seek and to save a fallen race of people. These messages were first delivered to the precious parishioners of the First Free Methodist Church in Fort Collins, Colorado – sometimes more than once- during the more than 25 years that I served as pastor of this one local church (1967 – 1994). Because the book is divided into thirteen chapters, the layout of the book is designed in such a way that it can easily be used for an adult Sunday School course. The individual chapters contain enough content, and yet are short enough in length, that they could also well serve as material for small midweek study groups within a local Church. There are thought – provoking questions listed at the end of each chapter, to provide class participants an opportunity to review and to discuss the main content of each chapter. Teens, as well as adults, could well profit from the study of these Advent messages – for these messages have ever relevant and contemporary applications in the lives of teens as well as in the lives of adults. After all, because Jesus was fully Human as well as fully Divine (the God-Man), Jesus went through the normal stages of human development – infancy, childhood, adolescence, manhood. No one understands the challenges and pressures and temptations and changes which human beings go through like Jesus of Nazareth.

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One dare not sentimentalize the birth of Jesus – saying endearing words about "the sweet little Jesus" in the manger of Bethlehem. For Jesus was born to live sacrificially, and to die a substitutionary death. Jesus was born to die, therefore the Birth of Jesus dare not be isolated as a sentimental event. His sacrificial life and His substitutionary death must always be looked at, along with His miraculous and heart-warming birth if we are ever to understand the true significance of Jesus' total identification with the fallen human race.

Jesus was God; therefore we know that God cares for us when we sorrow. In fact, God shares our sorrows. God knows what it is to suffer loss.

An embittered father whose son had died, asked a minister, "Where was God when my son died?" Replied the minister, "The same place He was when His own son died." God suffered the loss of His own Son, so he can share the heartache of every person who loses a loved one.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song; 
As the burdens press, and the cares distress 
And the way grows weary and long? 
Does Jesus care when my way is dark 
With a nameless dread and fear? 
As the daylight fades into deep night shades 
Does He care enough to be near? 
Does Jesus care when I've said 'good-bye' 
To the dearest on earth to me, 
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks 
Is it aught to Him? Does He see? 
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares, 
His heart is touched with my grief: 
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, 
I know my Saviour cares.

Of Christ, it is written, "Surely he hath borne our grief's, and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:3, Isaiah 53:4 a)

The sorrow and sufferings of life are many and varied, but Jesus' life shows us that God is involved in all of them. Take a look at Jesus' involvement with suffering humanity. "The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son – Christ could not bear it. The leper, the innocent, once joyful life struck down by that slow, dreadful living death – Christ could not bear it. 'I will: be thou clean.' The great mass of attractive, lovable men and women caught in the toils of sins that spoilt their lives, and temptations they could not break, and wild regrets that were a misery – Christ could not bear it. And so He died to

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free them. And so we can say today, in those most moving words of our hymn, 'Jesus, Thou art all compassion'.

'Jesus, Thou art all compassion, 
Pure, unbounded love Thou art; 
Visit us with Thy salvation, 
Enter every trembling heart.' 

"But the greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God." (The Gates of New Life, Stewart; page 197)

There is never a sorrow that He doth not share, nor a woe that He does not feel. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Picture Jesus as He made His way into the desert to contemplate, following the beheading of His cousin John. Follow Him to the grave side of His dear friend Lazarus, and listen to His deep moans and sobbing in the midst of Lazarus' broken-hearted sisters, Mary and Martha. God is not only identified with us in our sorrows, but He is also identified with us in our sins.

An artist once created a most unusual painting of Jesus on the cross. The body stood out in sharp relief against a darkened background. But as one gazed at the painting, a second figure seemed to appear among the shadows. It was as if God could be seen behind the figures of Jesus. The nails that went through the hands of Jesus went into the hands of God. The nail that fastened the feet of Jesus held fast the feet of God. The crown of thorns was somehow on God's head, too. The artist had made clear his conception that it is through the experience of Calvary that we look into the eternal heart of God. What we see during those hours of torture is a picture of God's suffering, outgoing love.

It is not only Jesus but God himself who forever identifies with us. There is an infinite concern at the center of the universe for man, whether he be in joy or in pain. It enables one to say, "If I ascend to heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there." (Psalms 139: 8)

Jesus was called a 'Friend of Sinners' . Think of the people whom Jesus befriended: the despised Woman of Samaria, Zacchaeus the Thief, Mary Magdalene the woman of ill fame, the demon possessed man called Legion, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector Matthew who became one of Jesus' disciples and writer of one of the Gospels.

Of Jesus it is said, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

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One Solitary Life …

He was born in an obscure village. 
He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. 
He then became an itinerant preacher. 
He never held an office. 
He never had a family or owned a house. 
He didn't go to college. 
He had no credentials but himself .. 
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today, 
He is the central figure of the human race. 
All the armies that ever marched, 
and all the navies that ever sailed, 
all the parliaments that ever sat, 
and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected 
the life of man on this earth as much as that ... 

One Solitary Life.

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REIGN OF CHRIST

All glory to God in the sky 
And peace upon earth to be restored; 
Jesus, exalted on high 
Appear our omnipotent Lord! 
Who, meanly in Bethlehem born, 
Didst stoop to redeem a lost race 
Once more to thy creatures return 
And reign in thy kingdom of grace! 
When thou in our flesh didst appear, 
All nature acknowledged thy birth; 
Arose the acceptable year 
And heaven was opened on earth; 
Receiving its Lord from above, 
The world was united to bless 
The Giver of concord and love, 
The Prince and Author of peace. 
would'st thou again be made known, 
Again in thy Spirit descend, 
And set up, in each of thine own, 
A kingdom that never shall end! 
Thou only art able to bless, 
And make the glad nations obey, 
And bid the dire enmity cease, 
And bow the whole world to thy sway. 
Come then to thy servants again, 
Who long thy appearing to know: 
Thy quiet and peaceable reign 
In mercy establish below; 
All sorrow before thee shall fly, 
And anger and hatred be 0'er; 
And envy and malice shall die 
And discord afflict us no more 

by Charles Wesley

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Preparation for Jesus Coming

Preparation For Jesus Coming

Preparation For Jesus Coming

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CHAPTER 1

SUBJECT: Preparation for Jesus' Coming

TEXT: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." (Galatians 4:4)

INTRODUCTION: "The practical value of this study of world conditions at the birth of Christ lies in the discovery that modem conditions are closely parallel. It is the growing conviction, the considered judgment of men who can read the signs of the times that once again in world relations – social, economic, moral, and religious – God's flood tide is coming, and that our generation is seeing what men saw twenty centuries ago, the lines of preparation beginning to converge, beginning to point to a new day of the power of the Son of Men." (James Stewart)

I. Political and Social Preparation

II. Economic Preparation

III. Moral Preparation

IV. Religious and Intellectual Preparation

V. The Coming World Revival and Spiritual Renewal

CONCLUSION: The mind and mood of the present day would strongly suggest that God is preparing the way for the Coming of His Son to the hearts of men with unprecedented power and glory. The evidence seems to indicate that we may be ready to see the greatest revival of the coming of Christ to man, that mankind has ever experienced. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

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CHAPTER 1

SUBJECT: Preparation for Jesus' Coming

TEXT: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." (Galatians 4:4)

INTRODUCTION: Jesus' First Coming was not accidental. It was a planned coming – planned by God. The time was ripe for Jesus' coming. The geographical location for Jesus' coming was central – Palestine – linking up the three great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Further, "it was when all the factors – social, economic, moral, religious – had converged upon him that the man of God's right hand came forth. It was when world conditions were exactly ripe for it that God's supreme revelation in history came." (The Life and Teachings for Jesus Christ; Stewart; pg. 15)

"The practical value of this study of world conditions at the birth of Christ lies in the discovery that modem conditions are closely parallel. It is the growing conviction, the considered judgment of men who can read the signs of the times that once again in world relations – social, economic, moral, and religious – God's flood tide is coming, and that our generation is seeing what men saw twenty centuries ago, the lines of preparation beginning to converge, beginning to point to a new day of the power of the Son of Man. Today, as then, God is matching the hour with the Christ and there is an opportunity now, unprecedented for nineteen hundred years, for Christ's evangel to get a lasting grip. For Jesus and for men the fullness of the time draws nigh." (The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ; 16) (James Stewart)

PROPOSITION: God prepared the ancient world for the coming of Jesus. Again, God is preparing the hearts of men today for the coming of Jesus!

Let us note the factors that existed at the time of Christ's coming that helped prepare the world for Christ's coming. Let us further note the similarities between the factors that existed in Jesus' day and those factors that exist in our day which prepare the hearts of men for Jesus' coming in new and glorious ways.

I. Political and Social Preparation

World of Jesus' day was united by (1) Roman Peace, (2) Great Roads, (3) Common language – Greek.

Similarly today, the world is as one big neighborhood. Modem means of communication has brought the nations close together. Because of modem means of communication (satellite T.V., etc.), ideas can be spread throughout the world

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in a very short time. There is an unprecedented opportunity to communicate the Gospel almost simultaneously throughout all parts of the globe. The world is becoming more and more politically, socially, and geographically prepared for a new day for the power of the Son of Man to be manifested.

II. Economic Preparation

On the surface, conditions seemed prosperous in Rome and Palestine just preceding the coming of Christ. Appearance, however, often deceives and this was true of the economic conditions in Rome and Palestine. Two out of every three men on the streets of Rome were slaves, living in dire poverty, and mere property of the few rich landholders. In Palestine, heavy taxation and a growing overpopulation "made it impossible for the land to provide food enough for its own inhabitants – these things had precipitated a period of unexampled depression among the great bulk of the people." (Ibid; 19)

Economic depression in Rome and in Palestine among the common populace caused great worry and anxiety and despair. In the midst of the deepest darkness the Brightest Light from Heaven shone forth and the Voice of hope and cheer sounded forth.

Our world increasingly is becoming prepared economically for an unprecedented coming of the power of the Son of God to the hearts of men. "Certain it is that it has been out of some of the most depressed and desperate human situations that the great historic revivals have burst, like the break of a new day." (Ibid; 19) The majority of the world cannot base any hope or take any comfort from material things, for the vast part of the world's community wallows in sickness, poverty, disease, and depression. Is there any hope? Christ's coming to the hearts of thousands of poor people, is showing these people that there is hope! "The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. " (James 1:9) Jesus is coming and will increasingly come to the economically depressed peoples of the world.

III. Moral Preparation

The world that Jesus came to was a world plighted with moral rottenness. "The world was growing old and not even Caesar could make it young again," says Mommsen about the ancient world. The innocence of youth had faded away "and only the worm, the canker, and the grief were left." (Ibid; pg. 20) Women and children were treated as things to be used selfishly, and they had no legal rights. Marriages were dissolved on the slightest pretenses. Men openly accompanied mistresses. In the Greek world, prostitution was a widespread and commonly accepted practice. Concerning Roman family life, "Seneca writes that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married and that women dated the years by the names of their husbands." (Bar. Ephesians, 202) "It is not too much

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to say that the whole atmosphere of the ancient world was adulterous." (Ibid. pg. 20) The sick, weary, corrupt world into which Jesus came, was ready for a new message and new power – a message of redemption and a power to live clean and righteous.

Today, like as in the world of Jesus' day, there is a widespread break-down in morals. Immorality, violence, dishonesty, and perversion are deeply woven into the fabric of our society. The moral law of God has been disregarded, and even theologians have invented "situational ethics" and advocated "relativism" in morals. A sickening tolerance has invaded even the churches, and many ministers no longer point the finger at people and say, "Thou shalt not", but rather pat the shoulder and ask, "Is it meaningful?"

There is a saying: "He who spits against the wind spits in his own face." "You don't break the moral laws; you break yourself upon them … If you work with the moral universe you get results – it will back you, sustain you, and you will have cosmic support for your way of life. But if you go against the moral universe, you get consequences – you'll be up against things, you'll be frustrated." (E. Stanley Jones; Word Became Flesh; pg. 71)

Modern man has tried to get a 'kick' out of life, and instead he has gotten a 'kick back'. There is today, however, a growing dissatisfaction with the "ethics of the dust." In ignoring the North Star of Morality, man is terrifyingly lost and is beginning to cry out for a fixed landmark by which he can once again get his bearings. Jesus Christ alone is that North Star. Jesus Christ is the Hope for Moral Cleansing in an immoral society. Christ alone can give a clear moral sense of Right and Wrong, and He alone can give the power to do Right!

IV. Religious and Intellectual Preparation

"The old gods of Rome were either dead or dying. To fill the gap, two expedients were tried. On the one hand, a whole new batch of gods imported from the East, outlandish, oriental deities brought in to stir Rome's jaded senses – till among the philosophers the overcrowding of Olympus, where the gods were supposed to dwell, became a standing joke. On the other hand, the strange phenomenon of Caesar worship appeared; the emperor himself was accorded divine honors. But all expedients failed. What was a whole Pantheon of god's worth if they had nothing to say to a man with a broken heart? What could the divinity of Caesar say to a soul stabbed with the remorse of sin? When everything had been done that could be done, the hungry hearts of men were hungry still." (The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ; pg. 20) (James Stewart)

The Jews for centuries had longed for the coming of the Messiah. At the height of this expectation, Jesus came. Jesus used the Jewish and Greek thought categories to introduce the truth regarding God and eternal life. All the gods of Rome and Greece had failed and the Jewish Messianic expectations were high.

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The fullness of time had come religiously. The hearts of men were prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.

In many ways, the hearts of men today are prepared as never before for the coming of the Son of Man with unprecedented power. We may be on the verge of a world-wide revival. What evidence is there for such a statement?

Men are turning and will turn to God by the masses in our modem day, because the religious and thought systems of twentieth century man have miserably failed.

Man's modem-day gods have been weighed in the moral and spiritual balances, and have been found wanting.

The religion of Humanism has failed. The belief of humanism can best be expressed by the phrase, "Glory to man in the highest." There is nothing that man cannot achieve, given enough time. Man, says the doctrine of humanism, is inherently good. But the shrine of humanism has been dishonored in the twentieth century. Look what so-called "inherently good men" have produced in the twentieth century – growing crime, devastating wars, racism, hate, pollution, corruption in morals. The serious-minded man is turning from humanism to realism – and that realism is found in Christ.

The religion of scientism is the religion that worships science and claims that science is the cure – all for all of man's problems. The attitude of scientism is expressed by Adam Smith in the beginning days of modem science: "Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. When we have learned to make sensible use of science the world will not be filled with war, ignorance, prejudice, superstition and fear." (Conversion; E. S. Jones; 25) We almost smile at this naive statement. Science has not only given us unprecedented power to use gadgets, but science has created unprecedented fear. "Some of the makers of the atomic bombs called together the ministers around Chicago and in a two days conference announced: 'Frankly, we're frightened. We can produce the means in atomic energy, but we can't produce the ends for which those means are to be used. Unless you ministers can produce the moral and spiritual ends for which atomic energy is to be used, then we're sunk.' Science turned to religion and cried, 'Save us or we perish'." (Conversation; pg. 25, 26) Worshiping science does not satisfy. Science can tell the 'how's, but it can't answer the 'whys' of life. Only Christ can do that. This is why many great scientists are turning to Christ, and will continue to turn to Christ.

The way of Materialism has failed. America is the richest people in the world, and among the unhappy. The Scriptures are right: "Life does not consist in the abundance of things which a man possesses." The worship of things by adults has "turned off' young people, and has "turned them on to drugs – an equally disappointing substitute. Money does not have in it the ability to satisfy the soul's deep longings. A preacher told of seeing a caterpillar crawling up a "painted stick

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in search of a juicy twig only to have to retrace his steps. There are the painted sticks of pleasure, wealth, power, and fame. Men climb them only to have to retrace their steps." A young man who heard this story, visited the preacher and said, "I have been climbing those painted sticks. I'm a weary man. Is there rest for a weary millionaire?" (Conversion; 20,21) "Cecil Rhodes ruled the gold and diamond mining industries of South Africa and was one of the wealthiest men in his day. Rhodes was a friend of General Booth (of Salvation Army) and when asked one day: 'Are you happy?' Rhodes replied: 'Happy? Good heavens, No!' A rich man can be very poor." (Radar News; June 1971)

The way of Positivism has ended in frustration. Positivism is the philosophy which advocates that there is no reality other then that which can be perceived through the five senses of man. Thus, according to positivism, all spiritual reality is ruled out. The way of positivism has failed, for Reality is bigger than the tangible physical universe, and man is more than a physical creature. The soul of man cries out for spiritual reality. Many positivists have turned and will turn to Christ as the only answer to reality.

The philosophy of Atheism and cynicism has not satisfied. "Well known is Mencken's impious creed: The universe, a gigantic wheel in rapid revolutions; man, a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on the rim thereof; religion, the fly's delusion that the wheel was constructed to give him the ride." (The Word of the Lord Came Unto Me Also; pg. 128) The despairing, atheistic view of life is described by Philosopher Bertrand Russell: "Brief and powerless is man's life. On him and his entire race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way." (Ibid: 128) When man tries to get along without God, he finds he cannot get along with himself. The philosophy of Nothingness and the way of Atheism leaves man empty and barren and without any life purpose. Many have despaired so much of life that suicide was their alternative rather than agonizing existence. A Harvard doctor said over the radio: "The health of this country is being endangered by aimlessness and lack of purpose." (Word Became Flesh; 78) Carl Jung, the great psychiatrist, said, "The central neurosis of our time is emptiness." (Conversion; 19) Christ alone can fill that emptiness and give purpose and fulfillment to life. Therefore, the time is ripe for many atheists and cynics to turn to Christ.

The God of Freudian psychology has miserably failed. Fraud based his psychology on the idea of Insight. He believed that if a person was given insight into the self, then that self could be adjusted and restored to health. However, the mental institutions are filled today with thousands who have self-insight, but who are still mentally ill. Many of the leading psychiatrists (Carl Menninger, Carl Jung, and Smiley Blanton) have discovered that man's greatest need is not mere insight into himself, but rather, the ability to love and to be loved. Says Dr. Smiley Blanton, "After sitting for forty years in my office and dealing with disrupted people I've come to the conclusion that they are disrupted because they haven't loved or been loved." (Word Became Flesh; 94) Christ is the answer to

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man's greatest needs – to love and to be loved. Therefore, the time is ripe for thousands – including psychiatrists – to turn to Christ.

The Social Worker who has sought to heal society's ills only through costly projects of social engineering has miserably failed. "The average length of service of the professional social worker is about seven years." (Conversion; 8) They get discouraged and give up because their efforts don't payoff. Society can only be changed through Christ. The revolutionist seeking to change society through violent means is no more successful, for no revolution excepting the revolution of Christ's love is powerful enough to change human nature and in turn to cure society's ills.

The way of Nationalism and Militarism has also failed. "A Japanese doctor told me (E. S. Jones) that tuberculosis had been ousted as Killer number One in Japan in favor of heart disease and high blood pressure. When I asked him the cause, he replied, 'Spiritual uneasiness.' At the close of the war (World War II) the philosophy of a great people had collapsed – they were not a divine people with a divine emperor who had a divine destiny to rule. That conception of life went down in blood and ruin and left a vacuum. So this sense of vacuum has sent up the blood pressure of a whole nation." (Conversion; pg. 18) Said one of the great statesmen of our time: "I'm fed up." (Ibid; 18) Patriotism and devotion without conversion do not sustain. Christian Victory magazine notes: "In 3100 years only 286 have been without war." "Robert Page, a Washington official, once testified: 'Until human nature is changed, we'll have war." Page, who was director of research at the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory, declared: 'World peace will come only when all mankind turns wholeheartedly to God in complete humility and voluntary unconditional surrender." (Radar News; June 1971; Ray Brubaker) Many are beginning to realize the limitations of military armaments and are turning to Christ.

The Orient is becoming increasingly ripe for the Gospel of Christ. The Oriental religions are weary and impotent. "In India the gods lose their vitality and vigor every fifty or sixty years and have to be revived by certain reviving ceremonies and rites." Said a Hindu: "Ishwara (God) is growing old and decrepit, and is not of much use to us now." (Word Became Flesh; 6) The refreshing Presence of the Resurrected Christ will increasingly be welcomed in the Orient in the months and years ahead.

There is a new and widespread interest in Jesus Christ today. Witness this in the large number of books about Christ being read and circulated today. Many secular T.V. programs feature religious speakers and singers. Popular songs are written about Christ. Amidst the despair of the modern age there is a feeling that the only hope for our age is in some type of Divine Intervention. This is reminiscent of the ancient Jewish Messianic expectation. There is a great spiritual awakening among youth today. Drugs are found by thousands of youth to be

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sterile and degrading. Christ is being found to be uplifting and ennobling and transforming.

V. The Coming World Revival and Spiritual Renewal

Many spiritual leaders believe that there has never been as great a revival of interest in and conversion to Jesus Christ, as there is now, in the last years of this millennium and as we come into the third millennium since the time of Christ! There are millions of people around the world whose hearts are tender toward Christ, and whose minds are open to investigate seriously the unique claims of Jesus Christ. It has been estimated by those who make a careful study of the growing worldwide movement of Christianity, that no fewer than 100,000 persons accept Christ as their personal Savior each day, throughout the world! Never in the history of Christianity has there been a faster growth of the Church of Jesus Christ!

Many believe that, amidst this unprecedented growth in converts to Christ, there is happening simultaneously the greatest persecution of Christians that there has ever been in the history of the Church. More Christians have died for the faith in the twentieth century than in any other one century since the time of Christ. In Christian News Magazine (WORLD magazine; Dec. 7, 1996), it is reported that approximately 160,000 Christians were martyred in 1996 alone! There are many Christians who have lost their lives in Central Africa, as a result of the brutal tribal wars. In a Prayer Bulletin, dated Dec. 6, 1996, which I received just today, the Bishops of the Free Methodist Church (of which evangelical denomination I am a 5th generation) just put out an urgent request for prayer because of the atrocities which are happening in Central Africa. The following are a few quotations from that Short Emergency Prayer Bulletin: "Free Methodists in Burundi, Rwanda and eastern Zaire continue to be caught up in the cataclysmic events of these days – war, violence, ethnic struggle and the frantic flight by hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to find safety. A hundred thousand Free Methodists who live in the area are directly affected. Tragic and brutal as well as heroic stories come out as personal news reaches us. There are massive numbers of widows and orphans being produced out of all these awful situations."

I believe that as we approach the Second Coming of Christ, there will be an all- out attack of the kingdom of darkness against the children of God, resulting in the slaughter of millions of believers. But, as we approach the End of this Present Age, I believe that there will be an amazing, "Harvest of Souls" for the Kingdom of God! "Though wrong seems often so strong, God is the Ruler yet!"

Christ is establishing His lordship in the hearts and lives of millions of people of all ages and in all the world's nations! During the last few years of my 27 year long pastoral ministry (as pastor of the Fort Collins, Colorado, Free Methodist Church), I observed and also participated in the amazing movement of the Spirit

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of the Living God in the lives of many people. I share here a few examples of the mighty transforming power of Jesus Christ.

About 6 or 7 years ago, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Gil Carbajal, who, at that time was a long-time public school educator, received a call from God to start a Teen Bible Club in the Public School Junior High where he served as the School Counselor. With three or four teens, this Spirit-filled Educator began to meet weekly with these Christian Teens for Bible Study and prayer and a few words of encouragement. It was not long until other teens (both Christians and non- Christians) began regularly to meet together with their beloved public school counselor, Dr. Carbajal, and in a few months there were as many as one hundred teens (and other Christian public school teachers) meeting each Friday morning before the school day began. The Bible Club in this Junior High was so successful that several other public schools adopted this plan and program and started their own Bible Clubs. Today there are hundreds of teens meeting together each Friday morning, to fellowship, to sing choruses, to share burdens, to pray, and to get their "spiritual batteries recharged." Both Gil and his wife, Linda, (who is a counselor in a public high school) have witnessed firsthand for many years the mighty movement of God in the lives of hundreds of spiritually-open teens!

I have another close friend, Mr. Art Fowler, who has been used of God for many years as witness to hundreds of professional people across the nation – professional athletes, educators, government officials and politicians, doctors and lawyers and law enforcement officers. Through his simple and forthright witness to the saving power of Christ, many hundreds of people have accepted Christ – including truck drivers, policemen, airline stewardesses, celebrities, and even state governors and politicians. I call Art a "modern-day Philip", for, like Philip (in the Book of Acts), Art often witnesses to total strangers whom he senses the Holy Spirit is leading him to. The manner in which he "finds his contacts" is nothing short of miraculous! Art loves to read biographies of famous people or to read about high profile personalities in magazines (especially PEOPLE'S Magazine). There, as he senses the moving of the Spirit, he will begin "building bridges of friendship" with these people by phoning them, and eventually, he will set up personal appointments with them at which time he usually leads them to Christ. During the last few years since I have known Art, I have heard him share God's miracles in action through his witnessing, resulting in the salvation of literally hundreds of persons – including the governor of South Dakota (who, a year after Art led him to Christ, was killed in a plane crash). The list of persons whom Art has led to Christ is long, including over 200 patrolmen whom Art has led to Christ (after Art "pulls them over" by flashing his car light at night to get their attention!) Yes, there is only one Art Fowler, and no one should attempt to "pull over" police cars unless he is definitely led by the Holy Spirit to do so. His personal evangelism has been so unusual and fruitful, that Dr. James Kennedy has featured Art Fowler several times on his weekly national television program. We don't all have the special gift of personal evangelism, nor do we all have the

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dynamics and daring personality like that of Art Fowler, but we can all be used of the Lord to help in the great spiritual harvest of precious souls in these days of unprecedented reaping!

During the last decade, I have witnessed a great interest, on the part of Christian parents, in enrolling their children in Christian Day Schools. I heard some time ago that there is something like 33,000 Christian Day Schools in America alone! In 1987, a few persons in our local Church (including my wife and me) had a vision to begin a Christina Day School – even though our Church facilities were very modest and even though there was very little monetary resources available. We started a kindergarten class in 1987, with only eleven students. Under the capable leadership of my wife, Venita Christian, and with the support of a few hand – picked teachers, and through the prayers of several dedicated friends, the Christian School grew rapidly, until there were about 225 students total in all the grades (pre-school thru 12th grades)! No one said it would be easy, but through diligent work, simple believing prayer, and loving cooperation by a growing number of parents and friends, the Christian School "blossomed" and became known in our community of 100,000 as one of the finest and most respected Schools in the city. Academically, socially, spiritually – the School excelled. Again, God's miracle power in action!

There was nothing that thrilled me more, when I served as long-term pastor of the Fort Collins Free Methodist Church (1967 – 1994) than personally witnessing precious persons repenting of their sins and turning their lives over to Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ into the lives and families of seeking souls always spelled divinely-wrought transformation! Even though I never felt I had the spiritual gift of evangelism, I did, as a pastor, take Paul's exhortation seriously: "Do the work of an evangelist." As a young pastor of22 (in 1967), I determined that, in spite of my natural timidity, I would ask God to discipline me to "reach out in love" to hurting and spiritually-hungry people who desperately needed Christ. Since I grew up in a small local Church (where there were hardly any men in the Church), and since my own father did not become a Christian until very late in his life (about four years before his death), I decided that I would always try to lead both husband and wife to Christ together in their homes in the evenings. I dedicated three evenings a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday evenings) to go into homes to witness and hopefully to lead some couples (and entire families if possible) to a saving knowledge of Christ. In spite of my fears and hesitations, mistakes and human weaknesses, God saw fit to allow me to be His 'mouthpiece' to speak to hundreds of unsaved persons about their need for Christ. On an appointment basis (what we called 'Salvation by Appointments'); I had the glorious privilege of personally leading several hundred adults to Christ. There is only about 20-40 new converts per year, but over a period of some 25 years the Lord performed many transforming miracles right before my eyes. These included older persons in their 60's, 70's, 80's as well as teens, young adults, and middle-agers, Eight months ago, I had the thrilling experience of a 93 year old lady repeating after me the sinner's prayer, and a few months later I prayed with a

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78 year old lady (who, according to her own confession, had not attended Church for 30 years). Less than two months after this woman prayed to accept Christ as her Savior, she died of a heart attack. This woman (who died on November 1, 1996) manifested such glory and joy in her countenance the last moments before she died, that her two children (neither of whom were known for their personal faith in Christ) both testified that they believed the holy angels came and carried away their beloved mother! The woman's son said, "If! ever doubted that there is an afterlife, I no longer doubt it now, after seeing the peace and joy on my mother's face as she died!" This 78 year old woman (who prayed the sinner's prayer only a few weeks before her death) is only one of several older folks whom it has been my privilege personally to lead to Christ. And, of course, there have been several hundreds of young adults and middle age couples with whom I have held hands (around their own dining room tables at the conclusion of a "Salvation By Appointment" Bible Study, as they repeated the sinner's prayer.) After pastoring for nearly 27 years, I left that wonderful pastorate, but I have not left my blessed memories behind of the nights in the homes of hundreds of couples who humbled themselves in my presence as they repented of their sins and turned in faith to the merciful Savior. Some years ago, I recall being in the presence of a family of seven (father and mother and four children and an elderly grandmother, all of whom opened their hearts to the Living Christ!

The Church I pastored so long never was a very large congregation. It grew numerically from about 35 to 350 during the years I pastored, and, because there was considerable mobility in this professionally-oriented, university city, I was actually pastor of many different congregations (for hundreds of people came and went through the years). I felt God's presence so often as I preached, taught, visited, organized, and carried on the multitude of pastoral tasks in a small but growing Church – but I never felt the power of the Spirit's presence as strongly as I did when I was in the hundreds of homes of unsaved people, leading them to Christ through my "Salvation By Appointment" Home Bible Studies. When I left this long-term pastorate, my Church Directory had about 170 names and addresses of families which composed my 'flock'. Out of these 170 families, there were 60 of these families with whom I had personally prayed to accept Christ. Many of the local Church are strongest and most active leaders came from these persons who had been converted and discipled through our Church's ministries.

Many local Churches throughout America, like our own local Church, have primarily increased in size because of consistent and solid "Convert Growth." Of course, there is nothing necessarily wrong with other kinds of growth in a local Church – biological growth through babies being born to Church members, transfer growth through believers who join your Church after they move to your community from another community, and 'side ways growth' as a result of believers who leave another Church in the same community to join your Church – but the most important growth is "Convert Growth" (i.e. growth as a result of your own Church's soul-winning efforts).

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There are still a large percentage (perhaps 50%) of all Churches in America that have 100 or less members, but there is also a growing number of local Churches that number in the several hundreds, and even a growing number of mega- Churches in America (i.e., Churches that number in the thousands).

The growth of the Christian movement in some countries of the world is absolutely mind-boggling! The movement of God in South Korea is well-known, with several thousands of Christian Churches in Seoul, Korea, alone. It seems hard to imagine, but the largest Church in the world is located in Seoul, Korea, and it numbers about 750,000 members. One Church! And there are many Churches in that same city which have 5,000 or more members in them!

The growth of the Christian Movement is so rapid in the continent of Africa, that some believe in a few years that this continent will be basically a Christian continent (and this, despite the fact that there have been very bloody tribal wars in recent years in several African countries).

Millions are turning to Christ in the Latin American countries. Tens of thousands come forward for salvation at the city-wide, massive evangelistic crusades!

Even though the Communists forced all missionaries to leave the mainland of China in the 1940's, it is reported that the growth of the Underground House Church Movement has been phenomenal! No one knows for sure just how many Chinese believers there are in this huge country where persecution of Christians has been severe and brutal, but some leaders estimate that there may be as many as one hundred million believers in China today!

There is a great openness to the Gospel of Christ among the masses of people who one time composed the former Soviet Union! With the new freedom which has been granted Christian believers, following the amazing collapse of Communism, there are encouraging reports of many spiritually-hungry Russian people seeking new meaning and purpose through Christ and the Christian way of life. My own cousin, George Christian, and his wife Drew, have been serving as lay missionaries to the Ukraine for the last four or five years. They were sent to the Ukraine by their local Southern Baptist Church in Texas to pass out 'Food Boxes' by the hundreds, door-to-door to the hungry people in the Ukraine, and to share a simple witness for Christ. The Spirit of God has honored the simple faith and fervent labors of George and Dru, and they have had the joy of leading several hundreds to a saving knowledge of Christ. Recently, I viewed a video of one of these out-door Church services, at which time George baptized 80 new converts! I was both thrilled and amazed as I viewed this baptismal service, for I knew George (with whom I played as we grew up together, just a block from each other) as a cousin who never 'darkened a Church door' and one who knew hardly anything about the Christina Faith! George was wonderfully converted as a young adult, and he married a deeply dedicated Christian wife. After working as

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a competent mechanic for about 20 years, and faithfully serving the Lord in his local Baptist Church in Texas, he and his wife felt a strong urge from the Lord to go to the Ukraine. At the time, George was in his late 40's, but he sold practically everything he owned – including his nice house which he himself built – and went to a poverty stricken area of the world to serve his God whom he loved so deeply and for whom he had often witnessed while he served as a mechanic in a Texas city. He and his wife went to the Ukraine with the full blessings of his local Church, and with limited financial support. Even though it has had its challenges and life has not been easy for them, this couple radiates the joy of the Lord in their work, and God has given them "many souls for their labors". They have been used of God to start five new Churches, and they have witnessed to literally hundreds and hundreds of precious Ukrainian people – even though George and Dru do not speak the language themselves. Through translators, George preaches the Word, witnesses to prison inmates, organizes crusades, conducts baptism services, carries on business transactions, and uses his manual skills to build structures. When we were children growing up together (George is five weeks older than myself), he struggled to make it academically in school. He never went to college. But George was a young man who wanted to be authentic. He was not afraid of hard work, and he could do almost anything with his skilled hands. Even though he grew up in a non-Christian home), George had an open mind and a sincere heart. He was a risk-taken by nature, so when he found the Hidden Pearl – Christ Jesus – George became an excited, un-self-conscious, bold, simple witness for Christ. He becomes a "sold out" follower of Christ! He and his wife intend – if God wills – to live the rest of their lives in the Ukraine, to love people and to win thousands of souls to Jesus Christ. When I am with George and Dru, all they want to talk about is Jesus, and God's transforming power! They like to share scores of illustrations of how God has intervened in their spiritual battles with the forces of darkness. They have so many reports of spiritual victory in a land that is desperately hungry for God! They truly are on "fire for God."

There is so much evidence that God is moving in astonishing ways in our world today. Yes, through hundreds of thousands of local Churches in many parts of the globe, millions of followers of Christ are actively engaged in "reaching out in love" to their unsaved neighborhoods. The United States is ripe for a mighty spiritual harvest, and many Churches from many different traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Messianic Churches, Eastern Orthodox) are effectively harvesting souls for Master. Churches are uniting to sponsor city-wide Crusades where millions are experiencing spiritual renewal as they respond to Spirit- anointed evangelists like Billy Graham, as well as many other lesser known evangelists. There are hundreds of new "Church Plants", sponsored by many different branches of the Church of Jesus Christ. There are encouraging signs that many local Churches are beginning, as never before, to take seriously Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20)

So-called Para- Church organizations are active and growing, resulting in supporting the work of the local Church. "Trinity Broadcasting Network", begun

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by Paul and Jan Crouch, only some 20 years ago (in the 1970's), has grown into a network that now virtually covers the entire globe, with over 500 Christian T.V. stations transmitting the Gospel Message to millions of souls. Millions of souls have come to know Jesus in a personal way, and millions of believers are regularly encouraged, through the multitudes of sermons and Bible lessons and Christian testimonies and Christ-centered music which can be heard 24 hours a day, every day of the year!

"Focus On The Family", organized and led by Dr. James Dobson, has a staff of about 1200 persons, and the daily broadcast plus all the nearly 70 different ministries which focus on a vast number of various and unique needs of people – all a part of "Focus On The Family" – is being used of God to disciple vast multitudes of believers in the United States and in many other countries! Besides this most popular daily radio program, which features Dr. Dobson and a host of guest speakers who talk about a vast range of relevant topics, there are scores of other helpful radio ministers and speakers. And the availability of Christian music on Christian Radio Stations is greater than ever before. No believer anywhere in America need be without daily spiritual edification, for God's truth is sounded forth "from the housetops". With a large number of modem Bible translations, no Christians have any excuse for Biblical illiteracy, and the amount of Christian Books (covering almost every conceivable topic) is absolutely overwhelming! God has surely opened the "windows of heaven, and poured out blessings which are too great to be contained"!

"Campus Crusade for Christ", founded and led by Dr. Bill Bright, has been used of God as a tool to witness to millions of people in many different countries, not only on hundreds of University Campuses but also in many other varied settings. Several thousand youth and older adults are full-time staff members of this outstanding Para- Church ministry, and each one of these "missionaries" is responsible for finding sponsors who will pray for them and support them financially! Through the use of the "Jesus" Video, there have been many millions of people around the world who have made serious commitments to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

The well-attended week-long seminars, conducted by Mr. Bill Gothard, have brought great insights into both the basic and the deeper concepts of disciplined Christian Living. Many lives have been permanently changed as a result of attending one of these week-long seminars.

"Insight for Living", the daily half hour radio broadcast which features popular preacher, Charles Swindoll, is probably the most popular preaching ministry on Christian radio today. His helpful expository messages and Bible Study Booklets and literally dozens of books which he has authored, bring unusual "insights" into the meaning and application of God's Word to millions of believers. He is indeed a most skilled and compassionate teacher of the Word!

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Evidence that God is moving in special ways among the thousands of broken and confused men (husbands and fathers) in America today is seen in the amazing growth of the movement called "Promise Keepers" which was founded in 1990, when University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney first gathered 72 men together. From that initial gathering of a small group of men, a fast-growing movement has now expanded into several states, with nearly a million men who attended one of about 25 different regional conferences throughout the United States in 1996. Who knows how many more men will be touched by this Spirit – impelled movement, in the next several years! I have personally had the privilege of participating as a learner and worshiper in a Promise Keepers' Conference each summer, since its beginning. I was one of 4200 men who attended the first large conference. I heard Coach McCartney express his vision for tens of thousands of men to be reached through his new movement called "Promise Keepers." The second year, the 4200 expanded to 20,000 men in attendance in Boulder, Colorado. The third year, there were about 50,000 men who attended the Promise Keeper Conference in Boulder. Then, before long by 1995, there were 13 different regional conferences Promise Keeper Rallies) which touched about 500,000 men! This last summer, there were about 25 regional conferences, with several hundred thousands more men attending! On October 4, 1997, there was an estimated one million men who gathered together on the Washington, D.C., mall for the "Standing In The Gap" solemn assembly, to express deep repentance and a desire for National Healing! At each of the great Promise Keeper Conferences, held in large stadiums, I witnessed literally thousands of men going forward on the first night of the week-end, to give their lives to Christ – following a powerful evangelistic message. Some of the nation's best speakers shared messages on the following day – practical messages which were designed to impact the lives of men in their various responsibilities as husbands, fathers, employees, Churchmen, and public witnesses. I have often knelt with thousands of men at these Promise Keepers' Conferences, to make a deeper dedication of my life to Almighty God. On Saturday Evening, after a long day of listening to multiple speakers of various races, Coach McCartney would deliver the last powerful message of the week-end, at which time he would challenge the 50,000 men (or more) to a life of deep dedication to God and a life of fervent love for the brethren of all races and ethnic backgrounds. McCartney's recurring theme has been God's uniting love and compassion which thousands all man- made differences of race and culture and backgrounds and status. Who would ever have guessed that God would use a football coach as the man who would "spearhead" one of the greatest men's movements in the history of the Christian Church!

Yes, it is true that no person is wise enough to predict with certainty when Jesus will return to earth the Second Time. Jesus Himself said that no man – not even the Son – knows the exact time when God shall send Jesus back to earth – the Second Coming. But, while no one knows when Jesus shall actually return in Bodily form to bring a close to this present age, we can say with certainty that Jesus is coming in our own day to the hearts and minds of countless numbers of men and women, youth and children, in new and wonderful ways. As the world

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of ancient times was prepared in so many different ways for the corning of Jesus in physical form the first time, so God has prepared our present – day world as never before for the coming of Jesus in a spiritual way to countless numbers of people. May each one of us personally prepare our own hearts for Jesus' coming in new and glorious ways! . Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

"Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang, 
Proclaiming Thy royal decree; 
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, 
And in great humility. 
o come to my heart, Lord Jesus - 
There is room in my heart for Thee!" 

CONCLUSION: The mind and mood of the present day would strongly suggest that God is preparing the way for the Coming of His Son to the hearts of men with unpredictable power and glory. The evidence seems to indicate that we may be ready to see the greatest revival of the coming of Christ to man that mankind has ever experienced. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

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Christmas is for Sinners

Christmas Is For Sinners

Christmas Is For Sinners

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CHAPTER 2

SUBJECT: Christmas Is For Sinners!

TEXT: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Said Jesus on one occasion, just prior to his death: "For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37) What is the truth of which Jesus testified when He came into the world?

I. Jesus testified to the truth of man's sinful and helpless condition.

II. Jesus testified to the truth of His personal identification with the lost.

III. Jesus testified to the truth of man's need for deepest repentance and … genuine conversion.

CONCLUSION: Christmas is for sinners — for respectable sinners with so-called respectable sins and also for repulsive sinners. Everyone stands on the same level at the foot of the cross. Christmas is a good time to receive forgiveness and go on your way rejoicing!

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CHAPTER 2

SUBJECT: Christmas Is for Sinners!

TEXT: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Said Jesus on one occasion, just prior to his death: "For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37) What is the truth of which Jesus testified when He carne into the world?

I. Jesus testified to the truth of man's sinful and helpless condition.

Make no mistake about it! Jesus was sinless, but every other person is sinful and in need of forgiveness. Jesus said to His accusers, "Which of you can condemn me of sin?" In Jesus there was no sin at all. Even though He was tempted in all points as we are, yet He never once yielded to the allurements of sin. Jesus' every thought, action, and motive was pure!

To the self-righteous critics who were eager to stone the woman who was caught in adultery, Jesus said, "You who are without sin, you cast the first stone!" (John 8:7) Everyone of these men left, for all knew they were sinful! Said Jesus to the self-righteous persons of His day: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28)

A spirit of self-sufficiency and pride is one of the terrible characteristics of sin which Jesus often recognized in His dealings with mankind. To the self-righteous Pharisees who prided themselves in their religious achievements, Jesus said, "I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind" The Pharisees who were standing there asked, "Are you saying we are blind?' "If you were blind, you wouldn't be guilty," Jesus replied "But your guilt remains because you claim to know what you are doing." (John 9:39-41, Living Bible)

Notes Barclay, "The man who is conscious of his own blindness, and who longs to see better and to know more, is the man whose eyes can be opened and who can be led more and more deeply into the truth. The man who thinks he knows it all, the man who does not realize that he cannot see, is the man who is truly blind and beyond hope and help. Only the man who realizes his own weakness can become

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strong. Only the man who realizes his own blindness can learn to see. Only the man who realizes his own sin can be forgiven." (Barclay's John Vol. 2: pg.50)

II. Jesus testified to the truth of His personal identification with the lost.

Jesus said that He came into the world to seek and to save the lost, to give his life as a ransom for sinners. Jesus was called a "Friend of publicans and sinners." Jesus pictured Himself as the Shepherd in search of the lost sheep.

Said Jesus, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) Even before Jesus was born, the angel spoke to Joseph about Jesus' birth and his mission: "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

If Jesus was born to die, if Jesus came into the world to redeem His people, if Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, this means that Christmas is for sinners – for those who are helpless, hurt, lost, and wicked!

Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1 demonstrates Jesus' identification with sinners. Jesus has some 'black sheep' in his family tree. He didn't try to hide this fact. Thamar was an adulteress! Bathsheba was the woman whom David seduced and took deceitfully from Uriah and with whom he committed adultery! Rahab was the harlot of Jericho! All of these women were sinners and yet they were part of Jesus' ancestry! The inclusion of these sinners in Jesus' genealogy shows Jesus' mission of redemption! (Note Matthew 1)

The gift of myrrh which one of the Wise Men from the East presented to the Christ child is a strange gift to give to an infant. Myrrh is used to embalm dead bodies. Giving this gift to Jesus symbolizes the fact that Jesus was born to die – to die as Saviour for sinners! "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)

If Christmas is for sinners, then Christmas is not for me if I claim no need for forgiveness for my sins!

Jesus' identification with sinners was at the deepest level – even to the point of dying on a cross for sin. Jesus became mankind's 'sin bearer' when he died on the cross. So much did He identify with mankind's problems (sins) that God turned His face away from Jesus while Jesus died on the cross. Jesus became the 'personification of sin' and, because God is so holy that He cannot even look at sin, Jesus felt terrible rejection even by God. Jesus cried out from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"

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III. Jesus testified to the truth of man's need for deepest repentance and genuine conversion.

Said Jesus to a very religious Jewish leader (Nicodemus), "With all the earnestness I possess I tell you this: Unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3, Living Bible)

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

The purpose for which Christ came (Luke 5:32), and the central message of the Gospel (Acts 3:19) is that men must repent and turn to God if they are to live. God's absolute requirement for salvation is Repentance: "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30 b)

To repent is to change one's mind regarding sin, from one of clinging to sin to one of abhorring sin. A change of mind regarding sin results in a change of direction, from one of following evil ways to one of pursuing godly ways. Repentance is a moral U-turn, turning ones back on sin, and turning one's face toward the Saviour. Turning to Christ is the essence of Biblical Faith and is the positive result of genuine repentance. Repentance and faith must work together if true conversion is to result. Repentance is the proper attitude toward your sin, and faith is the proper attitude toward your Redeemer. Faith is putting yourself in the care of Christ who is able to change your life. Faith is a transfer of trust for salvation from yourself to Christ, who alone can save you!

But you may say, "I am a Christian and you are saying that Christmas is for sinners. Does that mean that Christmas is not for me, a Christian?"

I would answer first that it is great that you are a Christian. A Christian is one who is saved from his sins. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1) If one habitually and willfully sins, it is true that he is not a Christian. (1 John 3).

But even if you are a Christian, you can identify with your need for daily forgiveness of willful isolated sins, and sins of ignorance, and sins of omission. Repentance is not a once-and-for-all experience, but repentance is a life-time attitude towards all sin (willful or ignorant). Because Christmas is for sinners, and

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because all of us need forgiveness every day, we can all identify with the purpose of Christmas – Christians and non-Christians alike.

At Christmas time, we must not have a holier-than-thou attitude towards the unchurched and the unsaved, towards those outsiders who will make their way into our Church at Christmas time and Easter time. Let us be grateful that those sinners who visit our Churches twice a year at least instinctively recognize the fact that Christmas is for sinners – sinners like themselves.

It is only as sinners – unbelievers – see this spirit of humility in Christians that they will turn to our Christ and to our Church.

The following illustrates what we are trying to say. Writes Nancy Covert Smith in her book Journey Out of Nowhere, "One afternoon I picked up a woman at the mental health day care center. I was on FISH call (FISH is an organization of Christians who work together to provide emergency help) and she needed transportation home. She was a tall woman, red-haired, loud-spoken. After she had crawled into the car and we had started, she said:

'You'd better be scared. I'm a mental patient.'" "'I know.' 'Well, aren't you scared I'll hurt you?' She looked at me through a haze of cigarette smoke. 'But I was in the hospital.' "I smiled, 'So was I. 'We were like two children trying to out do each other. "'I had shock treatments,' she said. '"So did I.' '"I had seven.' '"I had fourteen,' I replied. "She looked at me a few minutes, and then she grinned. 'You win. You were sicker. Now let's talk.'" (Journey Out of Nowhere, Nancy Covert Smith, Word; 1973)

Says Robert Andrews who relates this incident, "After I read this I couldn't help but wonder what might happen this Christmas if the following similar scene were to take place. He was a tall man, red-haired, loud-spoken. I saw him on the street and began talking to him about visiting my Church.

"You'd better stay away from me. I'm just a bum." "I know." "Well, aren't you afraid I'll contaminate you or ruin your reputation?" He looked at me through a haze of cigarette smoke. "I'm a real bad sinner." "So am I." We were like two children trying to outdo each other. "I've done thousands of immoral things." "I've committed thousands of sins of pride, self-righteousness and neglect. I've been a hypocrite."

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"He looked at me a few minutes. "You win. You're as bad as I am. Let's talk."

Please don't misunderstand what I am trying to say. It is true that Christmas is for sinners, but we are not encouraging Christians to declare, therefore, that Christians are only saved in their sins rather than from their sins. Where sin abounds, grace super abounds. The atonement of Christ is able to cleanse from all sin – original sin and volitional sins (sins caused by wrong choice). We are not suggesting that because Christmas is for sinners, that Christians have a 'sin-fixation' rather than a 'grace-fixation'.

We are not to become preoccupied with sin and self, but we are to become preoccupied with the Saviour, with His power to cleanse from all sin. It is true that we must be aware of our sins – our sins of commission, our sins of omission, our sins of ignorance – but we must not fix our attention on our sins. We must glance at our sins, but we must gaze at our Saviour.

Says Dr. A. J. Muste, "In Neo-orthodoxy when we became obsessed with human helplessness and human corruption instead of being caught up in the transcending of them by the grace of God, we are still preoccupied with self, still self-centered and therefore still self-righteous. If we do not end with the experience of the grace and power of God as that which overcomes and blots out our preoccupation with our sinful selves, we are but giving another demonstration of the pretension and corruption of man, not of the grace of God." (Quoted by E. S. Jones in "Growing Spiritually' pg. 11)

However, even Christians need daily forgiveness. No one comes up to the perfect standards of God. Our attitude as believers must be an attitude of humility and confession. It is only as we continue to have a broken and a contrite and humble spirit that we can have forgiveness on a continuing basis. John wrote, "If we continue to confess our sins, faithful is He and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned and are now in a state where we do not sin, a liar we are making Him, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:9-l0) (Wuest)

CONCLUSION: Christmas is for sinners – for respectable sinners with so-called respectable sins and also for repulsive sinners. Everyone stands on the same level at the foot of the cross. Remember, "He hath visited and redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68)

Confess your sins at Christmas time. Christmas is a good time to receive forgiveness and go on your way rejoicing. Whatever your sins are today is the day to confess them. Jesus came to save His people from their sins.

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Christmas Is For Sinners

Questions

  1. Even though Jesus, as a man, was tempted in all points as other humans are tempted, did he even once yield to temptation and to sin?

  2. Cite scriptures which indicate Jesus' accurate evaluation of mankind's sinful condition. (Note Matthew 23:27-28)

  3. Why is a spirit of humility an absolute prerequisite for spiritual healing? (John 9:39- 41)

  4. Why can it be said that 'Christmas Is For Sinners'?

  5. Why was the strange gift of myrrh, which one of the Wise Men gave to Jesus, so significant as a symbol of Jesus' mission on earth?

  6. As it relates to Jesus' identification with lost mankind, what significance do you attach to Jesus' words from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"?

  7. If repentance is one of the absolute requirements for salvation, how would you describe and define 'Repentance'? (Luke 5:32; Luke 13:3; Luke 18:9-19; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30)

  8. What is the relationship between 'Faith' and 'Repentance', as these words relate to conditions for personal salvation?

  9. Give your interpretation of the following statement: "Everyone stands on the same level at the foot of the cross."

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How do You React to Christ?

How Do You React To Christ?

How Do You React To Christ?

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Joy to the World

CHAPTER 3

SUBJECT: HOW DO YOU REACT TO CHRIST?

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2:3-12

TEXT: "What think ye of Christ?"

INTRODUCTION: Christ is ever contemporary and confronts every age with His presence and demands. He is the Living Christ who confronts every person in every age and seeks entry into each life. All men today, who meet Christ, react to Him in one of three ways.

I. Herod represents those who react with hatred and hostility.

II. The Chief Priests and Scribes Represent Those Who React With Indifference.

A. Some are indifferent because they believe the Church has been a failure.

B. Some are indifferent because of their present preoccupation with the cares of life.

C. Some are indifferent because they attempt to be neutral to Christianity.

III. The Wise Men Represent All Who React To Christ With Adoring Worship.

A. The Wise Men sought Christ and found Him.

B. The Wise Men offered gifts to Christ.

CONCLUSION: How will you react to the Christ of Bethlehem who is also the Christ of the Ages? To react with hostility is futile; to react with indifference is tragic; to react with adoration is safe and wise.

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CHAPTER 3

SUBJECT: HOW DO YOU REACT TO CHRIST?

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2:3-12

TEXT: "What think ye of Christ?"

INTRODUCTION: The Christ of Bethlehem is the Christ of the Ages. Christ is not merely a historical figure who once lived and died as any other great character. Christ is ever contemporary and confronts every age with His presence and demands. He is the Living Christ who confronts every person in every age and seeks entry into each life.

All men today, who meet Christ, react to Him in one of three ways. Herod the king, the priests and scribes, and the wise men each represent one of the three types of reactions to Christ.

PROPOSITION: Herod the king represents all those who react to Christ with hatred and hostility. The chief priests and scribes represent all those who react to Christ with complete indifference. The Wise Men represent all those who react to Christ with adoring worship. (Barclay's Mt. pg. 21) Let us note each of these reactions.

I. Herod represents those who react with hatred and hostility.

Let us look briefly at what kind of man Herod the king was. Notes Barclay, "He could be generous. In times of difficulty he remitted the taxes to make things easier for the people; and in the famine of 25 B.C. he had actually melted down his own gold plate to buy com for the starving people. But Herod had one terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had always been suspicious, and the older he became the more suspicious he grew until, in his old age, he was, as someone said, 'a murderous old man.' If he suspected anyone as a rival to his power, that person was promptly eliminated. He murdered his wife Mariamne and her mother Alexandra. His eldest son, Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were all assassinated by him. Augustus, the Roman Emperor, had said bitterly that is was safer to be Herod's pig than Herod's son. Something of Herod's savage, bitter, warped nature can be seen from the provisions he made when death came near. When he was seventy he knew that he must die. He retired to Jericho, the loveliest of all his cities. He gave orders that a collection of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem should be arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned. And he ordered that the moment he died, they should all be killed. He said grimly that he was well aware that no one would mourn for his death, and that he was determined that some tears should

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be shed when he died. It is clear how such a man would feel when news reached him that a child was born who was destined to be king." (Barclay's Matthew pg. 19,20)

Herod tried to destroy Christ but was unsuccessful. Men can never destroy Christ or his message. The message of the Gospel may be either accepted or rejected, but it can never be eliminated. It is like a flame that can never be extinguished or quenched.

Men try to put Christ out of their minds, but their conscience betrays them and continues to speak out for Christ and the right. A later Herod than the one who tried to eliminate the Christ child, killed John the Baptist. When Herod saw Jesus, his conscience began to bother him, for he thought Jesus was John the Baptist. Said Herod about Jesus, "This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him." (Matthew 14:2) Herod's refusal of the Light and rejection of the Gospel resulted in tragic consequences. Through a series of political maneuvers against Herod, the Roman Emperor Caligula finally "took Herod's province from him, with all his money, and banished Herod to far off Gaul to languish there in exile until he died." (Barclay's Matthew pg. 108)

The messenger may be eliminated, but Christ and his Gospel can never be destroyed. Andrew Melville was a reformer in Scotland. The Earl of Morton who was the regent of Scotland threatened the life of Melville and said, "There will never be quietness in this country till half a dozen of you be hanged or banished from the country." Melville fearlessly replied, "Tush! It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in the ground … God be glorified, it will not lie in your power to hang nor exile His truth." The truth cannot be destroyed, although it may be rejected. It will always inevitably triumph and the rejecter will eventually suffer because of his rejection of the truth.

Rev. Wurmbrand, who writes about the persecuted Church behind the Iron Curtain, says, "The secret police persecuted the Underground Church very much, because they recognized in it the only effective resistance left. And just the kind of resistance, the spiritual resistance, which if left unhindered, would undermine their atheistic power. They recognized, as only the devil can, an immediate threat to them. They knew if a man believed in Christ he would never be a mindless, willing subject. They knew they could imprison men, but they couldn't imprison faith in God. And so they fought very hard." (Tortured For Christ, pg. 17)

Why do men seek to destroy Christ and his messengers? It is because Christ reveals things as they are. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13) Barclay well describes what the light of Jesus does. "It strips away the disguises and the concealment; it shows things in all of their nakedness; it shows them in their true character and their true value … The externals, the disguises, the

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outer wrappings and trappings are stripped away; and everything stands revealed in the naked and awful loneliness of what it essentially is." (John, pg. 25)

Men are hostile to Christ and seek to destroy him because Christ exposes the secret and wicked areas of a man's life. Men hate Christ because Christ will not let them have their own way.

How revealing are the words of guilt as spoken by Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth: "What, will these hands ne'er be clean. Here's the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh … Wash your hands, put on your nightgown, look not so pale!"

With hatred for Christ and Christianity, many people have tried to silence the voice of conscience, and have pronounced it as a burden imposed by society's moral laws and standards. Conscience is a creation of society and must be relieved of society's impositions and limitations. Anxiety comes when the repressed desires of sex and hostility clamor for attention and expression, but must be denied because of an overly sensitive conscience. Conscience then is pictured as the cruel tyrant, and source of all problems. Relax the conscience of its strict role of accuser and give free expression to the deeply suppressed desires, and all will be well.

"The alternative view is that anxiety comes, not from acts which the individual would commit but dares not, but from acts which he has committed but wishes that he had not. It is, in other words, a 'guilt theory' of anxiety rather than an 'impulse theory'." (The Crises in Psychiatry and Religion, pg. 26) The conscience poses as the Voice of God, and when the conscience is repressed or offended or denied, then anxiety arises and guilt results. One who offends his conscience or his sense of moral oughtness, many times reacts with hatred and hostility to God, for God is the Voice of Conscience.

The humanist senses no need for a Saviour, for he senses no moral responsibility for sin. Deny sin and one denies his need for a Saviour.

Jesus came to save people from their sins, that is, to provide atonement for sins through a substitutionary death.

The humanist denies any need for an atonement. He is repulsed by the idea of a 'bloody' religion. The Bible makes it clear that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, but the humanist, who denies the existence of sin, denies the need for remission of sins.

Humanism asserts that man was born with innate goodness. Thus, the humanist creed is, "Glory to man in the highest!" The humanist glories in man and worships man.

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"Walt Whitman was one of these. Glory to man in the highest was his theme. The difference between the old artists and him is this: They painted one head with a halo of 'gold-colored light' about it, but he gave a halo to all." (Sangster's Special-Day Sermons; pg. 11)

The humanist questions the need for religion at all, believing that science will someday replace man's religious superstitions, and be able to solve all of man's problems. However, if man needs religion at all, it must be a religion without revelation. Thus, for the humanist, there is no need to bow the knee to a Creator God.

"Walt Whitman was their poet. He said he loved the cattle and all dumb beasts because they did not kneel down and say their prayers." (Ibid; pg. 10)

The humanist, in contrast to the Wise Men who humbly worshiped the Christ Child, refuses to worship anyone or anything except his own human nature. The humanist declares man as his own Master.

W.E. Henley represented this self-sufficient rebellion:

Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul.
It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate; 
I am the captain of my soul. 

(Quoted by Sangster in 'Sangster's Special Day Sermons; pg. 10)

Comments Sangster, "The vanity of it. The master of his fate and the captain of his soul." (Ibid; 10)

The believer, in contrast to the humanist, acknowledges the need for a Saviour. Our Christmas carols declare the saving purpose of Jesus' coming into the world. Note a few.

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given. 
So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of his heaven. 
No ear may hear his coming, But in this world of sin, 
Where meek souls will receive him still, 

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The dear Christ enters in. 
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; 
Cast out our sin, and enter in, Be born in us today. 
We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; 
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel. 

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Hark the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King; 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled." 
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace. 
Hail the Sun of Righteousness. 
Light and life to all he brings, 
Risen with healing in his wings. 
Mild he lays his glory by, 
Born that man no more may die. 

SILENT NIGHT

Silent night, holy night, 
Son of God, love's pure light; 
Radiant beams from thy holy face, 
With the dawn of redeeming grace, 
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, 
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. 

WHAT CHILD IS THIS, WHO, LAID TO REST:

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh, 
Come, peasant, King to own him; 
The King of Kings salvation brings, 
Let loving hearts enthrone him. 
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; 
I fled Him, down the arches of the years; 
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own 
mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and 
under running laughter. 
Up visited hopes I sped; And shot, precipitated, 
A down Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, 
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. 
But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, 
Deliberate speed, majestic instance, 
They beat - and a Voice beat 
More instant than the Feet - 

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"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me." 

(Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven")

II. The chief priests and scribes represent those who react with Indifference.

Comments Barclay, "They were so engrossed in their Temple ritual and their legal discussions that they simply completely disregarded Jesus. He meant nothing to them. There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them." (Barclay's Mt. pg. 21)

A. Some are indifferent because they believe the Church has been a failure.

As I was getting a haircut one day, a barber said to me, "My experience with Church – going, professing Christians has been very unpleasant, so I decided I wouldn't have anything to do with the Church." One university student said to me, "I was once a very active member of a Protestant Church, but because I saw corruption and hypocrisy in the Church, I decided the Church was not for me. I don't believe in any organized Church. I believe that science will probably someday have all the final answers to man's problems. It may be a thousand years from now, but nevertheless science will have the final word. Look what progress science has already made. Someday Christianity will probably look simple and be archaic. What we need in Western Civilization is a liberal religion, merely as an agent of change. If you classify me as anything, I suppose that you could classify me as an agnostic. I can't say that I believe in Christ, and I'm not sure that there is such a thing as heaven or hell." One distant relative of mine said, somewhat bitterly, "There are a lot of Churches, and it doesn't make any difference to me what Church one belongs to. All have to live their own lives, and therefore, I don't care what other people do. Every Church has its good and its bad, and you can go to Church if you want to, but you don't have to if you don't care to."

To each of these encounters, I reacted in a similar manner. To each of these men I pointed out that it is not the Church that can save, but only Christ. Although there is the superficial and hypocritical elements within the organized Church, that there can also be found the genuine and the noble within the Church, cannot be denied. It is to Christ alone that we each must answer, and therefore each individual must personally experience the forgiveness of God.

Some are indifferent because of failures they have seen within the Church

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— but what a poor excuse. One does not judge the medical profession on the basis of a few quack doctors, or one does not condemn all lawyers, simply because there are some dishonest lawyers. One is deceiving himself if he judges Christ and Christianity on the basis of some failures that have been observed within the Church.

B. Some are indifferent because of their present preoccupation with the cares of life.

The wife of one university student replied to me when I asked her if she was attending Church, "No, we are not attending Church now. I have uncles who are Methodist ministers, but since my husband is a student, we don't have time to get involved in Church now. In the future, after my husband gets out of school, we plan to begin coming to Church. It's nice of you however to visit us here in Aggies Court."

Many are the excuses for not taking Christ, and not taking time for the Church. Not only is the preceding excuse given, but others similar to it are given. Some say they are young and want to have their share of fun in life and that they will consider Christ and the Church when they become older. In back of many excuses is the false delusion that there is plenty of time in the future to consider God.

Says Barclay, "There is a fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship". They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and to ruin men. The first said, "I will tell them that there is no God." Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God." The second said, "I will tell men that there is no hell." Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell for sin." The third said, "I will tell men that there is no hurry." "Go", said Satan, "and you will ruin men by the thousand." The most dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time. The most dangerous day in a man's life is when he learns that there is such a word as tomorrow." (Barclay's Matthew pg. 350, 351) The Bible's exhortation is wise: "We ought, therefore, to pay the greatest attention to the truth that we have heard and not allow ourselves to drift away from it. For if the message given through angels proved authentic, so that defiance of it and disobedience to it received appropriate retribution, how shall we escape if we refuse to pay proper attention to the salvation which is offered us today?" (Hebrew 2:1-3)

C. Some are indifferent because they attempt to be neutral to Christianity.

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Some consider it a great virtue to adopt a policy of neutrality, and to be tolerant to every religion. Christ dogmatically asserted that He was the Only Way to God. Only through the name of Christ can man approach God (Acts 4:12). An indecision to follow Christ and an attempted neutrality, automatically becomes a decision against Christ. Said Jesus: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. " (Matthew 12:30) "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24) Joshua could well have been speaking to our generation when he said, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." Christ will not share any other allegiances; He demands all. He is dogmatic in His claims, and all inclusive in His demands. Pilate attempted to be neutral in his reaction to the Christ but he was unsuccessful. His cowardice was a vote against Christ, and resulted in gross injustice. The guilt that was on his hands was too great for him to wash it off with water. The blood of Christ was on his hands.

Says R.V.G. Tasker: "Jesus does not expect men to find it easy to make the right decision. He realizes that just because absolute obedience and absolute faith are demanded, many will make excuses. If God could be allowed to reign along with others, the decisions would be easier, but that cannot be: so there will be many pretexts for avoiding the challenge altogether." (The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels, pg. 75)

III. The Wise Men represent all who react to Christ with adoring worship.

A. The Wise Men sought Christ and found Him.

The wise men only found Christ after they diligently sought for Him. "Where," they asked Herod, "is the newly born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in its rising and we have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:2)

Centuries before, God spoke through Jeremiah and said, "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) Our seeking must be genuine; our asking must be sincere; our knocking must be persistent. God will only be found when we seek him with our whole heart. One cannot be pretentious, proud, or half-hearted, and expect to find Christ. The Wise Men were not satisfied until they found the Christ-child. Their searching was in earnest. To find the Child was their only concern.

"An alcoholic told me he had saved eighteen alcoholics, got them straight, but he himself would fall again and again into drinking bouts.

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In the midst of his own failure he never gave up working to help others. Then one day he was lying in bed reading ABUNDANT LIVING, when suddenly the light dawned. He knew he was a changed man. He went to the telephone, called up a friend, and said: 'It's happened. I'm free.' And he was. He has never touched alcohol since. Now he works with the leisured heart." (Conversion; E. Stanley Jones)

Jesus' parable of the lost coin well illustrates the necessity for diligence in ones search for God. In the parable, the precious pearl which was found in a field caused the finder to sell all that he had in order to purchase that gem. Full surrender is essential if one is to be a disciple of Christ and find peace in life. He who persistently is hypocritical in his asking will never find God and in the end be condemned by God. The following poem was engraved on an old slab in the Cathedral of Lubeck, Germany:

Ye call Me Master and obey Me not,
Ye call Me Light and see Me not,
Ye call Me Way and walk not,
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not,
Ye call Me wise and follow Me not, 
Ye call Me fair and love Me not,
Ye call Me rich and ask Me not, 
Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not,
Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not,
Ye call Me noble and serve Me not,
Ye call Me mighty and honor Me not, 
Ye call Me just and fear Me not. 
If I condemn you, blame Me not. 

(Anonymous (Taken from Christ in Poetry, pg. 327)

B. The Wise Men offered gifts to Christ.

"When they came into the house, they saw the little child with Mary, His mother and they fell down and worshiped Him; and they opened their treasures, and offered to Him gifts." (Matthew 2:11 Barclay)

The essence of true adoration is self-surrender and presentation of ourselves to God.

"Who answers Christ's insistent call 
Must give himself, his life, his all, 
Without one backward look. 

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Who sets his hand unto the plow, 
And glances back with anxious brow,
is calling hath mistook. 
Christ claims him wholly for his own;
He must be Christ's, and Christ's alone." 

(By John Oxenham, – taken from Christ in Poetry)

When one considers the supreme sacrifice of Christ, he becomes "lost in wonder, love, and praise," and is constrained to say, "Here, Lord, I give myself to thee, tis all that I can do."

When one bows in adoration to Christ, he acknowledges that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

"O Thou great Friend to all the sons of men,
Who once appear'st in humblest guise below,
Sin to rebuke, to break the captive's chain, 
To call thy brethren forth from want and woe!
Thee would I sing. Thy truth is still the light 
Which guides the nations groping on their way, 
Stumbling and falling in disastrous night,
Yet hoping ever for the perfect day. 
Yes; thou art still the life; thou art the way
The holiest know, light, life, and way of heaven;
And they who dearest hope and deepest pray
Toil by the truth, life, way that thou hast given; 
And in thy name aspiring mortals trust 
To uplift their bleeding brothers rescued from the dust." 

(By Theodore Parker – taken from Christ in Poetry, pg. 338,339)

CONCLUSION: "What think ye of Christ?" That is the question that every man must answer. All men who confront Christ must react in one of three different ways. One's reaction to Christ will either be hostile, indifferent, or adoring.

One may react with hostility to Christ and attempt to eliminate the truth. However, the truth can never be destroyed, and God's pursuit of love is persistent and conquering.

One may react with indifference to Christ and attempt to avoid Christ or His claim. To assume an attitude of indifference is really out rightly to reject Christ. One may react with adoring worship to Christ. To worship Christ means to present one's self completely to Christ as a token and gift of love and adoration.

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How will you react to the Christ of Bethlehem who is also the Christ of the Ages? To react with hostility is futile; to react with indifference is tragic; to react with adoration is safe and Wise.

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How Do You React To Christ?

Questions

  1. Describe briefly the kind of man King Herod was, as revealed by his actions and reactions to others, that easily explains the reasons why he would be insanely jealous when he heard about the birth of the Christ Child.

  2. Tell with what degree of conviction you believe the following statements: "The message of the Gospel may be either accepted or rejected, but it can never be eliminated. It's like a flame that can never be extinguished or quenched."

  3. From your own experience and observations, share an example which illustrates the truth of the following statements: "The truth cannot be destroyed, although it may be rejected. It will always inevitably triumph and the rejecter will eventually suffer because of his rejection of the truth."

  4. Why do you think people try to destroy Christ and Christ's messengers? (Note John 3:19-20; Hebrews 4:13)

  5. In an attempt to silence the "Voice of Conscience", what do some persons, bent on living a life of evil, say about their conscience, in an attempt to rationalize their evil behavior?

  6. What is the difference between the "guilt theory" and the "impulse theory" of anxiety, in the face of moral decisions?

  7. From your own experience, can you identify in any way with God's persistent, yet loving, pursuit of you, as described in the poem by Francis Thompson, entitled "The Hound of Heaven"?

  8. How do you respond to those non-Christians who declare that they are not believers because they have observed that the "Church is a failure and Christians are hypocrites"?

  9. To those persons (non-Christians) who are preoccupied with their own worldly pursuits and who believe they have plenty of time in the future to consider "religion and God and the Church", what do you believe would be important for you to say? (Note Hebrews 2:1-3)

  10. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "An indecision to follow Christ and an attempted neutrality, automatically becomes a decision against Christ." (Note Matthew 12:30; Matthew 6:24)

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  11. From your study of the Life of Jesus in the Gospels, tell why you believe the following statements accurately or inaccurately describe the difficulty of a human decision to follow Jesus as the Lord of their lives: "Jesus does not expect men to find it easy to make the right decision. If God could be allowed to reign along with others, the decision would be easier, but that cannot be: so there will be many pretexts for avoiding the challenge altogether."

  12. What are the conditions which a non-Christian must meet, in order truly to "find Christ" and to experience the forgiveness of sins and intimate fellowship with God? (Note Jeremiah 29:13)

  13. Tell with what degree of conviction you identify personally with the following statements: "Our seeking must be genuine; our asking must be sincere; our knocking must be persistent. God will only be found when we seek him with our whole heart. One cannot be pretentious, proud, or half-hearted, and expect to find Christ."

  14. Do you believe a sinner may call upon Christ to save him, even though the motives and desires within the seeking sinner may not be altogether "pure" or "righteous"? Give an illustration of a person who became a believer, even though his motives for "coming to Christ" might be considered questionable.

  15. Is it possible for a believer to be so committed to Christ as his Lord, that he (as a believer) can declare that he is "truly free" and that he is serving Christ with a "leisured heart" (as E. Stanley Jones states)? What does it mean for a believer to have a "leisured heart"?

  16. Is it possible for a person truly to adore God without that person honestly surrendering himself to God? Why or why not? Tell if you agree with the following statement: "The essence of a true adoration is self-surrender and presentation of ourselves to God."

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Genealogy of Jesus

Genealogy Of Jesus

The Genealogy of Jesus

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Chapter 4

SUBJECT: The Genealogy of Jesus

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 1:1-17

TEXT: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons." Galatians 4:4-5)

INTRODUCTION: History has experienced no greater event than the coming of Christ. The course of all history has been shaped largely under the influence of the lowly Nazarene.

I. Importance of Genealogy:

A. To provide proof of a pure lineage (For A Jew)

B. To appreciate the 'Personalism' of the Bible (For A Christian)

II. Symbolism of Genealogy

A. Three sections in the genealogy

B. Symbolic meaning of the three stages

III. Significance of Genealogy

A. The barriers between male and female are down

B. The barriers between saint and sinner are down

C. The barriers between Jew and Gentile are down

CONCLUSION: The genealogy is important for it establishes the fact that Jesus is the Son of David and thus emphasizes the Messiahship of Jesus – the Promised Seed of David and the Hope of Israel. It also shows the 'personalism' of the Bible, that God is interested in individuals as well as crowds, which Jesus' life demonstrated.

The three sections of the genealogy symbolically demonstrate the three stages of human history: (1) "Man was born for greatness", (2) "Man lost his greatness", (3) "Man can regain his greatness".

This genealogy is mainly significant in that it shows the universality of the Gospel. Christ is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Salvation is offered to both male and female, to both Jew and gentile, and even to the despised outcast.

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SUBJECT: The Genealogy of Jesus

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 1:1-17

TEXT: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons." Galatians 4:4-5)

INTRODUCTION: History has experienced no greater event than the coming of Christ. Historians acknowledge the greatness of Christ by choosing Christ's birth as the dividing point in history. An event is either dated as B.C. or A.D., thus showing that Christ is the focus of all history. The course of all history has been shaped largely under the influence of the lowly Nazarene. More books have been written about Christ than any other character.

The world is deeply indebted to the Gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is Matthew and Luke that tell us about Jesus' birth and early childhood. Matthew tells us that it is to the world that the Christ child was given.

PROPOSITION: Let us look at the very opening account of Matthew's Gospel and seek to better understand the life and ministry of Christ, who came as a mere babe of lowly birth. Matthew's opening genealogy has something to teach us. Let us look at it in terms of (1) The Importance of the Genealogy, (2) The Symbolism of the Genealogy, (3) The Significance of the Genealogy.

I. Importance of Genealogy:

A. To provide proof of a pure lineage (For A Jew)

To an American reader, a book would be considered dull and drab if it began with a long list of names, telling the genealogy of the main character. "But," says Barclay, "to a Jew this was the most natural, and the most interesting, and indeed the most essential way to begin the story of any man's life … The reason for this interest in pedigrees was that the Jews set the greatest possible store on purity of lineage. If in any man there was the slightest admixture of foreign blood, he lost his right to be called a Jew, and a member of the people of God." (Matthew, page 1,2)

Because the book of Matthew was originally written mainly for Jewish readers, it was important to establish the pure Jewish lineage of Jesus and to trace his genealogy back to Abraham. The uniqueness and greatness of Jesus'

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genealogy is seen in the fact that King David was one of Jesus' ancestors. This is significant because David was the greatest of all Israelite kings and his kingdom was considered to be the ideal kingdom in Israel's history. At the time Jesus was born, the Jews were expecting God to send a Deliverer to restore to Israel the glory which she once knew under the rule of David.

Israel's oppression, defeat, and captivity did not stamp out Israel's hope of eventual and ultimate victory over her enemies. Comments Barclay, "It was the dream of the common people that into this world there would come a descendant of David who would lead them to the glory which they believed to be theirs by right." (Matthew, page 6) Jesus' genealogy is traced back to David and thus seeks to present Jesus as the long-looked-for Messiah, Deliverer, and 'Anointed One' who would restore to Israel her lost glory. This genealogy points to Jesus as the Christ – the Hope of Israel.

B. To appreciate the 'Personalism' of the Bible (For A Christian)

Barclay quotes from Dr. Paul Toumier who has a paragraph in one of his books on what he calls the personalism of the Bible. "God says to Moses, 'I know thy name' (Exodus 33:17). He says to Cyrus, 'I am the Lord which call thee by thy name' (Isaiah 45:3). These texts express the essence of the personalism of the Bible. One is struck on reading the Bible, by the importance in it of personal names. Whole chapters are devoted to long genealogies. When I was young I used to think that they could well have been dropped from the Biblical Canon. But, I have since realized that these series of proper names bear witness to the fact that, in the Biblical perspective, man is neither a thing nor an abstraction, neither a species nor an idea, that he is not a fraction of the mass, as the Marxists see him, but that he is a person." (Barclay's Hebrews, pp.60, 61)

Throughout Jesus' ministry, he was always concerned with individuals. It is true that He was moved with compassion for the multitudes, but His compassion went beyond the multitudes to the lone individual. He saw each person as unique and worthy of His personal attention. Even in the midst of the crowd, He took time for the individual. In the midst of a crowd, Jesus healed the woman who was sick of an incurable disease for twelve years. Jesus spotted the curious Zacchaeus even when the crowds thronged him, and Zacchaeus became the object of Jesus' special attention and love within the privacy of Zacchaeus' home. The healing of a blind man near Jericho vividly shows Christ's personal compassion. "And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David

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have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him, that he should be brought unto him." (Luke 18:35, Luke 18:40)

There is no problem too small, but what Jesus is interested in it. Jesus' heart is touched for your grief. He does care when the nights are long and the days are fraught with care. He cares for each individual and desires to fold you to His loving bosom. It is important for us to know that Jesus cares for individuals, and the genealogy of Jesus helps us to realize the 'personalism' of Jesus.

II. Symbolism of Genealogy

A. Three sections in the genealogy

Barclay notes the three stages in Jesus' genealogy. "The first section takes the story of history up to David. David was the man who welded Israel into a nation, and who made the Jews a power in the world. The first section takes the story up to the rise of Israel's greatest king. The second section takes the story down to the exile to Babylon. It is the section which tells of the nation's shame, and tragedy, and disaster. The third section takes the story down to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the person who liberated men from their slavery, who rescued them from their disaster, and in whom the tragedy was turned into triumph." (Matthew, page 5)

B. Symbolic meaning of the three stages

Each of the three sections in the genealogy symbolically represents one of the three stages in the history of humanity and, indeed, the history of every individual.

1. First Stage – The first section of the genealogy which is from Abraham to David is the section of Israel's greatness. It represents the first stage in man's history – the stage of man's greatness. As Barclay says, "Man was born for greatness." Man was created in God's own image, and as such was made only for greatness and fellowship. Man had sweet and blessed communion with his Creator and was meant to enjoy His presence forever. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized man's beginning. God communed with man in the coolness of the day. As the crown of

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God's creation, God gave man superior intelligence and permitted man to subdue the earth. Man's body was strong, his mind was superb, and his spirit was unblemished.

2. Second Stage – The second section of this genealogy is from Solomon to the exile and portrays Israel's decline and decay. It represents the second stage of man's history – the Fall. "Man was born for greatness" but "Man lost his greatness." As Billy Graham says, "The Bible presents man as being in rebellion against God. This began when in an overt act of self-will; our first parents rebelled against divine law. In this experience man ruined his divine image, became alienated from God, and started on a course of action that produced civilizations and cultures saturated with crime, lust, hate, greed, and war. The earth is a planet in rebellion." (World Aflame, pg. xv) G. K. Chesterton once said of man, "Whatever else is true of man, man is not what he was meant to be." (Barclay's Matthew, page 4) Man fell from the height of splendor to the depth of despair, from the beauty of perfection to the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from the strength of health to the weakness of disease, from the glory of life to the corruptness of death, from the richness of an heir to the poorness of an outcast, from the fullness of knowledge to the shamefulness of ignorance.

Man is an estranged creature, haunted by loneliness and paralyzed by fear. Man is alienated from God, from his fellowman, and from himself. Man was made for greatness but is wallowing in despair. Man was made for communion, but is plagued by feelings of separation and rejection. Man was made to only enjoy peace, but hears constantly the clamor of disharmony. Man was made for love, but is too often a creature of hate. Man was made to be integrated, but is a bundle of frayed nerves. Man was made for God, but is a rebel in rebellion against God's perfect will. When man rebelled against God's commandments, man died. Man's sensitivity to fellowship became annulled by sin. Man's innocence became blemished by guilt, and his capacity for nobility became shriveled by self-centeredness. Man's nature is corrupted by sin. Every area of man's activity feels the pollution of sin. Man's will is rendered so weak that he is unable to subdue the passions of his flesh. Man's knowledge is so inadequate that he is unable to discover and pursue the pathway which leads to righteousness. Man's nature is warped, twisted, and corrupted.

3. Third Stage – The third section of this genealogy is from after the

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exile to the corning of Christ. Christ is the one by whom Israel could have regained her true greatness. This section represents the third stage of man's history – Redemption and Reconciliation. "Man can regain his greatness." (Barclay's Matthew, page 4) Christ is merciful and full of grace, and therefore seeks to make the undeserving child of hell a child of heaven. Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 10:10) He came to rescue the perishing, to restore the downtrodden, to befriend the lonely, and to heal the sick in soul. He came not to condemn, but instead to save (John 1:17). He came to "save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) The Just One died for unjust, fallen humanity, that He might make man righteous. Christ came to make an integrated life out of a shattered life, to make a strong character out of a shallow life, to make a confident and radiant life out of a guilt-ridden life. Through Christ man can come once again to know greatness.

Says Barclay in summary, "In his genealogy Matthew shows us the royalty of kingship gained; the tragedy of freedom lost; the glory of liberty restored. And that, in the mercy of God, is the story of mankind, and of each individual man." (Barclay's Matthew, page 4)

III. Significance of Genealogy

This genealogy is particularly interesting since the name of four women appear in it. It is even more interesting to note the character and circumstances of these women. Rahab was a harlot of Jericho, Ruth was a Moabite and not a Jewess, Thamar was an adulteress, and Bathsheba was the woman whom David seduced and took from Uriah through murder.

The appearance of these names in Jesus' genealogy shows something very significant and foreshadows what was accomplished through Christ's ministry. (Barclay notes the significance in his comments in Matthew, volume 1; page 7,8)

A. The barriers between male and female are down

During the day in which we live there is little public discrimination between male and female. However, during Jesus' day this was not so. The Jews had a very low estimate of women. Every morning each Jewish man thanked God in his prayers that God had not made him "a Gentile, a slave or a woman." A woman was the sole property of her husband or father and was not treated as a person but rather as a thing to be used for her husband's advantage. She was almost the same as a slave, and could be quickly and easily divorced by her

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husband for almost no reason. She had no legal rights, and thus could not herself get a divorce.

The appearance of women in Jesus' genealogy shows that God considers women important, so important that women are named in the ancestry of the Son of God! Jesus came to destroy the despicable attitude of contempt that the ancient world manifested toward women. We can see the tenderness of Jesus as he wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus. We can see the winning love of Jesus which He patiently manifested to the despised Samaritan woman. We can see the heart of compassion as we see Jesus restore to life the son of the woman of Nain. Jesus cared for all- both male and female – and was not influenced by the hostile and indifferent attitudes towards women of his day.

Barclay notes that "A. W. Verrale, the great classical scholar, once said that one of the chief diseases of which ancient civilization died was a low view of women. Christ introduced a new and noble view towards women. He made no discrimination. Paul reflected Christ's attitude when he wrote, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus!" (Galatians 3:28)

B. The barriers between saint and sinner are down

The religious rulers of Jesus' day prided themselves in their righteousness and looked upon publicans and sinners as the untouchable filth of the world. This high wall of discrimination between saint and sinner was shattered by the life and message of Christ. Christ said that He came to seek and to save the lost and that He came not to heal the healthy but to heal the diseased. Said Jesus, "Likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." (Luke 15:7)

Christ takes the despised woman of Samaria and makes her an honored messenger of love. Christ takes a demon-possessed outcast, and makes him a respectable citizen. Christ takes a high-browed Pharisee and makes him a humble and faithful follower. Christ takes a doubting Thomas and makes him a flaming evangelist. Christ takes a thieving Onesimus and makes him a faithful servant. Christ takes an adulterous outcast and makes her a pure and respectable lady. Christ takes the dying thief and makes him a son of paradise. He takes the guilt-ridden publican and makes him a free and justified believer. Christ restores a wandering prodigal to the stature of full sonship. Christ breaks the shackles of sin and sets the prisoner free. Christ seeks and finds the lost sheep. He applies his healing salve to the sores of sin, and

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restores the downtrodden to wholeness and health. Christ came to seek and to save the lost. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)

C. The barriers between Jew and Gentile are down

Christ came to break down all racial barriers. Let it be noted that not all in Christ's genealogy were Jews. Ruth was a Moabite and the law laid it down, "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever." (Deuteronomy 23:3)

The Jews hated all Gentiles and considered them only good as "fuel for hell". When Paul addressed the Gentile Christians in Ephesus he reminds them what Gentile people were considered before the time of Christ. "Do not lose sight of the fact that you were born 'gentiles', known by those whose bodies were circumcised as 'the uncircumcised'. You were without Christ; you were utter strangers to God's chosen community, Israel, and you had no knowledge of, or right to, the promised agreements. You had nothing to look forward to and no God to whom you could turn." (Ephesians 2:11-12)

This dividing wall of hostility and enmity was brought to an end by the cross of Christ. Says Paul about Christ: "For Christ is our living peace. He has made a unity between us. By this sacrifice he removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules, and made in himself out of the two, Jew and Gentile, one new man, thus producing peace. For he reconciled both to God by the sacrifice of one body on the cross, and by this act made utterly irrelevant the antagonism between them. Then he came and told both you who were far from God and us who were near that the war was over. And it is through him that both of us now can approach the Father in the one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:14-18, Phillips)

CONCLUSION: The genealogy is important for it establishes the fact that Jesus is the Son of David and thus emphasizes the Messiahship of Jesus – the Promised Seed of David and the Hope of Israel It also shows the 'personalism' of the Bible, that God is interested in individuals as well as crowds, which Jesus' life demonstrated.

The three sections of the genealogy symbolically demonstrate the three stages of human history: (1) "Man was born for greatness", (2) "Man lost his greatness", (3) "Man can regain his greatness".

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This genealogy is mainly significant in that it shows the universality of the Gospel. Christ is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Salvation is offered to both male and female, to both Jew and gentile, and even to the despised outcast.

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THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS

QUESTIONS

  1. Why, to a Jew, is genealogy so very important?

  2. What significance did the fact that King David was one of Jesus' ancestors, have for Matthew's readers?

  3. For a Christian reader, what significance do Biblical genealogical lists have?

  4. What evidence is there from Scripture that, in spite of the vast multitudes of human beings in our world today, Jesus Christ cares personally for you and wishes to minister to your own personal burdens and hurts? (Note Luke 8:40-48; Luke 18:35 -43; Luke 19:1-10)

  5. What are the three sections in Jesus' genealogy, as recorded by Matthew in Matthew 1:1-17, and what do each of these three sections symbolize?

  6. Who, according to your understanding, is responsible for the "Fall of Man" in the Garden of Eden – Man or God? Give your reaction to the following statement: "Whatever else is true of man, man is not what he was meant to be."

  7. What evidence is there from Scripture that "Man can regain his greatness" which he lost in the Garden of Eden? (Note Romans 5:8-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

  8. How does the appearance of the names of Rahab, Ruth, Thamar, and Bathsheba foreshadow what was accomplished through Christ's ministry?

  9. Describe the popular attitude towards women, and how women generally were treated, during the time of Jesus.

  10. In contrast to the contemptible attitude towards women in New Testament times, what was Jesus' attitude toward women? (Note John 11:1-45; John 4:1-39; John 8:1-11, Luke 7:11-16; Luke 7:36-50; John 19:25-27; John 20:11-18).

  11. What is your personal reaction to abuses and to discriminations against women in our modem-day world, both in and outside of the Church?

    • Your reaction to wife abuse in cases of domestic violence?

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    • Your reaction to single mothers, whose inadequate income as single parent, brings great financial hardships in raising several small children?

    • Your reaction to men who have divorced their wives, and who neglect or refuse to pay "child support" to their former wives who are raising their children?

    • Your reaction to women whose husbands have died, and who, as widows, are very lonesome and in need of fellowship and of material relief?

    • Your reaction to young unwed mothers who are being "counseled" to abort their babies?

    • Your reaction to women who have gravely sinned by aborting their children, and who are now full of guilt and shame and who are deeply depressed?

    • Your reaction to professionally trained women whose employers refuse to give them salaries which are equal to those which are paid to equally trained and experienced male employees?

    • Your reaction to those crude and lust-filled men who find "delight" and "fun" and "sport" in sexually harassing women who work for them?

    • Your reaction to ecclesiastical officials and denominational leaders who refuse to ordain dedicated Christian ladies who have definitely sensed a divine call to preach and to pastor a local Church?

  12. What responsibility do Christian men in general and Christian husbands in particular have, in protecting and defending and ennobling women in the general public and women specifically within the Christian Church and Christian Family?

  13. What, according to the New Testament Gospels, is Jesus' attitude towards "down- and-out", despised sinners? (Luke 15:7; John 3:17)

  14. What significance do you attach to the fact that not all in Jesus' genealogy were of the Jewish race?

  15. How is the lot and place of Gentile persons described, before Jesus' coming, according to Ephesians 2:11-12 ?

  16. What hope did Gentile people (non-Jews) find, as a result of the coming and the ministry of Jesus Christ? (Note Ephesians 2:14-18)

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Meaning Of Incarnation

The Meaning Of Incarnation

The Meaning Of Incarnation

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: The Meaning of The Incarnation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14

TEXT: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." (John 1:14 a)

INTRODUCTION: This is the meaning of the Incarnation – God has stepped out of the picture (Universe) and become a man to live and to die for mankind. Jesus showed us the kind of God that rules the universe – a God who loves and who has come to redeem.

PROPOSITION: At Christmas Time we sing of the coming of Immanuel or Jesus – and Immanuel means 'God with us', or 'God in us', or 'God for us'. It means that Eternity has invaded Time, that God has become a man.

I. God with Us

A. In Sorrow and Pain and Loneliness and Poverty

B. In Joy

II. God in Us

A. To Convict

B. To Forgive

C. To Cleanse

D. To Comfort

E. To Keep

III. God For Us

A. In Making Decisions (small and great)

B. In Meeting Satanic Attacks

C. In Carrying Out Life's Tasks

CONCLUSION: God has stepped out of the picture and is with us now – through the power of the Spirit!

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: The Meaning of the Incarnation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14

TEXT: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14 a)

INTRODUCTION: "E. Stanley Jones has told a story of a little boy who stood before a picture of his absent father, and then turned to his mother and said wistfully, 'I wish Father would step out of the picture." (Sangster's Special- Day Sermons; page 17)

This is the meaning of the Incarnation – God has stepped out of the picture (Universe) and become a man to live and to die for mankind. Jesus showed us the kind of God that rules the universe – a God who loves and who has come to redeem.

"The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – a little more moral, more free from contradictory elements, more lofty in its conceptions. It is that, but it is more – it is different in kind. Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one Gospel. Religions are the Word become word; the Gospel is the Word become flesh." (E. S. Jones; page 8 of 'Word Became Flesh')

PROPOSITION: At Christmas Time we sing of the coming of Immanuel or Jesus – and Immanuel means 'God with us', or 'God in us', or 'God for us'. It means that Eternity has invaded Time, that God has become a man.

I. God With Us

"The greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God. This is the comfort which the Advent tidings bring – and it is all in that one word Immanuel: for Immanuel means 'God with us', with us in Jesus, God going through the darkness with you, God saying, 'My friend, you must not carry the trouble alone any longer – cast it down at My feet: I will take it and carry it, and the hardest part shall be my part.' The word Immanuel means that where we, with all our poor human words of comfort, break down utterly, God begins. Immanuel means that when you feel nobody wants you, God does. Immanuel means that when your heart is crying to every would-be comforter, 'Ah, you don't understand, you can't see things from my side of them, you are outside' – Immanuel means that God is right inside. Immanuel means God with you and in you, God making the pain a sacrament, the conflict a crusade, and the broken dreams a ladder up to heaven. And so, through Christ, God speaks home to the heart of Jerusalem." (The Gates of New Life; page 197, 198; James Stewart)

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A. In Sorrow and Pain and Loneliness and Poverty

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained 
Too deeply for mirth and song; 
As the burdens press, and the cares distress, 
And the way grows weary and long? 
O yes, He cares; I know He cares, 
His heart is touched with my grief; 
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, 
I know my Saviour cares. 

Jesus is called 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". He feels and he knows every burden you carry. The Bible exhorts you "To let all your anxieties fall upon him for his interest is in you." (1 Peter 5:7, Moffatt.)

When Jesus' friend, Lazarus died, and Jesus saw Lazarus' sisters in great grief, 'Jesus wept', and not only wept, but did something about the problem – He raised Lazarus to life.

"The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son – Christ could not bear it!" (Stewart; page 197) So Jesus raised him to life.

An embittered father, who had lost his son in the war, asked a minster: 'Where was God when my son died?' Replied the minister, 'The same place He was when His own son died.' There is no experience that God can't understand.

God is with you in loneliness, for Jesus understands what it means to have his one- time follower's leave and forsake him. Jesus went through His trial all alone – with even his disciples leaving him. You need never walk alone. Jesus said, 'Lo, I am with you always.'

God is with us in times of poverty. Jesus experienced the depths of poverty. Born in a manger, working hard, long hours in a carpenter shop to 'make ends meet' for the family that he was to provide for, after Joseph died, while Jesus' brothers and sisters were still young – these are experiences that enable the poor to so closely identify with Jesus. Said Jesus, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head." (Matthew 9:20) Jesus left the 'ivory palaces' of heaven, and emptied himself on earth for man. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes be became poor, that ye through

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his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

B. In Joy

Jesus identifies with us in our joys. In fact, Jesus enjoyed life so much, that his sour critics called Jesus a wine-bibber. "The Son of man came eating and drinking (showing jolly spirit) and they (the critics) say, Behold a man gluttonous, and wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Jesus often ate and dined at sinners' homes.

Jesus showed gaiety of spirit at the wedding at Cana of Galilee, and wanted the guests and hosts to be so happy, that he changed water into wine, to save the hosts (who were probably poor people) embarrassment and shame.

The spirit of Jesus is reflected in the writings of Jesus' followers: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4) "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4) "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:18-19)

II. God In Us

A. To Convict

If it were not for the mercy of God's conviction of sin and of our need for Christ, no man would be saved. God is in every man to create a need for Christ. "John Nelsen, weighed down with a deep sense of sin, went to hear John Wesley. Though unknown to the field preacher, Nelson felt that Wesley was aiming his message directly at him, as one standing alone before a preacher. 'As soon as he got up on the stand, he stroked back his hair, and turned his face towards where I stood, and I thought fixed his eyes upon me. His countenance struck such awful dread upon me, before I heard him speak, that it make my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock: and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me. When he had done, I said, "This man can tell the secrets of my heart"'." (Mavis; Personal Renewal Through Christian Conversion; page 45)

B. To Forgive

God is in us to forgive us all our sins. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalms 103:12) God has hid our sins in the sea of forgetfulness, never to remember them against us

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again. Says God, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 6:12)

I believe the most important word of the English language is "Forgiveness".

C. To Cleanse

"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. .. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalms 51:2, Psalms 51:7)

William Carvosso, saintly class-leader in the Methodist Church for over 60 years, had prayed earnestly for 'inward holiness'. The Spirit directed him to the promise in Ezekiel 36:25-27. At length, one evening, while engaged in prayer meeting, the great deliverance came. 'I began to exercise faith, by believing, "I shall have the blessing now." Just at that moment a heavenly influence filled the room; and no sooner had I spoken than refining fire went "through my heart – illuminated my soul -scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole." I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed me from all sin. I cried out, "This is what I wanted! I have now got a new heart." … O what boundless happiness there is in Christ, and all for such a poor sinner as 1." (Entire Sanctification; page 73)

D. To Comfort

Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans." The Holy Spirit is in us to enable us to cope successfully with life. He enables us to 'Brave Life Together'. The Spirit imparts courage and rest and power. There is rest for the weary. Said Jesus, "Come to me and I will give you rest – all you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke – for it fits perfectly and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens." (Matthew 11:28)

"True comfort of Christ is a strong, bracing, reinforcing thing. It is like a wind to a boat that has been becalmed. It is like the gift of a job to a man who has been for years out of work. It is like the clasp of a friend's hand in a time of need. This is certainly the root idea of the word 'comfort' in the New Testament; and when Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the 'Comforter', He is really giving a promise that God will stand by a man in the day of his need, and brace his heart and nerve his arm, and make him more than conqueror." (Stewart page 193; in The Gates of New Life.)

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"A very sensitive and dedicated Christian, after a deep disappointment in some of her trusted colleagues, threw herself on her bed and cried, 'O Jesus, if it weren't for You I'd not be a Christian five minutes'. He held her steady through that letdown." (Word Become Flesh; page 339; E. S. Jones)

E. To Keep

The Holy Spirit is in us to keep us from sin and evil. "The Lord is faithful; he will make you strong, guard you from satanic attacks of every kind." (2 Thessalonians 3:3) Declared Paul: "I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return." (2 Timothy 1:12) "His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you even until the end of the world."

Says E. Stanley Jones: "For sixty years I've thought of one subject, have spoken about that one subject, and have written about that one subject – that one subject, a Person, Jesus Christ. After thinking and talking about one subject for sixty years, one should be bored and should want a moral holiday, want to get away and think of something else. On the contrary, I was never so excited, so exhilarated, so full of surprise as .now. Something new breaks out from Him every day, a surprise around every comer, horizons cracking, life popping with novelty and meaning – and value. The Truth is making me free, free to find more Truth and yet more Truth. And so on forever and forever." (Word Became Flesh; page 51). "The testimony of Evan Hopkins can help us." The year of his deeper crisis was 1873. In 1913 – just four decades later – he was at Keswick. He opened one of his addresses by saying: 'I think I ought to be the most thankful man in this tent, because I am privileged to testify that the blessings last. It has lasted with me forty years. I shall never forget that sacred spot where the first consecration meeting was held, in London in May, 1873. I had been converted thirteen years, brought to the Lord through a coast guardsman, and I had learned the need of my own heart during those years. At the time that I refer to I was immensely stirred to seek this blessing. We had heard about it and there in Curzon Chapel, Mayfair, under the gallery, sixteen well-known Christian people met together… this was just the beginning of the movement, and I ought to be one of the most thankful men in this tent, because of God's gracious keeping power for forty years. I want to bear testimony to that fact, and give Him all the glory. There have been many failures. I am not glorying in self, but what was revealed to me that day – the all-sufficiency of Christ – as precious to my soul as it ever was.'" (Prayer and Life's Highest; page 87; Rees)

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III. God For Us

The Bible asks the important question, 'If God be for us, who can be against us'? 'Immanuel' means that God is for us.

A. In Making Decisions (small and great)

God promises: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." (Psalms 32:8) "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:6)

B. In Meeting Satanic Attacks

"The Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind." (2 Thessalonians 3:3) "There hath no temptation taken you but such as in common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)

Said Jesus: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33)

C. In Carrying Out Life's Tasks

"Susanna Wesley had a prayer: 'Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the Church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy presence. '" (Barclay's Matthew, Vol. 2, page 180)

God is for us, in helping us to carry out our daily tasks. One college youth was having difficulty disciplining himself to do his college studies, and he made this a special subject of prayer, and discovered that he was able to do a much greater job.

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Brother Lawrence, who worked as a monastery cook in the 17th century, was a simple man who learned to take God with him in the simplest tasks of life. He wrote:

"Lord of all pots and pans and things .... 
Make me a saint by getting meals 
And washing up the plates!" 

He further testified: "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." (Practicing The Presence of God; page 6)

"Mrs. Billy Graham admits 'that I do most of my praying "on the hoof'. She says that sometimes a busy homemaker simply cannot get down upon her knees often. ' but to know that you can wash dishes, iron, clean, shop, drive, and in whatever you have to do Jesus Christ is there beside you, urging you to talk over your problems with him – that is a joy and a comfort it is impossible to describe.'" (Alive To God Through Prayer; Donald Demaray, pg 89)

"After thirty-five years of service, the superintendent of nurses in a Philadelphia hospital retired. Her service had been outstanding because of her radiant personality, her thoughtfulness, her self-forgetting service, her courage and her hope. A banquet was held to honor her on her retirement. Hundreds of persons, doctors, nurses, other hospital personnel, former patients and friends gathered to do her honor. Speeches gave glowing tribute to her service. Then she arose, and told of an incident that took place thirty-five years before that changed her life. It was the last year as a student nurse. At Christmas time she found the schedule of duty did not permit her to get away from the hospital, while other girls had Christmas leave. She was homesick and irritated, and her attitude was reflected in everything she did. On Christmas Eve, a little boy was brought into the ward where she was on duty. The day after Christmas she was going about her duties, when she entered the room to help the little boy.

Suddenly the lad spoke up and said, 'I guess you never heard of the baby Jesus, did you?' She was stunned by the remark and snapped, 'Why did you say that?" The little boy looked up from his pillow and said, 'Cause you couldn't look so cross and sad if you had heard of the baby Jesus!'

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The now-retired superintendent of nurses said she ran from the ward. In the seclusion of her own room, she fell on her knees and promised God that as long as she was a nurse, she would never give any patient reason to think that she had never heard about Jesus. The incident, she said, changed her life. Her devotion to her work, and her enthusiasm for her task were dated from that hour, now sacred in her hall of memories." (Sermon Builder; page 13, 14 of Dec. 1972)

CONCLUSION: Remember – 'Immanuel' has come – God with Us (in sorrow, pain, loneliness, and poverty), God In Us (to comfort, to forgive, to cleanse, to comfort to keep), God For Us (in making decisions, in meeting satanic attacks, in carrying out life's tasks).

God has stepped out of the picture and is with us now – through the power of the Spirit! Glory!

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The Meaning Of The Incarnation

Questions

  1. From your knowledge of World Religions and of Christianity, give illustrations to demonstrate the truth of the following statements: "Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one gospel."

  2. Based on the fact of the Incarnation, do you really believe that there is a Personal Divine One who truly understands your own heartbreaks, perplexities, loneliness, pain, hardships, poverty, broken dreams, and disappointments? (Read 1 Peter 5:7 in as many translations as possible, and share with other believers how this promise has given great comfort to you during a crisis in your own life). Tell with what degree of conviction you believe the following statement: "There is no experience that God can't understand."

  3. What evidence is there from an observation of the life of Jesus and the writings of Jesus' followers, that God is pleased when believers are full of joy, pleasure, and happiness? (Note John 2:1-25, Philippians 4:4; 1 John 1:4; Ephesians 5:18-19)

  4. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God is in every man to create a need for Christ."

  5. Would you agree that the most important word of the English language is the word "Forgiveness"? Why or why not? (Note Psalms 103:12; Hebrews 8:12)

  6. Have you, as a believer, ever had an experience when you felt that the precious "blood of Jesus" was deeply cleansing your inner motives and desires, enabling you to become more committed to Christ and more compassionate toward your fellow men? (Note Ezekiel 36:25-27; 1 John 1:7)

  7. What is the root idea of the word 'comfort' in the New Testament?

  8. Share as many Scriptural promises that you can which assure you of "God's Keeping Power" – i.e., God's ability and desire to keep you safe from evil and to preserve you blameless in godly character until God calls you Home to Heaven. (Note 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:12; Philippians 4:7)

  9. In spite of all your personal mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and sins, can you today personally testify to God's faithfulness in keeping you secure in His love – amidst all the changes and chances of your past experiences?

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  10. Share from your personal experience, times and ways in which God has given you divine guidance amidst life's decisions, both large and small. (Note Psalms 32:8; Proverbs 3:6)

  11. Share a time in your life when you sensed the protecting presence of God, amidst sore trials and pressing temptations. (Note 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Luke 22:31-32; John 16:33)

  12. Tell to what extent you identify with the prayer of Suzanne Wesley:

"Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the Church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence."

Have you sensed the reality of God's presence just as greatly while you perform your daily routine jobs, as you have during the times of your Holy Communion in God's sanctuary? What "holy disciplines' are you developing in your Christian life which are helping you to "practice the presence of God?"

"Besides your practice of the "discipline of the Quiet Time" of daily devotions, are you learning regularly and consciously to pray to God throughout the routine of your daily responsibilities – in other words, learning to "pray on the hoof'?

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Here He Comes – Patiently Prepare

Here He Comes – Patiently Prepare

Here He Comes Patiently Prepare

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CHAPTER 6

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'PATIENTLY PREPARE'!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:22-38

TEXT: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." (Luke 2:25)

INTRODUCTION: There are two sides of the Christian life. There is the Active side of the Christian life. Here we achieve, venture, preach, sing, organize, administer. The other is related to passive side of life. Here we submit, endure, suffer, wait. I propose to you that waiting upon God is usually more difficult than achieving for God! And yet, waiting is all-important, for expectant waiting is necessary if God is to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ to us in new and powerful ways.

I. Why Is Waiting So Difficult For Us?

A. Because we are basically impatient.

B. Because we look at time from a human viewpoint instead of from God's viewpoint.

II. Why Is Waiting So Important?

A. Because God has His own timetable

B. Because some great revelations and gifts from God can only be received by the one who is more mature in his walk.

C. Because waiting upon God raises our level of expectations, desires, and anticipations, making the fulfillment of the promise all that more sweet and wonderful.

D. Because God's voice cannot be heard unless one is still and quiet, in a waiting, expectant mood.

E. Because waiting is evidence of faith – evidence that we believe in the vision God has given to us and that we believe that vision will be fulfilled in God's own time and way.

III. What Is The Result Of Waiting Expectantly Upon God?

CONCLUSION: Simeon and Anna were determined to know God's Son, and therefore they waited patiently and persistently! Learn to attend to God's whispers! Prepare to receive God's Son into your life in new and exciting ways!

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vital for God forever." (Mastery; page 298)

PROPOSITION: If a new revelation of Jesus in our lives cannot come without expectant waiting, we must ask some important questions regarding 'Expectant Waiting'.

I. Why Is Waiting So Difficult For Us?

A. Because we are basically impatient

In some non-western cultures children and adults are trained to be patient, unrushed, and meditative, slow in movements, but such training is rare in our Western Civilization. We are an 'instant' society. 'Instant' oatmeal', 'Instant' coffee, 'Instant' potatoes, 'Instant' meals in the form of T.V. Dinners and add-only-water cake mixes. We grow impatient if the fast-food places don't serve us fast enough! We are not trained to wait on people or to wait on service from people. We want something and we want it immediately! We are a very impatient society. Long years of practice don't appeal to us. We want quick results with little input. There are many who are looking at ways to 'Get-Rich-Quick'! Our young people who have been caught up in the hurly-burly of modem life are even turned off to 'slow' music. Compatible with their lifestyle of rush and hurry and speed and 'immediacy', many youth cannot stand slow, soothing classical music! It must be the fast beat, the kind of music that puts the body in motion that raises the pulse rate, that is so loud and fast that one cannot understand the words! Children get all the toys they want when they want them – no waiting, no anticipation, no denials. Get it all and get it now! A poor way to develop discipline through denial and patience through waiting! We are in the space age – the age of speed. A hard age to develop patience with old people who are very slow in their physical movements and sometimes slow in their comprehension because of mental handicaps!

Why is it so hard to Wait upon the Lord, silently, passively, receptively, alone? Because we are living in a society which hates silence, slowness, solitude! Christians who are bred in such a society will have to work at developing these important qualities, for without these qualities – no new revelation of Jesus in their lives!

We live in an activist society, a society where meditation, quiet, busyness solitude, patient waiting are lost arts. In our society busyness is more important to us than productivity. We Americans think that Doing is more important than being. We think that Talking is more important than Listening.

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We think that Quantity is more important than Quality. (For instance, we build many cheap houses quickly rather than a few quality houses built slowly.) We think that fast-moving Youth are more important than the slower moving but experienced Aged. Even in industry today, if you are over 50 and cannot move as fast as the 25 year old, you may lose your job to the faster, but less experienced, youth. (Let us remind ourselves that the greatest period in life may well be the last period of life. It was so with Moses. The first 40 years of life were years of formal education. The second 40 years of life were years of patient preparation, in the desert. The last 40 years of his life were years of unusual productivity – the years when he fulfilled his life mission of leading the people of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land!)

Remember, Simeon was an old man when the greatest revelation of God came to him. And remember, Anna the prophetess, was 84 when she received God's greatest revelation to her!

Slow Me Down, Lord

Give me, amidst the confusion of my day, 
the calmness of the everlasting hills. 
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles 
with the soothing music of the singing streams 
that live in my memory. 
Help me to know 
the magical restorative power of sleep. 
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations ... 
Of slowing down to look at a flower, 
to chat with a friend, 
to pat a dog, 
to read a few lines from a good book 
Slow me down, Lord, 
and inspire me to send my roots deep 
into the soil oflife's enduring values, 
that I may grow 
toward the stars of my greater destiny. Amen.

(Daily Readings From W. E. Sangster; page 368)

B. Because we look at time from a human viewpoint instead of from God's viewpoint.

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God is not slow to fulfill His purposes as some men count slowness. God's timetable is the right timetable. He is never too late, for God sees the 'end from the beginning'. He knows when men are prepared for His fuller revelations. He knows when the fullness of time is for new gifts of knowledge and insight and revelations to be given to us. Someone has said that God is the God who always answers 'in the nick of time'. From man's viewpoint perhaps, but not from God's viewpoint, for God is never rushed and He is never too slow. He is right on time. But because we human beings are living in the dimension of time and see things from time's perspective, we grow impatient with God! Our timetable is different from God's, but God's is the right timetable.

II. Why Is Waiting So Important?

A. Because God Has His Own Timetable

If God's timetable is the only right timetable, then it is all-important to wait upon God's proper time. "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord" (Psalms 27:14) Good advice to us, for we tend to grow discouraged when our prayers are not quickly answered or when our projects are frustrated! Wait upon God for His timing! "Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to possess the land." (Psalms 37:34) If you wait on the Lord, you will possess new knowledge of God's ways, God's purposes, God's plan for your life! "The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food in due season." (Psalms 145:15) Food means physical, spiritual, intellectual, social sustenance. God will give the soul who waits expectantly upon Him, all the food he needs! 'Due season' speaks of God's timetable which is the right timetable. God is never too late! Others may think He is late and give up on God. Some grow hopeless and feel that God's promises will never be fulfilled. But God likes to surprise people with His own timing! God's promises to Abraham were late in being fulfilled, but they were not too late. Abraham and Sarah became parents of the promised child when they were very old. Earlier, Abraham had grown impatient with God's timetable, and therefore he took Hagar his handmaid and she bore Abraham a son. But it was ahead of God's timing. Hagar's son was not the promised son!

Remember, in the fullness of time God reveals Himself. Simeon and Anna knew this, so they were willing to wait long and patiently upon God. And they were not disappointed, for God, in His own time, fulfilled His promise to them! In the Book of Acts we learn that the disciples had to wait for ten long days before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. "If Jesus had said 'go', He had also said 'tarry' and 'wait'. For ten days they did nothing but tarry and wait. They might have been champing at the bit, eager to be off to tell the Good News of His Resurrection. But it would have been half\baked if they had. For not only were

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they to tell of His Resurrection – they were to illustrate it … People were to feel the Resurrection through these resurrected lives. So the best thing they ever did was not to do. For ten days they were quiet and receptive." (Mystery; Jones; page 297)

It is important for us to work for the Lord, but it is equally important for us to wait expectantly upon the Lord. "Jeremiah said out of much tribulation that 'it is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord'. Both hope and quietly wait! Some rush on with their work for God, and, meeting disappointment, get discouraged … The saint both hopes and quietly waits. Not all he has to endure robs him of the patience of hope, for he knows that God will have His way in the end." (Daily Readings; page 203; Sangster)

Waiting upon the Lord is an antidote against discouragement. Isaiah wrote, "They that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58) "And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." (Galatians 6:9) Waiting on God gives birth to hope which neutralizes discouragement during difficult times. Waiting upon God enables us to look beyond the problems of the present to the promises that are to be fulfilled in the future!

B. Because Some Great Revelations and Gifts From God Can Only Be Received By The One Who Is More Mature In His Walk.

We tell children to wait for some gifts, for we believe that until they are older they will not be able to properly receive and appreciate them. We tell a child that he must wait until he is older before he can drive a car. We tell a young adolescent that he must wait until he is older before he is ready to be married. We tell a high school graduate that he ought to wait and go to college before he gets a job or tries to enter a profession. We tell a young worker that he will have to wait to mature and to gain experience before he can have the better job or the executive position. Even within God's Church, the Lord has directed ministers to mature before they can even be considered for some offices, like deacon or elder or Bishop.

Let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons." (1 Timothy 3:10) "He (a bishop) must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:6)

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Some revelations from God can only come to those who have long prepared, fasted, waited, expected, and matured. It is not insignificant that God revealed the person and purpose of Jesus to ones who had long prepared for that special and great gift of revelation. For many years Simeon and Anna had waited upon the Lord at the holy Temple. Of Anna it is said, "She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." (Luke 2:37) God had matured Simeon and Anna to the point where they were able to receive a great revelation from God. The long waiting, praying, expecting were necessary to prepare them for God's greatest revelation. Not even Joseph and Mary recognized the person and mission of Jesus like Simeon and Anna. "And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him (Jesus)." (Luke 2:33)

Why is waiting so important? Because some of God's special gifts and revelations can only be given to more mature Christians who have learned to wait upon God.

C. Because waiting upon God raises our level of expectations, desires, and anticipations, making the fulfillment of the promise all that more sweet and wonderful.

The farmer's harvest is more meaningful because he has had to wait for the harvest. "Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain." (James 5:7)

A man's wife is more meaningful to him because he had to wait for weeks or months during the dating and engagement period before the wedding day.

The child's toy is more meaningful to him because he has had to wait for it.

The teen works and waits patiently to earn enough money before he can buy that dream car. How much more meaningful the car is to him because he had to work and wait for it!

What if God immediately gave us everything we desired without us ever having to wait for His gifts? Would we not, like a child, be spoiled and tend to take everything for granted? Do we not appreciate the fulfillment of God's promises even more because we have had to wait for their fulfillment? Is not the anticipation of waiting to open a gift under the Christmas tree about as great as the actual opening of the gift?

Is not the waiting for the fulfillment of God's promises part of the process of perfecting our character? Is not the communion and fellowship with God which we experience in prayer, while waiting for an 'answer', just as important as the actual 'answer' to the prayer? For prayer is not for the purpose of simply getting things;

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prayer is for the purpose of 'making' us, through communion with God, while God is taking time to give us 'things'.

D. Because God's voice cannot be heard unless one is still and quiet, in a waiting, expectant mood.

Simeon heard the voice of God because he was quiet in God's presence. This is not to say that it is easy to hear the voice of God in the silence. William Sangster said he once got a letter from a man of seventy-three who wrote, "I have tried for years to hear the voice of God. I have never heard it. Is it all illusion?" Comments Sangster, "He does not know how to listen. He seems to expect a human voice. To quote the poet to him and say 'God speaks in silences' won't help him; it sounds silly … There begins the difficulty. Many voices sound within our mind. People who have never practiced listening in the silence are astonished, when they begin, at the pandemonium of voices inside. At times it sounds like Babel Fear, hope, memory, ambition, all find voice inside us and sometimes they even talk together, and the high skill of this interior listening is to learn how to know the voice of God from all the other voices … It isn't simple. One must be prepared for patience and practice, and resolve never to use the words 'God said to me …' or 'I was guided …' (or any similar expression) without great care and reserve." (Daily Readings page 9)

I have known of persons who declared that God spoke to them and yet it was obvious from the directions they received that the voice they heard was not the voice of God.

But even though it may not be easy to hear the authentic voice of God amidst all the other 'voices', it is possible and vitally necessary to learn to hear the voice of God in the silence of our mediation and prayer. Simeon heard the voice of God's promise: "And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." (Luke 2:26) God had spoken. Simeon waited long. God fulfilled His promise to Simeon in due time!

"The prophets often said 'Thus saith the Lord'. They claimed to have received special messages from God. The saints often claimed that God spoke to them – sometimes in quite precise terms." (Ibid; page 9)

What is the voice of God like? Elijah learned! When Elijah the prophet was hiding from Jezebel in a cave, "the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice." (1 Kings 19:11-12) The 'still small voice' was the voice of God! But

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how can we hear the 'still small voice' of God if there is no stillness, no solitude, no quiet time, no waiting?

Waiting is important because God comes and speaks to us in his 'still small voice' when we wait quietly and expectantly! To listen for God's voice is all-important'! Our waiting is more than mere waiting. Simeon waited but his waiting was the waiting of a heart that was devout, righteous, and earnest. He was a single-minded, devout soul, fixed on God, not a double-minded soul, worldly-oriented and easily distracted. He concentrated on God's promises. He looked for the consolation of Israel, expecting God to deliver and to comfort Israel in God's own time and way.

Are we, like Simeon, longing and looking for God to deliver us and to comfort our people and nation in God's own time and way? If we, like Simeon, are centered on God, we too will know that the Holy Spirit is upon us (Luke 2:25), that we are 'inspired by the Spirit' (Luke 2:27). The Spirit is a mighty aid to the seeking and waiting soul. "The Holy Spirit helps us with out daily problems and in our praying. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words." (Romans 8:26, Living Bible)

We must identify with Simeon in our quest for God. "Why not give this quest for the awareness of the Divine an unhurried trial? Is there, in all this universe, anything more important to you than to know God? Can you expect to know him in scamped moments? Are you willing to meet his conditions when he says, 'Ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart?' Give time to it, plenty of time. Go into the silence for long periods but also into the company of those who claim to know him. Put yourself to school to the Bible. Be found regularly at worship. Hold in your mind the picture of God revealed by Jesus and just think and think on him. Don't lose heart if the hours go by and nothing seems to come. The hours are not being wasted. Persist! Faith will grow in you. The glad day will come when you also will say, 'I know him whom I have believed'" (Can I Know God?; Sangster; page 23, 24)

The practice of waiting persistently and expectantly will produce great fruit in your life – you will come to know God inwardly and intimately!

E. Because waiting is evidence of faith – evidence that we believe in the vision God has given to us and that we believe that vision will be fulfilled in God's own time and way.

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For instance, a woman, engaged to be married to a man who is overseas in the military service, shows her faith in the man and in his promise to marry her, when she waits patiently and persistently for him to return for the wedding day.

Simeon believed so firmly in God's promise that he would see the Christ before he died, that he was willing daily to wait upon the Lord for the fulfillment of the promise.

Waiting demonstrated faith and hope. "Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:24-25) "Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." (James 5:7-8)

Waiting on the Lord demonstrates our faith in the Lord, that the Lord will fulfill His promises and give realization to our hopes.

III. What Is The Result Of Waiting Expectantly Upon God?

When we wait upon God patiently and expectantly, and continue to claim God's promises, we will 'see Jesus' and we will understand the true nature of Jesus' saving mission.

The person of Jesus and the purposes of Jesus will be known to us more than ever before.

Is there any greater revelation to us than that of 'seeing' with the eyes of faith the Lord Jesus – seeing His 'person' and seeing His saving purpose?

To see Jesus is to see everything else, for everything in life centers on Jesus. To see Jesus clearly is to see everything else rightly! Failure to see Jesus results in everything else in life becoming hazy! If one does not see Jesus clearly, one cannot correctly see God, one cannot correctly see himself, one cannot correctly see others! To see Jesus clearly is to see everything else concretely!

To recognize the person of Jesus – that He is indeed the fulfillment of God's promise to the world – is to recognize the purpose of Jesus – that is, that He is the 'light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to thy people Israel'.(Luke 2:32)

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One who waits upon God comes to understand the purposes and plans of God. For a mere mortal to be 'let in' on God's master plans, is to be given the greatest privilege of all! What a gift – to be given the plans of the Master Architect of the Universe! Simeon's waiting and praying was all worthwhile, for, when others failed to see the saving mission of Jesus, Simeon and Anna were among the very few to whom the mission was revealed. When Jesus came, Simeon and Anna were prepared to see and to recognize the Saviour of the world! Why? Because they had long prepared for this important day. Their eyes were opened to behold the Saviour, because for long years their ears had been opened to God's voice in prayer and their hearts had been opened to God's thoughts through quiet meditation.

No one can 'see' Jesus or 'see' His saving work today with any depth unless his heart is prepared through long prayer and meditation. Jesus is only revealed to prepared people – people like Simeon and Anna who had long waited and prayed and fasted, in the Temple.

Jesus will reveal Himself to you in new ways if you learn to wait upon Him! Do you have your Quiet Times daily? Do you wait upon Him daily in prayer, training your ears to listen for God's 'small, still voice'? Have you trained your mind to meditate upon God's Word each day? Do you have a mood of expectation and anticipation as you long for the fulfillment of God's promises in your personal life? Are you learning to wait patiently and persistently upon God?

Are you prepared to 'see' God in the way God wishes to reveal Himself to you? I ask this question because many overlooked the presence of Jesus when He came the first time. Simeon and Anna and only a few others recognized Jesus when He came. Why? Because Jesus' coming was in such a common way! He was born like other babies are born, and He was presented in the Temple for the rite of circumcision and purification like any other Jewish male baby. Nothing out of the ordinary, and yet Simeon, in the most ordinary of circumstances, recognized Jesus!

Why do the multitudes today not recognize Jesus' presence? Because their hearts are not prepared to see Jesus among the commonplace things of life! Jesus can only be seen by humble people, humble folks like Simeon and Anna, whose preparation was sufficient to receive God's revelation of His Son. God reveals Jesus among the simple, routine things of life – things like the smile of a friend, a loving letter from a relative, a hymn in the Church service, the hug of a child, the kiss of a companion, the tug on your heart during your daily devotions, the testimony of a new Christian, the kind act of an employer, the sermon of God's minister, the exquisite sunset after a long day, the 'still small voice' during worship service.

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Are you surprised that people do not recognize the presence of Jesus in the world today? Notes William Sangster, "I do not think so – if we remember that men are always more attracted by the spectacular than the truly great. If God had come to earth in a chariot of fire, multitudes would have knelt before him. But He was born as we are born and His coming was marked only by a few. If He had moved among men in dazzling apparel, with a glance of flame and a voice of thunder, He would have subdued kingdoms, but He came in the dress of a common workman, spoke with a Galilean accent, and so blended the sublime with the normal that only the few saw that the sublime was there … the unusual and the ostentatious are always more attractive than that which is truly grand … I once stood at sunset with a group of friends waiting for a firework display. It was to begin at dark. While we waited I looked behind me and saw the sun sinking in a sea of glory, and I said to them, 'Look at the sunset!' Nobody looked. They were waiting for a common squib … Many people are making the same mistake today. They are seeking at a distance the God Who stands at the door of their heart … I believe that some of you have only to quiet the deafening noises of the world and you will hear Him say, 'Have I been so long time with you and yet hast thou not known Me?'" (Sangster's Daily Reading; page 125)

"God is constantly seeking to meet us in the common and unexpected moments of life. He does not wait for what we are pleased to call the 'grand moments' but He will make the common place the grand. We walk about blind to the glory that is around us because we do not expect to find it there. We mortgage the joys of the present, the quiet homely joys of humdrum days, to our anticipations of some distant time of overwhelming happiness of a kind that never comes to most people. God has not concealed our happiness in some fabled EL Dorado. It is all around us if we would only learn to see it in common things." (Ibid; page 185)

Why do some people find Jesus and others don't? Because, as we have been noting, some people, like Simeon and Anna, have prepared their hearts to look for Jesus in the commonplace things of life and others have not prepared their hearts to see Him. Simeon and Anna found Jesus at the very place where they had often and routinely gone – at the Temple.

CONCLUSION: Why do some people find Jesus and others don't? Because some persevere in their quest for Jesus. Simeon and Anna were determined to know God's Son, and therefore they waited patiently and persistently!

"That is where discipline comes into the holy life; not the toilsome, straining; failing effort to be good; but the faithful attending on God to receive …. There can be no continuance of the holy life in the soul of any man who does not continually wait on God. Only those who 'attend the whispers' of His grace can hear Him 'only speak'." (Sangster; Ibid; page 188)

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Learn to attend to God's whispers! Prepare to receive God's Son into your life in new and exciting ways!

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Here He Comes – Patiently Prepare

Questions

  1. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The Passive side of the Christian life – the side where we submit, endure, suffer, wait – is far more difficult than the Active side of life – the side where we achieve, venture, preach, sing, organize, administer."

  2. Give your response to the following advice from E. Stanley Jones: "Choose to loaf in God's presence and then you'll be forever busy in His service. Be silent to God for a day, yea, ten days if necessary, and you'll be vocal and vital for God forever."

  3. Share illustrations from modem life which documents the truth of the following statements: "We live in an activistic society, a society where meditation, quiet, solitude, and patient waiting are lost arts. Society in general believes busyness is more important than productivity, that Doing is more important than Being, that Talking is more important than Listening, that Quantity is more important than Quality, that fast-moving youth are more important than slower-moving older people!"

  4. Share an experience from your own personal life which illustrates the truth of the following statement: "Because we human beings are living in the dimension of time and see things from time's perspective we grow impatient with God!"

  5. Share illustrations, both from Biblical history and from more recent times, of persons who learned to wait patiently for God to fulfill His promises to them. (Note Genesis 21:1-5; Luke 2:22-38) Concerning the importance of 'waiting upon the Lord', share which of the following Scriptures mean most to you: Psalms 27:14; Psalms 37:34; Psalms 145:15; Isaiah 40: 31; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9.

  6. Why do you think that God revealed to Simeon and Anna more about the person and the mission of Jesus, than He revealed to Joseph and to Mary? (Note Luke 2:33)

  7. Do you believe that waiting for the fulfillment of God's promises is part of the process which God uses to perfect our Christina character? What do you think would tend to happen in our lives, if God immediately gave us everything we desired, without us ever having to wait for His gifts?

  8. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements by William Sangster: "The high skill of this interior listening is to learn how to know the voice of God from all other voices. It isn't simple. One must be prepared for patience and practice, and

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    resolve never to use the word 'God said to me ….' or 'I was guided …' (or any similar expression) without great care and reserve."

    How is the 'voice of God' described in 1 Kings 19:11-12?

  9. After reading the following paragraph, share what things you personally plan to do during the next few weeks, in attempt to come to know God better: "Can you expect to know him in scamped moments? Are you willing to meet his conditions when he says, 'Ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart?' Give time to it, plenty of time. Go into the silence for long periods but also into the company of those who claim to know him. Put yourself to school to the Bible. Be found regularly at worship. Hold in your mind the picture of God revealed by Jesus and just think and think on him. Don't lose heart if the hours go by and nothing seems to come. The hours are not being wasted. Persist! Faith will grow in you. The glad day will come when you also will say, 'I know him whom I have believed.'"

  10. Share how 'Waiting' can be a demonstration of one's strong faith in God. (Note Romans 8:24-25; James 5:7-8)

  11. Share how God has revealed Himself to you, in the most ordinary of circumstances (as in the case of Anna and Simeon). Tell to what extent you identify with the following statement: "God reveals Jesus among the simple, routine things of life – things like the smile of a friend, a loving letter from a relative, a hymn in the Church service, the hug of a friend or child, the kiss of a companion, the tug on your heart during your daily devotions, the testimony of a new Christian, the kind act of an employer, the sermon of God's minister, the exquisite sunset after a long day, the 'still small voice' during a worship service."

  12. Are you surprised that people do not recognize the presence of Jesus in the world today? Share examples that illustrate the truth of the following statements: "Men are always more attracted by the spectacular than the truly great. If God had come to earth in a chariot of fire, multitudes would have knelt before him, but He was born as we are born and He came in the dress of a common workman. He so blended the sublime with the normal that only a few saw that the sublime was there. The unusual and the ostentatious are always more attractive than that which is truly grand. God is constantly seeking to meet us in the common and unexpected moments of life."

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