How Do You React To Christ?
Joy to the World
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.
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.
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
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
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.
"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,
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, 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 -
"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
— 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How Do You React To Christ?
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.
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."
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."
Why do you think people try to destroy Christ and Christ's messengers? (Note John 3:19-20; Hebrews 4:13)
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?
What is the difference between the "guilt theory" and the "impulse theory" of anxiety, in the face of moral decisions?
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"?
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"?
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)
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)
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."
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)
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."
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.
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"?
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."