Here He Comes – Believe

Here He Comes – Believe

Here He Comes – Believe!

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CHAPTER 7

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – BELIEVE!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:26-28

TEXT: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." (Luke 1:26-28)

INTRODUCTION: God meets us in the commonplace events of life most of the time, but there likely will be a few times in our lives when God reveals Himself in rather dramatic and unexpected ways, all for the purpose of deepening our faith in God and increasing our love for God.

PROPOSITION: Here He comes! Jesus is coming! So believe and receive!

I. Divine Initiative – Human Confusion (v. Luke 1:25-29)

A. Divine Initiative (v. Luke 1:26-28)

B. Human Confusion (v. Luke 1:29)

II. Divine Revelation – Human Amazement (v. Luke 1:30-34)

A. Divine Revelation (v. Luke 1:30-33)

B. Human Amazement (v. Luke 1:34)

III. Divine Reassurance – Human Submission (v. Luke 1:35-38)

A. Divine Reassurance (v. Luke 1:35-37)

B. Human Submission (v. Luke 1:38)

CONCLUSION: God takes the initiative to reveal His shockingly wonderful plans to us, causing a human response of confusion or bewilderment. God's plans are challenges to man's ability to trust and believe and obey. In the midst of human bewilderment comes God's reassurance and God's call to submission and trust.

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CHAPTER 7

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'BELIEVE'!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:26-28

TEXT: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." (Luke 1:26-28)

INTRODUCTION: "Here He Comes" – that is the proclamation of Advent or Christmas. Jesus is the God who comes to mankind! He is the one who makes His abode with mankind.

Have you ever wished that God would come close to you, would reveal Himself to you in intimate and wonderful ways?

"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." (Daily Readings; 185, Sangster)

God meets us in the common things of life. A minister tells of a time when he went to view outdoor fireworks with some friends. While the fireworks went off, the minister was fascinated with a most glorious sunset, and he sought to draw the attention of his friends to the exquisite sight. But the friends were so preoccupied with the view of the man-made fireworks that they did not once turn around to view the God-made sunset. They were so fascinated with man's manufactured beauty that they failed to meet God that night in the commonplace things of life – things like an evening sunset.

Do you wish to meet God and as a result become a man of greater faith, full of belief'? Then meet God in your daily Quiet Time. Meet Him in the routine of mundane duties. Meet Him in the beauties of nature. Meet Him in the struggles of life, common to all men. See Him in a sunrise or a sunset. Hear Him speak to you in a grand sweep of music, or in the chirping of a bird, or in the coo of an infant. God will come to you in the round of daily events and speak to you in the commonplace things of life.

God meets us in the commonplace events of life most of the time, but there likely will be a few times in our lives when God reveals Himself in rather dramatic and unexpected ways, all for the purpose of deepening our faith in God and increasing our love for God.

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God came to a young Jewish woman in a rather dramatic way. Doubtless, God had come to Mary on many occasions during her daily walk with God, but on one special day, unexpectantly, God came to Mary to reveal a special message to her.

In studying the divine-human encounter, as related in our Scripture, there is a clearly discernable pattern, a pattern that is often repeated in Scripture.

There is a divine action, followed by a human response. Here is the pattern as illustrated in Luke 1:26-28.

Divine Action Human Response
1. Divine Initiative (Luke 1:26-28) 1. Human Confusion (Luke 1:29)
2. Divine Revelation ( Luke 1:30-33) 2. Human Amazement (Luke 1:34)
3. Divine Reassurance (Luke 1:35-37) 3. Human Submission (Luke 1:38)

PROPOSITION: Here He comes! Jesus is coming! So believe and receive!

I. Divine Initiative – Human Confusion (Luke 1:26-29)

A. Divine Initiative (Luke 1:26-28)

"God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth." These words reveal the kind of God we serve. God is always the God who acts. God is not passive; He is active. God is not complacent; He is caring. God always takes the first step towards mankind. God always acts according to His divine purpose. God does not simply wind the clock and then let the clock (the world) run on its own. He, the Winder of the clock (the Creator of the world), is intimately involved in the running of the clock (the running of the world).

Look at a few examples of God's initiative.

God's Creative Initiative (Genesis 1:1)

God's call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1) – 'The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your country. '"

God's call of Moses (at the fiery Bush) – Exodus 3:2.

God's call of Gideon (Judges 6:11-12)

God's call of Amos (Amos 7:14-15)

God's call of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

God's call to Paul (Acts 9:3-6)

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It is when you least expect God's call that God's call may come to you – when you are preoccupied with your own affairs and plans, when you feel least qualified to carry out the task God assigns to you.

"This is what the Lord says, he who made earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great unsearchable things you do not know. '" (Jeremiah 33:2-3)

While you are calling upon the Lord in your prayers, daily and routinely, nothing may seem to be happening. But one day, unexpectedly (like as in the case of Mary), the Lord will come to you in an unusual way to reveal Himself to you, all for the purpose of blessing you and deepening your faith in the living God.

Do you lack faith and belief? Then just keep praying, keep walking in all the 'light' of truth you presently have, and the day will come (like it did to Mary) when the Lord God will reveal Himself wonderfully and surprisingly to you.

B. Human Confusion (Luke 1:29)

When the Lord breaks through to you and speaks to you, your initial response may be like Mary's: "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." (Luke 1:29)

Initial confusion is not an unusual human response to God's divine message. I feel sure that Abram was confused at first when God told him to leave his country and people to go to an unknown land. (Genesis 12:1-20) When God called to Moses out of the fiery bush, "Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God." (Exodus 3:6) When God's angel appeared to Gideon and announced to Gideon that the Lord was with him, Gideon responded in great confusion: "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our father told us about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." (Judges 6:13) When God called Jeremiah to be His prophet, Jeremiah's response was one of reticence, of confusion: "Ah Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." (Jeremiah 1:6)

When God took the initiative to reveal Himself to Saul the Persecutor, Saul was totally 'taken off guard', confused and baffled! "He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked." (Acts 9:4-5)

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When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, her response was not unlike the response of many before and after her who have been encountered by the living God: "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." (Luke 1:29)

When God comes in unexpected ways and at unexpected times to reveal Himself and His message to you, it will not be surprising if you at first react with confusion, questions, wonderment.

The message which God wants to give you may be so wonderful that you at first shake your head in unbelief!

The Lord is getting you ready for a new revelation in your life which, if you accept it, will result in deepening your faith and belief in the living Christ. Don't allow your initial confusion to keep you from experiencing the full blessing of the new revelation of God to you. Say to yourself, when the Lord comes to you in new and strange ways: "My soul, wait thou only for the Lord, for my salvation cometh from the Lord." (Psalms 62:5)

II. Divine Revelation – Human Amazement (Luke 1:30-34)

A. Divine Revelation (Luke 1:30-33)

It was while Mary was confused and 'greatly troubled' that God's angel spoke to her: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:30)

Amidst human confusion, divine comfort is offered. Human confusion soon gives way to human amazement, at the announcement of the divine message! When God catches your attention dramatically, He has a dramatic message to share with you. Again, let it be emphasized that God, for the most part, reveals Himself to His people in what might be called the regular and routine and commonplace ways. Never minimize these regular revelations to you – revelations through the beauties of nature, through the warm affirmations of a friend, through the moving stanzas of a musical, through the smile of a child, through the exhortations of a sermon, through the inspirational paragraph from a Christian book, through the challenging impact of a Scriptural passage, and on and on. Yes, God reveals Himself to us in so-called commonplace events, but there may be times, as in the case of Mary, when the Lord shall come to us in rather shocking ways. You probably will be just as confused as Mary was when the Lord comes to you in special and unexpected ways.

Just remember: the Lord never comes to you in order to baffle you, but in order to bless you! Your confusion will give way to comfort if you hold steady and listen for God's message!

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Think of the wonderful content of God's message to Mary. "But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever,' his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33)

"Do not be afraid, Mary." Fear is one of man's paralyzing problems. Often the Lord comes to us and says, "Fear not." When God calls us to a new realm of responsibility, we sometimes are filled with fear – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or many other fears. It was so with Joshua, the successor of Moses. Joshua had big shoes to fill, and he was afraid when God gave him the task of leading the Hebrew people into the land of Canaan. The Lord told Joshua to 'Fear not': "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous." (Joshua 1:6-7 a)

"You have found favor with God." God comes to you because He loves you and wants to bless your life, not because you are perfect or sinless. Mary was a devout young Jewish girl, perhaps in her late teens, a girl whose affections were fixed on the living God. Any person, young or old, whose life is centered in God, whose daily devotions are filled with delight, whose desires are godly, is greatly favored of the Lord. Not that we can earn God's favor, but only he whose life is open to God can be filled with God. If you seek God in your daily life consistently, you can expect God to reveal Himself to you someday dramatically.

Someone said that the soul gets on by a series of crises. There is a day-by-day walking with God, sometimes with little feeling and with seemingly slow progress. And then suddenly and unexpectantly a new vision or revelation will come to you from God. A sudden turn of events, or a new miracle, or a new insight into God's Word, or a new decision which has lifetime results, or a new call into Christian service – these are the revelations which come to God's people which show that they "have found favor with God." (Luke 1:30)

"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:31-33)

No woman has been more favored than Mary. She was given the honor of carrying and giving birth to the Son of God! Mary was chosen to become a tool for God's great saving purpose. His name would be 'Jesus', which means

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'Saviour'. He will be the 'Son of the Most High'. He will reign on his father David's throne. The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Mary's Son, a Kingdom which shall last forever and composed of all true believers of all ages.

God's special revelations to us are all concerned with God's saving purposes which He desires to accomplish in our world, using us as His instruments to accomplish those redemptive purposes.

So, anyone who claims to have a special revelation from God which is characterized by selfishness can be quickly 'set straight'. God never reveals anything to anyone that is contradictory to his saving purposes, purposes which are clearly outlined in His Holy Word – the Bible!

God may have a special revelation to give to you as He did to Mary, but the content of that revelation will always be the content of salvation – perhaps a special call to take the Gospel to a certain obscure area of the world, or a call to start a Christian Day School, or a call to communicate the Gospel by setting up home Bible studies with unsaved friends, or some other kind of saving purpose.

B. Human Amazement (Luke 1:34)

When God reveals Himself to you in special ways, you may be just as amazed as Mary was. Mary responded, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34) You, too, may respond to God's special call to you: "God, how can this be? Surely your request is impossible for me to fulfill!"

When God told Moses that He was sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses responded with as much amazement as Mary manifested when Gabriel told her she was to give birth to Jesus. Moses responded "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11)

The Lord came to Gideon and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian 's hand. Am I not sending you?" Gideon responded with great amazement: "But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." (Judges 6:15) Amazement mixed with feelings of deep inferiority and inadequacy!

When God reveals the content of His call to you, you can expect to respond with amazement. You will, like Mary, feel overwhelmed and perhaps even say "How can this be? This assignment is humanly unaccomplishable!" Mary, a virgin, could not bear the Son of God without a miraculous conception! You and I cannot fulfill God's call without divine intervention!

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III. Divine Reassurance – Human Submission (Luke 1:35-38)

A. Divine Reassurance (Luke 1:35-37)

When the content of God's special revelation is shown to us, the inevitable human response will be amazement, for we know that the assignment cannot be fulfilled, short of a divine miracle! It was when Mary was filled with amazement and unbelief that God's angel gave reassurance to Mary. "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.'" (Luke 1:35-37)

It is the Holy Spirit who is the source of power to accomplish the otherwise unaccomplishable! Just as the Holy Spirit empowered Mary and overshadowed her, so the Holy Spirit will do the same for us when God calls us to work for Him.

The Holy Spirit accomplishes the miracle, in this case, the miraculous conception of Jesus whose life and ministry would be holy. The miracles that God accomplishes through our obedient cooperation, will also be wonderful. The results will be holy and sacred. The impossible is possible with God! The weak are strong in God's strength! That which is foolish in the eyes of men is wise in the eyes of God!

God is always ready to reassure our hearts, to strengthen our wills, to quiet our fears, to still our doubts.

One way in which God chooses to reassure our hearts when we are tempted to doubt His power or are tempted to center on our inadequacies, is to direct our attention to persons in whose lives He is working similar miracles as the miracle He wishes to accomplish in our own lives. As a part of His reassurance to Mary, God's angel directed Mary's attention to Elizabeth. "And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." (Luke 1:36-37)

What a great encouragement it is to us, when we are struggling to believe God for a new and great miracle in our lives, to look at another person who is a living illustration of God's miraculous power in action. The miracle God wishes to accomplish in my life will be unique from that in any other person's life, but to get my eyes on God's miracles in any form gives a great impetus to my ability to believe God for the special miracle He wishes to work in my own life.

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B. Human Submission (Luke 1:38)

Luke 1:38 reveal Mary's submission to God's plan. "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." In spite of the miraculous nature of God's revelation, Mary was convinced of its reality and therefore submitted in humility to God's will "And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.'" (Luke 1:38)

Mary believed and so must we when God reveals Himself to us!

Abraham believed God and God rewarded him in amazing ways. Moses reluctantly obeyed God and went to Pharaoh, and, as a result, God used Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. Gideon was slow to submit to God's will, but God was forbearing and Gideon finally obeyed decisively and became God's instrument for a decisive victory over the Midianites. Mary was quick to submit herself to God, and she became one of God's greatest instruments for His saving purposes.

How are we brought to a new level of belief in our lives? First, by learning to see God in the commonplace things of life and learning to respond to God as He reveals Himself in our devotional life, daily and routinely. Second, by responding obediently to God's special calls and revelations in our lives, as illustrated wonderfully in the submission of Mary to God's special revelation to her.

CONCLUSION: Here is the process: God takes the initiative to reveal His shockingly wonderful plans to us, causing a human response of confusion or bewilderment. God's plans are challenges to man's ability to trust and believe and obey. In the midst of human bewilderment comes God's reassurance and God's call to submission and trust.

When God confronts us with His plans and challenges, we can either harden our hearts in unbelief (like those did in Nazareth who heard Jesus preach, Luke 4:28-30), or we can open our lives in humble submission to God's leadership like Mary did when she was told that she, a virgin, would conceive and bear a Son whose name would be Jesus!

Walk humbly with thy God daily and then someday, perhaps when you least expect it, God will come to you with a special plan or a special miracle or a special blessing – all of which, if you accept them, will result in a deepening of your faith and belief in Jesus!

Experience God's miracles in your life – this will expand your faith and deepen your belief immeasurably! That's what Christmas is all about! Experiencing God in the commonplace daily events of life will someday result in experiencing Him in some unusual way.

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Chapter 7

Questions

  1. Give your personal reactions to the following quotation: "God meets us in the common things of life. Meet Him in your daily Quiet Time. Meet Him in the routine of mundane duties. Meet Him in the beauties of nature. Meet Him in the struggles of life, common to all men. See Him in a sunrise or a sunset. Hear Him speak to you in a grand sweep of music, or in the chirping of a bird, or in the coo of an infant. God will come to you in the round of daily events and speak to you in the commonplace things of life."

  2. How does Luke 1:26 show that God is not passive but active, that He is not complacent but caring, that He is the God who always take the initiative in seeking mankind? Give other examples from Biblical history when God took the initiative to communicate to mankind.

  3. From your own experience, share how the following statement reflects the truth regarding the nature of God's special calls: "It is when you least expect God's call that God's call may come to you – when you are preoccupied with your own affairs and plans, when you feel least qualified to carry out the task God assigns to you."

  4. Give examples from Biblical history that illustrate the typical reaction of one who receives a special call or revelation from God. (Note Luke 1:29; Genesis 12:1-20; Exodus 3:6; Judges 6:13; Jeremiah 1:6; Acts 9:4-5) When God comes to you in new and perhaps 'strange' ways, what (according to Psalms 62:5) should your response be?

  5. How does God comfort His children (and thus alleviate their fears), following the new revelations of Himself to believers? (Note Luke 1:30)

  6. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If you (like Mary) seek God in your daily life consistently, you can expect God to reveal Himself to you someday dramatically!"

  7. For what purpose does God give 'special revelations' of Himself to people?

  8. Tell to what extent you personally identify with the following statements: "All of God's revelations are calls to accomplish the humanly unaccomplishable! Mary, a virgin, could not bear the Son of God without a miraculous conception! You and I cannot fulfill God's call without divine intervention!" Give an illustration of a personal call or divinely given assignment, the fulfillment of which was dependent upon divine empowerment.

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  9. Ponder the following statement: "One way in which God chooses to reassure our hearts when we are tempted to doubt His power or are tempted to center on our inadequacies, is to direct our attention to persons in whose lives He is working similar miracles as the miracle He wishes to accomplish in our own lives." (Note Luke 1:36-37) Can you think of friends whose testimonies (regarding God's miracle in their lives) have served as sources of inspiration to you, to enable you to build your own faith in God's power to work miracles for you?

  10. With what attitude should we respond to God when He calls us to special assignments or when He reveals new and amazing plans for our personal lives? (Note Luke 1:38)

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Here He Comes – Rejoice

Here He Comes – Rejoice

Here He Comes… Rejoice

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CHAPTER 8

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'REJOICE'!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:39-55

TEXT: "And Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." (Luke 1:46-47)

INTRODUCTION: To attempt to be really happy at Christmas time without personal knowledge of the Christ of Christmas is about like a hungry man attempting to be satisfied by looking at the menu in a fine restaurant without partaking of the food which the restaurant's menu describes.

PROPOSITION: The Christ who came in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Luke 1:54-55), is the Christ who is the source of all rejoicing. Christ brings unspeakable joy, for He is the agent of personal transformation and of societal transformation. There can be no rejoicing without personal knowledge of the Christ of Christmas. We are not only to personally enjoy the Christ of Christmas ourselves, but we are to be the bearers of joy to others because of the Christ who indwells our lives.

I. Source Of Rejoicing – The Indwelling Christ (Luke 1:39-45)

II. Substance Of Rejoicing – Revolutionary Power Of Christ (Luke 1:46-55)

A. Inward Revolution (vss. 46-55) – Based On God's Mercy

B. Outward Revolution (vss. 51-53) – Based on God's Justice

1. Moral Revolution (v. 51)

2. Social Revolution (v. 52)

3. Economic Revolution (v. 53)

C. Historical Confirmation (vss. 54-55) – Based On God's Integrity

CONCLUSION: During the Christmas season, do you have a basis for rejoicing? Yes! For Christ has come to the earth. He dwelt in our midst for some 33 years, living a sacrificial life, dying a substitutionary death, and rising victoriously from the grave! He is still in the world, in the power of His Holy Spirit! He seeks to indwell every human being. He is coming to you today! Make room for Him! Gladly invite Him in! Let Him transform your life personally.

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Then, knowing Him personally, rejoice in your soul and leap for joy, for the Christ who has come to change you personally is in the process of transforming society as a whole! He has come to change it morally – He scatters those who are proud in their hearts (v. 51). He has come to change it socially – He casts down the mighty and exalts the humble (v. 52). He has come to change it economically – He fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty (v. 53).

Rejoice, for God has kept His promise to Abraham (vss. 54-55). The transforming Christ has come – so welcome Him and let Him CHANGE your life during this advent season!

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CHAPTER 8

SUBJECT: "Here He Comes" – 'Rejoice'!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:39-55

TEXT: "And Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." (Luke 1:46-47)

INTRODUCTION: To attempt to be really happy at Christmas time without personal knowledge of the Christ of Christmas is about like a hungry man attempting to be satisfied by looking at the menu in a fine restaurant without partaking of the food which the restaurant's menu describes.

PROPOSITION: The Christ who came in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Luke 1:54-55), is the Christ who is the source of all rejoicing. Christ brings unspeakable joy, for He is the agent of personal transformation and of societal transformation. There can be no rejoicing without personal knowledge of the Christ of Christmas. We are not only to personally enjoy the Christ of Christmas ourselves, but we are to be the bearers of joy to others because of the Christ who indwells our lives.

I. Source Of Rejoicing – The Indwelling Christ (Luke 1:39-45)

The presence of Mary (who was pregnant with the Christ child) was the source of Elizabeth's rejoicing. The presence of Christ in our lives will be an unspeakably great blessing to those lives that surround us. Christ spiritually in us is the source of blessing to others, just as Christ physically in Mary was the source of blessing to Elizabeth. Mary was the bearer of the Christ; we as believers are the bearers of the Christ, for Christ lives in us. One of the great evidences of Christ's presence within us is the manifest joy which we bring to others who feel Christ's wonderful presence when they are in our presence.

Christians, by their very presence, should bring peace where there is discord, joy where there is sorrow, calm where there is crisis, hope where there is despair. Do other Christians, like Elizabeth, leap with inner joy when they are in your presence? Do you bring sunshine where there is darkness? Do others seek out your presence? Are you a healing salve to others when they are with you? Do others, when they are in your presence, sense in you the spirit of Christ, the spirit of joy, the spirit of positive faith? Do others feel good about themselves when they are in your presence? Do you bring out the best in others when they are with you? Is there in others, like as in the case of Elizabeth, a spontaneous and joyous response of gratitude, when they are in your presence? Do others feel favored to be in your company? When others are with you, do they feel like exclaiming in a loud voice, "Blessed are you

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among mankind, and blessed is the joy and peace and hope and love which you bear in your soul and which you share from your heart!"

Mary was literally and physically pregnant with the Son of God. The Son of God who was being formed in Mary's womb was the source of exultant praise and overflowing joy in Elizabeth. When the Son of God – Jesus – is being formed in our lives as believers, we too, like Mary, will bring joy and gladness to the many 'Elizabeth's in our lives – fellow believers who sense that Jesus is the source of our joy which we desire to share. Something will leap inside the bosoms of others when they come into our presence.

Even non-believers will take note that we are different when they meet us. My brother-in-law (a public school teacher) was greeted by a fellow teacher – a non-believer – one morning at his school. The non-believer asked my brother-in-law "What is the good word this morning?" Quickly my brother-in-law responded, "Jesus!" I cannot say that that non-believing teacher leaped with joy at that response, but he 'sat up' and took notice that my Christian brother-in-law was different!

I have known many mature believers in whose presence I have felt an overflowing joy and gladness and appreciation. I felt something leaping inside me when I came into their presence-they signaled peace, joy, hope when I was in their company.

Let me share only one among many such persons who elicited such a response of joy within me. His name is C. B. Archer. It was several years ago now that he came to Fort Collins to hold a Prayer Conference in our Church. For years, C. B. Archer has been one of God's mighty prayer warriors, encouraging thousands to fast and to pray, writing and distributing prayer tracts, speaking to hundreds on the subject of prayer, and most of all practicing prayer in his own life. He was in our home and Church for only a couple of days, but I shall never forget the impact his life had on mine. He was a humble, gentle, soft-spoken man, but a man mighty in prayer and awesome in presence. I felt that I was in the very presence of one of God's greatest warriors. He talked to me about the power of prayer, encouraged me to experiment with fasting and prayer gave me many fine pamphlets on prayer which he had himself written. Kneeling beside him at our Church altar during those hours caused something inside me to leap with praise, admiration, joy, and hope! I felt secure in God's love when I was in his presence. His countenance betrayed the fact that he had often been in the presence of the Holy One that he had often touched and tapped heaven's powerful resources. For years, C. B. Archer maintained correspondence with hundreds of people through his Prayer Bulletins and tracts. C. B. Archer was so possessed with Jesus that, in his presence, something leaped within me with joy – an experience perhaps akin to that of Elizabeth.

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Someone defined a saint as a person in whose presence you find it easy to believe in God! In Mary's presence, Elizabeth found it easy to praise God!

Jesus is the source of all rejoicing!

II. Substance Of Rejoicing – Revolutionary Power Of Christ (Luke 1:46-55)

A. Inward Revolution (vss. 46-55) – Based On God's Mercy

What was the basis for Mary's exultant joy and uninhibited praise? God's mercy which extended to her – is the same mercy that is extended to all those who fear Him (v. 50) in every generation. How did God manifest His mercy to Mary? By Him being mindful of her humble state. "For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed." (Luke 1:48) To be mindful of someone is to take notice of that person and to do something for him. God looked upon Mary's state of humiliation and obscurity and did something about her state. God's pitiful feelings of mercy issued forth in powerful actions. "For the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name." (Luke 1:49)

God's mercy is not deserved or earned but given as a free gift to undeserving sinners. Mary was favored by God, not because of her unusual spirituality, although I believe Mary was in a spiritually sensitive and humbly receptive condition – a condition conducive for the Spirit's special work in her life.

It is true that there are human conditions which must be met if divine mercy can be received. "His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation." (Luke 1:50)

God's mercy is offered to all, deserved by none, and received only by those who fear him (v. 50). To experience God's mercy is to know God's transforming power. The Mighty One will do great things for him! (v. 49) God's mercy cannot be experienced by those who have no reverential respect for the living God.

Mary's basis for rejoicing was her personal, spiritual transformation – wrought by the power of God!

When you humble yourself before God and allow God to express his mercy toward you, you will see the Mighty One doing great things for you (v. 49).

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B. Outward Revolution (vss. 51-53) – Based on God's Justice.

The substance of rejoicing is based on the knowledge of God's personal transforming power. The substance of rejoicing is also based on the knowledge of God's corporate transforming power in society.

"The God whose MERCY is demonstrated in personal transformation ("the Mighty One has done great things for me" – v. 49), is also the God whose JUSTICE is demonstrated in societal transformation. He is the God who does great things in individual lives (v. 49). He is the God who also does great things in the corporate world of society (vss. 51-53).

There is a great basis for rejoicing when one observes the mighty acts of God, both as God shows mercy to individuals and as God executes justice in corporate society.

If there is a God-wrought, personal transformation in which one can rejoice, there is also a moral, social, and economic revolution in society's corporate life in which one can also rejoice.

1. Moral Revolution (v. 51)

"He has performed mighty deeds with his arms; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts." (Luke 1:51)

What is one cause of dismay and discouragement in the lives of believers? When wrong seems to go unpunished and right seems to go unrewarded.

God is the great leaver! The proud shall be brought low and the humble ones shall be exalted. "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18) "Fret not yourself because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb." (Psalms 37:1,2, NASB) "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)

When proud man prospers and the humble man suffers adversity, justice seems to have been destroyed. When inequities abound and evil prevails, the godly can take heart, for the mightiest acts of the proud and violent will seem as naught when the Lord has "scattered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts."

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We live in a moral universe, and therefore immorality cannot prevail. Wrong will be punished and right will be rewarded. The Bible says, "Be sure your sins will find you out!" The Great White Throne Judgment in the hereafter will be the final place of reckoning, but because we live in a moral universe, this present life is the place of moral reckoning as well. "Blessed are the meek (the humble) for they shall inherit the earth." The earth belongs to the morally right! Those who live for God have a good life both here and hereafter. Those who live proud lives of disobedience and sin have a miserable life both here and hereafter. So the godly person is a winner, both in time and in eternity. The evil person is a loser, both in time and in eternity. Life renders its own verdict, either for good or for bad, depending upon one's response to the living God!

God sets Himself against the proud but He exalts the humble. God has the final word in the moral realms of corporate life.

2. Social Revolution (v. 52)

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." (v. 52)

Not only does Jesus right the wrongs within the moral arenas of life, but Jesus also levels all social and class distinctions. The obscure are elevated to importance and the powerful are reduced to humility. The wealthy and poor are treated with equal justice. Labels of distinction are removed and badges of honor are disregarded. This is not to say that leadership is dismissed as unimportant. Nor is it to say that the reality of racial and class differences is ignored. But it is to say that, because Christ died for all, all persons (regardless of race or class or age or status) are equally important to God. While there will be wide differences in intellectual, social, and economic achievements, there is no caste system in God's kingdom! "In this new life one's nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant: such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and he is equally available to all." (Colossians 3:11, Living Bible)

Christians have a basis for rejoicing because Christ loves and accepts all persons, regardless of social status.

3. Economic Revolution (v. 53)

"He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." (v. 63)

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The revolutionary Christ has a lot to say about economics! "A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get. A Christian society is a society where no man has to have too much while others have too little, where every man must get only to give away." (Barclay's Luke; page 16)

To each according to his need, and from each according to his ability – this is the Christian's economic ethic.

All are to work if they are able to work, in order to provide, not only for their own needs, but also for the needs of others. "If anyone is stealing he must stop it and begin using those hands of his for honest work so he can give to others in need." (Ephesians 4:28, Living Bible)

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, concerning their call to aid the financially-depressed believers in the Jerusalem Church, "Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He that gathered much did not have too much and he that gathered little did not have too little.'" (2 Corinthians 8:13-15, NIV)

Wesley summarized the economic viewpoint of Christianity when he laid down a simple formula for financial stewardship: "Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can."

"He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:53) The greedy will be emptied; the giving will be filled! This is the law of economics in the Kingdom of God. He who tries to save his wealth will lose his wealth; he who gives will receive. "If you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give – large or small – will be used to measure what is given back to you. (Luke 6:38, Living Bible) "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." (Proverbs 11: 24-25)

Both the financially rich Christian and the financially poor Christian have a basis for rejoicing, because of the revolutionary principles of Christianity regarding economics. "A Christian who doesn't amount to much in this world should be glad, for he is great in the Lord's sight.

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But a rich man should be glad that his riches mean nothing to the Lord, for he will soon be gone, like a flower that has lost its beauty and Jades away, withered – killed by the scorching summer sun. So it is with rich men." (James 1:9-11, Living Bible)

C. Historical Confirmation (vss. 54-55) – Based On God's Integrity

Thus far we have noted that the source of all rejoicing is Christ, and that the substance of all rejoicing is understood in terms of the revolutionary nature of Christianity. There is the inward revolution of Christianity in terms of personal transformation, based on God's mercy, and there is also the outward revolution of Christianity in terms of societal transformation, based on God's justice. God changes society – morally (v. 51), socially (v. 52) and economically (v. 53).

The revolutionary nature of Christianity is seen not only in the demonstration of God's mercy personally (v. 46-50), and in the demonstration of God's justice corporately (v. 51-53), but it is seen also in the demonstration of God's integrity historically. "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." (Luke 1:54-55)

Christ is the personal transformer of individual lives. He is also the agent of revolutionary changes in society – morally, socially, and economically. But the question may arise: "Why has God chosen to be both merciful and just in His transactions with mankind?" It is because God is a God of integrity. He always keeps His word! What He says He will do. He always does! God promised to Abraham that Abraham would be given a son who would be the means of blessing the entire world – a son who would bless the descendants of Abraham. That promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ!

Thus, the appearing of Christ (with all of His benefits to mankind both personally and socially), is the result of the redemptive purposes of God which are fulfilled because God is a God of integrity! If there were no historical fulfillments of God's promises, based on God's integrity, there would be no personal and societal transformations, based on God's mercy and God's justice. Because Christ came in the fullness of time in fulfillment of promises made to Abraham and to others, (v. 54-55), we can today enjoy the blessings of personal transformation and societal reclamation – morally, socially, and economically!

CONCLUSION: During the Christmas season, do you have a basis for rejoicing? Yes! For Christ has come to the earth. He dwelt in our midst for some 33 years, living a sacrificial

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life, dying a substitutionary death, and rising victoriously from the grave! He is still in the world, in the power of His Holy Spirit! He seeks to indwell every human being. He is coming to you today! Make room for Him! Gladly invite Him in! Let Him transform your life personally.

Then, knowing Him personally, rejoice in your soul and leap for joy, for the Christ who has come to change you personally is in the process of transforming society as a whole! He has come to change it morally – He scatters those who are proud in their hearts (v. 51). He has come to change it socially – He casts down the mighty and exalts the humble (v. 52). He has come to change it economically – He fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty (v. 53). Rejoice, for God has kept His promise to Abraham (vss. 54-55). The transforming Christ has come – so welcome Him and let Him CHANGE your life during this advent season!

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Chapter 8

Questions

  1. Why is it that, for many people the Christmas season is not a happy time but instead a time of great sadness?

  2. Tell with what degree of conviction you believe the following statements reflect reality in the lives of believers within the 'community of faith'.

    "The Son of God who was being formed in Mary's womb was the source of exultant praise and overflowing joy in Elizabeth. When the Son of God – Jesus – is being formed in our lives as believers, we too, like Mary, will bring joy and gladness to the many 'Elizabeth's' in our lives – fellow believers who sense that Jesus is the source of our joy which we desire to share. Something will leap inside the bosoms of others when they come into our presence."

  3. Here is a definition for a 'saint' – "A saint is a person in whose presence you find it easy to believe in God?" What is your definition of a 'saint'?

  4. Why do you believe Mary was 'favored' by God and selected to become the mother of Jesus? (Note Luke 1:46-49) According to Luke 1:50, what condition must a person meet if he intends to receive mercy from God?

  5. When the proud man prospers and the humble man suffers adversity, i.e., when inequities abound and evil prevails, how should the godly man respond? (Note Luke 1:51; Proverbs 16:18; Psalms 37:1-2; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)

  6. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "The Great White Throne Judgment in the hereafter will be the final place of reckoning, but because we live in a moral universe, this present life is a place of moral reckoning as well. So the godly person is a winner, both in time and in eternity. The evil person is a loser, both in time and in eternity."

  7. According to Luke 1:52, what affect does Christ have in the social life of our world (in terms of races and classes)?

  8. Tell why you agree or disagree that the following statements accurately interpret Luke 1:53 – "A Christian society is a society where no man dares to have too much while others have too little, where every man must get only to give away. To each according to his need, and from each according to his ability – this is the Christian's economic ethic." (Ephesians 4:28, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

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  9. Amplify and explain the significance of the following statement by John Wesley (which he gave as a brief summary of Biblical financial stewardship): "Make all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can."

  10. Cite Scriptural proof to document the truth of the following statement: "The greedy will be emptied; the giving will be filled." (Note Luke 6:38 and Proverbs 11:24-25)

  11. On what basis can both the financially rich and the financially poor believer equally rejoice? (Note James 1:9-11)

  12. According to Luke 1:54-55, what action on the part of God made it possible for God to be merciful in His personal transformation of individuals and just in His reclamation of society – morally, socially, and economically?

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Here He Comes – Behold

Here He Comes – Behold

Here He Comes – Behold

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CHAPTER 9

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'BEHOLD'!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:67-75

TEXT: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people." (Luke 1:68)

INTRODUCTION: God is the Author of salvation and, therefore, God is to be praised. Jesus is the Agent of salvation. He is the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophesies regarding the coming of God's Anointed One whose mission to earth is a saving mission. Jesus is the believer's protector, rescuing man from all his enemies. Jesus is the believer's enabler, enabling believers to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness all their days.

PROPOSITION: 'Behold' God's salvation, made possible through the corning of Jesus. Thank God for that salvation! Enjoy protection from all the enemies of your soul! Allow God to enable you to live a life without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all your days.

I. Praise For Salvation (Luke 1:68)

II. Prophecy Of Salvation (Luke 1:69-70, Luke 1:72-73)

III. Protection Through Salvation (Luke 1:71, Luke 1:74 a)

IV. Purpose In Salvation (Luke 74b-75) (Luke 1:74-75)

A. What Is The Motivation For Serving Christ?

B. What Is The Mode In Which One Serves God?

C. What Is The Measure Of Service?

CONCLUSION: If Jesus is the fulfillment of man's ancient longings, the redeemer from man's sins, the strength of man's salvation, the protector from man's enemies, and the enabler for man's call to holy and righteous living, then Christ is all-sufficient for you today! Behold the Saviour and His saving purposes today!

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CHAPTER 9

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'BEHOLD'!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:67-75

TEXT: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people." (Luke 1:68)

INTRODUCTION: Have you ever asked yourself the all-important question of life: 'What is my ultimate purpose for living?' Or another question: 'What is the purpose for which God gave me a son or a daughter?'

Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, recognized the fact that John, his newborn child, was to fulfill a very important purpose in life. "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." (Luke 1:76-79)

Later, it was to be this same John who would see Jesus coming to him one day and he would declare, "Behold! The Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world!"

Zechariah was taking note of the Saviour who was soon to be born to Mary, and he was so overwhelmed with a sense of God's saving purposes to be fulfilled in Jesus, that he declares in a Song (Luke 1:67-79) the glories of that salvation.

Let us together, with Zechariah, 'Behold' the Saviour and His saving purpose as related especially in Luke 1:67-75.

I. Praise For Salvation (Luke 1:68)

II. Prophecy Of Salvation (Luke 1:69-70, Luke 1:72-73)

III. Protection Through Salvation (Luke 1:71, Luke 1:74 a)

IV. Purpose In Salvation (Luke 74b-75) (Luke 1:74-75)

God is the Author of salvation and, therefore, God is to be praised. Jesus is the Agent of salvation. He is the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophesies regarding the coming of God's Anointed One whose mission to earth is a saving mission. Jesus is the believer's protector, rescuing man from all his enemies. Jesus is the believer's enabler, enabling believers to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness all their days.

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PROPOSITION: 'Behold' God's salvation, made possible through the coming of Jesus. Thank God for that salvation! Enjoy protection from all the enemies of your soul! Allow God to enable you to live a life without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all your days.

I. Praise For Salvation (Luke 1:68)

"Praise be the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68)

Salvation is always the subject of praise, for salvation is the work of God alone. No man can save himself. Man is bound in sin until God takes the initiative to loose him from that bondage. God's 'address' is praise. God inhabits the praises of His people! Men ought always to praise the Lord, for God is the God of salvation. His purposes are all saving purposes. It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) "This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time." (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

God has mercy on all men (Romans 11:32). Jesus is the Bread of life, sent by God to earth. Said Jesus about Himself: "If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51)

II. Prophecy Of Salvation (Luke 1:69-70, Luke 1:72-73)

In the fullness of time – at the right time in history – God sent His Son to earth to redeem His people. 'Redeem' means 'to set free'. Israel, God's people, often felt themselves enslaved by foreign armies. There were few times in their long history that Israel as a people were not either threatened or actually oppressed by powerful surrounding tribes or nations, such as Philistines, Midianites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and finally the Romans. Israel seemed constantly to be at the mercy of the superpowers which surrounded her. As a strategically-located nation, she was often used as a stepping stone for warfare between the larger nations. Israel often found herself crying out to God for deliverance from her enemies.

When Zechariah declared that God had come to redeem his people, he looked to the Messiah – the Anointed One from God – as the champion of justice and the grand deliverer for Israel. Declared Zechariah, "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago)." (Luke 1:69) To David, God promised: "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:16) God's covenant with David is summarized in Psalms 89:20-37. Note a portion of this Psalm: "I (God) will maintain my love to him (David) forever, and my covenant with

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him will never fail. I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure …. Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness – and I will not lie to David – that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun: it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky." (Psalms 89:28-29, Psalms 89:35-37)

Jesus is the great Son of David who sits on the throne of David, ruling not one nation, but all the nations. Genealogically-speaking, Jesus is the descendant of David. Spiritually-speaking, Jesus rules the hearts and the lives of all human subjects who compose the Kingdom of God. The day will come when all shall bow their knees and declare with their tongue that Jesus is the Lord of lords – and king of Kings. At that time the covenant made to David concerning a Son who would reign forever in David's line, will be totally fulfilled. All the kingdoms of earth shall surrender to the Kingdom of God.

The coming of Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God and signaled, not national victory of the Jews over the oppressing Romans, but spiritual victory for every man who willingly will submit to the kingship of Jesus!

The coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of the covenant made to David (v. 69). His coming was also the fulfillment of the covenant made to Abraham. "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us … to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham." (Luke 1:72-73) The Covenant God made with Abraham about 2000 B.C. was a covenant of salvation. To Abraham God promised: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3)

The coming of Jesus with his worldwide mission of salvation is the fulfillment of God's promise made to Abraham. Indeed, all people on the earth are blessed through the greatest descendant of Abraham – the Lord Jesus Christ! Salvation is offered to all through Christ – the greatest Son of Abraham. The universal offer of salvation is extended to the human race – a blessing that is all-inclusive. Only those who exclude themselves from the kingdom of God through deliberate rejection and unbelief, miss the blessing of salvation, intended for the whole human race. All who exercise saving faith – the same kind of faith that Abraham exercised when he believed God and took God at His word – is included in the Kingdom of God and is considered true sons of Abraham.

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III. Protection Through Salvation (Luke 1:71, Luke 1:74 a)

The protection which God's salvation offers to His people Israel and to all peoples is not necessarily a physical protection. Jesus did come to provide "salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us … to rescue us from the hand of our enemies." (vss. 71, 74a) History, however, proves that God's salvation was not always salvation from external enemies. Indeed, the Jewish nation was not spared the wrath of Rome, as evidenced by the destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70. Israel, as a nation, was not granted salvation from the hand of cruel Roman oppression in the first century, and history shows that the Jewish people have suffered incalculable agony at the hands of many other nations during the many centuries following the first century.

Also, history shows (as Jesus' predicted) that Christians, who have embraced Jesus' salvation, have suffered greatly. Christians have not always been physically protected from the hand of their enemies. Indeed, history shows that some Christians "were tortured and refused to be released … Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned: they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword, etc. etc. (Hebrews 11:35, Hebrews 11:37)

Jesus said to His followers: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be give what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:16-20)

"Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" (v. 71) is a guarantee of protection, but not necessarily physical protection. God's salvation through Christ guarantees protection from man's real enemies – the enemies of sin and Satan and eternal death.

As Luther wrote:

"Let goods and kindred go, 
This mortal life also; 
The body they may kill; 
God's truth abideth still; 
His kingdom is forever." 

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Jesus said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

Protection from the pit of ultimate hell is a great guarantee. What about the pits of earthly hells? Does the "salvation from our enemies" (v. 71) include salvation from these? Yes, indeed, for "by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus, the great Son of David, has come to conquer the enemies within – the enemies of the soul. The enemies of the soul are legion, but think of a few of those enemies from which He has promised us rescue.

There is rescue from real and false guilts. There is rescue from terrorizing fears – fears like the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, the fear of death. There is rescue from inferiority complexes which erode away the basic human need for wholesome self-esteem. There is rescue from the destructive passions of jealousy which threaten to destroy human relationships. There is also rescue from other destructive enemies – enemies like negativism, worry, greed, anger, doubt, and self-centeredness. There is victory in Jesus Christ, the One who has come to give us "salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us … to rescue us from the hand of our enemies." (Luke 1:71,74a) (Luke 1:71, Luke 1:74)

IV. Purpose In Salvation (Luke 74b-75) (Luke 1:74-75)

We are to BEHOLD God as the source of salvation and praise Him for His saving purposes, thanking Him for the fulfillment of His prophesies of salvation and for the protection from all of our enemies which His salvation brings!

The next emphasis is on the purpose in salvation: "to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." (vss.74b-75)

We are saved from our enemies in order to serve, not ourselves, but to serve God. We are to surrender our lives entirely to Christ, giving Him everything we have and everything we are. This includes our time, our talents, our possessions and money, our influence. We are not our own. We are bought with the price of Jesus' blood. Therefore, we are to serve Christ all of our lives. We are never to serve our own selfish interests, but we are to serve the living Christ, giving ourselves for the advancement of the cause of Christ's kingdom.

A. What Is The Motivation For Serving Christ?

What is the motivation for serving Christ? The love of Christ, not terrorizing fear of God!! The motivation is found in this statement: "to enable us to serve him without fear." (v. 74a) It is true that reverential fear is the 'beginning of wisdom'. We are to respect God as a God of holiness, justice, and judgment,

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who will reward every man according to what he hath done in the body. We are to be thankful to God and to worship God "acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28)

However, while reverence and awe are appropriate motivations for serving God (in light of man's final accountability before God at the Judgment), terrorizing and paralyzing fear is not a motivation for serving the living God.

"It is a simple fact that man did not know what God was like until Jesus came. The Greeks thought of a passionless God beyond all joy and sorrow, looking on men in calm unmoved detachment – no help there. The Jews thought of a demanding God, whose name was law and whose function was that of judge – nothing but terror there. Jesus came to tell that God was love, and in staggered amazement men could only say, 'We never knew that God was like that.'" (Barclay's Luke; page 19)

The drawing love of God is the strongest of all motivations for serving God. To see God as a close Friend with whom you can share your deepest thoughts and desires is to be motivated to serve God wholeheartedly. To see God as a loving Father whose wisdom is perfect is to be motivated to obey Him explicitly. To see God as a Saviour whose life was poured out for undeserving sinners is to be motivated to worship God in 'wonder, love, and praise'!

In coming to earth, Jesus showed man the nature of the true God. What Jesus was on earth – perfect love – God has always been! Love is the magnet of God which strongly draws man to serve Him!

B. What Is The Mode In Which One Serves God?

If the motivation for serving God is love – not terrorizing fear – then what is the MODE in which one serves God? We are to serve God without fear "in holiness and righteousness."

Holiness means separation from outward sinful practices and from inward sinful attitudes. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:17-18) Holiness means separation from worldly practices. It also means separation or cleansing from carnal attitudes. Holy attitudes are attitudes characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, forbearance, forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32 summarizes well the life of outward and inward holiness: "Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in

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your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ." (Living Bible)

We are to serve God without fear in holiness and in righteousness. 'Righteousness' refers to a right standing with God. That is, a relationship characterized by trust and commitment to Christ, and issuing forth in a life of good works. We are justified or made right with God through an exercise of positive faith in Christ. We are put in a right relationship with God the moment we place our total trust in Christ as our Saviour. After being put in that right relationship, we are to spend the rest of our lives doing good works for God. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

C. What Is The Measure Of Service?

We have noted that the motivation for service is love, and that the mode of service is holiness and righteousness. What is the measure of service? We are to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days (v. 75). This means that the sooner a human being in his life begins to serve God, the better! Samuel, in the Old Testament was dedicated to the Lord before his birth. Every husband and wife who is anticipating becoming parents should dedicate their unborn child to the Lord. Urge your youngest children to make a wholehearted commitment of their lives to Christ. It is wonderful to be saved out of sinful living, but it is much better to be saved in youngest childhood before one has indulged in sinful living. Every person has been called to serve Christ all his days – and this means the days of his childhood, his adolescence, his young adulthood, his middle years, and his later years. I have never yet heard anyone tell me that they regretted that they became a Christian so soon in life, but many have expressed regrets for waiting so long before they surrendered to Christ. There is forgiveness from God at any stage of life, but "nothing can deliver us from certain consequences of our sins; the clock cannot be put back." (Barclay's Luke; page 19)

May I strongly appeal to every parent: Lead your children into a strong, intimate relationship with Christ while your children are very young. Tell your children and your teens that God has called them to serve God "without fear in holiness and righteousness" all their days.

CONCLUSION: 'Behold' the Saviour! 'Behold' means to take note of something important and to focus your total attention upon that object of importance. Jesus is the object of importance! It is Jesus who deserves all your praise and worship. 'Behold' Jesus in your life today. Center your total focus on Him!

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To focus your attention on Jesus is to see the salvation of the Lord – the same as Zechariah saw the salvation of the Lord!

To see the salvation of the Lord is first to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies regarding God's salvation of mankind.

Jesus is the one of whom all the holy prophets of long ago spoke (v.70). Jesus is the redeemer of His people (v. 68). Jesus is the strength of man's salvation (v. 69), the fulfillment of the covenant made both to Abraham (v. 73) and to David (v. 69). Jesus is the protector and rescuer from man's enemies – these enemies which threaten to destroy man's soul (vss. 71, 74a). Jesus is the enabler of believers – the one who makes it possible for believers to serve God in holiness and in righteousness all their days (vs. 74, 75).

If Jesus is the fulfillment of man's ancient longings, the redeemer from man's sins, the strength of man's salvation, the protector from man's enemies, and the enabler for man's call to holy and righteous living, then Christ is all-sufficient for you today!

Have you received Christ as your Saviour? Has Christ satisfied your ancient longings? Has Christ set you free (redeemed you) from your sins? Has He conquered your inner enemies, whatever they may be? Is He enabling you to live a life of holiness – separation from outward and inward sin – and a life of righteousness – a life of good deeds? Have you committed yourself to live for God all your days – every day you have the rest of your life, be that a short time or a long time?

Behold the Saviour and His saving purposes today!

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Chapter 9

Questions

  1. Why should the theme of 'Salvation' evoke praise in the hearts of humans? (Note Luke 1:68; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; Romans 11:32; John 6:51)

  2. In what way did God fulfill His ancient promise to David, that David's throne "will be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalms 89:20-37)?

  3. In what way were all the nations of the earth blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3; Luke 1:72-73)?

  4. In light of the fact that both God's chosen people – the Jewish People – and God's holy people – dedicated Christians – have suffered incalculable loss, physically and economically, why can we say with integrity and conviction that God "has raised up a horn of salvation" to save us "from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" (Luke 1:69-71)? (Note Hebrews 11:35, Hebrews 11:37; Matthew 10:16-20, Matthew 10:28)

  5. What, according to Luke 1:74 b, is the motivation for serving Christ?

  6. What is the difference between 'reverential fear' of God (Proverbs 3:7; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17) and 'terrorizing fear' of God (Hebrews 10:27-31)?

  7. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree with the following statements: "While reverence and awe are appropriate motivations for serving God (in light of man's final accountability before God at the Judgment), terrorizing and paralyzing fear is not a motivation for serving the living God. The drawing love of God is the strongest of all motivations for serving God."

  8. If 'holiness' is the mode in which we are to serve God (Luke 1:75), then how would you define and describe 'Holiness'? (Note 2 Corinthians 6:17, 2 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 4:31-32; 1 Peter 1:13-16)

  9. How does the believer who serves God in righteousness before Him all his days, practically demonstrate and manifest such righteousness in his daily life? (Note Ephesians 2:10)

  10. If the motivation for service is love, and if the mode of service is holiness and righteousness, then what is the measure of service? (Luke 1:76)

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  11. Give an example from contemporary life that illustrates the truth of the following statements: "It is wonderful to be saved out of sinful living, but it is much better to be saved in youngest childhood before one has indulged in sinful living. There is forgiveness from God at any stage of life, but nothing can deliver us from certain consequences of our sins; the clock cannot be put back."

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Here He Comes – Reconcile

Here He Comes – Reconcile

Here He Comes – Reconcile!

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CHAPTER 10

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'.

I. Possibility Of Reconciliation

II. Necessity Of Reconciliation

A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.

B. Because Of The Fact Of Misunderstandings In Human Relationships.

C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.

D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.

III. Steps To Human Reconciliation

A. A Christian Must Seek To Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.

B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.

C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.

D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.

E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.

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F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.

G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.

H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.

I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.

J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once.

K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.

CONCLUSION: Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb. Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.

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CHAPTER 10

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Soon we will be engulfed in the Christmas rush – buying presents, decorating our homes, serving company meals, playing Christmas carols, window shopping, writing Christmas cards to old and new friends, attending Christmas programs, making candy, and perhaps going to the mountains to pick out that special tree, and many, many more activities.

Christmas time is a time when many hearts are opened to give, when those same hearts are seemingly closed the rest of the time of the year. It is a time of glee, anticipation, surprises, gifts, and gladness – and rightfully it should be! Christmas brings happiness to many unfortunate children who are often overlooked most of the time. Perhaps there will be more giving at Christmas time than at any other time during the year, even by people who are usually greedy and grasping.

Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ.

PROPOSITION: We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter. The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'. Christ came to reconcile sinners to Himself, and if we are to enter into the true spirit of Christmas, we must enter into the spirit of reconciliation with God and man.

I. Possibility Of Reconciliation.

Man was created in God's own image, and as such was made only for greatness and fellowship. Man had blessed communion with his Creator. He was meant to enjoy God's presence forever. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized man's beginning. God gave man superior intelligence, and permitted him to subdue the earth. Man's body was strong, his mind superb, his spirit unblemished.

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However, man lost his greatness. Man fell from splendor to 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 health to weakness, from life to death. Man is estranged, haunted by loneliness and paralyzed by fear. He is alienated from God, from his fellow man, and from himself.

Paul taught that all of humanity indulged in sin and that the blanket wrath of God covered mankind. Says Paul, "We all… followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else." (Ephesians 2:3, Phillips)

Man fell from God and is under the wrath of God. However, man is heaven-starved and in need of forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation.

"And Here at last we find 
Strict diagnosis of our malady, 
Which is, in short, that man is heaven-starved 
Men are born thirsting for infinity." 

(Abundant Living, page 95)

Christ's coming and His eventual death made possible man's reconciliation to God. "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. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body, and now as a result Christ has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are standing there before him with nothing left against you – nothing left that he could even chide you for: the only condition is that you fully believe the Truth, standing in it steadfast and firm, strong in the Lord, convinced of the Good News that Jesus died for you, and never shifting from trusting him to save you. This is the wonderful news that came to each of you and is now spreading all over the world. And I Paul, have the joy of telling it to others." (Colossians 1:20-23, Living Bible)

Christ makes it possible for man to be at one with God. "When William Tyndale was translating the New Testament into English, he encountered great difficulty in finding a word big enough to convey the meaning of the redeeming work of Christ. Finding no adequate word, Tyndale joined two simple words – 'at' and 'onement', thus making 'atonement' and giving in its etymology a clue to the Bible's teaching of salvation by reconciliation. In Christ's death on the cross, God and man, who had been severed by sin, were brought together by the cross." (World Aflame; Billy Graham; pg. 116)

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Man must face the fact of his estrangement and acknowledge that he can only be at one with God through faith and repentance. The object of man's faith is Christ who objectively accomplished man's reconciliation on the Cross. The meaning of man's repentance lies in his denial at attempts of self-reconciliation, and genuine sorrow for his sin.

"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). The true meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that the God who rules this vast universe has stepped out of the universe to dwell upon this little, insignificant, sin-infested plant and lived and died for man, in order that sinners might be reconciled to the Father. The erring child may be reconciled. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Have you repented and accepted Christ's offer of reconciliation? Remember, "All who trust him – God's Son – to save them have eternal life; those who don't believe and obey him shall never see heaven, but the wrath of God remains upon them." (John 3:36, Living Bible)

The meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to God. But also the meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to man. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas. The angels praised God on the night of Jesus' birth, and announced the purpose of Christ's coming into the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." One cannot truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas and at the same time have ill will toward his fellow man.

The spirit of Christmas means the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christmas is a time of calling all men everywhere to be reconciled to God, and also a time for calling all believers to be reconciled to their fellow believers. The call of Christmas is the call to forgive and to be reconciled.

II. Necessity Of Reconciliation

A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.

This problem of differences arising between fellow Christians is not new. Paul dealt with this problem in the Church at Philippi, as well as several other Churches. Wrote Paul to the Philippian Church: "And now I want to plead with those two dear women, Euodias and Synthche. Please, please, with the Lord's help, quarrel no more – befriends again. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked side by side with me in telling

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the Good News to others; and they worked with Clement, too, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are written in the Book of Life." (Philippians 4:2-3)

Jesus gave clear instructions as to what to do in cases between brothers who are divided: "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God." (Matthew 5:23, Living Bible)

B. Because Of the Fact of Misunderstandings in Human Relationships.

We need each other's forgiveness because we are very fallible human beings. One cause of misunderstanding among Christians is faulty judgment. The most sanctified Christian is subject to errors in judgment. With the best of intentions, a Christian can blunder and falter. Much misunderstanding among Christians is caused, however, because Christians make hasty judgments without sufficient knowledge even to form a judgment. What a different world this would be if we were very slow to form judgments about others.

"Has God deserted Heaven, 
And left it up to you, 
To judge if this or that is right, 
And what each one should do? 
I think He's still in business, 
And knows when to wield the rod, 
So when you're judging others, 
Just remember, you're not - God."

(God's Psychiatry; page 116)

Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them. Many Christians have pronounced judgments upon people, only to find out later that such judgments were unjust and the cause of much humiliation. How often we misinterpret someone's action, facial expression, or overheard conversation. God help us to admit that we are sometimes faulty in our judgment.

Sharp differences in opinions sometimes sever strong-willed Christians. The contention between Paul and Barnabas was so great that they parted company. Christians oftentimes differ in outlook, tastes, and opinions, and from this alone, misunderstandings arise. It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen.

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It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes closed-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions often times breeds misunderstanding.

C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.

Jesus made this truth clear in His Sermon on the Mount. He taught us to pray, "… and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." Jesus further said, "Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you." (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15)

D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.

"Don't cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live … Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ." (Ephesians 4:30 a, Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32, Living Bible)

"Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don't worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:12-13, Living Bible)

III. Steps To Human Reconciliation

A. A Christian Must Seek to Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.

A Christian must seek to understand the motives for people's behavior. How much easier it would be to forgive our fellow men, if we would seek better to understand the motives for their behavior. Impoliteness may be caused by worry or pain. Suspicion may be caused by misinformation. Impatience may be caused by bad nerves. James Fraser, a missionary who worked hard and prayed intensely for his people, one day lost his temper in the presence of the very people to whom he was ministering. His problem was not primarily spiritual; his problem was physical. He had worked so hard and had prayed so long that he had failed to get sufficient exercise and fresh air. To understand the cause for one's behavior is to be aided in developing the forgiving spirit. How much easier it would be to forbear with one another, if we sought to

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understand the personality make-up and the behavioral motives of those with whom we differ.

B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.

Each of us is unique and is born with differing temperaments that we will have the rest of our lives. People judge one another with such statements as these: "He's too progressive or he's too slow to change"; "He's too liberal or he's too conservative;" "He's too emotional or he's too staid"; "He's too visionary or he's too practical"; He's too talkative or he's too quiet"; "He's too active or he's too passive." These judgmental statements are made on the basis of one's own temperament or one's own background. It would be much easier to accept or to forgive one another, if we all learned to accept each other's differing temperaments and each other's differing backgrounds. Learn to give and take. Learn to appreciate that which is different from you.

C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.

E. Stanley Jones has a motto: "Fellowship is based on confidence; secret criticism breaks that confidence; therefore we will renounce all secret criticism." He further says, "If there is no outer criticism, then we know there is no inner criticism: so the fellowship is relaxed and unrestrained. We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making. ' If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst and we will probably find the best!" (Abundant Living, E. S. Jones, pg. 268)

D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.

"The fact that we have been able to hold the resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because Unsurrendered to the will of God." (E. S. Jones, Abundant Living, pg. 60)

E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.

"A self-centered person can image a group is talking about him when that group is talking about everything else but; he can read into actions and statements meanings never intended; he can go around with a suspicious, looking-for-slights attitudes, and will find imaginary ones a plenty." "Remember that 'when you go around with a chip on your shoulder, the chip is probably from the block above.'" (Ibid; pg.60)

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F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.

G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.

H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.'

I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.

"By doing so you are probably attempting to lift yourself up by pushing them down. It won't succeed. In mentally picking flaws in others you create a worse flaw in yourself – you become a sensitive, critical person, like the thing you habitually center upon.

J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once. (E.S. Jones)

"Most misunderstandings could be dissolved by quick action. If you let them go they fester." (Ibid; 268) Barclay says, "Again and again it is the experience of life that, if a quarrel, or a difference, or a dispute is not healed immediately, it can go on breeding worse and worse trouble as time goes on. Bitterness breeds bitterness. It has often happened that a quarrel between two people has descended to their families, and has been inherited by future generations, and has in the end succeeded in splitting a Church or a society in two. If at the very beginning one of the parties had had the grace to apologize or to admit fault, a very grievous situation need never have arisen. If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were in the right, we have to take the first step towards healing the breach. When personal relations go wrong, in nine cases out of ten immediate action will mend them; but if that immediate action is not taken, they will continue to deteriorate, and the bitterness will spread in an ever-widening circle." (Barclay's Matthew, pages 142, 143)

(All of the points in this last Section of the message are taken from E. Stanley Jones in his book 'Abundant Living'.)

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K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.

"Be so preoccupied with good will that you haven't room for ill will Dr. George Carver, the great Negro scientist and saint, has risen to fame through his classical discoveries and service to the farmers of the South. Someone asked him to reveal the name of the university which had accepted him as a student and then, on discovering he was a Negro, had refused him admittance. Dr. Carver consistently refused to tell, passing the incident off as nothing. He had what somebody called 'the peace that passeth not only all understanding, but all misunderstanding.' Someone said to me (Jones), 'I don't think you know when you are insulted'. I replied, 'I am not looking for insults and so don't see them'." (Ibid; 63)

CONCLUSION: Christmas time is a time when peace ought to reign between God and man and between man and man, especially in the Church – "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3, Living Bible)

Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb? Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.

IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Still thro' the cloven skies they come, 
With peaceful wings unfurled, 
And still their heavenly music floats 
O'er all the weary world: 
Above its sad and lowly plains 
They bend on hovering wing, 
And ever O'er its Babel sounds 
The blessed angels sing.
For lo! The days are hastening on, 
By prophet bards foretold, 
When with the ever circling years 
Comes round the age of gold; 
When peace shall over all the earth 
Its ancient splendors fling, 
And the whole world sends back the song 
Which now the angels sing. 

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WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT

"All glory be to God on high, 
And to the earth be peace:
Good will henceforth, from heaven to men, 
Begin and never cease!" 

HARK! WHAT MEAN THOSE HOLY VOICES

Peace on earth, good will from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found: 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! 
Loud our golden harps shall sound. 

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

I heard the bells on Christmas Day 
Their old familiar carols play, 
And wild and sweet the words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good will to man. 

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 Son of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
Risen with healing in His wings. 

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

For Christ is born of Mary, 
And gathered all above, 
While mortals sleep, the Angels keep 
Their watch of wondering love. 
O morning stars, together 
Proclaim the holy birth, 
And praises sing to God the King 
And peace to men on earth! 

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GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

Hark! The cherubic armies shout, 
And glory leads the song: 
Goodwill and peace are heard throughout 
The harmonious heavenly throng. 
With Joy the chorus we repeat, 
"Glory to God on high!" 
Goodwill and peace are now complete, 
Jesus was born to die. 

PEACE ON EARTH – GOODWILL TO MEN

Peace on earth, Goodwill from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found: 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! 
Loud our golden harps shall sound. 

Let us meditate often on the truth of our great text: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

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CHAPTER 10

QUESTIONS

  1. During the Christmas Season, have you ever felt the 'pull of temptation' in your own life, as described in the following statement? "Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ."

  2. Explain what is meant by the following statement: "We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter."

  3. As Mankind, as represented by Adam and Eve, fell into sin through disobedience to God's command, what consequence did this "Fall" have in terms of human interpersonal relationships?

  4. Because of Christ's death on the cross, what has God made possible for every human being, in terms of interpersonal relationships? (Note Colossians 1:20-23)

  5. What is the basic meaning of the word 'Atonement'?

  6. What must a person do, in order for him or for her to be reconciled to God? (Note John 3:16, John 3:36)

  7. Tell to what degree you agree with the following statements: "The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas."

    Is it possible for a professing Christian to be "at odds" (feeling enmity) with another person, and, at the same time, enjoy intimate fellowship with God? Why or why not? (Note 1 John 3:10-18; John 4:7-8, John 4:11, John 4:20-21)

  8. Is the problem of misunderstanding between fellow Christians a problem which exists only in modem-day Churches, or was this a problem even during the time of the Early Church? (Note Philippians 4:2-3)

  9. What should a believer do if he learns that a fellow believer has been offended by him? (Note Matthew 5:23)

  10. From your perspective and personal experience in interpersonal relationship, why do you think that fellow Christians find it so "easy" to judge one another?

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them."

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  12. Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen. It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes close-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions oftentimes breeds misunderstandings." (Note Isaiah 1:18; Philippians 2:1-4; James 3:17; Acts 15:36-41; Ephesians 4:31-32)

  13. What condition must a believer meet if he is to continue to experience God's forgiveness of his sins? (Note Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35)

  14. What should be our attitude towards those who wrong us and sin against us? (Note Ephesians 4:30-32; Colossians 3:12-13)

  15. How is seeking to understand the motives in another person a real aid in helping you to more quickly and easily forgive what seems wrong to you in another person?

  16. How does taking into consideration another person's temperament and background a real aid in helping you to understand and to forgive another person of his mistakes, shortcomings, and sins?

  17. Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making'? If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst, and we will probably find the best!"

  18. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The fact that we have been able to hold resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because unsurrendered to the will of God."

  19. Has it been your experience that overly-sensitive people tend to "read into actions and statements meaning never intended", and that they tend to hold resentments that are rooted in imaginary slights, insults, and wrongs"? What do you believe is the best "cure" for "over sensitivity" in a person's life?

  20. How does praying for a person, against whom you are tempted to hold resentment, help you?

  21. Why is it so important to say everything good that you possibly can, about a person with whom you are unfriendly? Does the fact that you "dwell on the fine, good things in other" (Philippians 4:8, Living Bible), and the fact that you verbalize those good qualities which you see in others, help you to begin to think and to feel positively about those persons with whom you don't have a close relationship (and with those persons that you don't naturally like)?

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  22. Is it possible for a Christian to love another person whom he does not like"? Why or why not? (Note Luke 6:27-36) Does 'agape' love (divine-type love) involve a "commitment of the will" or is it a "sentiment of the heart"? Is it possible, through God's enabling grace, for you to genuinely love your "enemies", even though you may hate their actions and attitudes and may not be naturally attracted to then personality? Why or why not?

  23. According to 2 Peter 1:5-8, what are the progressive steps which a believer must take, in order to become truly Christlike and mature in the Christian Faith? What is the greatest characteristic that best describes true maturity and Christ likeness?

  24. Is it possible for you to fasten and focus on the faults which you see in others, without at the same time becoming a critical and judgmental and overly – sensitive person yourself? What is the difference between being judgmental (Matthew 7:1), and evaluating and examining the character of another person (Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3)?

  25. Give your personal reacting or response to the following statements: "If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were right, we have to take the first step towards healing the break."

  26. Is it possible for one to be so full of the love of God that he is "too glad and too great to be the enemy of any man"?

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How Should we Celebrate Christmas – Witness!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Witness'!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Witness'!

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CHAPTER 11

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Witness'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

INTRODUCTION: If you want to celebrate Christmas authentically, follow the example of the shepherds. The shepherds were motivated to witness (v. 17). They were overcome with a sense of wonder and amazement, and they evoked a sense of wonder in the lives of those to whom they witnessed (v. 18), and they were moved upon to worship and to praise God "for all things they had heard and seen" (v. 20)

I. Mandate For Witnessing

II. Motivation For Witnessing

III. Message In Witnessing

IV. Movement Of Witnessing

CONCLUSION: Pray that you, as a believer, will have such a real and personal encounter with Jesus (during your devotional times) that when you share your testimony with unbelievers, they will be amazed and astonished! To awaken a sense of amazement in the lives of sinners will oftentimes result in a personal quest for spiritual reality, that in turn can lead them to the feet of the Saviour!

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CHAPTER 11

SUBJECT: "HOW SHOULD WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? 'WITNESS'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

INTRODUCTION: How should we celebrate Christmas? There are doubtless many ways that unbelievers celebrate Christmas. I recently heard one of my friends, a former teacher in a public school, who ten years ago left public education. I sensed frustration in his voice as he shared with some of us men in the Church. He said that even 10 years ago the public school, where he was teaching, had become so secularized that the principal would not allow there to be a 'Christmas Program', only a so-called 'Winter Program'!

There are cases of secular humanism sticking up its 'ugly head' to deny the manger scene from the lawns of public buildings in America, and prohibit every child from naming the name of Jesus in the songs they sing during the month of December in public schools!

Don't take me the wrong way! There is nothing wrong in a Christian family having a Christmas tree or in a Christian family singing 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'. What is wrong is for Christians to become so engrossed in buying gifts for others that they forget that Christmas is a time set aside to celebrate God's greatest gift to mankind – the gift of the Saviour to our sinful world!

"The Angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:10-14)

How should we celebrate Christmas? If you want to celebrate Christmas authentically, follow the example of the shepherds. The shepherds were motivated to witness ( v. 17). They were overcome with a sense of wonder and amazement, and they evoked a sense of wonder and amazement in the lives of those to whom they witnessed (v. 18), and they were moved upon to worship and praise God "for all the things they had heard and seen" (v.20).

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I. Mandate For Witnessing

The mandate for witnessing is given to all. Everyone is called to witness. A non-witnessing Christian is a contradiction in terms. Every Christian is 'born to reproduce'. Even those who feel inadequate or untrained or unworthy are called to witness. Never forget, the shepherds were the most unlikely group of people to witness. "That God used them to spread this heavenly message must have stunned them. Shepherds were a despised class in first-century Palestine. The nature of their calling kept them from observing the ceremonial law, which meant a lot to religious people. Shepherds were also considered unreliable and were not even allowed to give testimony in the law courts. But the angels came to shepherds with the great message that Christ the Lord – the Saviour of the world – had been born in the town of David. And despite what others thought of them, the shepherds knew that lost people needed to hear that great message. It is the same today. Jesus is the world's Saviour. And people are still lost without Him." (Montgomery Boice)

Don't belittle yourself, or feel you are incapable or unworthy. God wants to use you! You can make a difference in someone else's life! You may be the best Christian that someone knows!

Lay persons who witness to other lay persons are the most effective witnesses! The vast majority of persons who come to Church and eventually to Christ, come as a result of a friend's witness and invitation. It is not great ability that God is looking for; it is great availability. A person with a simple testimony and a sincere faith and a great love for people is the kind of person that God is looking for. Not great intellect, or formal theological education, or persuasive oratorical skills. Everyone can be a witness for Jesus – the high and the low, the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor. If God can use shepherds, He can use anyone to 'spread abroad His message'! Every Christian is called to witness!

II. Motivation For Witnessing

The true motivation for witnessing comes from one's firsthand encounter with God! Just like the shepherds, we must hear from God. They heard the angels' voices and they saw the glory of God for themselves. It was not secondhand. It was firsthand!

What motivates a person to tell another person about Jesus? Nothing less than a firsthand experience of Jesus!

There is a little song that says, "I was there when it happened, and I ought to know." No guessing, no mere hoping, or wishful thinking, or illusions of the mind, or speculations! No, none of these! These shepherds heard with their own ears and they saw with their own eyes! When a person, like the shepherds, personally experiences the presence of God and personally feels the tug of God on his heart, and personally hears the voice of God and the heavenly music of the angels, he can never be the same

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again! What he was seen, he can never unsee! His new experience forever puts him on a higher plane of reality, and he cannot keep his newfound message to himself!

Why are some professing Christians close-mouthed about Jesus, paralyzed by fear in the presence of sinners? Could their lack of motivation be due to the fact that many would-be witnesses have only a dead body of orthodox beliefs rather than a living encounter with Christ, to share with others?

If we are not spreading the Word of God to others, it is probably because we have not personally heard the voice of God!

It is easy to tell others about a new discovery or a new promotion or a new gift or a new experience. Spontaneity in witnessing is the result of natural excitement which is experienced because we have seen Jesus!

If you are having a hard time being motivated to witness, it might be good to evaluate the quality of your personal devotional life. He who has a vital devotional life with God is the same one who has a winsome and compelling witness to men. We can only touch others after we have first been touched by God! When God whispers into our spiritual ears the wonders of his love, then we desire to shout with our physical lips the glories of his message!

How can one be quiet after he has seen the glory of heaven revealed to him by God's holy angels and by God's Holy Spirit? If you merely witness out of a sense of 'oughtness' or guilt or legal requirement, you will soon lose your motivation, and your effectiveness will be greatly reduced. It is easy to witness to others when you have something compelling and exciting to share!

III. Message In Witnessing

What is the message or content of effective witnessing? It is rather simple, yet profound in its results! It is the message of "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2: 14) When the shepherds spread the word to others, they did not focus on the beauty of the angels (the messengers), nor did they focus their attention on a description of the nighttime surroundings (the context and the immediate circumstances in which the message was revealed to them). Neither did the shepherds focus on their personal feelings of fright as a result of seeing the angelic host (i.e., their personal emotions that came as a result of their own spiritual encounter and experience). Rather, they "spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child" (v. 7)

It is important to focus only on Jesus when we are witnessing to others. There may be special persons whom God used to lead you to Christ – like an evangelist or a pastor or a friend or a relative. But it is not the messenger that we focus on in our witness to another, even if that messenger (as in the case of the shepherds) happens to be most unusual -like a miraculous encounter with angels! If God used a great miracle – like a

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physical healing of your body – 'to catch your attention' and to bring the message of salvation to you, that is wonderful! But when you witness to another person, never focus on the 'messenger' (be it a person or a miraculous event) that God used to bring you to Christ. Rather, focus on Christ!

When you witness to another, never focus on the specific circumstances that accompanied your spiritual encounter with God. The shepherds did not spend time describing the beautiful hilltop topography – the location where they received their revelation from heaven! It is true that a certain altar of prayer or a certain room or a certain Church or a certain stadium may be a sacred place to you, for it was in that locality that you met Christ. Perhaps you found Christ in a special Church, with a special pastor who served in a special denomination. Fine and good that you mention these circumstances in your witness, but for you to focus on the circumstances and situations that accompanied your conversion or your unique spiritual experience, is about as ridiculous as the shepherds focusing on the topography of the hilltop where they happened to receive their spiritual revelation!

The shepherds did not focus on the host of angels; neither did they focus on their immediate surroundings and make a memorial out of the specific hilltop where God revealed his message on that memorable night.

The content of our witness should never focus on the messenger whom God used to reveal Himself to us. N either should the content of our witness focus on the specific circumstances or location or context of our personal conversion. And, further, the content of our witness should never focus on our own personal experience – i.e., our own emotional responses at the time of our encounter with the supernatural realm. The shepherds did not make a 'big deal' over the angelic host (as wonderful as this was), nor did they make a 'big deal' over the location where this unique experience took place (the hilltop outside of Bethlehem), nor did they talk about their own personal experience at the time of the miraculous encounter (i.e., their response of fear and awe). These things – the messenger, the location of the spiritual encounter, the personal emotional response from the encounter – are all significant, but they are all secondary.

What is primary in one's witness? Testimony regarding the person and the work of Jesus Christ! The Good News of Jesus Christ is the focal point of authentic witness: "A Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:11, Luke 2:14)

If you speak to sinners about your own experience rather than about the person and the work of Jesus Christ, you will focus the attention of others on you instead of on Christ. Never minimize your own personal religious experience, but never make your own experience 'normative'. The important thing is for people to turn their lives over to Jesus. If your unique experience is elevated, others who are seeking God may think they must have an experience which is identical to your experience (emotional responses, etc.) if their experience with God is to be authentic. Give Christ to people, and reinforce your testimony regarding Christ with your own personal

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experience (the messenger that God used in your life, the location and context of your conversion, the feelings you had at the time of your encounter with God), but never focus on yourself when you are seeking to witness. Focus on Christ – His mission as Saviour, His call to repentance and faith, His power to forgive sins and to transform lives. You are leading people to Christ, not to you! You are seeking to give them Christ, not your own personal experience of Christ! Focus, therefore, on Christ!

IV. Movement Of Witnessing

The 'movement' of witnessing is described in the following words: "When they (the shepherds) had seen him (the Christ child), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

It was most natural for the shepherds to leave the Bethlehem manger and to spread the word far and wide regarding this new-born baby – the Saviour of the world!

When you have received news that your wife is to have a baby, or that you are getting a long-awaited-for job, or that you have been awarded with a sizeable college scholarship, or that you have been promoted to a coveted position of prominence, or that you have been granted a large financial gift in the settlement of an estate, how do you respond? Usually, if not always, with great gladness and excitement! You can hardly wait to tell a friend about your new gift or your new promotion, etc.! It is natural, and almost inevitable, for you to share good news with someone else.

So, it was with the shepherds! They had heard from heaven! They had seen God's holy angels! Most importantly, they had seen and adored the newborn child at Bethlehem! Their lives were filled with wonder and their hearts were overflowing with joy. How could they keep such good news to themselves? It was easy to "spread the Word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

What is witnessing? Witnessing is both a Noun and a Verb. It is first a Noun before it is a Verb. I witness by what I am before I witness by what I say. The shepherds first became witnesses of the event (Noun), and then they went forth and told what they had experienced firsthand (Verb).

We are a witness first by personally experiencing an encounter with God, and then we do witnessing by telling others about the Christ who has personally touched our lives. Using our lips, we desire to introduce others to the Christ who wants to change their lives as well.

The whole movement in witnessing is a movement that is outward, not inward; forward-moving, not backward-looking; extroverted, not introverted; aggressive, not passive; experiential, not theoretical; concrete, not abstract; contagious, not drab; persuasive, not coercive; universal, not exclusive.

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In terms of witnessing, Jesus said, "Go into all the world and make disciples. "He said "Go out into the highways and byways and compel men to come into the kingdom of God." It is Christians who are commanded to go to sinners, not sinners who are commanded to come to the Church. It is great when sinners come to our Churches to become converted to Christ, but Church was never intended to be the primary place where sinners are converted; it is in the 'highways and byways' of life (i.e., in the home, office, factory, school, and neighborhood) where people are to be reached for Christ. "When they (the shepherds) had seen him (Christ), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

What had been told them regarding this Bethlehem Babe? That he is the Saviour, that he is Christ the Lord (i.e., that he is the Messiah who is in charge of all of life), that he is the One through whom God is glorified and sinners are reconciled (v. 14). Jesus is the Messiah (the Anointed One of God), the One who can save from sin, the One who can rule the hearts and lives of people, the One who can speak peace to troubled hearts and who can reconcile alienated souls to God!

How can we spread such Good News to those around us, far and wide? First, by being radiant persons in our very being, because we have seen and have heard the Lord in a vital and real way ourselves (like the shepherds whose very countenances must have been changed after they heard the angels announce the "good news of great joy that will be for all people!") (v. 10) Second, by taking the initiative to share Christ verbally with those who are in the "circle of our own influence" (v. 17). Third, by the action of good works. Jesus, said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Be a witness for Jesus – by your changed personality, by your clear words, and by your good deeds!

When you fall in love with Jesus, your love for Jesus and your excitement about the saving message of Jesus, will compel you to 'spread the word' to others (v. 17). Because of your transformed character, your personal testimony, and your compassionate deeds, there will be many who will surrender their lives also to Christ the Lord, the Babe of Bethlehem, who transformed the lives and the words of those first shepherds long ago!

What is witnessing? Someone said that witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Spirit and leaving the results with God. Your job, as a believer, is simply to witness, i.e., to tell others what you know about Jesus as a result of a firsthand contact with Him. After the shepherds actually saw the Christ Child and after they earlier had heard from God regarding the identity and mission of this special child through angel messengers on the lighted hillside, they could never be the same! Their lives were transformed, and transformed persons are strongly motivated to share

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their authentic Christian witness with their non-Christian friends. Not hearsay, not second-hand reports, not theological speculations! Firsthand experience, filled with the vitality of one who has personally seen Jesus!

CONCLUSION: What results can one anticipate in the lives of those who listen to such an authentic witness? Perhaps conversion, but at least amazement, in the lives of those who take time to hear the testimony of genuine believers. "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (v. 18)

Amazement leads to further inquiry, which can eventually lead to personal conversion to Christ.

Pray that you, as a believer, will have such a real and personal encounter with Jesus (during your devotional times) that when you share your testimony with unbelievers, they will be amazed and astonished! To awaken a sense of amazement in the lives of sinners will oftentimes result in a personal quest for spiritual reality, that in turn can lead them to the feet of the Saviour!

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CHAPTER 11

Questions

  1. In light of the secularistic and materialistic trends in our American society, how do you believe an earnest Christian should properly observe Christmas, in terms of 'customs' and 'traditions'? Is it possible for equally sincere believers to differ in their viewpoints and practices, in their celebration of Christmas? Why or why not?

  2. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Everyone is called to witness. A non-witnessing Christian is a contradiction in terms. Every Christian is 'born to reproduce'."

  3. When you personally feel inadequate or ungifted in witnessing for Christ, why could a study of the shepherds' witnessing to Christ's birth be a great encouragement and motivation to you?

  4. Give your personal reaction or response to the following statement: "You may be the best Christian that someone knows."

  5. Check those statements which describe the essential qualities that a person must possess, in order to be an effective and Christ-honoring witness:

    1. ___ Ordination as a Christian minister.

    2. ___ Special theological education.

    3. ___ Youthfulness in actions and appearance.

    4. ___ Articulation in speech.

    5. ___ Outgoing personality.

    6. ___ Cleverness in presentation of Gospel Message.

    7. ___ Memorization of several Bible Verses which explain the 'Plan of Salvation.'

    8. ___ Forceful and Persuasive in verbal declaration of truth.

    9. ___ Handsome or beautiful in physical appearance.

    10. ___ Experience as a Christian for at least ten years.

    11. ___ A simple, personal testimony of God's transforming power in your life.

    12. ___ A sincere faith in God's promises as recorded in God's Word (Bible).

    13. ___ A great love for lost (unsaved) people.

    14. ___ A deep desire to help fulfill Christ's 'Great Commission'.

    15. ___ An understanding of the Biblical teaching regarding the meaning of 'Repentance' and 'Saving Faith'.

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    16. ___ A courage that enables one to 'risk rejection' from the unsaved persons with whom you desire to share God's plan of salvation.

    17. ___ Availability to God for Him to use you as His 'mouthpiece' to declare the universal love of God to sinners who feel helpless and hopeless and loved.

    18. ___ Special training in the arts of oratory and persuasive speech.

    19. ___ Fearlessness and great bravery in order to meet and to witness to strangers.

    20. ___ Sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who often gives special guidance in witnessing, as He did with Philip (Acts 8:26-40).

    21. ___ A vision for the lost, a compassion for the lost, a burden which compels you to share the 'Good News' of forgiveness and transformation.

    22. ___ An argumentative approach which supports a dogmatic declaration of truth that does not allow the seeking sinner to ask any questions or to offer any challenges or disagreements.

    23. ___ A gentle spirit, a listening ear, a tender heart, are understanding mind, an unobtrusive mannerism all of which prepare you to build a love relationship with the sinner as a person, rather than treating him as a 'case' or an abstract 'soul' which needs rescued from hell.

    24. ___ A humble and teachable spirit, which allows discussion and which invites extended inquiry into the 'claims of Christ' and into the meaning of the 'Christian life' from sincere and intelligent persons who need time and thought before making a personal commitment to Christ.

    25. ___ Special training in the Apologetics of Christianity, to provide much 'ammunition' for debate with non-believers.

    26. ___ An ability to give a clear, Biblical answer to questions which non-believers ask regarding God, Man, Sin, and Jesus Christ.

    27. ___ Empowerment from the Holy Spirit in order that you may be bold and loving in your witness to non-Christians.

    28. ___ Possession of the gift of evangelism.

    29. ___ Willingness to speak in behalf of the person and power of Jesus Christ, in spite of personal feelings of inadequacy and feelings of fear of people.

    30. ___ A sense of respect for the eternal value of a never-dying soul who desperately needs Christ as Saviour and who will not go to heaven unless he is born again.

    31. ___ A prayerful attitude which allows the Holy Spirit to guide you to those sinners who have been prepared by God to receive the message of salvation.

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  6. What motivates a person to tell another person about Jesus?

  7. Why are some professing Christians close-mouthed about Jesus, paralyzed by fear in the presence of sinners who desperately need someone to introduce them to Jesus Christ?

  8. Tell to what degree you agree with the following statement: "Spontaneity in witnessing is the result of natural excitement which is experienced because we have seen Jesus."

  9. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "He who has a vital devotional life with God is the same one who has a winsome and compelling witness to men."

  10. Put a check by those statements which describe what should be the "Focus" of your witness to a non-Christian person.

    • ___ The messenger whom God used to lead you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    • ___ The specific circumstances and location and context in which you personally accepted Christ as your own Saviour.

    • ___ Your own emotional responses which you experienced at the time of your own personal encounter with the supernatural realm.

    • ___ Testimony regarding the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

  11. Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If your own unique spiritual experience is elevated when you witness to non-Christian, others who are seeking God may think they must have your own identical experience (emotional responses, etc.) if their experience with God is to be authentic."

  12. Tell if you believe the following statements are Biblically-supportable:" "When you witness to unsaved people, do not focus on yourself if, but instead, always focus on Christ – His mission as Saviour, His call to repentance and faith, His power to forgive sins and to transform lives. You are leading people to Christ, not to you! You are seeking to give them Christ, not your own personal experience of Christ. Focus, therefore, on Christ! Talk about Him, not about yourself!"

  13. Why was it so easy and 'natural' for the shepherds to witness to others about the Babe of Bethlehem?

  14. Tell what is meant by the statement: "Witnessing is first a Noun before it is a Verb."

  15. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "The whole movement in witnessing is a movement that is outward, not inward; forward-moving; not backward-looking; extroverted, not introverted; aggressive, not passive, experiential,

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    not theoretical; practical, not academic; concrete, not abstract; contagious, not drab; persuasive, not coercive; universal, not exclusive."

  16. Does the Bible command Christians to GO to sinners, or sinners to GO to Christians and to the Christian Church? (Note Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 14:23) Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The Church was never intended to be the primary place where sinners are converted."

  17. Do you believe that all three of the following are indispensable if a believer is to be an effective witness for Christ: (a) Transformed personality, (b) Verbal communication of the saving message, (c) Performance of compassionate and Christlike good deeds?

  18. Do you believe the following definition of witnessing properly reflects Biblical examples of witnessing? – "Witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ, in the power of the Spirit and leaving the results with God."

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How Should we Celebrate Christmas – Wonder!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Wonder'!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? – 'Wonder'!

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CHAPTER 12

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Wonder'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:18)

INTRODUCTION: The shepherds, on that historic night, were filled with amazement and wonder. Have you ever been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement as a result of some spiritual experience? What does it mean to 'wonder'? To wonder is to marvel, to admire, to be surprised, to hold one's breath, to be electrified, to be taken aback, to be startled, to be astonished! The sense of awe and wonder and amazement and surprise is what gives mystery and splendor to life. It is a quality unique only to human beings!

What was the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. Amazed That He Who Is So Big Could Become So Small.

II. Amazed That He Who Is So Strong Could Become So Weak.

III. Amazed That He Who Is So Removed Could Become So Near And So Personable.

IV. Amazed That He Who Is So Rich Could Become So Poor.

V. Amazed That He Who Is So Sinless Could Become So Close To Sinners.

VI. Amazed That He Who Was So Glorified In Heaven, Could Become So Obscure On Earth.

VII. Amazed That He Who Was So Beautiful Could Become So Battered And Disfigured.

CONCLUSION: As you celebrate Christmas this year, take some time to get alone with God and with God's Word – and let yourself WONDER! Bow at the manger and marvel at the child! Then rise to your feet and live a transformed life! Be daily 'lost in wonder, love and praise'!

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CHAPTER 12

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Wonder'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-20

TEXT: "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:18)

INTRODUCTION: The shepherds, on that historic night, were filled with amazement and wonder. Have you ever been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement as a result of some spiritual experience?

What does it mean to 'wonder'? To wonder is to marvel, to admire, to be surprised, to hold one's breath, to be electrified, to be taken aback, to be startled, to be astonished!

When you think about it, life is full of 'WONDER'!

It is that feeling that you have when you look through a microscope and discover a whole new world of brilliant color and strange and fascinating shapes. Or when you first see the craters on the moon for the first time as you peer through a powerful telescope. A feeling of awe and amazement!

It is that feeling that you have when you come away from studying the various theories which modem engineers give in their attempts to explain the ancient marvels of the Egyptian pyramids! 'The Great Pyramid' – the largest of them all- contains more than 2 million stone blocks that average 2 ½ tons; it covers 73 acres and stands about 350 feet tall!

Why do we talk about the Seven Wonders of the Word? Because each is an accomplishment that seems to defy human reason. They are out-of-the-ordinary, the amazing feats of men's hands. Stand before an Egyptian pyramid and you will be taken aback, you will marvel, you will be filled with amazement. The Seven Wonders of the World will leave you with your 'mouth open'!

It is that feeling that you get when you make a serious study of the human body! How amazing is the human body! The human brain is the most incredible creation of God that we know about! "Tucked beneath the skull in each of our heads is a three pound, jellylike mound that looks like crinkled putty, but is actually a collection of between 10 billion and 100 billion neurons. Each neuron is as complex as an entire small computer, and consists of a central nerve-cell core attached to a long tail and several thousand wispy 'dendrites'. The dendrites reach out to make contact with other dendrites, and if we could count the number of contact points (scientists call the connecting points 'synapses'), it is estimated

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that there may be as many as 1 quadrillion in every human brain." (Magnificent Mind; page 23; Gary Collins) Truly, we feel like declaring with the Psalmist I am fearfully and wonderfully made".

It is that feeling which comes over us when, along with millions of others, we view the launching of a multi-toned rocket into space! We declare with others, "It takes away my breath!"

Talking about traveling in space, I never cease to be amazed when I watch a 747 Jet take off from the Denver International Airport! It seems impossible to me that a gigantic, heavy object like a plane could actually overcome the pull of gravity and fly in mid air! Can't you imagine how the skeptical on-lookers must have felt when the Wright brothers actually took their first flight? Recently I was interviewing some of my older relatives – those in their late 70's and 80's (and one was 90), and they told me how when they were kids in the little rural community of Fountain, Colorado, they were fascinated when they saw their first airplane fly over the town. Some kids were on the three story school building roof – totally awe-struck as they saw this 'flying object' go over their building! What a wonder!

It is that feeling that I get when I see the drawings of Joni Eareckson. Those intricate drawings, produced by the small brush, manipulated by the lips and tongue of Joni (who is paralyzed from her shoulders down) make me stand back aghast! I can hardly believe it!

The sense of awe and wonder is what you feel when you see a baby born – a new life, a never-dying soul, an eternal creature made in God's own image, a person with amazing potential. One school teacher used to come into his classroom of boys and first make a small bow to them, before he started his lesson. Asked why he did this, he said, "Who knows, I may be bowing to a future king." As I recall the story, one of those young children in that classroom was Martin Luther – the man whose revolutionary ideas changed the whole fabric of modem history! Do you have a sense of awe and wonder and reverence when you are in the presence of a group of children?

It is that feeling I had when I went to my first opera! I was awestruck (with my mouth opened in amazement) as I heard what seemed like angelic voices! I will never forget that operatic play! After it was over, I went back stage and met one of the young opera singers. I knew I was in the presence of one of the greatest young singers in America!

A sense of awe and wonder comes over me when I observe a world marathon runner (like at the Olympics) who can run 5 minute miles for 26 consecutive miles without stopping! I can't run one mile at that speed, let alone 26 miles! I am amazed, and I am dumb founded! How can any human body move that fast and continue to run for that distance without stopping?

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When I go to a circus and watch the tight rope walkers, my breath is taken away as I watch in wonderment! I hold my breath, wondering if that person is going to slip and fall to the floor, forty feet below! I want to close my eyes when I see him carrying someone on his shoulders!

The sense of awe and wonder and amazement and surprise is what gives mystery and majesty and splendor to life. Whether one recognizes it or not, this feeling of awe is a so-called 'religious feeling'. It is a quality unique only to human beings! As far as we know, there is no animal that has the capacity to stand back with it's mouth open, beholding the wonders of life, appreciating the beautiful creation of God and the amazing feats of man. It is a spiritual quality that is evidence of our unique creation.

This sense of awe regarding the mysteries of nature and regarding the amazing feats of men – this response of wonderment is meant to take us to deeper depths! To the depths of spiritual realities! When Paul meditated on the ways of God, he was often "lost in wonder, love, and praise."

The Psalmist was filled with wonder when he wrote about the Lord and the Lord's marvelous ways: "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts." (Psalms 145:3-4)

PROPOSITION: What is the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. Amazed That He Who Is So Big Could Become So Small.

Have you ever thought for even a short time of the magnitude of the universe? There is no way our finite minds can comprehend sizes and distances in the universe. For instance, our sun is 1 million times bigger than our earth! And yet our sun is a small star compared to the size of other stars. Our Milky Way Galaxy is but one small Galaxy compared to the billions of other Galaxies in our vast Universe. And yet, if we could travel 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light) it would take us 100,000 years to travel across only this one galaxy (the Milky Way Galaxy)!

Considering the size of this Universe, by way of comparison, our own planet Earth is smaller than a piece of dust in this room (compared to the space of the entire room)! I find myself 'lost in wonder' that the Creator God could ever or would ever come and live in a human body on this planet! But, remember, God is Creator of the universe, and, as such, He is separate from this universe.

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Just think, the Creator of all became confined to a human body for a space of 33 years! How big He is, and yet how small He became! How wonderful, how amazing! Notes J. B. Phillip, "It is a fascinating problem for us human beings to consider how the Eternal Being – wishing to show men His own Character focused, His own Thought expressed, and His own Purpose demonstrated – could introduce Himself into the stream of human history without disturbing or disrupting it. There must obviously be an almost unbelievable 'scaling-down' of the 'size' of God to match the life of the planet. There must be a complete acceptance of the space-and-time limitations of this present life." (The Newborn Christian; J. B. Phillips; page 6, 7)

It is hard to imagine that God – the One who is omnipresent (able to be everywhere at one time) – could confine himself to one human body for over three decades! Jesus is God focused, God scaled-down, and yet, while it is true that He is God limited, He is nevertheless authentically God!

Can you imagine a junior angel having a conversation with a senior angel, the latter teaching the former about the realities of the small planet called earth? Perhaps the conversation would go something like this:

"I want you to watch that one particularly," said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.

Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me," said the little angel. "What's special about that one?"

"That," replied his senior solemnly, "is the Visited Planet."

"'Visited'?" said the little one. "You don't mean visited by —"

"Indeed I do. That ball, which 1 have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and perhaps not over clean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory." And at these words he bowed his head reverently.

"But how?" queried the younger one. "Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendors of His Creation, and millions more that I'm sure 1 haven't seen yet, went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?"

"It isn't for us," said his senior, a little stiffly, 'to question His 'ways', except that 1 must point out to you that He is not impressed by size and numbers as you seem to be. But that He really went I

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know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that. As to why He became one of them …. how else do you suppose could He visit them?"

The little angel's face wrinkled in disgust.

"Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?"

"I do, and I don't think He would like you to call them 'creeping crawling creatures' in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him." (Ibid; pg. 32)

Think of it! "The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man – a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language, weighing so many pounds. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby and before that a fetus inside a woman's body. It you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab." (The Joyful Christian; C. S. Lewis; p. 51)

II. Amazed That He Who Is So Strong Could Become So Weak.

The story of Christmas is the story of the omnipotent (all-powerful) God becoming a man – a man who was subject to human limitations and weaknesses. A man who became weary with work, who needs like all humans to sleep, to eat, and to clothe himself. A man who wept with the weeping, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Jesus was fully God, but Jesus was too fully Man. A man who needed others, a man who longed for companionship, a man who suffered being tempted, a man who was moved with compassion as He looked upon the multitudes, a man who was acutely aware of physical pain as the nails were driven into His quivering flesh on the rugged cross – the very cross that was so heavy that he fell beneath its load on his long journey up Calvary's Mountain!

How amazing to think that He (Jesus) who made the sun would be so weak and so helpless as a babe in a lowly manger, that he would, on the day of his birth, need the warmth of swaddling clothes and the warm breath of a nearby ox! "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 Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk." (Bishop Fulton Sheen)

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III. Amazed That He Who Is So Removed Could Become So Near And So Personable.

By His very nature, God is transcendent, i.e., He is holy, separate, far removed from man. is ways are higher than man's ways, as high as the heavens are above the earth.

How amazing that He who is so far above and far removed from man, could Himself become a Man! Wonder of wonders that this God would bow so low as to become one of us! The transcendent One is now the immanent One – the One who is closer to us than hands or feet or breathing!

Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you. Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!"

Jesus is God focused, God approachable, God knowable, God touchable, God seeable, in short 'God domesticated'!

One man – a worldly man who was a bundle of nerves and on the brink of an emotional breakdown – visited a doctor, seeking help and wanting a release from his nervous tension. Said the doctor to the man, "The only way you are going to get relief from your nervous tension and mental anxiety is to pray." "What!" said the man, "you mean to tell me that I need to talk to that up there? You just as well could tell me to shake hands with the 'Milky Way"'!

To this worldly man, God was at best an abstract force or impersonal entity, far removed from the concerns of mankind. To him, 'God' (whatever that term means) was totally unapproachable and far removed and uninvolved in the affairs and the problems of man.

The Incarnation teaches us that God, far from being detached and disinterested in man, is instead the God who has taken the initiative in seeking and saving mankind! There is a story of a woman who was trying to find God. "She had a certain dream which she dreamed more than once, namely, that she was standing in front of a thick plate glass window. As she looked at it, she seemed to see God on the other side. She hammered on the window, trying to attract His attention, but without success. She grew more and more desperate, and began to call to Him and found herself shrieking at the top of her voice. And then a quiet, calm voice at her side said: 'Why are you making so much noise? There is nothing between us.' Perhaps that illustrates our difficulty, does it not? We have been groping around for a long time, and all the while He is standing beside us." (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master; Peter Marshall; pg. 131)

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The amazing news in the Christmas story is that God is in our world, that He is not far removed but that He is totally personal and personable. It is a great thing to know that God loves the human race — corporately yes, but more amazingly, individually. Paul Rees tells of a community canvass being made. "At a certain door the questioner asked the woman who answered his knock what children she had. She began, 'Well, there's Willie, and Horace.' But the canvasser interrupted, 'Never mind names, I just want numbers. Then she grew impatient and a bit indignant. 'They haven't got numbers,' she protested. 'Everyone of them got a name.'" Concludes Paul Rees: "They had personalities that spoke with all the eloquence of their individual characteristics ….. So God looks upon His human creatures." (Stand Up In Praise To God; Paul Rees; pg. 23 – 24)

"You may or may not be aware of Him. But He is, at this very moment, sharply aware of you. He knows you – as you are." (What Is God Like? By Eugenia Price; pg. 23)

Regarding God's personal love for him as a sole individual, the Psalmist wrote, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book! How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can't even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!" (Psalms 130:13-18, Living Bible)

Do you realize that "the very hairs on your head are all numbered"? (Matthew 10:30)

"Another passage says: 'He hath visited and redeemed his people'. The only way to redeem His people was to visit them. He couldn't sit on a cloud and utter commands, or pick us up and take us to heaven with celestial tongs, not soiling His fingers with the messy business of human living. No, He dwelt among us – amid our poverty, amid our temptations, amid our problems and choices, amid our oppositions and disappointments, He lived among us and showed us how to live by living." (The Word Became Flesh; E. S. Jones; pg. 34)

God loves you as if you were 'an only child'! If you would have been the only one who would have ever lived, Jesus would have died for you! That's how much He loves you!

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'Immanuel' – the name given for Jesus – means 'God with us'! As John Wesley lay dying in his bed, the last thing he was heard to say was: "The best of all is that God is with us!"

Yes, I stand amazed to think that He who is so removed (transcendent) could become so near (immanent) and so personable! One of the great wonders of the Incarnation!

IV. Amazed That He Who Is So Rich Could Become So Poor.

Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity, was the Creator of everything. "Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can't; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory." (Colossians 1:16, Living Bible)

How amazing, that He for whom all riches in creation were made, left all those riches to be reduced to earth's poverty. No room even in the inn, born in a stable where animals live. "He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting as beasts, was born among beasts." (Bishop Sheen)

"Out of the ivory palaces 
Into a world of woe, 
Only His great eternal love ... 
Made my Saviour go." 

Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poorness of humanity! If he lived as the wealthiest King on earth, that status would still be lowly, compared to His place of royalty that He enjoyed in heaven, but he did not live like a king. Instead, he lived in poverty. Not out of self-pity, but merely to state the nature of His incarnate state, Jesus once said, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but I the Messiah, have no home of my own – no place to lay my head." (Matthew 8:20, Living Bible)

His calloused hands testified to the fact of his hard work as a carpenter. He, the oldest child, worked with his hands, as a skilled carpenter, until he was 30 years old. Tradition holds that Joseph died when Jesus was relatively young, and that Jesus financially supported His mother and several younger brothers and sisters. Life was not easy for Jesus.

Wrote Paul, "You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was; though he was so very rich, yet to help you he became so very poor, so that by being poor

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he could make you rich. " (2 Corinthians 8:9, Living Bible) Jesus chose voluntary poverty that He might die for the lost!

V. Amazed That He Who Is So Sinless Could Become So Close To Sinners.

Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was called "the friend of publicans and sinners." What He was called in derision, He was in reality!

He who knew no sin, became our sin bearer on the cross! "When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for Him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn't expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:6-8, Living Bible)

"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, 
And wonder how He could love me, A sinner, condemned, unclean. 
He took my sins and my sorrows; He made them His very own; 
He bore the burden to Calvary, And suffered, and died alone. 

Chorus:

How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be; 
How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Saviour's love for me! 

"And can it be that I should gain 
An interest in the Saviour's blood? 
Died He for me, who caused His pain? 
For me, who Him to death pursued? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 

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"He left His Father's throne above, 
So free, so infinite His grace! 
Emptied himself of all but love, 
And bled for Adam's helpless race; 
'Tis mercy all! Immense and free, 
For, O my God, it found out me! 
'Tis mercy all! Immense and free, 
For, O my God, it found out me! 

"Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. 
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" 

"There's the wonder of sunset at evening, 
The wonder as sunrise I see; 
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul 
Is the wonder that God loves me 
O, the wonder of it all! 
The wonder of it all! 
Just to think that God loves me 
O the wonder of it all! 
The wonder of it all! 
Just to think that God loves me 

One cannot understand the significance of the Incarnation without understanding the importance of the atoning death of Jesus! Jesus was born to die! To die for sinners like you and like me! "He went to the cross and made identification with us complete – there He was identified with us at our lowest place – the place of our sin. 'He became sin for us'. He was crucified between two sinners as one of them. So identified with us in our sin that He cried the cry of dereliction which we have to cry when we sin: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' 'He bore our sins in His own body on a tree.' The identification and, hence, the incarnation were complete. He was identified with our sins. But the identification was not quite complete – sin and death are always connected. So having tasted our sins, He would have to taste our death too." (The Word Became Flesh; pg. 60)

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"Love so amazing, so divine, 
Demands my soul, my life, my all!" 

VI. Amazed That He Who Was So Glorified In Heaven, Could Become So Obscure On Earth.

If Jesus was God, why was He not recognized as God when He was on earth? Because He stripped Himself of all his divine prerogatives – save one, love – when He became man.

"Many years ago, when the Duke of Windsor was the Prince of Wales, he one day left Buckingham Palace, journeyed west into the coal mining country, put on a miner's cap, and went down into the dingy tunnels to see for himself the conditions in which men toiled in a difficult and dangerous branch of British industry. As a member of the Royal family he was as much a prince in the coal mine as he was when he lived in the palace in London. But, while his essential equality with royalty was unchanged, there was no longer an equality of experience. He had consented to enter into experience that never came to him amid the elegance and immunities of the palace." (proclaiming the New Testament; Paul Rees; pg. 44)

When the Prince of Wales was in the dingy coal mine, dressed in miner's clothes, his identity as royalty was obscured. When Jesus, the Heavenly Prince of God, was dwelling for 33 years in the 'coal mines' of earth, amidst the filth of man's sinful environment, most failed to identify Him as the pure and the spotless Son of God.

Notes Swindoll, "Who could have cared about the birth of a baby while the world was watching Rome in all her splendor? … Political intrigue, racial tension, increased immorality, and enormous military might occupied everyone's attention and conversation. Palestine existed under the crush of Rome's heavy boot. All eyes were on Augustus, the cynical Caesar who demanded a census so as to determine a measurement to enlarge taxes. At that time who was interested in a couple making an eight mile trip south from Nazareth? What could possibly be more important than Caesar's decisions in Rome? Who cared about a Jewish baby born in Bethlehem?" (paper from R. C. Sproul)

Jesus was born in obscurity. He lived in obscurity, as a common laborer, until he was 30 years old. And even during his 3 year public ministry, during which time He drew many followers to Himself, Jesus was not without His enemies. His popularity waned, and finally through intrigue and evil plotting, He received the sentence of death by crucifixion!

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It is amazing to me that He who was so glorified, occupying the center of attention in the universe and in Heaven itself, should become on earth an object of cruel scorn and heartless rejection, eventuating in crucifixion!

He gave up the glory of heaven to receive the shame of earth – all because He loved a lost race! "Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as to actually to die a criminal's death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8, Living Bible)

VII. Amazed That He Who Was So Beautiful Could Become So Battered And Disfigured.

The beauty of Jesus in heaven, before He was born in Bethlehem, was unsurpassed. He was the "Bright and Morning Star", and the glory of God shone upon Him. All other beauties, compared to that of Jesus, fade into insignificance. The angels are glorious in appearance, but the angels cannot be compared in beauty to the Son of God. "God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God." (Hebrews 1:3 a, Living Bible)

Whether or not Jesus was actually a handsome man when he lived here on earth (and some speculate that he was not, based on Isaiah 53:2 b: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him"), one thing is certain: Jesus was not beautiful to behold when he was led away to be crucified and while he hung on that rough, splintery cross! Blood, caused by the deep pricks of the crown of thorns on his brow, came rushing down his face, to combine with the blood from the wounds on his face (where his beard had been plucked out) and with the blood from the deep slashes that were visible on his back as a result from the terrible whip lashes! A stark and pitiable sight to behold – the crucified Christ!

Is it not amazing that the repentant thief, the companion of Jesus who was being crucified beside Jesus, could see past the blood and the sweat and filth and flies on Jesus body, and could believe that Jesus was Lord? He said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom!" Amazing was Jesus' selfless and yet authoritative reply: "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!"

There is enough evidence to make the contention that Jesus, in His resurrected form, bore in His resurrection body the marks of his humanity, and that He ascended to heaven where He continues forever to bear those marks of identification with the human race. After his resurrection, he showed his doubting disciple, Thomas, the wounds from his crucifixion that he still had in his hands and in his side. Is it not conceivable (and likely) that Jesus maintained those wounds in his body when he ascended to the right hand of his Heavenly Father, following the

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forty days after the Resurrection? I believe that Christ is immediately identifiable to the heavenly saints, among other reasons, because of the visible wounds in his resurrected body!

"In the Christian story God descends to reascend … One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in midair, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too." (C. S. Lewis; The Joyful Christian; pg. 54, 55)

Jesus is eternally identified with the human race! He forever bears the marks of his crucifixion for mankind! Jesus has permanently been 'colored' (as it were) because of his 'dive' into the depths of the 'sea' to recover the precious object of his greatest longing – lost mankind that lay at the bottom of the ocean of sin and corruption!

What makes the Incarnation so amazing? It was the Incarnation (God becoming Man, Philippians 2:4-11) that made it possible for God to save mankind, through the death of Jesus! But, the Incarnation is not the end of Jesus' identification with mankind! It is the consistent belief of the New Testament that Jesus ascended to make intercession for us. It is Christ who is at the right hand of God who indeed intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34) He always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9: 24). In Him we have an advocate in the presence of God (1 John 2:1). He is the mediator who stands between man and God to bring man and God together, and He continues that mediating work in the presence of God (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 12:24; 1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:5). "Jesus ascended, not to end his work for men, but to continue his work for men, that in this or in any other world he may still carryon his ministry of intercession and mediation for men … In the Ascension the manhood of Jesus was taken up into the heavenly places, and, therefore, our manhood will also be so taken up. As Denney finely says, the Ascension is the proof that manhood is destined for heaven and not for the grave, that manhood is destined, not for dissolution but for glory." (The Mind of Jesus; Barclay; pg. 320)

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CONCLUSION: How should we celebrate Christmas? By being lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise. Let the "Seven Wonders of The Incarnation" of which we have spoken today, capture your attention. Meditate upon these Wonders and let God transform your thinking! Be amazed! Be full of Wonder!

I. Be amazed that He who is so Big could become so Small!

II. Be amazed that he who is so Strong could become so Weak!

III. Be amazed that He who is so Removed could become so Near and so Personable!

IV. Be amazed that He who is so Rich could become so Poor.

V. Be amazed that He who is so Sinless could become so Close to Sinners!

VI. Be amazed that He who was so Glorified In Heaven could become so Obscure on Earth!

VII. Be amazed that He who was so Beautiful could become so Battered and Disfigured!

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As you celebrate Christmas this year, take some time to get alone with God and with God's Word – and let yourself WONDER!

"I wonder as I wander out under the sky, 
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die; 
To save lowly people like you and like I, 
I wonder as I wander out under the sky." 

Celebrate Christmas! Take time to Wonder! Take time to marvel, to admire, to be awe-struck, to be surprised, to be electrified, to be astonished! Bow at the manger and marvel at the Child! Then rise to your feet and live a transformed life! Be daily "lost in wonder, love, and praise!"

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Chapter 12

Questions

  1. Have you ever really been filled with a sense of wonder and amazement as a result of some spiritual experience?

  2. What does it mean to 'wonder'?

  3. What was the greatest of all God's mighty acts?

  4. When you contemplate the vastness of the Universe, does it seem almost "unbelievable" that the Creator of the Universe actually came to live on this tiny planet called Earth?

  5. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Jesus is God focused, God scaled-down, and yet, while it is true that He is God limited, he is nevertheless authentically God!"

  6. Do you believe, among Christians generally, that there is more emphasis upon the deity or the humanity of Jesus? Do you find it difficult to comprehend that the One, who created the world and all that is therein, actually was at one time a helpless baby, totally dependent upon a young human mother?

  7. What is meant by the 'transcendence' and the 'immanence' of God?

  8. What evidence is there that God is not an impersonal, abstract, unreachable 'entity', but that He is instead a personable, concrete, approachable, available and caring Being who desires to establish an intimate fellowship with every human being?

  9. Do you, as one individual in a world of teeming billions of human beings, really believe that at this very moment God is sharply aware of you, that He knows you perfectly and that He loves you unconditionally, and that He understands all of your personal problems, and wishes to fellowship with you personally? Why or why not? (Note Psalms 139:13-18; Jeremiah 1:4-5; John 1:47-51; Matthew 10:30; 1 Peter 5:7)

  10. Give your reaction or response to the following statements: "God loves you as if you were 'an only child'! If you would have been the only one who would have ever lived, Jesus would have died for you! That's how much He loves you!"

  11. Who actually was the Creator of this world? (Note John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)

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  12. If it is true, according to 2 Corinthians 8:9, that Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poverty of earth, for the purpose of making humans 'rich' through His life of earthly poverty, how then should true believers define and experience their life of 'richness' as children of God? When Christ promises to make those who believe in Him rich, does this mean that Christians will always be materially rich?

  13. To what extent did Jesus identify with the human race when He was here on earth? (Note Matthew 27:46; Romans 5:6-8; Philippians 2:5-8)

  14. During His time on Earth, how well known was Jesus?

  15. Tell what is meant by the statement: "Jesus was not recognized by many people as the DIVINE Son of God, because when He came to Earth Jesus stripped Himself of all of His divine prerogatives – save one, love."

  16. Why was it so amazing that the repentant thief – the companion of Jesus who was being crucified beside Jesus – would believe that Jesus was Lord and that Jesus had an unearthly Kingdom to which He was going?

  17. What evidence is there to make the contention that Jesus, in His resurrected form, bore in His resurrection body the marks of His humanity, and that He ascended to heaven where He continues forever to bear those marks of identification with the human race?

  18. Do you believe that when you meet Jesus in heaven some day, you will immediately identify Christ, among other ways, by the visible wounds on His resurrected body – wounds which He received when He was crucified for the sins of all people on Earth? Why or why not?

  19. Would it have been possible for an all-holy God to have saved a sinful race, without the Incarnation and the Death of Jesus? Why or why not?

  20. Following the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus, what heavenly activity did Jesus enter into, which activity He is still involved in? (Note Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 12:24; 1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:5)

  21. Share you personal reaction or response to the following statements: "In the Ascension of Jesus the manhood of Jesus was taken up into the heavenly

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    places, and, therefore, our manhood will also be so taken up. The Ascension is the proof that manhood is destined for heaven and not for the grave, that manhood is destined, not for dissolution but for glory."

When you consider the phenomenon of the Incarnation (God becoming a Human for 33 years), should not you be "lost in wonder, love, and praise?"

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How Should we Celebrate Christmas – Worship!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Worship'!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Worship'!

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CHAPTER 13

SUBJECT: "HOW SHOULD WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? 'WORSHIP'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-15; Matthew 2:9-11

TEXT: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:20)

"On coming to the house, they (the wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." (Matthew 2:l1 a)

INTRODUCTION: Jesus is worthy for many reasons. Because of who He is and because of what He can do! He is declared, in those several Christmas-related Scriptures, to be the Saviour, the Lord, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Reconciler, the Light of Hearts, the Source of Joy and Salvation.

PROPOSITION: As one considers the various responses of the various persons surrounding the Christ Child – the shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon, Anna-there is 'common denominator' in their response. All in their various ways responded in worship of the Babe of Bethlehem.

What was the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. The Basis of Worship – Recognition Of Jesus' Identity (Luke 2:10-14)

II. The Response of Worship – Surrender to Jesus' Person (Matthew 2:11)

A. Frankincense is the gift for a priest (Jesus is priest)

B. Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die (Jesus is Savior)

C. Gold is the gift for a king (Jesus is King)

III. The Goal of Worship – Glorifying and Praising God (Luke 2:20)

IV. The Benefits of Worship – Joy and Peace In The Worshiper's Soul (Luke 2:29-30; Luke 2:37-38)

CONCLUSION:

O	come let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
Christ the Lord! 

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Chapter 13

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Worship'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-15; Matthew 2:9-11

TEXT: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:20)

"On coming to the house, they (the wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." (Matthew 2:11 a)

INTRODUCTION: What does it mean to worship God? To worship God is to declare God's worth. The angel declared the worth of Jesus when he declared to the shepherds: "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) The kings from the East followed the star to Bethlehem, and they went into the house and saw the Christ Child before whom they bowed down and worshiped. They recognized Jesus as the 'King of the Jews' (Matthew 2:2, Matthew 2:11). Simeon recognized Jesus as God's instrument of salvation, God's light from heaven as a gift, not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles (Luke 2:29-32). To Anna, the elderly prophetess, Jesus was the One whom she and all of Israel had anticipated – the long-awaited-for Messiah (Luke 2:38).

Jesus is worthy for many reasons. Because of who He is and because of what He can do! He is declared, in those several Christmas-related Scriptures, to be the Saviour, the Lord, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Reconciler, the Light of Hearts, the Source of Joy and Salvation.

It was appropriate that the shepherds, and the Wise Men from the East, and Simeon and Anna should all respond in worship of the newborn babe – the Babe of Bethlehem.

How should we celebrate Christmas? Like the shepherds, we too should (1) Witness, (2) Wonder, (3) Worship.

"Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; 
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; 
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing; 
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, 
O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!" 

PROPOSITION: As one considers the various responses of the various persons surrounding the Christ Child – the shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon, Anna – there is a 'common denominator' in their response. All in their various ways responded in worship of the Babe of Bethlehem. From these worshipers, we may learn better the meaning of true worship.

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We must look at: (1) The Basis of Worship, (2) The Response of Worship, (3) The Goal of Worship, (4) The Benefits of Worship. What was the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. The Basis Of Worship – Recognition Of Jesus' Identity.

But the angels reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem! How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!" Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven." they sang, "and peace on earth for all those pleasing him." (Luke 2:10-14)

Someone rightly pointed out that all persons are incurably 'religious'. In other words, everyone everywhere worships someone or something. However, the object of one's worship determines the value of one's worship!

Why did the shepherds (in Luke 2:10-14) worship Jesus? Because God revealed to them, through the angels, that Jesus was unique and special and worthy of worship!

The basis of true worship is recognition of Jesus' identity. When people, like the shepherds, are shown who Jesus really is, they are instinctively drawn to Jesus and find themselves on their faces before Him.

The great Napoleon once said, "If Socrates would enter the room we should rise and do him honor. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him!" (Shoe-Leather Faith; No. 138).

Said the angel to the shepherds, "Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

Why is Jesus worthy of worship? Because He is the Savior, i.e., He came to seek and to save the lost! There is no one more worthy of praise and worship than Jesus, for Jesus gives hope for the despairing, life for the dying, forgiveness for the guilty, joy for the sorrowing, friendship for the lonely. He is everything that your soul ever hoped for – the Bread of life, the Water of life, the Way of life, the Truth of life!

Jesus said, "I have come not to condemn, but to save!" "I have come that ye might have life, and might have it more abundantly!" "I have come to seek and to save the lost!"

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In announcing the birth of Jesus to Joseph, the angel said to Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Why is Jesus worthy of worship? Because Jesus alone provides a means by which sinful men can become reconciled to God. After the one angel announced to the shepherds that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem, "a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:13-14)

It is not the condemnation of God that rests on mankind, but it is the peace and favor of God that rests on mankind! God is for, not against, the human race! It is not strict justice, but it is loving mercy, which God is ready to offer to a lost race of sinners!

Wrote William Tyndale (1494-1536),

"Now, do you see what this means? 
All men in jail to sin, 
All men wounded by death 
all men overcome by the devil, 
- all such men are, 
neither by merit nor 
because they deserve it, 
loosed! 
made right! 
restored to life! 
saved! 
given their freedom! 
brought into God's favor! 
put in harmony with God! 
All that is great news, 
and as many as believe it, 
sing, praise, and thank God - 
well! they just can't help but be glad, 
sing, dance for joy. 

II. The Response Of Worship – Surrender To Jesus' Person (Matthew 2:11)

"Entering the house where the baby and Mary his mother were, they threw themselves down before him, worshiping. Then they opened their presents and gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11)

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The essence of true worship is self-surrender, i.e., presentation of ourselves to God.

The wise men "bowed down and worshiped him." Each gift that was presented to Jesus, recognized the purpose of His mission, which in turn calls for a proper response to the Christ.

A. Frankincense is the gift for a priest (Jesus is Priest)

When a gift of frankincense was given to Jesus, this symbolically identified Jesus as a Priest. Priests of the Old Testament presided over the Temple sacrifices, and "it was in the Temple worship and at the Temple sacrifices that the sweet perfume of frankincense was used." (Barclay's Matthew, pg. 23)

It was the work of the Old Testament priests to act as representatives of God to man, and to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The Old Testament priesthood was imperfect and unable to remove the guilt of sin. "But in those (Old Testament) sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:3-4)

Christ came to be the Perfect High Priest, of which the gift of frankincense was but a symbol. "The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The Priest is the man who builds a bridge between man and God. That is what Jesus did. He opened the way to the presence of God; He made it possible for men to enter into the very presence of God." (Barclay's Matthew, pg. 23)

In the Old Testament the common man was barred from personal access to God. It was the High Priest's responsibility to intercede in behalf of the people. On the day of Atonement the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple where it was held that God's presence dwelt. Jesus, the Perfect High Priest, became a bridge to God by which man can personally encounter God. The veil of the Temple was rent in two, symbolizing man's personal access to God.

Frankincense is the gift for a Priest. Christ came to be the Perfect High Priest, of which the gift of frankincense was but a symbol. Jesus, the perfect High Priest, became a bridge to God by which man can personally encounter God. Christ, as 'Bridge-builder' (i.e., Priest) provides a means by which the sinner can have access to God. The great' gulf of sin' has been bridged by Christ. Wrote Paul, "This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he longs for all to be

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saved and to understand this truth: That God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together, by giving his life for all mankind." (1 Timothy 2:3-5, Living Bible)

Properly to respond to Christ, is to recognize Him as my Priest, and boldly (though humbly) to come to Christ to become reconciled to Almighty God. My sins no longer need bar me from God! I no longer need feel isolated, alone, and separated from God!

If Jesus is High Priest, how should I respond to Him? As a sinner, I should cross the bridge and reestablish that sweet fellowship with Jesus which sin destroyed. I should 'come home' to Jesus!

"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, 
Calling for you and for me; 
See, on the portals He's waiting and watching, 
Watching for you and for me. 
Come home, come home, 
Ye who are weary, come home; 
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, 
Calling, O sinner, come home!" 

As a believer, I can come boldly to the throne of grace, because of my High Priest!

B. Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die (Jesus is Saviour)

In the opening account of Matthew's Gospel, the purpose of Christ's coming is defined. "She (Mary) will bear a son, and you must call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21, Barclay) Jesus is both the Perfect High Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice for sin. "And if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a burnt heifer were, when sprinkled on the unholy, sufficient to make the body pure, then how much more will the blood of Christ himself, who in his eternal spirit offered himself to God as the perfect sacrifice, purify our souls from the deeds of death, that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:13-14) "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that comes unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25) "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12)

Christ died for the sins of the world. The gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's death. To stop with the Babe of Bethlehem, without considering the Christ of

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the Cross, is to miss the meaning of the Incarnation. Christ was born into the world to transform individuals, to make bad men good.

Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die. The gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's death, His Saviourhood.

Properly to respond to Christ means that I affirm the fact and accept the reality that Jesus has died for my sins. His death spells life for me! His suffering spells healing for me! He shed his blood in my place. This means that I cannot merit His forgiveness; I can only humbly receive it as a free gift of His grace. I am not worthy of the least of His favor, but He nevertheless accepts me and forgives me. Such love 'demands' that I give him the praise and worship of my total being!

"My sin - O the bliss of that glorious thought! 
My sin - not in part, but the whole, 
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 
It is well with my soul; 
It is well, it is well with my soul." 

C. Gold is the gift for a king (Jesus is King)

When a gift of gold was given to Jesus, this symbolically identified Jesus as a king, for gold is the gift for a king. The coming of a great king was a deep-seated expectation in the hearts of all Jews throughout the centuries, since the rule of David Tasker notes the spirit of anticipation that was maintained amidst the decline of Israel after David's reign. "The abuse of power led to the division of the kingdom, and so to its permanent weakening, rendering it more and more the prey of foreign powers. But often during the period of decline that followed the disruption, the Israelites looked wistfully back to the happy days of King David, and dreamed of the time when a king of David's descent would arise and establish the reign of God at Jerusalem, and manifest the sovereignty of God by bringing all other nations into subjection and bestowing great blessings upon His people." (The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels; pg. 63)

Jesus came to be King, but not the type of king that the Jews were anticipating. The Jews looked to Jesus as God's agent through whom the Jews would conquer all their enemies and enjoy an age of peace and prosperity. This expectation reached its height when the excited Jews shouted Hosanna to Christ as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Jews expected Jesus to soon fulfill their nationalistic dreams.

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Jesus, however, came not to be a conquering king over earthly kingdoms, but He came to be the King of men's lives. He came not to shatter the Romans, but He came to die on a cross in order that the Romans might be truly transformed, as well as all the Gentiles of the world. Christ came not to destroy, but to restore. He came not to hate, but to love. Christ came to destroy man's passion and pride and then set up his rule in man's heart.

Gold is the gift for a King. Jesus is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and as such, I must surrender my all to His kingship! I must look to Jesus as my king. Because He is my King, I must submit to His kingly reign! What is His reign? His reign is the reign of love. Therefore, to make room for King Jesus' reign in my life, is to make room for the King's love.

To make room for Jesus' love in your life means that you allow Jesus to cast out the 'demons' of hate and bitterness and resentment and jealousy.

Norman Vincent Peale tells of being invited to an old-fashioned prayer meeting and praise service. "The house was full of people. Many were sitting on the floor; some were on the stairs, even two on the grand piano. People were everywhere and all were singing old Gospel hymns – 'Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does his successive journeys run,' 'Just as I am', and many other familiar hymns. Then they prayed, holding hands as they did so. It was like an electric current flowing around the circle. Power was emanating from one to the other. Finally a man arose and walked across the floor with a slight limp. 'I had a very bad physical condition and was told I would never walk again.' he said.

'Well,' I commented, 'you're walking now. How did it happen?'

'Jesus did it', he replied.

"A beautiful woman came forward and told how she had been helped out of a street gutter in the city of Chicago, a drug addict, and sent to an institution where she received treatment. She found herself, kicked the habit, and was free at last. 'How did it happen?' I asked.

'Jesus did it' she replied.

"Then a couple stood up, arm in arm. 'You have no idea how we used to fight,' they said. 'We cursed and swore at each other. We hated each other and each of us tried to be the most devilish to the other. But now we are remarried and live happily in love and peace.

I asked,' And how did that happen?"

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'Jesus did it,' they answered." (Sermon: 'Defeat? No Way. The Word is Victory'; pg. 8, 9)

Have you made room for Jesus' kingly deliverance in your life? Have you allowed Jesus to deliver you from your personal hang-ups, from a foul temper, or from foul words, or from foul attitudes, of from foul habits? Remember, Jesus is King, and "He is able to deliver thee."

He is able to deliver thee, 
Though by sin oppressed, 
Go to Him for Rest; 
Our God is able to deliver thee." 

One man was 'making fun' of a new convert. Said the cynic to the new convert: "How do you explain the fact that Jesus turned water into wine?" Replied the new believer, "Whether Jesus turned water into wine, I do not know. But one thing I do know. When Jesus came into my heart and home, he changed my beer and wine into furniture!"

Jesus is King! Will you worship Him as your King? Will you submit to His kingly power, the kind of power that can transform your entire life? Paul was transformed! "I (Paul) used to believe that I ought to do many horrible things to the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. I imprisoned many of the saints in Jerusalem, as authorized by the High Priests; and when they were condemned to death, I cast my vote against them. I used to torture to try to make Christians everywhere curse Christ. I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities in foreign lands. I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when one day about noon, sir, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? You are only hurting yourself' 'Who are you, sir?' I asked. "And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now stand up! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. You are to tell the world about this experience and about the many other occasions when I shall appear to you. And I will protect you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles to open their eyes to their true condition so that they may repent and live in the light of God instead of in Satan's darkness, so that they may receive forgiveness for their sins and God's inheritance along with all people everywhere whose sins are cleansed away, who are set apart by faith in me." (Acts 26:9-18)

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III. The Goal Of Worship – Glorifying And Praising God.

"Then the shepherds went back again to their fields and flocks, praising God for the visit of the angels, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had told them." (Luke 2:20)

What is the goal of worship? Is it to solve our human problems? Is it simply to feel good? We need to have our human problems solved, and we all like to feel good, but the goal of worship is neither of these. The goal of worship is to focus on God, not on ourselves and not on our world's problems. "The Bible is filled with praise to Eternal God. The Psalms, hymn book of the Israelitish nation, and the burst of song which appears with almost calculated regularity throughout, characterize the Word of God. Why, then, the preoccupation with man, his problems, and his world? Even our modem devotions tend to be man-centered. Surely this is but one more symptom of what Archbishop William Temple called our self-centeredness which is our original sin'." (Alive To God Through Praise; Preface; Demaray)

The object of all true worship is God – His character and His purposes. "Glory to God in the highest" was the theme of the angelic choir on that historic night long ago. And it remains the theme of heaven's angelic choirs throughout eternity. "Day and night they (the heavenly hosts) never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.' Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.'" (Revelation 4:8-11)

IV. The Benefits Of Worship – Joy And Peace In The Worshiper's Soul!

"Lord," he said, "now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world." (Luke 2:29-30) "She never left the Temple but stayed the night and day, worshiping God by praying and often fasting. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph and she also began thanking God and telling everyone in Jerusalem who had been awaiting the coming of the Savior that the Messiah had finally arrived." (Luke 2:37-38)

The message which the angel announced to the shepherds was a message full of joy. Said the angel, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10) When the Wise Men "saw the star, they were overjoyed." (Matthew 2:10)

Can you sense the joy that the old man Simeon must have felt when he took the Christ child into his arms? Do you remember the account? "That day a man named Simeon,

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a Jerusalem resident, was in the Temple. He was a good man, very devout, filled with the Holy Spirit and constantly expecting the Messiah to come soon. For the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen him – God's anointed King. The Holy Spirit had impelled him to go to the Temple that day; and so when Mary and Joseph arrived to present the baby Jesus to the Lord in obedience to the law, Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God. 'Lord', he said, 'now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations and He will be the glory of your people Israel!

And think of the joy and contentment that Anna, the elderly prophetess, must have felt when she first saw the Christ child! Her response to the Christ Child is recorded in Luke 2:38. "Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."

Whenever people appropriately respond in worship to the Christ, there inevitably comes a sense of joy and fulfillment and contentment. In Christ's presence there is joy forevermore!

Worship should never be a drab or monotonous routine. Rather, worship should be filled with excitement and joy – "joy that is unspeakable and full of glory!"

After he came from his prayer closet, where he worshiped his blessed Lord, John Wesley's face often shone with a glow of joy. Someone said of him, "He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come out of his closet with a serenity of face next to shining." Moses too was a "man with a shining face". When he descended Mt. Sinai, where he had been a long time alone with God, his face was radiant with the glory of God – shining with such a brilliance that the Israelites put a veil over his face!

Notes William Barclay, "It must never be forgotten that joy is one of the commonest New Testament words."

"When Dr. Farmer, organist at Harrow, pleaded with the Salvationist drummer not to hit the drum so hard, the beaming bandsman replied: 'Lor' bless you, sir, since I've been converted, I's so happy, I could burst the blooming drum.'"

Notes Donald Demaray, "One of the doxologies of the Church contains the phrase, 'Him praise with mirth!' ….It was Mauree Johnson who told of the old mountaineer who said, 'When I give thanks it happifies my soul'" (Alive To God Through Praise; Preface) If you want joy – real joy -let Jesus come into your heart! If you want joy – real joy – make Jesus the object of your worship.

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Concerning his great happiness as a worshiper of the true and living God, John Wesley wrote the following:

As a Christian I am happy in a special kind of way, inexpressibly happy. 
Happy in what? In these clear and complete convictions: 
The God who is all-powerful, all-wise, all-gracious, governor over all, loves me! 
This God who is the lover of my soul is always with me, is never absent, no! Not for a moment. 
Well! Is it any wonder I love Him too. 
There is no one in heaven but God. There is no one on earth I desire but God! 
Something else: 
He has made me like Himself; He has stamped His image on my heart. 
Now then: 
I live for Him; I do only His will; I honor Him with my body and my spirit. 
Before long, I will die and go to Him, I will die in the arms of God. 
Then! 
Good bye to sin 
Good bye to pain 
Then! There is only one thing left - to live with Him for ever! 

(Quoted in "Alive To God Through Praise"; by Donald Demaray; pg. 100, 101)

CONCLUSION:

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, 
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem! 
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels! 
Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation, 
O	sing, all ye bright hosts of heaven above! 
Glory to God, all glory in the highest! 
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning, 
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; 
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing! 
O	come, let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
Christ the Lord! 

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The goal of worship is to praise and to glorify God. All persons or groups of persons surrounding the manger, find themselves praising and exalting in God and in the Good News which God revealed in Jesus Christ:

(a) The Angels - Luke 2:13-14 
(b) The Shepherds - Luke 2:20 
(c) Simeon - Luke 2:28 
(d) Anna - Luke 2:38 
(e) Wise Men - Matthew 2:11 

Jesus' worth is recognized when:

1. Like Anna, we are willing patiently to wait upon God to reveal the Christ to us (Luke 2:37-38).

2. Like the Wise Men, we are willing to search for the Christ (Matthew 2:9-10).

3. Like the Wise Men, we are willing to bow low before Christ to surrender ourselves to Christ (the most important gift we can give to Christ).

4. Like Simeon, we are able to understand and to experience the significance of Christ's universal salvation (Luke 2:28-32).

5. Like the Shepherds, we are eager to witness for Christ to others (Luke 2:17).

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CHAPTER 13

Questions

  1. What common response did the following make to Christ, when they first heard about the birth of Christ, or when they first saw Him? – ( a) The Angels – Luke 2:13-14; (b) The Shepherds – Luke 2:15-20, (c) Simeon and Anna – Luke 2:25-28, (d) Kings- Matthew 2:2, Luke 2:11.

  2. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "The basis of true worship is recognition of Jesus' identity. When people, like the shepherds, are shown who Jesus really is, they are instinctively drawn to Jesus and find themselves on their faces before Him."

  3. Because of what Christ accomplished when He came to earth, what attitude does God have towards mankind, according to Luke 2:13-14?

  4. According to Matthew 2:11, what is the essence of true worship?

  5. What significance is there in each of the gifts of the Wise Men – 'Frankincense', 'Myrrh', and 'Gold'?

  6. Because Christ is your 'Priest' – i.e., your 'Bridge-Builder' – what should be your response to Him? (1 Timothy 2:3-5)

  7. Why is it impossible for a person – a sinner – to earn, to purchase, or to deserve God's salvation?

  8. Why is it impossible for Jesus to be the King of your life while, at the same time, you nurse grudges against people or hold hate and bitterness and jealousy in your heart?

  9. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "We need to have our human problems solved, and we all like to feel good, but the goal of worship is neither of these. The goal of worship is to focus on God, not on ourselves and not on our world's problems." (Note Luke 2:11, Luke 2:13-14, Luke 2:20, Luke 2:28, Luke 2:38; Revelation 4:8-11)

  10. From your own personal experience, tell if you can attest to the truth of the following statements: "Whenever people appropriately respond in worship to the Christ, there inevitably comes a sense of joy and fulfillment and contentment. In Christ's presence there is joy forevermore!" (Note Luke 2:28-32, Luke 2:38; Matthew 2:10; Luke 2:10)

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