Here He Comes – Patiently Prepare

Here He Comes – Patiently Prepare

Here He Comes Patiently Prepare

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CHAPTER 6

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

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:22-38

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

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

I. Why Is Waiting So Difficult For Us?

A. Because we are basically impatient.

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

II. Why Is Waiting So Important?

A. Because God has His own timetable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Why Is Waiting So Difficult For Us?

A. Because we are basically impatient

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Me Down, Lord

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

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

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

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

II. Why Is Waiting So Important?

A. Because God Has His Own Timetable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here He Comes – Patiently Prepare

Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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