Saturday, December 24, 2016

Reason for the Season: Why Angels? Why Shepherds?

"Fear not, I have Good News." 

Luke 2:1-2

I know the phrase “The Reason for the Season” is pretty overdone. But "The Point of Jesus’ Coming" didn’t sound as catchy. And there are not too many words that rhyme with point! It’s kinda like the word Phoenix, hard to rhyme! There’s point, joint and anoint and that’s it! So, "Reason for the Season." (No, I never considered using "The Point the Anointed One came to this Joint")
     Now I’m not talking about the Season of Santa Claus, or the season of shopping, or even the season of holidays and food and family and Football! Even though ALL of those are better than the "Season of Politics" we just came thru! The Season I am talking about is remembering the Coming of the Son of God to earth!
    Why is that a Big Thing? Why do we celebrate the Birth of this man 2000 years later? There have been other great men and women, we don’t tend to celebrate their births, do we? Abraham Lincoln: We celebrate the Gettysburg address or the Emancipation Proclamation, but not his birth. Certainly, not his death! Madame Curie: Great Scientist! Nobody celebrates her birth! OK, we do celebrate Washington’s birthday with a holiday but it’s not like he gets fireworks and songs! All he gets is President’s Day Sales!
     Bible Study is kind of like being a detective. It’s asking the right kind of questions. There are many things we could ask about the message the angels had that day. But I want to start with two simple questions: 
Why was it announced by Angels?
And why was it announced to Shepherds?
I understand God sending a messenger to Mary! She was going to have a baby and she was a young virgin! And Joseph! He was engaged to her and this was a shock! But Shepherds?
     Luke 2:8 And in the same region there 
     were shepherds out in the field, keeping 
     watch over their flock by night. 

In the same region, near where Jesus was born, near Bethlehem, were shepherds. It doesn’t say how many, how old, or how Godly they are, just ‘shepherds.’
Now, if God had a PR man he might have suggested a different group. “Let’s announce it to the Governor.” Or to Congress! They couldn’t put it on TV, but how about sending an angel to Ceasar? Nope. God told shepherds.
You may remember that shepherds were near the bottom of society in those days. They couldn’t even testify in a trial because a) they weren’t trusted and b) they weren’t considered smart enough! 
But how did God want us to picture Him? David said, The Lord-is-my-Shepherd! Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
   What if somebody was running for president and announced, “I am the Good Used Car salesman!” People would laugh. I know I pick on used car dealers, but I have known a couple good Christian men who sold used cars. Great guys! Honest guys! But that’s not the reputation they have! Same with Shepherds!
But that’s who God chose to make his first public announcement to. God is not worried about PR. God loves the world. Especially the ones no one else cares about. God was targeting a certain group with his Angelic advertising! Who did He target? Listen to these verses: First a prophecy about Jesus:     
     Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD
     is upon me, because the LORD has 
     anointed me to bring good news to 
     the poor; he has sent me to bind up 
     the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty 
     to the captives, and the opening of the 
     prison to those who are bound;
Luke 1:52 (Mary said) 
     He has brought down the mighty 
     from their thrones and exalted 
     those of humble estate; 53 he has 
     filled the hungry with good things, 
     and the rich he has sent away empty.
1Co 1:26 
     For consider your calling, brothers: 
     not many of you were wise according 
     to worldly standards, not many 
     powerful, not many of noble birth. 
     27 But God chose what is foolish 
     in the world to shame the wise; 
     God chose what is weak …to shame 
     the strong; 28 God chose what is 
     low and despised in the world… 
     29 so that no human being might 
     boast in the presence of God.
WHY Shepherds? Not because they were great and special. Because God values people over position.
Because God doesn’t value people the way the world does.
God took Moses from being a Prince and made him a shepherd before he used him to deliver Israel from bondage! In God’s estimation, shepherds have a noble duty. That’s why Jesus called Himself a good shepherd. Think about it!
They were out in their fields with the sheep. Not at home, under a roof, in a comfy bed.
“Watching over” means they put themselves between the sheep and dangerous predators.
They lived with the sheep, led them to water and green pastures, they didn’t just give them orders to follow!
Likewise, Jesus left the comfort and glory of heaven, to come down to be with us, here on earth.
Jesus was lifted up on a cross to put himself between us and dangerous predator who would take us to Hell with himself.
Jesus comes to walk with us, and live in us, not just give us rules to follow! He became sin that we might become the Holiness of God! God elevated the shepherds! Jesus became the Shepherd!
    And notice, he didn’t say, "now go to Bethlehem and find the baby!" No, these shepherds did that on their own. I think these  shepherds took the promises of a Messiah, seriously. There were many in Israel who did!

But then, why the Angels?
God uses his angels as messengers. When he drove Adam and eve from Eden he put a messenger at the gate to remind them they were no longer welcome! Angels appeared to Abraham and Jacob and Joshua. In Deut 33 we learn that when God brought the law it was with 10,000 of His angels. In fact, in the Jewish mind, it was angels who delivered the law of God. Well the law was the Old Testament, or covenant. God is about to put in place a New Covenant. Angels are still His messengers!
But notice something here in Luke 2:9 an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
The angel didn’t come alone. He didn’t come incognito. The Bible says angels can appear without us noticing them. That’s not the case here! He came with the Glory of the Lord.
Listen, until that last year before the birth of Jesus, The Glory of the Lord hadn’t been seen on earth for almost a thousand years! Joseph and Mary may have glimpsed it. The shepherds saw it in a big way! But the last time was the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when God’s glory came down! There may have been an occasion a couple hundred years later when Elijah’s sacrifice was burned up by fire that came down from Heaven. But it had been a long, long time!
The glory of God was with Adam and Eve in the garden before they sinned. Moses saw it in the burning bush. The Israelites saw it in the pillar of fire that led them out of bondage. They saw it come down on the tabernacle in the wilderness.
But the Glory of the Lord had just become a legend. Here, however, the shepherds saw it when the angel appeared!  God was doing something brand new!
Later, Jesus took 3 disciples up a hill and was transfigured before them. The Glory of the Lord burst out of the Man Christ Jesus. Hebrews explains why. Jesus was the "outshining of the Glory of God.” Paul wrote that Jesus is the Image of the invisible God. Before Jesus, God appeared as light and fire, not primarily with a human body. He is the invisible God. But God is doing something new! He is sending His Only Begotten, His One and Only, the 2nd person of the Eternal trinity in Heaven; Jesus the Christ, the God/man. And on that day was born a baby in Bethlehem, with the fullness of the glorious Glory of God bottled up inside of Him.
God came down! Oh what a Thought!
God Himself, in Human flesh was wrought.
Born of a virgin, this God most high!
In an unknown stable,
Our Holy God came nigh! 
Our God came down.
Our God came down. Our God came down!
When you are giving presents this Christmas, remember the greatest gift of all! Given for you! When you open a Christmas Card, think of the gift inside those swaddling clothes!
If you don’t know Jesus – He paid for your sins 2000 years ago – Today is the day to trust Him!

Reason for the Season Part II

Who is this Baby and What is a Savior?
 Luke 2:1-11
What does the World think of Jesus? More specifically what does the world, that lives in the USA, think of Jesus?
Just last year a study was done by the Barna group showing that over 90% of Americans believe Jesus was a real person.[i]

That’s nice. But, with each generation it’s a little bit less. The youngest generation tested, the Millennials, about 35 and under, only 87% think he was real. Who knows how low that will go in the next generation, those who are just children right now.
But even though that’s a pretty high number, less than 60% (56) believe Jesus is God or divine. Guess where the millennials stand. Less than 50%! Now if Jesus isn’t God, our faith is as pointless as if he didn’t exist at all!
But even though slightly over 50% of all America thinks he is god, LESS than 50% think he was sinless! In other words, most people think Jesus sinned like everyone else! There is one lie from the devil that has really taken hold in our culture! If Jesus sinned, he could not be our sacrifice or our savior.

But in spite of that low number – When asked if they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affected their lives – are you ready? – 62% said yes! Some of these people don’t even think Jesus is God, or know he was sinless! It’s hard to believe 62% of the USA is truly saved.
There are people all over the USA today, sitting in churches this morning, who think they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, but He never made a commitment to them!
   But one final point. Among those who say they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ - people who say they’re Christians - how many believe they will go to heaven because they confessed their sins to Christ, believed in and accepted Him as their savior? 63%. Basically 2 out of three. Not 2/3 Americans, but 2/3 of those who say they believe in Jesus.
Over 30% of people who claim they believe in Christ, who say they made a
commitment to Him – don’t understand HOW to be saved!
20% say its because they tried to keep the 10 commandments or because they were basically good, OR because God loves everybody and won’t let anyone go to Hell!
IN one sense this is Good news, It means there are lots of folks who need to hear the gospel! But its also bad news. After 300 years of gospel preaching in America only 60% call themselves Christian and 2/3rds of those don’t even know how to be saved!
     I bring you good news of great joy
     that will be for all the people. For
     unto you is born this day in the
     city of David a Savior
WHAT IS A SAVIOR? Have any of you noticed a drop off in the use of the word “saved?” I have. I even feel funny using it just because I’m not sure people know what it means. But it’s a good word. We could replace it with rescued or delivered. But delivered makes many think about babies, boxes, and mail. Rescued is good because it implies a sense of danger or trouble or even death! But I think we need to keep the word “Saved” alive! Or else nobody will know why Jesus is a Savior!
A lifeguard rescues people from drowning. He SAVES them. People still know the meaning of saved in that context. It happened to me once. When I was about 12 I was swimming the rapids in my hometown of New Braunfels, Texas. I felt the tug of a whirlpool and just before I went under I yelled "help." Now these are pretty weak whirlpools in the Comal river and with one kick I was back above the water. Just in time to me hit smack in the face by an inner tube. Which stung, but I was glad to have it to grab on to. That lifeguard (I think his name was Max) was my savior that day. (Well, kinda, I wasn't really going to drown but he didn't know that.)
   Jesus came, as a Savior because God had already planned to save people. People who really needed saving! If you are saved today let me tell you something amazing. Before Jesus ever came, God knew, from before the foundation of the world, that Jesus would save you. Your eternal life would be guaranteed when His only begotten Son took your place on the cross! Jesus came as a Savior!
BUT SAVED FROM WHAT? That’s a good question.
Some think we need to be saved from our unfulfillment or our terrible life situation.[ii]
A)  Sometimes when we talk about our salvation we talk about how our life wasn’t complete. Maybe our marriage wasn’t too great till Jesus came along. Or we didn’t have the career we hoped for. Our kids didn’t turn out how we liked or we didn’t have the kinda of life we hoped for. We look at vacation brochures for skiing the alps but all we get is 3 nights in Oklahoma City! Now that might make most people turn to Jesus!
But we can give off the idea that Jesus came to deliver you from a bad marriage, or give us a better career. Or at least help you like the crummy career you got! Sometimes the idea we give people is Jesus came to help out our lot in life. With Jesus I drive a Lincoln, ski in Colorado, get promotions at work and my kid goes to Harvard!
B)    Sometimes we give people the impression that Jesus came to deliver us from bad habits or addictions. We treat Jesus as if he’s the “Higher Power” that some people in AA use as a "hook in heaven" to help them pull themselves up. Maybe its drugs or alcohol or even sexual sin. Maybe you had a bad temper, were a serial glutton or a serial murderer until Jesus came.
    Now these things I mentioned are certainly within the power of the gospel. Knowing Jesus can give you a new outlook on life. It can make you the kind of loving caring person who might get that promotion at work, or have a better marriage or raise better kids.
   The gospel – the good news of Jesus - can give you power over drugs and alcohol. It can deliver you from a wicked temper or the power of lust. But is that ALL Jesus came for?

     Further, what about those people who do feel fulfilled? They have a nice house and car, vacations galore. Their kids are doing great. They aren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol. Do they not need Jesus? There are millions of people in the world who get up every day, work in the fields, live in a hut, and marry their kids off to the neighboring village, who are content to do just that. They can’t imagine anything else! Don’t They Need the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
C)    Luk 2:10 And the angel said to them, 

     "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good 
     news of great joy that will be for all the 
     people. 11 For unto you is born this day 
     in the city of David a Savior. 
Saved from what? In the Matthew story of Jesus’ birth-
an angel – maybe the same angel here – appears to Joseph and says, 

     1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall 
     call his name Jesus, for he will save 
    his people from their sins. From Their Sins!
That’s what we are saved from. May not be as exciting as getting off drugs, or being fulfilled in their careers or helping them have perfect kids. It’s not a fulfilling as finding your purpose in life!   But salvation from sin is what God provides! 

For one thing, its universal. Everyone has a sin problem. 
Not everybody "needs" purpose or a better life!
  Why would God save us from our sins? Because that is the only way we can be right with Him! When you realize it’s not just about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is GREAT! But God will deliver you from the Penalty of sin, the hell created for the devil. He delivers you from the power of sin, which includes deliverance from addiction, and every sin that damages our relationship with Him! He also delivers from the Presence of sin. Jesus saves you from your sin that you might dwell in the House of the Lord forever!
The church needs to get back to telling the world what Jesus really came to do! Not to be your best friend, but to be your savior. Not to manage your career but to remove you from your sins. Not to help you stand head and shoulders above other men but to fall to your knees at the feet of Jesus!
You know the angels didn’t even tell the shepherds the baby’s name. They said you’ll find him in a manger, a feed trough. But they found him and his name was savior, not just his title. Because Jesus means the Salvation of Jehovah. The Savior sent by God.
That’s the Good News! God sent his Son to save us from the thing we try to deny we need saving from. We don’t like to admit we are sinners. But we are and God has a remedy!
A Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
This is what makes us truly understand the love of God. Not so much the things that Jesus does for us to help have happy lives. But the fact that He saved us from our sins.

[ii] Borrowed partially from John MacArthur.

Reason for the season Part III

He is Christ the Lord, A foundational truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This is part 3 of my creatively titled series, "The Reason for the Season." 

We’ve been looking closely at this passage announcing the birth of Jesus. We talked about Why Angels and Why Shepherds? Many don’t realise, the law was given to Moses by God but it was delivered with ten-thousands of angels. Deut. 33 tells us that as well as the books of Acts and Galatians. Well, here, one angel delivers the news but he is joined very possibly by ten-thousands of angels! But too my knowledge, this is the only time, after the birth of Christ, that angels announce Jesus. You see, that’s up to humans now. God has made it His Plan A, that people will tell other people about Jesus. Or as Paul put it, “How shall they hear without a preacher?”
And Why shepherds? The lowest group in society, they were dirty, smelly, caretakers of the dumbest of animals. But God designed his Gospel for the poor and the outcasts. In fact there is a very real sense in which the gospel brings all people very low before it lifts them up.
Then we looked at the first great statement the angel made, 
     Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city
      of David a Savior.
A Savior! Jesus did not come to take away all your troubles. Hate to break it to you. He even told us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jesus came to save us from our sins! He took our sins upon Him that we might be made holy before God. He didn’t come to make us prosperous or popular or pretty. He came to save us from our sins! He told the shepherds what he already told Joseph in 
     Mat 1:21, She will bear a son, and you shall call 
     his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 

But then the angel enlarges the description. The rest of v11 says, 
     a Savior, who is Christ the Lord

Savior, Christ and Lord. Terms we throw around in church but what do they mean? We looked at Savior so let’s look at Christ!
This is the Greek word for Messiah. It means the anointed one.
Well generally speaking there were three classes of people who were anointed. Know who they were? Prophets, Priests and Kings.[1] Which one was Jesus? 
As a prophet, Jesus spoke the Word of God, in Fact He was the Word of God in the Flesh! He communicated the will of God to us. As well as His love and all of His attributes! Just as words communicate ideas, Jesus communicated God to us - He is God.
Jesus the Priest was our go-between with God! He became a man, dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, took our sins and paid for them with His blood. And the Bible suggests that the very blood of Christ was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies in the heavens. The blood that washed away our sins!

Jesus our King – Our King – rules and reigns over the universe AND over our hearts and lives. Remember when the wise men came looking for a King who was born? They came to Herod,who was a governor, so Herod asked his scholars about this. They told him what Malachi had prophesied, the messiah, who would reign, would be born in Bethlehem. These wise men had a better idea of who Jesus was meant to be than many in Israel! He is a King!
Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, the Word of God, the High Priest and the King of Kings!
And the Lord of Lords! That’s the other thing the angels said.

What is a Lord? Simply it is one with authority, a master or boss. It is used of masters of slaves as well as emperors. But here’s the thing, the disciple began to call Him Lord early on. They owned Him as their master and teacher and ruler. And that’s the bottom line isn’t it? Jesus is King of Kings but there will be those who rebel against the King to the death! They won't bow the knee until they are banished from His presence.That doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t King! But will He be your King? Will He be your Lord?

I want to show you something interesting. Who did the Angel says this Good news was for?

      “For I bring YOU good news of great joy...
      “For unto YOU is born this day…”  
There is a great personal, individual announcement going on here. YOU! For YOU is born a Savior! This is the narrowest part of the announcement! It comes for you! Each Shepherd was told the Savior came for them!
But the angel adds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” This makes the announcement much widerr, but, not as big as you might think. When God speaks about “The People” He invariably is talking about His people, Israel! But that is still a lot more than just you!
Think about it, where did Jesus spend his whole life? In Israel. Except for an early childhood in Egypt and the occasional sidetrip to a neighboring country. Jesus came for Israel! And did they receive Him? Or did they say “Crucify Him”?

But GOD makes this even larger. Is it good news for me and you? Its good news for Israel! Its good news for a few shepherds. But, I’m just a tiny fraction of being Jewish, so I’m probably 99% gentile! What about me and you?
Later in this same chapter (V28), the Bible says a man named Simeon was “in the Spirit” and when he saw the baby Jesus, v28 says,
     “he took him up in his arms and blessed God 
      and said, 29 "Lord, now you are letting your 
      servant depart in peace, according to your word; 
      30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that 
      you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 
      32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for 
      glory to your people Israel." 

Jesus is a Light for the Gentiles!
When I was a boy we sang the hymn Jesus Included MeAs a child I didn’t get it. As a teenager I didn’t get it.
Then one day He became a light to this gentile. And I got it. He is My Savior, He is my Messiah, and He is My Lord!
He’s the boss of me! I don’t always act like it I know!
But He is. 
And I’m more than willing for Him to be my Lord, Supremely Because He Is My Savior!
Is He yours?

[1] Smith’s Bible Dictionary