Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Incarnation: A Christmas Miracle

Title: The Incarnation: A Christmas Miracle
Theme: Christ becoming Flesh and what it means
Goal: To help believers understand Christ and the lost believe

Sometimes we hear or use the phrase, “The Miracle of Christmas.” Sometimes we see that phrase in the title of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Where some girl comes to town in December, meets a guy she doesn’t like and falls in love. Every. Time!     
Of course, we know that’s not the Christmas miracle!
In fact, there are many miracles associated with Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ!
Some have listed 7 Christmas miracles: Annunciation: Gabriel tells Mary; Conception: The Beginning of the Christ Child; The Explanation: Gabriel appears to Joseph; Incarnation: God takes on flesh (which is what incarnation means); The Declaration: Angels appear to Shepherds; The Agreement: Between The Father and the Son (Heb 10); The Visitation: The Wise men were led to Jesus, just as all who come to him are led to Him.
But really, the miracles don’t start with the Angel appearing to Mary! How about the Prophecies of the coming Messiah?
Those are miraculous, right?! 
Jeremiah said he would be the Lord our righteousness! A Righteous branch out of the house of David! (Jer 23:5-6)
Isaiah said the people who walk in darkness would see a great light! He will reign on the Throne of David, be called Prince of Peace and Almighty God! (Isa 9:2-7)
Micah said – and get this, he would be born in Bethlehem and yet his going forth is from eternity! And he will shepherd his flock and be Our Peace!
And again, Isaiah, tells us he will be born of a virgin and be called Immanuel – God with Us! (Isa 7:2)
We have heard these things so often we forget how amazing these things are! A Virgin would conceive!  HE will be God and yet born a man! He told us the Village! He told us some of his titles and ministries! And we didn’t even get to Isa 53 or Psalm 22 that tell of His sacrificial death!
But there’s one miracle I mentioned earlier, that I want to focus on. I’m going to wax a little “theological” but you can follow me, and you may already know this, at least I hope you do!
  Along with the Miraculous appearance of Jesus in Mary’s womb, something incredible was happening. The miracle of IMMANUEL! God With Us! God became flesh and dwelt among us! John said:1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  Have you wondered why Jesus wrestled with His death in the Garden when He knew He’d come to earth for this moment?
  How about when Jesus said, no man knows the time of His return except the Father? (Mt 24:36) I mean, He is God right?
  Ill) Last Sunday the Golden Heirs sang a Christmas Musical. It had some great songs, but one of them drove me a little crazy! It wasn’t a bad song, and it kinda folded into Away in a Manger which was really nice. But the song was called, are you ready?  It was called “Was he quiet or did he cry?”
  It's talking about the baby Jesus. Was he a quiet baby or did he sometimes cry? Now, that’s not a bad question. BUT! The song never answered that question!  Let me answer it.    Ready?
Jesus, as a baby, cried! HE had the brain of a baby!
Let’s go back a bit and approach this from the Bible.
NOW – I KNOW this question has been keeping you awake at night! But the reason behind my answer is part of the Christmas Miracle and it really does matter!  And I’ll show you why!
   First, Jesus is not just a man, and he is not just God. HE is the God/man! There is no other person like him in the universe!
These Old Testament prophecies talked about how a man would be born who is from eternity! But only God is eternal! He is “God With Us.”
   But the OT doesn’t explain much about what that means. Jewish scholars actually wondered if there would be two messiahs! One human and one Divine. And the fact Jesus was both was difficult for them to wrap their brains around.
  Then, in the year 451, there was an important Church Council. The Council of Chalcedon. Now the early church held several councils and each time they addressed false teachings that were going around.
In those days some said that Jesus was just a man that God Adopted. Others said no, he is God and he just appeared to be a man; he just “seemed” to die on the cross! Still, others said, No, he is the God/man, but he has one nature, it is both human and divine. But that idea led to other problems like, why did he sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane or say he didn’t know when He was coming back? They would have us believe that Jesus had a divine human nature or a humanly divine nature. But Then, how could He DIE? God can’t die!
  So, the Council met and discussed the scriptures. Remember, by 451 the New Testament was fully formed and they had the same scriptures we do! So, what do you do with verses showing both Jesus’ human nature and His Divine nature?
Listen as I read just a few short verses. (Col 2:9, Heb 1:3, 4:15)

Col 2:9 (NKJV) “For in Him (Jesus the man) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;”

Heb 1:3 (NKJV) Speaking of Jesus: “Who being the brightness of His glory (God the Father) and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
Heb 4:15 (NKJV)"For we do not have a High Priest (Jesus) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." 

  The Council came up with a formula that we use to this day. In part of their long document, they said this: Jesus is truly man and truly God. We sometimes say “Fully” God and man, or “100” God and man. But “TRULY” expresses the two natures of Christ.
   But, his two natures are neither Mixed together nor are they divided. They don’t trade their attributes. The Divine nature isn’t a little bit human. The human nature isn’t a tiny bit divine. Jesus Christ’s human nature had a beginning. His Divine nature is eternal. The human nature of Christ could cry over the death of Lazarus and the grieving family, but His Divine nature would soon raise Lazarus from the dead!
  His Human nature looked on the coming crucifixion and receiving His Father’s wrath with great tribulation of the soul! But the Divine Son of God had already, in eternity past, said Yes to His Father. Heb 10:5…when Christ came into the world, he
said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God…”
Within Our Lord Jesus Christ, there is the Miracle of Two complete natures. His human nature knows exactly what it means to be tempted and His divine nature gives us the power to resist!

His human nature knows what it means to grieve! His divine nature is the God of all Comfort!
His Human nature Wept! His human nature sweat drops of blood. He was tired and hungry and weak and beaten and suffered and DIED!
His divine nature was consistently perfect, loving, and NEVER died. Don’t look at the cross and say that’s where God died! God never died! Jesus, our redeemer, died! Jesus the man died. Jesus Paid our debt. Took our place. Bought our forgiveness and Secured YOUR SALVATION For All Eternity!
We have this Great High Priest! Who understands us because He walked with us and experienced us!
THAT is the Miracle of Christmas. The WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US…


Have you experienced the Glory of Christ? You can.
In your heart, Fall on your face before the Lord Jesus Christ. Confess your sins, receive His forgiveness, repent from living life your way, and follow Jesus forever!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Lost First Love Church

: To call believers to see where they strayed and return

Text: Rev 2:1-7
Rev 2:1  "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 
Rev 2:2  "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 
Rev 2:3  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 
Rev 2:4  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 
Rev 2:5  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 
Rev 2:6  Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 
Rev 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.' 

When we talk about Revelation we often think of graphic symbolism and predictions of the future. But we forget this book starts out with 7 short letters to 7 churches. These are more like Postcards! Postcards from Heaven! They’re brief, personal and Urgent! In fact, the urgency part is a bit unnerving, because Jesus says things like, “Repent or I’ll take away your lampstand!” And even if we aren’t sure what the lampstand is, it sounds pretty serious!
We are going to spend 7 messages with these postcards. My hope is God will speak to you and me, through these passages, and bring us home!   Now you might think you're already home. And to a large degree, you might be. But let me ask, Is your life as fruitful for Jesus as you would like it to be? Are you as courageous in the Lord as you ought to be? Is any area of your life in rebellion to the Lord? Are you afraid to take a risk for Jesus? If so, open your hearts to these passages in the weeks ahead. Ask God to speak to you, to draw you to himself.
   Acts 19 is the record of Paul ministering in Ephesus. But its believed John also ministered there both before and after he wrote this book. Ephesus was among the largest cities of Asia Minor, about 50,000 around this time, and a famous center for idolatry!
In V1 Jesus is the one who holds the 7 starts and walks among the 7 lampstands. What is that about? See Rev 1:20 As for the mystery of the 7 stars you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.     
What are the 7 stars? Angels? Well the word means messenger. I think it’s fairly safe to say these are the pastors or individual messengers that John sent with each message. But I favor the pastors of the churches. And what are the lampstands? Remember, there was a lampstand in the temple. That was the only source of light in the temple, it was made with pure gold and filled with oil. Oil was the fuel of the 7 flames on the lampstand. That’s some profound symbolism when we remember, oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. So, what is the lampstand? I believe it is the life and light giving Spirit of God in the churches. And notice Jesus is walking among these lampstands and churches. He is with them, He knows what is going on.
V2 He says, I know you works, your toil and your endurance. He knows not only the work we do but the pains we take and how we suffer in our work for Him. That’s what He means by toil. And they have endured – they continued working when it was hard.
     He said they didn’t put up with evil. They even tested self-appointed apostles and found them to be false. They understood what the Bible taught about good and evil and sound doctrine. They didn’t put up with false teachers! In those days there were men going around trying to trick churches into false doctrine. Things like Gentiles need to become Jews to be Christians. Or Jesus wasn’t really God in the flesh. Or the God of the Old Testament was bad but Jesus was good. On and on. And the church called these things heresy, And Jesus said, Good!
In V3 He mentions again their patience and endurance and how they “bore up” or held up under stress. This is a good sign of being a true believer.
Ill) I remember reading of two missionaries who brought the gospel to some folks in Indonesia. They were ladies who went there as Bible translators. As they worked there for years some finally left their tribal religion and trusted in Jesus Christ. This made the local witch-doctor pretty angry and he was put curses on them. One of the young women who became a Christian lost her baby just after it was born and everybody said it was the power of the shaman. So there was this fear in the village that following Jesus would cause your babies to die. When the young missionaries heard and rushed to see the young mother who lost her baby they were prepared for the worst. How are we going to convince her that our God is a God of love, and more powerful than the shaman.? When they got there, they found her grieving but she said, shall I receive good from Him and not accept the bad also? And the other believers were all encouraged and even more women came to know Christ.
  Perseverance in trouble is a testimony of true believers!
BUT! Don’t you just hate it when someone is singing your praises but you know there is a “But” coming. “You did a great job!!  BUT – you missed this part, do it over.” Or, when a girl is letting the guy down easy, “I really like you a lot – BUT – can we just be friends?”
Well Jesus says But – and remember He walks among the candlesticks – he knows each church – and He says -V4But I have this against you – You have abandoned your first love!
This is a powerful accusation. And you know its true because Jesus said it! And of all things to have lost, Love is the Hallmark of the Gospel
For God so LOVED He sent! 
Herein is LOVE, not that we loved Him but He loved us! 
By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have LOVE for one another! 
LOVE is important! Its appears over 200 X in the NT!
 What does Left your first love, mean? Well, who is our first love as believers? Isn’t it the one who took our place? Who paid our debt? We have no Genuine Love – no Godly Love – until Jesus comes and rescues us! 
But what can you do about it? 
How do you just start loving again? 
How do you get that back?
1.      V5 Remember. Here is where I start the alliteration. I have 4 “R’s” for you. The first is Remember! V5 Remember from where you have fallen. Can you remember?
Can you remember a time when you loved Jesus more? Is it hard to say the words “I love Jesus” or “I love God”? Can you remember a time when the Grace and Mercy of God was so precious to you? HOW do you go back there? Or how do I get there if I have never really been there?
Ill) For years, I had a hard time singing “I love you Lord and I lift my voice ...” Even though I was grateful and loved the Lord for what He did, I knew my love was nothing compared with His love for me! But one day I accepted that He knew that I knew that! I was able to say ‘I love you.’ Because I knew that while my love was far from perfect, it was a love He had planted in my heart! But lets face it, we don’t always continue in the realization of His love for us and ours for Him!      SO – What do we do?
2.      REPENT. What does this mean? It means think differently. Change the direction of our thinking! After you Remember, Go back to that way of Thinking! But we have to be intentional about it. I saw a great quote the other day – "Nobody ever drifts into Holiness!" You don’t Repent by accident. You don’t keep repenting, everyday, several times a day, without Intentionality! Keep Remembering and Keep going back to that time when you were so thankful for His Grace!
3.      RETURN! Go Back to the First Works! This doesn’t mean, Work harder, or Serve the Lord More! No it means go back to what you did before you started to work for Him.
Remember – He just praised their hard work and faithfulness! They were working. Maybe they weren’t doing everything right but they were working. No, he said do the “First” works. What are those? Pray harder? Sing louder?
   Look at the History of the Ephesian church. Read Acts 19:18:

V.18 many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. 

Among other things they did when they first believed is they put away their idols! Now I don’t think any of you have little idols set up in your house – if so – that’s got to go!  I am really surprised that some Christians STILL follow horoscopes! That’s an idol. I’m surprised how many people get their beliefs from bumper stickers and the internet! We need to get away from catchy phrases and believe God’s Word! We need to get our principles from the Bible! If you follow worldly wisdom and Facebook more than the Bible you’re doing it wrong!
We need to put away things we worship. How about our comfort zones? Are you willing to give those to God and burn them in a bonfire? That’s Hard, right? You bet it is.           
But, Before you ever started “Working” for Jesus, look back and see if you didn’t have a heart for Jesus. And you realized, NOTHING – NOTHING – compares with the Love of Christ.
4.       One more R in this passage. (V5). REMOVE. Now this is not Removing our salvation or Jesus leaving us. But it has to do with the Question, Why does Jesus need a church that has left their Love for Christ? Does that do the Kingdom any good? When he removes a lampstand, there are other churches to carry on.

Will you Remember, Repent and Return To Jesus as your King of Kings today?

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!