Monthly Archives: December 2010

Christmas is “Good News”

Christmas is “Good News.”

Luke 2:10-13 – 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Jesus came into the world to bring good news to all mankind. The good news banishes fear and gives everlasting peace by way of Salvation and not a part from it.

This word for Good News was EUONGELION. When the men of the village were off in battle the warriors would often send messengers back home to share news with the village. Most often the news was “good news” as they had a desire to keep the morale and the hopes of the people alive and fresh. In many cases the messenger would bring news that victory had been won over their enemies or the messenger would proclaim the death of an opponent.

Some historians say that the Jews would greet each other with the phrase “Have you heard any EUONGALION?” You see they longed for a Messiah, one who would save them. In them was this longing to see the coming Messiah.

That is why the words that the angel Gabriel brought to the shepherds that day was so important. Gabriel came as a messenger to proclaim the Good News that victory had been won and that peace was coming to the world. Victory would be won and peace would come through the birth of the baby Jesus would be their Messiah.

While the God News brings so much into the life of the believer please note two important results of the Good News:

  • It banishes fear – fear not
  • It gives everlasting peace – peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased.

God has created us in such a way that fear is a wake-up call. It arouses awareness of danger; it puts us on high alert. Yet it can also do just the opposite, overwhelming us and diminishing our alertness. Neuroscience links fear to the amygdala in the lower, primitive brain. This small structure scouts for trouble and in detecting it, sounds an alarm and jerks multiple neural cords. As it reacts quickly to the threat, it ignores fine distinctions and uses generalizations. Its strength is rapid processing, and its weakness is lack of precision. With extreme fear, noradrenaline flushes through the body, initially producing intense vigilance, but then flooding the brain and riveting attention on the object of fear. Now the fearful person can hardly shift attention elsewhere. Tunnel vision occurs. Fear takes over, overwhelming the imaginative capacities and advanced reasoning. The fearful one becomes locked into the present and loses the ability to envision something other than what is now threatening. Reality is pruned to the senses, to the synapses mediating fear, to the paralyzing moment.

But Christ comes as the Good News to banish fear. The angels said fear not. How often are we gripped with fear and other such emotions that tend to deter us from living out life as we ought to?

Fear has been a part of mankind’s psychic seen the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. But in reality nothing has changed today! People are still caught in the grip of their fears, and this is even true during the Christmas Season, a time that should be joyous, happy and totally Christ-centered. We fear not having enough money, of not meeting everyone’s expectations; we worry over meals, over who will be there and who will not. We just seem to fear everything.

But Jesus came to banish fear, e.g. that unhealthy fear that binds us and prevents us from enjoying life.

Three times in the Christmas story Jesus spoke the words, “Fear not.”

  • Mary – Luke 1:30 – Do not be afraid – This spoke to the fear of God’s providence and what He is working out in us. Mary could have been afraid of what people would think of her and she could have been afraid of rejection which often occurred in that time when one conceived a baby out of wedlock.
  • Joseph – Matthew 1:20 – Do not fear to take Mary as your wife – This spoke to the fear of immediate obedience. Joseph was called on by God to accept this assignment of being the father of Jesus. While he had every right to leave Mary and refuse to marry her, He did the right thing.
  • The shepherds – Do not fear God’s presentation and call – These men were the outcasts of the land. The shepherds performed the lowest of duties and responsibilities. God came to the lowest so that there is a recognition that all can come to Christ.

The Good News gives everlasting peacepeace on earth among those with whom he is pleased. This is a peace that cannot be manufacturer but it must be received as a gift from God. This peace is not an absence of problems or difficulties but it is the recognition that God is present regardless of the problem.

Illustration of Peace – Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner. The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.  A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil. 

This painting won as it illustrates the fact that peace is not the absence of turmoil but the recognition that God is there.

The scriptures themselves echo this message when in Isaiah 26:3 states that you (God) keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. This peace is beyond human understanding, as we keep our minds stayed on Jesus and our eyes fixed on Him. Such peace is in a heart that is trouble free and unafraid regardless how difficult the trials and circumstances of life may be.

The fact is no matter the trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger you face, by the power of His Spirit living in you, you can continue to abide in His peace. You can face death, persecutions, the darts of Satan, present difficulties, and future uncertainties confident of His abiding presence and sustaining grace.

Philippians 4:5B-7 The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Are you afraid today? Do you lack peace? Pray and ask God to touch your life and bring you to a place where you can trust Him, for it is in trusting God that we minimize fear and dread in our life.

Visit pccministry.org for the complete audio of this message.

 

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Christmas Is Worship

Christmas is Worship

 Text: Matthew 2:1-11

 The Christmas season is about worship and adoration to the “King of the Jews” who came to bring salvation and hope to all mankind.

 It is amazing how society has made this season about buying and giving gifts when in reality it is about worship and adoration to the King of Kings who came to earth as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

In the passage we read this morning we see five great truths about Christmas as a season of worship.

Who were the Magi? They were wise men who were astronomers and philosophers. God used their love of the stars to draw them to the place where Christ lay.

1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of Jews, and should be honored that way. In V2 the wise men ask this profound question – Where is He who was born the King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and we have come to worship Him.

This question is profound because they are asking Herod this question. It had been Herod who had proclaimed himself as the king of the Jews for almost 40 years. But no one could call Herod Messiah, the long awaited God-anointed ruler who would overcome all rule and bring an end to history and establish the kingdom of God and never die or lose His reign. 

The fact is no one can take the place of Messiah God who is King of all the earth. And Christ is no ordinary man, teacher or prophet, He is the Son of the Living God who came to turn the world upside down – not as a warrior but in the innocence of a baby. You see this was important because in Jesus he was not just a king but He was the Messiah.

For the Jewish people the promise of a Messiah, redeemer, was what they longed for. The story is told that the Jewish people of that day would greet each other with the words “have you heard any good news?” They longed for their Messiah who would redeem the world and rescue them form the bondage and turmoil they faced.

The Magi recognized the fulfillment of prophecy and they had come to worship him. The Magi recognized what Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:17 recognized that Jesus should be worshipped as King when Timothy stated that to the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

2. Jesus is to be worshipped by all of the nations and not just the Jews as represented by the Magi coming to worship Him.

Matthew 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus did not come to save a select few but he came that the whole world might be saved. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.

It is God’s desire to today that all mankind turn to Him and worship Him. This is regardless of their background and ethnicity. With this thought in mind it behooves us to understand that we too must take Christ to all of the world. We must deal with our innate biases that steer our thoughts and efforts away from loving the world.

3. God will do whatever it takes to make His Son known and worshipped. This is the heart of God.

 V2 – For we saw His star when it rose and we have come to worship Him.

 It is not clear how the wise men saw the star or how God used the star to draw them to the place where Jesus lay. In fact, we must be careful and not over think this as we will miss the truth that they were led by a star to the place where Jesus lay.

 There is often a time that God does things beyond our ability to comprehend them but that does not diminish what He has done. It simply means that rather than trying to figure it out we accept the truth and learn the greater lessons from these stories:

  • The Star
  • The parting of the Red Sea

4. Jesus is troubling to those who do not want to worship Him and brings out opposition to those who do.

 V3 – When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem was with Him.

 When we share Christ, we must be aware that there will be those who will not worship Him. I don’t understand that but that does not change the reality that some will refuse to give Him honor.

Even worse there will be those who not only fail to worship Him but they will come in opposition to what Christ stands for. We see this in our society today when people who refuse to worship Christ do not stop at that point but they go into a total opposition mode.

Isn’t it interesting that we can talk about God and we can talk about spiritual things but we can not talk about Jesus.

5. Worshipping Jesus means joyfully ascribing authority and dignity to Christ with sacrificial gifts.

 V11 – … and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts.

 We come into worship to give him gifts:

  • We give him our voices in song and words
  • We give him our thoughts as we recognize that worship is not a Sunday Morning event but a lifestyle that never ends.
  • We give of our time, talent and tithe to Christ. We offer what we have to honor God and to ascribe authority to Him.

 We do not give our gifts grudgingly or with suspicion but we do so because we are ascribing worth to Christ when we recognize that all we have belongs to Him anyway.

 Conclusion:

 This is the season of giving, food and relationships. It is this time that we honor God with all that we have and that we are so that our whole lives are a worship to Him. So, our worship and who we are can not be separated.

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We Teach Christ

Equip through teaching and mentoring

Text: John 1:1 -14In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2)He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (6)  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (9) The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (10) He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (11) He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (12)  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (13) who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

I chose this passage today because it defines who Christ is and it forms a foundation of all that we are to preach and teach in the church. I would propose to you that because Christ came and dwelt among us that all we teach and do should be founded upon the following concepts:

  • What we teach must be founded on a Biblical construct that is focused and centered on the person of Christ. Colossians 1:28Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
    • Too often we teach dogma and the law but they fall short of their purpose if we do not recognize that Christ is the only one that can bring lasting change into our lives. Dogma is what you believe, whether you believe it or not. And law is what you must do, whether it is good for you or not.[1]
    • The problem with the law is that it points to sin but it is powerless to do anything about the sin. But Christ came not to destroy the law but in order to empower people to live spiritual lives dedicated to passionately follow Him.
  • We teach for transformation and not simply knowledge. Verse 9 – He is the light that has come to enlighten us to understand truth and grace.
    • Romans 12:2 –Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
    • Dallas Willard in his book Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ said this about the need to be transformed; the greatest need of collective humanity is renovation of the heart. That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God.
    • This transformation is one that changes people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It is one that changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings and habits of choice, as well as bodily tendencies and social relations.
    • Notice that Jesus did not send his disciples out to start governments or even churches as we know them today but they were to establish beachheads of his person, word and power in the midst of a failing and futile humanity. They were to bring the presence of the kingdom and its King into every corner of human life simply by fully living in the Kingdom with Him.
  • We teach a living Gospel – V. 14 – He dwelt among us. Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This living Gospel has the power to transform our lives.
    • The Gospel of Christ is living because it is Christ.
    • In John 1:4 john noted that life was in Him, life that made sense of human existence.
    • To be the light of life, and to deliver God’s life to women and men where they are and as they are is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus.
  • We teach a liberating Gospel – “Grace and truth” John 8:32If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. The amazing truth of the Old Testament is that its role is to show us the futility of trying to obey the law and fulfill all of its demands. It is impossible. But Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law and to give mankind power to live out this Christian life.
    • Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
    • One of the difficulties of modern Christianity is that the church today is that Christianity has not been imparting effectual answers to the vital questions of human existence. What has occurred is that many pseudo-spiritual movements have been created to fill this void. But the Gospel of Christ is what is needed to reach the crying, unmet need of the human soul.
  • We teach not to get people to act right but to be transformed in their inner being so that who one is in their thoughts, feelings, dispositions and choices is changed.

 


[1] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002).

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