Category Archives: Luke

Mary’s Song

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: Mary’s Song

Text: Luke 1.26-56; 2.19, 35

Introduction: Our Story today picks up in the middle of last week’s story. We see two connections to the greater storyline as we pick up in 1.26; rd 1.26a: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel…; 1st, there is the connection with the time reference – 6th month. Back in v 24, we’re told that Elizabeth has kept her pregnancy quiet for 5 months. Now, it is a month further into that pregnancy. And we’ll see another reference when we get down to v 36, Gabriel tells Mary about her cousin Elizabeth. 2nd, we have the connection with the angel Gabriel, who declared to us back in v19 that he stands in the presence of God. Lit.: in his eyes.

So, with this connection, we’re to understand that these stories are related – really, entwined.

As we continue with this verse, we see a foundation for the whole story. Rd 1.26b; Gabriel was sent from God. This word sent in the Gk is the verb form of the word for which we get for our word Apostle (ἀποστέλλω). It means commissioned. Gabriel has been commissioned by God for this very special task.

Continue in v 26c-27: Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. Let’s take a moment to look more at his mission

Gabriel: Commissioned of God

  • His Mission – sent from God with a very specific task; Mary is a popular name, but this Mary is a virgin. She is also engaged – that is, she’s in the middle of her courtship with a specific man, Joseph. This Joseph happens to be in the lineage of King David. The writer here, telling us this story is being very specific in the details.
  • His Message – you will have a son
    • Greetings: Lit.: Rejoice!14; O favored one, it is interesting to note that Gabriel said the same thing to Daniel in Daniel 9.23; The Lord is with you! Read v 29; Usually, when an angel shows up, you can’t help but wonder what it might all be about. But Gabriel assures her; rd v 30; I think v 30 is all a part of his message. But, to this point his message has been non-prophetic, so to speak. But that is about to change.
    • The Prophecy of the Messiah: Let’s continue; rd v 31-33; The Angel is pretty straightforward here: you’re going to conceive a baby boy in your womb and you’ll give birth to him – and when you do, his name is called Jesus. Furthermore, he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. AND, the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. AND, he will reign over the house of Jacob – forever – there will be no end to his kingdom.

Now, Mary is thinking in the present. I wonder if she has really grasped all of this forever, and no end bit of the prophecy. Look at what she asks: rd v 34; 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Lit.: I do not know a man. “Know” as in the biblical way of know – Adam knew Eve and she conceived… Well, she is engaged, but that part of the relationship hasn’t been consummated, yet. Physically, this would be impossible.

Why?

Some people have wondered why Zechariah got in so much trouble over his question and Mary appears to not get into trouble for asking her question. Let me show you. It has to do with two different words know and be:

  • When you read Zechariah’s question in v 18, it is apparent that he wanted to ‘know’ this before he would believe, demonstrating his disbelief.
  • Mary asks how this will “be”, demonstrating she believed it would be, she just didn’t understand how.
  • Her question is more about the process and how it will all come about. Zechariah doesn’t think it will come about and wants some concrete answers before he’ll go there.
  • Added to this, the angel tells us the Zechariah didn’t believe in v 20; Her belief is declared down in v 45, but it is also expressed in what she says and what she does in v 38-39.

So Gabriel spells things out for her:

  1. By way of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High God (God the Father) will envelop her; cf.: Luke 9.34; that’s how it will happen; 2ndly, rd v 35b;
  2. Ok, I like the NASB’s translation of this next phrasing: and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you – for this reason, because of this, the holy begotten (Child) will be called the Son of God;

Ok, so that is a full explanation for her, but Gabriel offers more – he gives her a sign that God is already at work in all of this; rd v 36-37; So, look at Elizabeth.

  1. Elizabeth is a Sign for Mary – Elizabeth is now in her 6th month! Here is a barren woman – that is a woman who was never able to have a baby. Added to this physical impossibility is her age – she is already beyond childbearing years. But God has taken the impossible and proven that nothing is impossible for him. But check out Mary’s Humility: rd v 38

Mary: A Demonstration of FaithHere we see Mary’s faith expressed

  • Her Faith Expressed: 1st, through her words. 2nd, through her actions.
    • First, Mary declares her faith in God by humbly acknowledging that she is the Lord’s slave. He is God and she wants to serve Him in whatever capacity He chooses.

Can I just say that this blows my mind? First, it blows my mind because she is so young but responds with such maturity. But, 2ndly, this will humiliate her. The consequences of what God will do in and through her life will make her the lowest in her society. She’ll be made fun of, if not worse – persecuted, mistreated, or even sentenced to death by stoning.

Question – before we move to that 2nd expression: Are you willing to be considered a fool in order that you might be obedient to your Lord and Master? The truth is, you are a fool to that which you serve! Is it cigarettes? Alcohol? Food? Social Media? People? Pornography? In High School, I saw a man with a ‘sandwich’ billboard that he was wearing. On one side it read: I’m a fool for Christ. On the other side, it read: Whose fool are you?

Mary will be considered a fool. She is going to make Joseph look so bad. She’ll embarrass her parents. She now faces unknown hardship because of her faithfulness to God. She’s a fool for Christ. Whose fool are you?

  • Second, she packs up to go and see this miracle of God – a pregnant Elizabeth. Verse 39 ties these next so many verses with the overall storyline, just as we saw connections in v 26. In those days; rd v 5; rd v 24; So, we’re still in this same storyline; we’ll see it again in 2.1; What happened in that 6th month?
  • Her Faith Experienced: rd v 40-41; So, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, as was Zechariah, whom we looked at last week. And then Elizabeth breaks out in song. Now, I’ve not listed this as one of my songs for the sermon series – and, the ESV doesn’t print it like a song, but my Greek text does! Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Rd v 43; this is a sign of humility; rd v 44; We spoke of this last week, that an unborn John leaps in the womb at Mary’s hello! And look at this blessing on Mary rd v 45: She is blessed because she has believed. Just the fact that she has run off to see Elizabeth is pretty powerful – it is a demonstration of her belief.

And so Mary breaks out in song: Magnificat; rd v 46-55;

I don’t know that this will mean much to you, but this song is broken into four stanzas with four lines each. There are two units with two stanzas in each unit. Each unit has the focus of the Mercy of God. It is composed with organization to it. God has shown mercy to Mary and blessed her. And not only that, but God shows mercy to those who fear him. And in sending Jesus… God has shown Mercy through keeping his covenant with Israel.

Mary magnifies the Lord by 1. declaring who he is (Lord, God, Savior, holy; v 46-7) and 2. by declaring what he has done (for her: v 48-9; for those who fear him: v 50; kept his promises: v 51-5).

That is probably what all songs should do, isn’t it? Magnify the Lord? Because, if you remember the way I began this message, I pointed out that God is the one who started all of this. It really is all about him. And so Mary brings us full-circle to God again.

Mary then, returned home about the time of John’s birth: rd v 56

Conclusion: You know the ‘rest of the story’, as Joseph was greatly distressed over her pregnancy. And, being a godly man…being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

 23         “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

There are two other passages that highlight Mary’s part in this story. The first is found down in Luke 2.19. After the Shepherds came and found the baby lying in a manger – they left and shared their testimony of all they had heard and seen. And the Scripture says: 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. This word pondering is a word that means to cast it all together: συμβάλλω. I’ll bet that is a common theme among mothers.

This would be a wonderful ending if this were it for Mary, but as we’ll see in a couple of weeks, Simeon has something to say to her. Rd v 34-35; And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.

She pondered all that she had experienced concerning her son in her heart. A sword will pierce through her soul. I’m sure there is more here than we’ve covered concerning her heart and soul. But what I want you to see is that this story isn’t all gumballs and roses. This prophecy declares pains for her in the future. It is a reminder to us who know the whole story just why Jesus came to earth. He came to die for the sins of mankind. He was born to die for us.

And so God sent his Son to earth to die for our sins – and in return he calls for commitment from us. Mary called him her God and her savior. Would you do the same?

Invitation:

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Filed under Christmas, Luke, Sermon

Zechariah’s Song

**An Audio recording of this message is available in the right sidebar of this page or at www.soundcloud.com

Title: Zechariah’s Song

Text: Luke 1.5-25; 57-79

Introduction: I love Christmas. I really do. I haven’t always loved Christmas – for many reasons of which I will not unload at this point. But, that has changed for me. And I’ll credit Lisa for the change. The Challenge for the pastor at Christmas is presenting something new from the same stories you’ve heard about your whole life. But here is the problem. The story is the same. So, who does a pastor tell the same stories year after year without losing that freshness? The answer I find is this: simply retelling the story.

Lisa and I are reading “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent” by John Piper. This activity is just one example of what Lisa has done in building traditions for us that means so much to me. As we began the readings, Piper made a statement in the preface of his book and I wanted to share his quote with you as I begin this new Sermon Series for Christmas: The Songs of Christmas: Brand-new truths are probably not truths. What we need are reminders about the greatness of the old truths. We need someone to say an old truth in a fresh way. Or sometimes, just to say it.

That’s my goal this season: to present the story of Christmas with freshness and excitement by simply retelling the story. The idea of the Christmas songs came from Duffey. I don’t want you to think I came up with this myself. When we began looking at last year’s Christmas sermon series (which I had already planned out), Duffey shared with me that his pastor at his previous church had preached on the songs of Christmas. I already had my sermon series planned and so that is what we presented. But, I wanted to look closer at this idea of Christmas Songs from the Bible. I thought it was a great idea. And what we start today is the culmination of that journey.

Our songs from the book of Luke will follow our Advent Candles:

  • Zechariah’s Song (which is really the 2nd song, but this story begins our journey, so we’ll start with it)
  • Mary’s Song
  • The Angels’ Song
  • Simeon’s Song
  • Anna’s Song (which isn’t recorded)

Now, if you follow the text through Luke, you’ll note that Mary’s song actually appears before Zechariah’s; however, Zechariah’s story is in the text first, because John, the Baptizer was born about 6 months before Jesus. So, that is why I’ve chosen his story first.

The text itself is broken into three different sections, with Mary’s story in the middle. Zechariah’s song is born out of an experience with

  • His Service
  • His Suffering
  • His Son

Let’s look first at his Service

I.     Zechariah’s Service (5-20)

exp.: rd v5-8 is the introduction to this couple; in v 8-10, we see how he comes into his service; rd v 8-10; you know this is special because he was twice chosen! First, he was chosen from his division and 2nd, he was chosen to enter into the Holy Place during his service. It is during this routine service that an angel from the Lord appears to him and interrupts his service.

Let me give you a great application before we even dig deeper into this experience: You should be praying for something like this in your life – that God will interrupt you in the midst of your service to him. Service can become routine. You learn what you’re supposed to do. You practice what you’ve learned as you do it and before you know it, there is no passion – there is no enthusiasm. You’re just simply walking through the motions of your service to the Most High God.

Oh, God, please interrupt my service! Let me have a fresh encounter with you.

This interruption brings a message – Gabriel’s message: rd v 11-13: Your prayer has been answered; Elizabeth will have a son and you will call his name John. Now he says, let me tell you a little bit about this son of yours, John.

  • John’s impact (the impact he will have): rd v 14
    • You will have joy and gladness!
    • Many will rejoice at his birth (they do in v 58)
  • John’s life (what his life will be like): rd v 15
    • He will be great (no one will be considered greater according to Jesus in Luke 7.28: I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John).
    • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • John’s ministry (the work he will accomplish): rd v 16-17
    • Turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
    • Be accomplished in the spirit and power of Elijah (Malachi)
    • Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
    • Turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just
    • And make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

exp.: there it is, all spelled out for you. This is all pretty miraculous. The fact that there is an angel here is pretty miraculous. There is only one problem: Zechariah doesn’t believe him; this is evident from his response; rd v 18; How shall I know this is a basic declaration of unbelief. What you’re saying is pretty unbelievable. So, give me a sign. Show me something that will let me know. He wants to know because, from the physical side of life, things look pretty impossible. First, he’s an old man and 2nd, his wife is advanced in years. Evidently, that means she is past the childbearing years.

app.: Here is another great application for us. Zechariah is asking for signs because he doesn’t believe. So: be very careful what you ask God for! Especially when you’re asking God to do something because you don’t believe him. Disbelief is sin. Hebrews 11.6 – for without faith it is impossible to please God

I’m not talking about doubt or confusion or struggle. I’m talking about an unbelieving heart. Faithlessness. So, the angel sets him straight. First, he gives Zechariah his name: I am Gabriel. Zechariah should have thought of the book of Daniel. Gabriel appears twice in that book. Any priest worth is weight in drachmas should know this. Gabriel is connected with the Messiah. Then, added to the weight of his name is his position (19): I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. V 20 communicates his unbelief to us: rd v 20; silent and unable to speak because you did not believe.

t.s.: And that is just what happens; which brings me to the second experience in this story:

II.    Zechariah’s Suffering (21-66)

exp.: rd v 21; can I add another application for us from this story? Our sin affects others around us. That is no new truth – to mention Piper again. But it is what happens here. He’s delayed and so they are left wondering what is up. This is odd to the people because this is a daily routine. They’ve experienced this before, many times. The priest goes in and does his thing and then he comes out. But this time he is delayed. So they’re left standing out there. 2ndly, when he does come out. He can’t speak. When I first thought of this 2nd point, I thought I should call it Zechariah’s Silence. But after working on it through the week, I think it is more than just living in a silent world. There has to be frustration and struggle. And, that is just what we see in the next v; rd v 22; He wants to tell them, but he can’t; rd v 23; and so he silently heads home. Rd v 24 – it’s all coming true.

Now the next so many verses turn our attention to Mary. I don’t want to look at her story just yet – we’ll do that next week. For now, let’s skip down to v 39 and resume our story with Zechariah; Gabriel has told Mary that she is going to have a baby. And, added to this joy – if I can call it that – her much older cousin, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby, too. Indeed, she’s already 6 months pregnant (v 36). So Mary goes to see Elizabeth. We pick up in v 39; rd 39-41; There is something supernatural going on here; I’ve never experienced this myself, but I’m sure there are mamas all over this worship center who could try to describe for us men what it is like to have a baby leap in the womb. But that is what makes this story so real to us. We read and we know this experience – either as a woman who has had a baby or a man who has watched his wife’s stomach move.

app.: Something wonderful happens all in this moment – but Zechariah isn’t a part of it. He misses out: the baby leaps and the Holy Spirit of God fills Elizabeth and she sings her own song. Rd 41b-45; Now, I wonder if this adds to Zechariah’s suffering – you know, because he’s not a part of this celebration. You see, he isn’t involved in this part of the story. Did he just sit by and watch, unable to say anything? Sometimes, when women get together, that is a byproduct of their getting together (men aren’t included). Sometimes, men just aren’t welcome. And that’s ok. But maybe, just maybe, he didn’t participate because he couldn’t. He could only look on from the outside. He was left alone with his thoughts.

t.s.: Well, the day comes for his wife to give birth to a son and we pick up down in v 57…

III.   Zechariah’s Son (57-79)

exp.: rd 57-58; here is the fulfillment from the prophecy in v 14; let’s keep reading; rd v 59-63; John, that isn’t a family name. Isn’t his good to know that even back then people criticized what you were naming your baby! John? John ain’t no family name. Why would you pick John? Let’s intervene and help this poor kid out before his mama names him something funny. Don’t you just love v 62 – They made signs to the father. Like, because he’s mute, he’s also deaf! Can you see them talking louder and making gestures? But he asked for an etch-a-sketch! And he wrote – John is his name. Boom! Rd v 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God! The moment he wrote out that John was to be called John, he was expressing his belief in what the Angel said. Boy, here is another moment where we can identify a Truth – not a new truth mind you – just a reminder: Faith is action. Zechariah expresses his faith in writing out on the tablet. And a song was born! You see it down in v 67 and following: Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit – as was Elizabeth, remember? Zechariah filled with the Holy Spirit praised God! rd v 68-75

app.: That’s Zechariah’s song – born out of his service to the Lord as his priest, born out of the suffering he experienced in silence over the months, and born out of his experience in watching God do just what he said he would do – give him a son.

Conclusion: And his son? His son is going to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Rd 75-79

We often think of the Christmas stories from a very positive perspective – and rightfully so. But I wonder if we seriously take to heart that these stories are real life. Each story is taken in a positive light and often times can feel more like a fairy tale than practical history. I say ‘practical’ because these stories are given for us. Zechariah’s Song was born out of his real-life experience. Born out of his practical service to the Lord through his work and service in the Temple. Do you serve the Lord in and through your local church? There is something here for you!

Zechariah’s Song was born out of his suffering: a real, physical ailment. He couldn’t speak! His communication was stifled.

ill.: This week I was visiting with a member in his hospital room. The nurse asked him if he was in pain. He said: I am always in pain. This man lives with chronic pain. After 101 years, his body aches constantly. Pray for Tom. What about you? Are you living with pain or sickness or some other type of struggle? This story has something here for you, too!

Zechariah’s Song was born out of God’s work in his life. Zechariah saw with his own eyes how God fulfilled his promises. There is this tie or bridge from Daniel to here through the angel, Gabriel. What about you? Do you have an unbelieving heart toward the things of God? Are you so earthly minded that you struggle with how God is going to accomplish his work because physically it just all appears impossible? Logistically, you can’t map it out? Maybe you’re in the midst of it all? Zechariah didn’t believe it when it was happening to him. Will you be found full of faith when God moves in your life in an impossible way?

Application: review – let me challenge you to:

  1. Pray for God to interrupt your routine and make things fresh!
  2. Pray that God will guide your prayers. You don’t want to ask for foolish things. And you don’t want to have a disbelieving heart. Here is a simple practice: pray the Bible. Think about it – everything in this text is already somewhere else in God’s Word.
  3. Pray for God to keep you in his will. Your disobedience has an impact on the lives around you. For John, it also kept him on of some pretty cool happenings as God was fulfilling his purpose in Elizabeth and Mary’s lives. Pray for a strong faith.

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Romans 6.23

Title: The Gospel: A Story of Comparing and Contrasting

Text: Romans 6.23

Introduction: Do you guys know who Michael Rotondo is? He is the 30-year-old man from NY who was evicted by his parents. They gave him 5 or 6 letters of eviction. They pleaded with him to get a job. They reasoned that there were plenty of jobs out there, even jobs for folks who have horrible work records. Just get some employment. They wrote in an eviction notice back in February: “There are jobs available even for those with a poor work history like you,” one letter they sent him reads. “Get one – you have to work!”

Finally, on May 22nd, they took him to court. Michael lost. He moved out this week.

What a nightmare. I feel for his parents. They felt used. They wanted their son to quit being a leech. Earn a wage!

That’s tough. I know our government gives lots of handouts. There are many who survive from weekly government checks. I’m not knocking those folks. Unless of course, their career is living on the government – kind of like Michael, here living off his parents.

His parents offered him $1,100 to move out on. The money was for Deposits, first month’s rent, etc. he turned them down.

I’m not them, so I have no idea what they went through. But, as a parent, I know the feeling of wanting your child to grow up and become self-sufficient – to earn a wage.

Our verse this morning uses that word – ‘wage’. We’re in Romans 6.23: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

6.23 is the summation verse of Chapter 6. It began back in v 1 with a question – a question a “Judaizer” would have asked. You can imagine a debate going on where Paul declares the teaching of Acts 15 and someone begins to question him. Saved by faith are we now? Where sin increased, grace increased all the more then? So, Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound all the more?

Well, Paul gives us the answer in verse 2-3 and 15-16 with a definitive: No! And then he spends the rest of the chapter explaining it all. Verses 20-23 are the closing statement to an argument that says we should not, we must not continue in sin… We’ve been set free from all of that

Now, Paul compares and contrasts three different elements to his summation.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Wages and free gift
  • Sin and God
  • Death and Eternal life

 

  1. We first find The Means by which we receive our reward. It is something we earn or we can’t earn it, but rather are freely given.
  2. Next, we see The Master we choose to serve who gives us this reward – whichever it might be…
  3. Finally, The Manifestation of our full reward is revealed.

Transition: Let’s begin with this first element… A comparing and contrasting of:

I.     The Means

exp.: One of my favorite sayings on God’s Sovereignty is: The One who determines the ends, also determines the means. I don’t know who said it or where it comes from. But what is being expressed is the idea that God is the one who makes all the rules. rd v 23: Wages vs. Free Gift; 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I assume that we all know what wages are. Wages are something we earn and are owed to us. We’ve ‘worked’ for wages. Usually, this involves time, energy, effort, etc. We’ve worked for someone and now that someone owes us.

When you look at the free gift, that doesn’t really fit. A gift isn’t earned. I’ve heard of parents saying stuff like: if you’ll lose weight, then I’ll give you this gift. That’s twisted. That’s not a gift. That’s something that is earned. You usually deserve your wages. You’ve worked for them. You don’t usually deserve a gift. It comes free of charge and with no strings attached. If there are strings attached, then it isn’t really a gift. It’s just that person trying to get something out of you – probably for selfish reasons.

ill.: Consider the parents of Michael Rotondo. They wanted to give him a gift $1,100 to pay for deposits, first months rent, etc. They wanted something from Michael – to move out. Their ‘gift’ wasn’t really a gift – was it? That’s different.

app.: Boy, this has me thinking about times I thought I was giving a gift, but really was selfishly trying to get something myself. Maybe I had good intentions or maybe I thought I was helping whomever for whatever reason. But, if I’m honest, I was probably giving that gift as a reward or a wage.

t.s.: I think to understand this better – this concept of wages – and to understand it correctly, we must look at this 2nd element: A comparing and contrasting of

II.    The Master

exp.: 6.23: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I think it becomes clearer when you put them side-by-side and place it in the context of the slave owners found in v 20-22; Slaves of sin and Slaves of God. This terminology bothers folks today because it isn’t PC. Consider some of our translations even change up the word slave for servant. But, Slave is the correct word. When you’re a slave and you work, you usually aren’t working for pleasure – to earn a wage, you simply work because you’re told to do so. You’re doing the work of your master. So one master is Sin and the other master is God. And in both illustrations, you don’t work for your master to get something from them. You work for your master because you are his slave. The Master then gives you what he wants to give you. The master, Sin, pays out what he wants. The Master, God, wants to give free gifts.

ill.: Does it make you uncomfortable to consider yourself a slave? This is the term Jesus used to describe those who practice sin. He said in John 8.34 that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. It really is like that isn’t it? Sinful behavior is like a chain that holds you captive and doesn’t let you go.

app.: But that isn’t the way it goes with God – when He is your Master. In that same passage, John 8, Jesus said that if the Son sets you free, you’re free indeed. Or as some younger folks would say: You’re really, really free. Not just free, you’re not just really free, you’re really, really free!

How is this possible? How is someone a slave to righteousness, a slave to God and free at the same time?

I think you have to understand the whole story. I’m talking about the story that begins with Creation. God created you – a human being – to exist a certain way. Satan has corrupted that through sin. Sin promises so much but delivers nothing. Sin promises to make you feel better, look better, be more popular, to remove your pain, to gain more friends and the list goes on. But the truth is – Sin doesn’t deliver on its promises. Sin gives you a temporary fix to a permanent problem.

But God created you for a different existence. You were not created to be in bondage to sin. You were created for a relationship with God.

Imagine coming home to the one who made you and setting you free from this bondage of sin which leads to death, – setting you free to live life as He designed. Imagine coming home to him and finding that he doesn’t exact a wage from you, but rather lavishes precious gifts upon you.

Jesus tells this story in Luke 15.11-32;

app.: the one son who broke his Father’s heart returned. I love the picture of the father waiting, watching. I love the picture of the father running. I love how the father lavished precious gifts upon the son.

t.s.: And that leads us to our last comparison…

III.   The Manifestation

exp.: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Death or Eternal Life. Sin’s ultimate wage is death. God’s ultimate gift is eternal life. Hmmm… I wonder why it is so hard to choose? Would you call it irony that in refusing to choose, you really are making a choice anyway?

ill.: Michael Rotondo’s parents really wanted something special for their son. They wanted him to be totally free and independent. I think that’s what all parents want for their kids. Some folks probably think a great illustration from them would have been if they bought Michael a home and gave it to him as a gift. No strings attached. But this is where the illustration breaks down. I’m assuming that these parents are doing what they’re doing because they’re trying to teach their son what it means to be truly free.

app.: Isn’t that odd. They’re doing something that seems really mean to do what they would consider in the best interest of their son. I’m sure there are many who see that as contradictory: how can hurting him, how can making him struggle and suffer now make him better and stronger later?

t.s.: Well, there seem to be a contradiction in coming to faith in Christ, too.

Conclusion: Here is what I mean: true freedom comes when you finally surrender your life to Christ. You’ve tried living life your way. You’ve been a slave to sin and maybe you didn’t even know it. You see what that life has done for you. Rd 6.21; that life brought you shame. Now, will you trust your life to Christ? Will you surrender your life to God and trust Him to do things his way?

The Bible teaches us that we’re all sinners. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And what does it cost us to be sinners – each and every one of us? Death. Eternal death. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Note that last phrase: in Christ Jesus our Lord. Death is the payment due, but Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for you and me. When Christ died on the Cross, God took your sin and placed on him. He died for your sin. And he took the righteousness of Christ – all of his perfection – and put it on you.

So, when you put your faith in Christ, God takes away your sin and makes you righteous in His eyes. Then, you begin to live life the way he designed – in a relationship with Him.

Application: So, what would I like you to take home with you today?

  1. When you give gifts, are they really gifts or wages for something you desire? What a great reminder to us to think through what is given and what is expected. What a great reminder that Sin operates that way: it makes you think you’re getting something, but in reality, Sin is the one who does the ‘getting’.
  2. I hope that last question has you thinking about your heart. Is it selfish? Does your heart seek your own way? This is your life – Are you who you want to be? Are you who you thought you’d be?
  3. What is really stopping you right now from surrendering your life to Christ? Really?
  4. Is this not the most incredible story you’ve ever heard? A good and gracious God who desires a relationship with you will do whatever it takes to make you into the person he created you to be – even to the giving up of his own son. Would you tell someone?

**Post Sermon Remarks: Giving is a touchy subject. My purpose is to challenge each person reading this to search his or her heart concerning intention and motive.

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Romans 6.1-12

Title: Don’t live like you are dying!

Text: Romans 6.1-11

Introduction: We begin a new section of Romans this morning. I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed going through a book more than this, but it does seem that I say this same thing every time I go through a new book.

In case you’ve missed it before, here is a rough Outline –

  • Romans 1-2: Sin
  • Romans 3-5: Salvation
  • Romans 6-8: Sanctification (How now do we live)

Paul ends chapter 5 with sin being so great and bringing so great a death, but God’s Grace is even greater and superabounds to cover sin. That final section starts with Adam’s trespass (5.15, 16, 17, 18, 20), his one sin and explodes onto humanity bringing death to all. But, the grace of God through his Son, Jesus super-abounds to an even greater degree, covering that sin and bringing life where sin once brought death.

Now, someone in Paul’s past must have argued or debated with him and asked the following question: rd 6.1; What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

We probably think this is absurd, but that’s because we’ve been studying this for … well, our whole lives. But in that 1st century, when Jews would confront Paul about this new life in Christ, they were thinking of the law. The Law was everything to them. Paul was teaching what the church had already decided some years before as more and more Gentiles were being saved: we don’t have to follow the law anymore – we’ve been set free from those burdens. The church said, there are four areas of concern from the Law that Gentiles who have become Christians should follow. This is a great personal study if you’re interested. You can line up Acts 15 with Leviticus 17-18- and 19. (Give a brief history).

But that isn’t our purpose this morning. Today, we want to focus in on this question someone might have given Paul during one of his times of teaching: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Let me show how Paul develops his answer:

  • Paul answers with 4 questions:
    • two in v 2-3 and
    • two more in v 15-16;
  • After these questions, which are really answers, he expounds to clarify for us what he means.

So, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to give a basic overview of this first section by outlining it for us. Then, I’d like to make a few points from the outline.

If you skip to the end, you gain tremendous perspective of where Paul is headed. Let me show you what I mean:

  • He asks the question in v1: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
  • He gives his answer in v 22: 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. The end is eternal life – the process is Hence, the 3rd part of our outline in Romans: Sin, Salvation, Sanctification.

So you have your answer: No, you don’t go on sinning, because God is sanctifying you, preparing you for eternal life. Now, how did Paul get there? We won’t get the full answer this morning, but let’s begin with v 1 and follow his logic…

Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (1-3)

exp.: Should we then sin all the more that Grace may abound all the more? No; His answer is straight forward and to the point: μὴ γένοιτο; Lit.: not become; May it never become; Or May it never be.

Paul presents two questions to refute this line of thinking:

  • First, he asks: How can we who died to sin still live in it? Implying that we can’t. He will expound on this in a moment. For now he continues with his 2nd question,
  • Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

The answer is in the question. The first question demands a negative response: He can’t. She can’t. The 2nd question has the answer in its presentation. You have been baptized into Jesus and into his death.

ill.: And then he explains in 4-11; for brevity’s sake, let me show you the flow of his argument.

  • Therefore (His answer) – v4
    • For (Because) – v5
      • We know (Reason) – v6
    • For (Because) – v7
      • We Know (Reason) – v9
    • For (Because) – v10
  • So (His Answer) – v11

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

app.: Paul asks if we should continue in Sin so that Grace may abound. His answer: No, we have died to sin and it’s lordship over us. The person who was that way has died – he or she is no longer alive. The new person is alive in Christ and has surrendered to his Lordship.

Here then are the Four parts to beginning your walk with God. These are actions you take:

Note: Some of you have been doing this already for decades; others of you have only been living this new life for a few days. But, in each instance, whether decades or days, the new life is the same:

  1. Death of Old Life

Death is in every verse: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s point is clear: we must die to sin and self!

  1. Burial (comes to nothing); We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Ill.: The old self is put to death and buried. It must come to nothing. We can’t feed it. I think this is an important part of our new walk. Young believers, listen up! You must not give the old self any breathing room.

I wish that sanctification was a one and done scenario, but it isn’t. While it is true that your sins are forgiven – all of your sins – it is also true that the old self must be crucified each and every day. Crucify it and bury it. Third, …

  1. Resurrection: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Once the old life is dead and buried, we are raised to a new life.

  1. New Life: rd v 4

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. *This new life is a life that is liberated – no longer held captive!

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

  1. Death
  2. Burial
  3. Resurrection
  4. New Life

Ill.: Some people think this is just too harsh of Paul to say. But, I don’t think he’s being hyperbolic in his teaching.

Too many of us as new Christians don’t kill the old self, but in truth, are held captive to sin. This year marks three years ago my sister died of an overdose. I’ve not talked about it publicly. I don’t want to today, either. There is a real problem in America today, an epidemic, a plague. There is a pharmaceutical conspiracy that is killing thousands upon thousands of people in the US. Did you know that as many people die from overdoses to Opioid Addiction every 10 months as died in the Vietnam War?

My sister was one of those people. Her friends tried to help her, but she chose drugs over them. She went from working for the Governor in Austin to living in a bedroom in my mother’s house, selling drugs through her window. She had a little slit in the screen where transactions could be made. She stole my mother’s life savings and spent it all on drugs. She pawned anything worth any value, jewelry, antiques, you name it.

She went to rehab so many times. Let me stop there… Someday, I want to talk about it, but not today. Today I just want to mention it and say..

app.: Satan comes to kill, to steal and to destroy. But Jesus has come that we might have life. If you don’t destroy your old self, it will dominate you. If you open the door for something, it will take over your life. Whether it is drugs or pornography or food. You have to say no to the world and what it offers and say yes to Jesus, every single day of your life.

Luke 9.23-25: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

We’ve run out of time this week, we’ll pick up here next week and continue our study on Romans 6.1-14

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What’s in a Word?

Title: What’s in a Word

Text: Luke 1.37-38

Introduction: The year came to an end. The holiday season is over. New Year’s resolutions have been set. Or, not! Maybe, you’re thinking this through still, wondering if you even need a New Year’s resolution. Each year or two I find a verse that moves me and I make it a focal verse for that season of my life. Hardly ever does it happen on January 1st! My most recent verse was Jn 4.34: 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. It started with a fast, but became a point of focus for me in ministry. Lisa shared something with me last week that got me to thinking about my focus and what God is doing in my life.

I’ve shared with you before that my greatest spiritual gift is hindsight! Well, Lisa shared with me an article by John McGee entitled: Two Guiding Words for Pastors. His two words come from reflecting on his past – hindsight. I’d like to share it with you this morning.            John writes:

I’ve always been intrigued by people who say they have a word for the year. You know the people I’m talking about – every year they have some big action word like “excellence” or “expansion” to guide their year. When I hear someone talk like this, I always feel left out because I don’t have a word for the year, and worse, I’m not even sure where to go if I wanted one. I’ve wondered if there’s a book of power words that I don’t know about, an unlisted blog they’re reading that I can’t find, or a Twitter account that spits out these words so people can pretend they came up with them to impress the rest of us.

Unfortunately, I’m still on the outside looking in when it comes to this phenomenon, but over the last year I’ve felt impressed to try and be two things: faithful and helpful. When I think about being faithful I think about Luke 16:10 and being faithful in little things first. Being helpful is along the lines of 1 Peter 4:10 where I’m supposed to use whatever gifts I have to help others.

Faithful and helpful don’t seem nearly as powerful as some of the other words I’ve seen others order their lives around, but it’s been an incredible benefit to keep both in the forefront of my mind.

Now this got me to thinking about my verses – that often keep me grounded, focused. One year, I found a manta that I would repeat over and over and over again. It was during one of the most difficult years of my ministry: Relentless Forward Progress. I don’t remember the verse that went with it, but I remember the phrase. I got it from my running experiences. Don’t stop. Walk if you have to do so, but don’t stop. Relentless forward progress. I cannot tell you how much this mantra helped me through that very tough year.

Now, for John, in his article, he makes it clear that he didn’t come upon these words first and then try to mold his life around them. But, after noticing them, began to focus upon them – using them for direction and guidance.

Listen to how these words offered him some guidance:

Here are few things I’ve noticed as I’ve pursued faithfulness and helpfulness:

  • When I’m simply trying to be faithful, I find I don’t worry about “How many were there?” I find I sleep better, regardless of numbers.
  • I’m more creative. I find as I pursue faithfulness that I don’t worry about numbers and success. This gives me more brain space, and new thoughts, illustrations, and ideas seem to flow.
  • It has helped me slow down. When I don’t have to generate endless activity in an attempt to prove my significance, I can simply give myself fully to the things that God seems to have given me to do rather than always asking, “What’s next?”
  • It has freed me from trying to be significant. When I’m trying to be helpful, I don’t have to impress people; I can simply look for ways to serve them.
  • I’m present with others. When I’m trying to be helpful to someone, I can be fully engaged. I don’t have to worry about impacting them, and I’m free to simply help them.

Trying to be faithful and helpful is freeing me from striving for significance. If I’m striving for significance, I ride the emotional roll coaster when I think I have it and when I think I don’t. Not only does the nauseating ride impact me, it negatively impacts my ability to simply be with people without agendas or needs for outcomes.

Now this has me thinking about my seasonal verse. Where is God leading me? How does He want me to serve? Live? Give?

I love John McGee’s words and the direction and guidance it gave him. I’m a pastor – I need that same guidance and direction. I need to be more focused on people and not on numbers. I desire to:

  • Not worry
  • Be more creative
  • Slow down – focus on productivity and not endless activity to validate my significance
  • To be present…

But those are His… I want my own!

Transition: Is this even important? Is it Biblical? I want to be very careful and not just be a motivational speaker today! Turn to Luke 1.36-38: 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

In the last couple of years, I was translating this verse from the Gk to the Eng when Shawn Cook stopped by for a visit. Shawn’s visit has nothing to do with this verse, except that He was taking Greek and it was a point of conversation with us. The literal translation of verse 37 was what moved me: because every word of God shall not be impossible. The Subj. of the sentence is “Word” – Every word of God. The verb is the word impossible. It is in the future tense – shall be impossible. But, it has a negative particle – shall not be impossible. Put it all together and you have because every word of God shall not be impossible. That’s what makes Mary’s statement so beautiful in the next verse, she takes and uses what the Angel has just said: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – ῥῆμα – she uses the same word.

I don’t know about you, but this moves me. To see this young girl surrender to the will of God. Wow! Listen, I’ve simplified this explanation. I’m not implying our translations are wrong. Or that I’m smarter than all of the translators of every Bible translation. I’m wanting to dig deeper into a sentence, into the very words themselves and find out what’s being communicated. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God means that every word God speaks will be established.

So, what’s in a word? Well, if it’s God’s word – nothing is impossible. If God says you’re forgiven – then you’re forgiven! If God says you’re loved – then you are loved! If God says you are healed: then you’re healed! If God says Peace, be still! Then the wind and the waves obey. So, what is God speaking into your life?

Ill.: He spoke and the world came into being. He spoke light and there was light, ground, trees, plants, moons, planets, stars, etc.!

Transition: That’s why I think it is so good to have a verse for a season – something that speaks possibility into our lives. Now, I’m very careful to say that – speaks possibility into our lives. I’m not saying pick a word or a verse and that God’s gonna make it happen! No! This isn’t a possibility message of get what you want from God now…No, this is a message to say that God can accomplish anything through a surrendered life. Anything He desires.

I’m guessing Mary’s word would have been Faithful. God would be faithful to fulfill his word. Maybe she would use that word to describe her life in the face of her circumstances: No matter what comes my way, I will be faithful.

Pause…

I want to share my word with you today. But, I’m cautious. I hesitate, because I don’t want to just throw it out there and devalue it somehow.

I want to share my word with you today. I think in so doing, there is accountability, but there is also grace. My word is my word. Your word should be something that matches where you are. My word is meant for me. I don’t share it so that you’ll throw it back at me should I struggle or fall. I share it because I hope you’ll encourage me. My word is…

Stability.

I like that word. It makes me think of steadfastness in the midst of struggle. Keeping the ship aright, when the storms toss it about. I think of someone who doesn’t get too emotional in times of uncertainty. I think of consistency…continuity…perseverance…solid…steady…strong…immovable. All of these are words that pop up in the synonyms category. Yeah, it’s a good word for me. As Peter closed his 2nd letter to the Christians he was encouraging, he wrote:

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

In Proverbs, Solomon wrote: 2When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.

Understanding and knowledge – yeah, two traits I need. What’s more, in Isaiah stability is what God brings: 5The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, 6and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Stability: It’s something I need in my life and something I greatly desire for Calvary.

John McGee finishes his article: So what about you? Where is your focus today? If your goal is significance, you’ll probably end up using people and feeling empty because you aren’t significant enough. You also won’t be able to present and enjoy your pastoral work because you’re worried about how you can be more important.

You don’t have to be a pastor to struggle with significance. That can happen to anyone in the church at any mark on the spectrum.

Here’s what I want to challenge you to do:

  1. Over the next few days, even weeks, reflect upon 2015 and see where you were at your best. See if there is a word that sums up that activity – or that activity of God in your life. Consider whether that word might just be a good word to adopt for the next year. Maybe you’ll see too many down times – too many failures. Think of a word that best fits what you need. Find your word.
  2. 2nd, search the Scriptures for a verse that will strengthen the use of that word in your life.

Consider: Faithful, Helpful, Available, Giving, Serving, Patient, Hidden, Loving, Forgiving, Forgiven, Contemplative,

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Title: False Christmas Traditions

Text: Luke 2.1-7

Introduction: The traditional Christmas story… note the picture in the title page;

So how off is the traditional story from what Scripture clearly shows…let’s look at some parts to the story that aren’t in the Bible; Luke 2.1

What a great beginning! Caesar Augustus; The Roman Empire lasted hundreds of years and there were many Caesars. But this Caesar is considered:

  • The greatest of all Caesars.
  • It has been said that when he became Caesar, Rome was made of Rock. And when he died, Rome was made of Marble.
  • There is an inscription, which has been uncovered and discovered in our generation that reads of Caesar Augustus: The son of God and The Savior of the World.
  • He was born into a wealthy family and inherited his role from the famous Julius Caesar.
  • He ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD
  • Indeed, the Gregorian Calendar’s 8th month is named in his honor: August

Rd v 2; thing to note: this is the 1st registration while Quirinius is Gov of Syria; I like the preposition before better: this was the 1st registration before Quirinius was governor of Syria. rd v 3-4; this is beautiful staging: From the ruler of the known world, to the region of Quirinius, down to a young man and his wife and their journey to their town…Bethlehem; From the richest, most powerful man in the world down to the lowliest of peasants; but what an incredible contrast:

  • Born to lowly peasants
  • To no great fan fare
  • He truly would become the Savior of the World.
  • He wouldn’t have day or a month named after him, but He would restructure the way time was counted and every date would be ascribed in reference to his birth BC & AD! What is truly funny is that academia has successfully changed the way these things are recorded. Modern scholars are now using BCE & CE as in Before the Common Era and The Common Era. But, nonetheless, the dates are still set by Christ.

Speaking of dates, here is my 1st Fallacy:

I.     Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.

We don’t really know the date. Jewish historian Josephus placed the death of Herod in the spring of 4 B.C. between a lunar eclipse on March 12 and the Passover on April 11. Not in December, but probably in the Fall of 5 BC. Truth is, we just don’t know.

So, according to Scripture, we’re only given a time period.

Transition: at this point, we don’t have a date, but we a time… 2nd fallacy,

II.    There was No Donkey – ill.: Small One; That’s right, there is no donkey or burro mentioned in Scripture. It is at the end of his life, but not here. I remember having this conversation in Bible Study a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, there is no Donkey. She probably walked with Joseph. She could have ridden a donkey, but there isn’t any evidence that she did. #3…

III.    They were not Late Arrivals. When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had already been in Bethlehem – probably for some time.

exp.: we think of Joseph struggling to get to Bethlehem; maybe travel was harder because his wife was slowing him down? So, he got a donkey for her to ride on because she’s so close to giving birth. No, the text actually tells us that they were there for a period of time before she gave birth. Luke give us this double entendre to clarify: KJV And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. KJV, v 1; v15; same here in v 6 – Lit.: And it came to pass ‘while they are there’; You see, Joseph and Mary would have had plenty of time to make arrangements for lodging; just note:

  • This is his family’s hometown – he could have reproduced his simple heritage; he was royalty; the son of Jacob, the son of Eleazar; Or,
  • Mary’s family was just down the road in the ‘hill country of Judea’

ill.: I haven’t lived in Copperas Cove since 1989. I was only at Robertson Avenue Baptist Church for just over two years. Yet, my sons could travel there today and find a place to stay in someone’s home – someone who knows us and would remember them.

app.: Joseph isn’t some sort of uncaring, unprepared husband; One more point here: I find it hard to believe that this little community would reject her in her labor. I don’t imagine there is a place in the world – a civilization in the world that would reject a woman in labor. Maybe some place with ethnic cleansing and war – but that’s not the case here.

t.s.: Fallacy # 4;

IV.   Jesus was not born in a barn.

exp.: or a cave; rd v 7; so she gives birth, to her ‘first born’ son; lit.: she wraped him in cloths; she swaddled him; My all time favorite description of this came from Joshua Webb: She made a burrito baby; the text says she laid him in a manger. Well, to the western mind, that would mean a barn. But, that’s not the case in this time Period in the Holy Land.

The 1st question for us here is: just what is a manger? This word manger is popular in Scripture. Each time it is used, it means the same thing: a feeding trough for an animal; say a goat, a lamb or a cow; we as East Texans in 2015 know that you feed your cows outside or in a barn; but those from the Middle East see this differently;

The key isn’t found in the word ‘manger’ but rather in the next set of words which record the reason for why she laid him in a feed trough; Now, I’m going to use the KJV again, because that is the most popular version of the Christmas story and the one that has established what we believe. We start with the word because: KJV/NASB – because there was no room for them in the inn.

  • No Room – lit.: place or space; two popular words in Gk for our Eng. word place; this word here is the most popular; 1. is to place or stand something there; the 2nd, is topos – meaning space; Meaning: if I said: put it over there in that space; You might respond: I can’t…there isn’t enough room! That’s what this word here means – there wasn’t enough space for them there. It doesn’t mean there were no rooms available for rent. We don’t have time to look at all 90 times this word appears, but move down a couple of chapters to Lk 4.17: 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written.

Now there is a 2nd word we need to look at here in this verse – because there was no room for them in the inn.

  • Inn –the word is κατάλυμα and it appears 3x’s in the NT; most lit.: a shelter or a dwelling; this word appears here; and again in Lk in 22.7-12(11); Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” So Luke uses this same word to describe a room added to a house. Guest room; 3rd time in Mk 14.14 – which is the same story;

Here’s the problem with because there was no room for them in the inn. I have 26 English translations; and 23 of them translate this word ‘inn’. My guess is the translators didn’t want to change what people had come to know as tradition. In keeping with the King James and tradition; one translation (NLT) says: no lodging was available; which insinuates an inn; and TNIV – no guest room was available; which still hints at an inn; YLT is the closest – because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.

Added to this: Matthew 2 tells us the story of the Magi who came from the east seeking this baby who was born King of the Jews. They found him in a house. Now here’s why I have a problem with this word being translated Inn. Is there a word for inn in the Bible? Yes, and it just so happens that Luke uses it; πανδοχεῖον; 10.29-35 (34, 35);

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

In this story, we have the word for inn and the word for innkeeper. If Luke had wanted us to know that Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a room at the inn, he would have used this word or these words.

But, there is even more evidence.

exp.: let me show you the blueprints for a typical house as drawn up from archeological evidence from that time period and for centuries before and after; show pictures. 1) side view; 2) top view 3) top view w/ kataluma 4) top view 2/ side Kataluma

But what is most important for us in asking: Was it really that way? – is for us to see what Scripture says – Can I take a moment and tell you how important this is – we must use Scripture as our basis – our standard!

1 Sam 28.24 – 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night;

Judges 11.29-40; 29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

This understanding of the home brings clarity to such passages as:

  1. Matt 5.14-15: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house; how many of you can light a candle and it will give light to your whole house? It did for these people because there was only one room to the whole house!
  2. Luke 13.10-17; 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
  3. Mk 7.35: 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. She was untied, released…just as they had done to their animals that morning; Kenneth Bailey, in his book Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, quotes from the Arabic Bible, translated in the 9th Century: Does not everyone of you untie his ox or his donkey from the manger in the house and take it outside and water it? There is no “in the house” in the GK, but this Arabic speaking Christian in the 9th Century understood the text and the culture.

I think the story of the shepherds, which follows in Chronological order, then makes even more sense. These folks were the lowliest of people. Uneducated, poor; Q: why in the world would they be invited to see the King of Kings? If they went, they’d probably be turned away! But no, here is a sign for you: rd v 8-12; Ok, let me stop here and give you fallacy #5…

V.     The Angels didn’t sing

And the Angel said to them: rd v 11-12; you’ll find the baby swaddled…just as other common folk would care for their newborn babies; and 2nd, he’d be lying in a manger…not in some mansion or governor’s home, but rather in a home like theirs!

Suddenly, there is a host of angels! Rd v 13-14; Again, they didn’t sing but said: Praising God and Saying; rd v 15-16; Question: If they’d found the child and their family left out in the cold and rejected by Bethlehem’s residents, don’t you think one of them would have intervened? …Especially, after the announcement by the Angel!

Conclusion:

  • Mary & Joseph were not late in arriving to Bethlehem.
  • Jesus was not born in a barn, and not in the guest room because it was already in use. He was most likely born in a home just like other babies in the era.
  • One room homes were assumed by the listeners of Jesus: Matt & Luke
  • The word translated room is topos; meaning spacee.: because there was no space for them in the guest room: kataluma: vs 7 she wrapped in him swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because that is where she was staying…in the house, not the guest room, because there was no space for them in the guest room.
  • The Magi visited the house where they stayed (cf. Mt 2.11)
  • This is how middle easterners thought and translated from the Greek over a 1,000 years ago (800’s)

Curious to hear from the many members who are from other countries as to what their home language records…

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Mt 2.1-12; Lk 2.1-20

Title: Right on Time!

Text: Matthew 2.1-12; Luke 2.1-20

Introduction: Recording? We’re going to move freely between Matthew 2.1 & Luke 2.1… Go ahead and bookmark those passages as we begin.

Let’s gain some context here of the overall Christmas Sermon Series.

I’m breaking the series down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We began with the Fall and a promise made. Then, we continued through history as we looked at the lineage of Christ. Last week we looked at how he was proclaimed unexpectedly. God had been silent for hundreds of years and now – wah-lah, God announced the coming of his promised messiah through angels to Joseph – also to Mary and Zechariah. Now, the Baby has arrived and his timing is perfect!

So, let’s begin in Mt 2; if you’re wanting to follow along with me this morning, Here’s how I’ve outlined the following passage:

God’s Timing is Perfect

  1. God’s Timing is Problematic
  2. God’s Timing is Not Limited in Scope to accomplishing His Plan
  3. God’s Timing is Planned to ignite in you a desire for worship

Transition: Let’s begin with point #1…

Introduction: God’s timing is perfect in sending us the Messiah, the Promised One

exp.: rd v 1; In the days of Herod the King (in the time of Herod the King); Luke 2.1; in those days (at that time); Luke 2.6 the time came (lit.: day), vs. 11 (lit.: today); the time came; they came – they arrived;

ill.: during the day, today, back in my day. All in the family,

Boy the way Glen Miller played 
Songs that made the hit parade. 
Guys like us we had it made,
 
Those were the days.
 

And you knew who you were then, 
Girls were girls and men were men,
 
Mister we could use a man
 
Like Herbert Hoover again.
 

Didn’t need no welfare state, 
Everybody pulled his weight.
 
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
 
Those were the days.

Xronos vs. Kairos vs. Hemera vs. Semeron

  1. Xronos: a period of time, a season – χρόνος (measured time, duration) to see time as either a flowing river which carries us away (chronos)- : chronometer
  2. Kairos: a point in time, as well as a period of time – καιρός (time of opportunity and fulfilment) – a quiet lake which we swim in (kairos) For the most part, they’re synonymous. One writer said: It’s really the difference between aminute and a  Chronos is about chronological time. Kairos is about the living experience within time. 
  3. Hemera: day, in the day of Herod (in the time of King Herod)
  4. Semeron: today, lit.: a contraction of the definite article and the word hemera. From what I gather from this word it is literally the day we are in or this day. We use the word,

Jesus used both words Kairos and Xronos when the disciples asked him just before he ascended to be with the Father if would restore the kingdom of Israel at that time (xronos). Jesus said: “It is not for you to know times (Xronos) or seasons (Kairos) that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Transition: Both words are used in His Story. Christ was born in a moment of time. God knows the day, the hour, the minute, the place.

Here is the point: there was a time in history – His Story, when God sent his son to be our Messiah. God had a plan from Genesis 3.15, when he promised Christ would come. That plan was laid out perfectly. God knew the season, the events, the circumstances. More than that, God orchestrated them all to bring his son into this sinful world. The Timing really was perfect. Gal 4.4: But when the fullness of time (χρόνος) had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Transition: with an understanding that God’s Timing is Perfect, Let’s look at how God’s perfect timing touched our world, it’s people and us…

I.     God’s timing is problematic for those opposing the Messiah, the Promise One (3-7)

exp.: God’s timing is inconvenient for anyone whose concern is more for themselves than it is for others. As Humans, we have too often misplaced our ‘Awe”; We have an ‘awe’ problem; We place it on creation, people, things, possessions, etc. etc. etc. In this passage, we see two such groups who were in an ‘awe’ problem: Awe of Self & Awe of Religion;

  1. Awe of Self: Herod

Herod, the Great:

  • His Rule: my understanding of his name having, the Great on it is because he was the eldest child of Antipater – procurator of Idumea as established by Caesar. Antipater gave his son responsibilities and watched his son be successful at each and every task. At the age of 25, Herod became governor of Galilee. Rome was impressed with his handling of stressful events, including Galilean bandits and a showdown with the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Herod proved his leadership skills and continued to impress Rome. When his father was assassinated, Herod fled to Rome, where he was made “King of the Jews” and returned to set up his reign. It wasn’t easy, for there was sitting in his place Antigonus II, the last of the Hasmonean rulers. Herod was told he would be king, but first had the assignment of displacing Antigonus, who had been placed as ruler by the Parthians, enemies of Rome.

As King, Herod was successful as a ruler and also, he was famous for his building endeavors. He built:

  • His Creativity:

a.  The port at Ceasarea – located on the Mediterranean coast of northern Israel. It was to be the harbor from which Herod and others would sail to and from Alexandria, Egypt, and Rome. It appears to me that this is where Paul would have set sail from in Acts 27.1.

b.  Herodium – located just south of Jerusalem. Josephus describes Herod’s massive fortress as a citadel created in memory of the great battles fought there. He adorned it with the most costly palaces, and erected very strong fortifications, and called it, from his own name Herodium.

c.  Masada – probably Herod’s most famous fortress, of which he built many. Most famous because it was the last to fall to Rome in 73 AD.

d.  The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem – don’t be too impressed. It was said of Herod that he built other temples to other foreign gods, too. He probably did this to help his relationship with the Jews. Although the rebuilding wouldn’t be complete for another 20 years after Christ died, the remodeling and rebuilding had been going on for some 46 years at the time of Jesus. John 2.18-20: 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

  • His Paranoia: Herod saw success as a ruler and builder; however, he is probably most famous for his murderous ways. He had Antigonus killed to solidify his throne, as well as other members of the Hasmonean dynasty. He had members of his family put to death because he was suspicious of their motives. He always thought someone was trying to take his throne. He killed one of his 10 wives – Mariamme. What is so surprising is that she was his favorite. He was so protective of her that he ordered her killed if ever anything was to happen to him while traveling abroad. First, Herod killed Mariamme’s parents and then, when she continued to protest, he had her tried and executed. He later killed his two sons by her because he thought they were positioning themselves to take his throne. this idea had been planted by his oldest son, Antipater. Antipater experienced no advantage from their deaths because he, too, was killed by his father. I read two separate reports: one that reported just days before Herod himself died, he ordered his son to be executed. And the other that his son was to be executed at his death.

With this picture of Herod in mind – this picture of one so in Awe of himself, rd v 1-3 with me; rd v 1-3;

So, you can see why Herod was nervous about someone being born King of the Jews. He wanted all the glory – all of the awe. So desperate was he for the Awe of others that he ordered the execution of the Jewish elders who were being held in prison at his death. That way, Jerusalem would be filled with mourning at his death.

No wonder he was ‘stirred’ – troubled and all Jerusalem with him! He fought too hard to attain this place he held as King of the Jews. No wonder he will order the death of all boys two years and under down in v 16-18. He was threatened.

Transition: that’s what happens when we serve the god of self and do not surrender the throne of our heart to Christ. That’s what happens when we’re more in awe of ourselves than we are of Christ. But there’s a 2nd group who have a problem with this report.

  1. Awe of Religion: The Chief Priests & Scribes

What happens when we are awed by our religion and not our Savior? Awe of self and religion and anything not God blinds us to what is real. We see this happening to the Chief Priests and the Scribes.

Answer: People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about themselves, their position, and their money. Let’s get this straight: these guys missed their role as God’s servants. So ‘in to’ their religion are they, that they miss the reason for their king’s inquiry. Rd v 4; Here’s why they shouldn’t have missed this – Here are the facts:

  1. Herod doesn’t normally assemble them for their advice! He’s an Edomite and they’re not big fans of each other. Sure, he’s converted, but they don’t think he’s serious – and with good reason (remember the other temples to other gods?). He doesn’t ask them to assemble, he doesn’t meet with them, he never seeks their counsel!
  2. They understand this is the Messiah they’re being asked about. They have knowledge of this matter; Rd v 4; And they give an answer: the Christ, the Messiah, the promised one; rd v 5; . These guys have been praying and asking God to send Him. They’ve been watching and waiting for him to come; The opportunity arises and they miss it.
  3. Their apathy is evident in that they offer Herod a passage of Scripture, but no follow up. Rd v 5-6; it appears that no one follows them, no one even follows up on this inquiry. Why isn’t v 7; rd v 5-6 and add v 7, why do you ask? Does this have anything to do with the Magi who’ve come from the East?

app.: People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about themselves, their position, and their money. People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about their church, their ministry, their following and the financing it brings. This scares me when I think of end times. Are we so obtuse to the things of God that we’ll miss what’s in store because we’re in awe of ourselves and our religion?

Transition: God’s timing is Perfect in sending His Messiah. God’s timing is Problematic for those who oppose God’s Messiah, and 3rd,

II.    God’s timing is not limited in scope to accomplishing the work of His Plan.

exp.: God didn’t choose to bring the Messiah into the world because he finally found the right couple with the right relatives. God didn’t say, oh, now is the time because there is a star floating toward Jerusalem and the right magi are in the east watching. This was all planned! Everything is at his disposal! Rd v 7-8; We’ve seen this so far in our passage.

  1. He uses the heavens: A Star – he controls the heavens; every single object in the heavens, whether shining or not is at his disposal. In 7 BC, an astronomical phenomenon occurred when Jupiter and Saturn intersected. There is another astronomical phenomenon occurred in Chinese records around 4 BC. We don’t know what was seen, but we do know the Chinese recorded the sighting of an evanescent star. Those earthly records don’t necessarily mean either one was this Star. What we do know is that this star was used of God as a sign in the heavens.
  2. He uses Pagan Magi – this is a reminder that God controls foreign governments; men who have studied secular teachings, Philosophy, Astronomy, Science, Mathematics. A reminder to us is the Creation Story. God said: “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years…
  3. He uses The Jewish leadership
    1. Herod – the King Rome put over the Jews
    2. Chief Priests & Scribes
  4. He uses Angels (Messengers to Announce)
  5. He uses common people like shepherds, Joseph, a carpenter, Mary, a young girl, Zecharias, a priest, Elizabeth, a wife, Simeon, an old man, Anna, an old woman.

As to God’s Timing: there is no limit to what God might use to accomplish His purpose. Nothing is hid from Him and unavailable. Nothing. Fourth and finally,

III.   God’s timing is planned to ignite within us a Desire to Worship His Son and to sacrificially give him our lives.

exp.: rd v 9-12; I shared Galatians 4.4 with you earlier; Gal 4.4: But when the fullness of time (χρόνος) had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

There is another verse I love which demonstrates this idea of perfect timing: Romans 5.6: 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Transition: Yes, it was an unexpected announcement – the Messiah was coming into the world. But the timing, it was perfect. All of history had moved in this direction. Thanks to Alexander the Great and the Greeks something wonderful had happened:

  1. The entire world had one common language: Greek – what a great way to spread this good news.
  2. There were roads connecting the countries. One could literally walk to Rome or China or Africa.
  3. For the most part, there was one over-arching government. Rome ruled the known world. You didn’t need a passport to take these roads to these other countries.
  4. Because of the Diaspora, Jews lived all around this world – the basis for Christianity. It was just the right time to spread the Gospel. God had brought it all together under his plan – to save humanity.

Take-a-ways:

  1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews. For those wondering, we do not worship the same God as the Muslims. We worship God in three persons. The 2nd person in that trinity is Christ, the Messiah, the Long Awaited Savior of the World. His position as God demands your surrender.
    1. Of your life – in service to him.
    2. Of your possessions – sacrificed for him.
    3. Those are easily shifted from him to self – to possession, to religion… When you surrender all of who you are and all of what you have to him, you’re gaining a Awe of God.
  2. God’s purpose in all of this is to make his Son known to you. There isn’t anything that isn’t available for his use. Every single thing in the world and even in the universe is at his disposal, to make his Son known to you and worshiped by you. God will move the heavens and the earth, He’ll move the people around you, even the animals if he so desires. – All for the purpose of making his son known to you!
  3. The coming of Christ is problematic to people who do not want to worship him and brings out opposition for those who do. So, I’m calling on you today to pick a side. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ, would you today?

 

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Luke 1.5-25

Title: Breaking the Silence

Text: Luke 1.5-25

CIT: This passage is the introduction section to a greater section communicating the birth of the Messiah. John’s birth was fulfillment of prophecy and designed to prepare the people for the coming Messiah.

Introduction: Luke 1 & Malachi 4; We’re in Luke chapters 1-2 this month. Turn to Luke 1; Zechariah gives us a little insight into what’s going on at the end of his prophecy – his Magnificat, the Magnificat part 2; rd 1.76-79; Indeed, for the Israelites, it had been a long, silent night. They should have known what was coming. They should have been watching for it.

Malachi closes and there is silence for 400 years. Read Malachi 4. The next time you hear from God, it will be through Elijah, whom the Lord will send. Amos warned Judah about it this silence long before Malachi (8.11-12).

11    “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,

“when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

but of hearing the words of the Lord.

12    They shall wander from sea to sea,

and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,

but they shall not find it.

Luke sits to write his Gospel and it’s been more than 700 years since Amos told of the silence and 400 years since Malachi put down his pen and the silence began. Israel was plunged into utter darkness and silence as they awaited the promised sun of righteousness to rise with healing in its wings and to hear the words of God once again.

Luke begins his story with a time period and a place. rd v 5a; the reign of Herod and in Judea; specifically, we’ll see where in Jerusalem multiple times in this passage: in the Temple; we see more in v 5-7; Zechariah and Elizabeth – the characters in our story, but not our main focus:

  • Righteous
  • Blameless according to the law
  • Childless;

This doesn’t make sense to the Jewish mind – there is a contradiction in v 6-7; God blesses the righteous, the blameless with children! Here we see a holy woman forgotten by God? Can’t be! Either she isn’t really holy and blameless or God isn’t good. Here’s another contradiction. She barren and scorned, but God has chosen Zachariah for something incredible. Their fortunes appear to be up in that God has chosen Zachariah to serve as The priest to offer the incense in the holy place at the Temple.

There were so many priests, that they served in the Temple for on a rotating basis. Groups would serve from Sabbath to Sabbath and lots were casts for duties. From what I understand, 5 priest were selected during this time to offer incense. Actually, three worked outside and two inside. One actually offered the incense and the final priest served as his assistant when needed. We see that is what happens here to Zechariah in v. 8-9; the lot falls to Zechariah and he’s chosen (by God) to offer the Incense. V. 10 gives us a bit more information about the happenings in the Temple. Rd v 10; The people were praying. I saw this as a bit of a chiastic structure. Note verse 21-23; the structure looks like this then:

  • Service to the Lord begins(8)
    • In the Temple (9)
      • People watching and praying (10)
      • People waiting and wondering (21)
    • Exits the Temple (22)
  • Service to the Lord ends (23)

So, what’s in the middle? I’ve outlined this middle section, the section of focus into three parts:

  1. The Angel’s Appearance
  2. The Angel’s Announcement
  3. The Angel’s Answer

Transition: Let’s look closely;

1.     The Angel’s Appearance (11-12)

exp.: read v 12; in the holy place; right side of the Altar of Incense; between the altar of incense and the lampstand; 5 pieces of furniture That named: (1) the brazen altar of burnt offering, and (2) the laver, in the court of the tabernacle; (3) bread on the table of presence, (4) the lampstand, and (5) the golden altar of incense, in the holy place; and (6) the ark of the testimony in the holy of holies or the most holy place.

The Bible Exposition Commentary lists the many responsibilities of the priests: Lighting the lamp, washing at the laver, offering sacrifices and Burning the incense (Exod. 30:7–9). There were two altars in God’s sanctuary, a brazen altar that stood at the door and was used for the blood sacrifices, and a golden altar that stood before the veil and was used for the burning of incense. The golden altar pictures the offering up of prayer to the Lord.

ill.: Ps. 141:1–3: O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! 3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

Revelation 8.3-5: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

I’m reminded of another man who saw an angel. This angel promised a son to a couple who was barren. Manoah and his wife, who had a son, Samson. They offered a burnt offering and when the flames went up before the Lord, the angel of the Lord when up in the flame.

app.: Do you think of your prayers like that? Consider this: when the priest was through with his offering, he would come out of the holy of holies and back to where the other priests were and then the people. As he left, the fragrance of Incense offering would be on him.

ill.: campfire; my clothes still have the smell. I wonder if this isn’t a great analogy for our prayers and presence with the master. Maybe others who encounter us would notice a spiritual fragrance about us, as having been with the Lord. Martin Luther is credited as saying, “We are all priests, and our praying is the burning of incense.”

Transition: Well, let’s look now at

–     Zechariah’s Reaction: rd v 12; He was troubled – that is shaken or stirred up; and fear fell upon him; rightly so! Only one priest would be selected to do what Zechariah is doing here. You don’t get a lot of traffic in the holy of holies! The priest would never have to say, “Hey, you’re in my way!” So, to see someone else in there would have caught him of guard.

Now, I have no idea if the angel looked human or massive or what? But whatever form this angel took, it must have been a pretty awesome sight to shake up Zechariah. Also, Do you remember what happened in Leviticus 10.1-3; Nadab and Abihu;

t.s.: We first see the angel’s appearing to Zechariah positioned between the Table with the Bread on it and the altar of incense. Then, the Angel of the Lord speaks:

2.     The Angel’s Announcement (13-18)

exp.: This is why he’s come, to make an announcement; look w/ me at this announcement: rd v 13; There are two parts to this announcement. The 1st deals w/ ‘you’ – Zechariah; the 2nd deals w/ the one to be born to you, namely John.

  1. What God is going to do in answer to your prayer
  2. What God is going to do through the answer to your prayer (i.e.: what God is going to do through John)

What God is going to do in answer to your prayer

  1. Do not be afraid; a common theme in Luke and a common phrase used by the Angel of the Lord; μὴ φοβοῦ
  2. Your prayer has been heard; You’ve been praying for a son, well…
  3. Your wife will bear a son! And, as confirmation to this…
  4. You shall call his name John.
  5. You will have joy and gladness, and furthermore…
  6. Many will rejoice at his birth

What God is going to do through the answer to your prayer (i.e.: what God is going to do through John); v14

  1. For he will be great before the Lord; this word ‘before’ is often translated ‘in the presence’; in the face, lit.: he will grow up in the presence of the Lord. So, because of this…
  2. He must not drink wine or strong drink; that’s because he’s gonna be a Baptist! John, the Baptist! No, I’m just kidding; there is nothing that I can find in the Bible that speaks against wine and beer (i.e: strong drink) except when:
    1. The Priest is in service in the Temple
    2. The Nazarite Vow – which was only for a short period of time
    3. During pregnancy for certain women
    4. I think it would be fair to say that the Bible warns against those whose goal for the day is to drink wine or strong drink. I think the point here is that John is going to be in service to the Lord his whole life long. Rd v 16;
  1. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit – From his mother’s womb
  2. He will turn many to God; not everyone, but many; rd v 17;
  3. He will go before the Lord
    1. In the Spirit of Elijah; we see that in his clothes, his persona;
    2. With the purpose of:
      1. Turning the Fathers hearts to their children
      2. Turning the Disobedient to the Wisdom of the just
      3. Making ready for the Lord a people prepared; he is going to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

exp.: wouldn’t it be nice if we could spend some time right here on these three objectives: repeat. Well, look at

Zechariah’s Response: rd v 18; It’s hard to notice at first, but Zechariah doesn’t believe the angel; Zechariah makes three statements to declare his unbelief:

  • How shall I know this?: According to what shall I know this? Middle voice: for myself; Now, to be fair, Mary asks a question, too. But hers is much different. We’ll look at that later, and I’ll explain the difference then; however, here He shows his disbelief by his statements:
  • I, myself, am an old man.
  • My woman is late or really advanced in her days. Her child-bearing days are behind her. Evidently, You don’t know my situation!

ill.: What Zechariah failed to recognize is the Angel’s 1st statement: God has heard your prayers!

app.: This makes me think of my prayers. Do I pray to God for miracles and respond in disbelief, before he’s even answered!?!

t.s.: Hold that thought, because Gabe’s going to make Zechariah some promises:

3.     The Angel’s Answer (19-20)

exp.: rd v 19-20; Be careful what you ask for!

I myself am Gabriel; the one who is standing in the presence of God; sent: to speak and to bring good news (evangelism); Gk is still one sentence: being silent, unable to speak; and being silent and not being able to speak; until the day these things take place. Why? Because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their day.

app.: I wonder if we too often miss out on the blessings of God – if we miss out on answered prayer because we never really believed God anyway.

t.s.: In this passage, we see Zechariah has been praying and so have the people. And in response, one answer is given answering both requests! Rd v 21-22;

The people, too, have been praying. And yet, they don’t know that God is answering their prayer.

Conclusion: How do I know this? Because, the people have been in darkness and have experienced silence from the Lord for a long time – some 400 years. And now, he is breaking his silence. And now, a light is beginning to dawn.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s what Christmas is really all about.

So, what are our take-a-ways?

  1. The Christmas story begins and ends at the Temple. What a great reminder for us to acknowledge the perfection and holiness of God. For in so doing, we see ourselves for whom we really are.
  2. The Christmas story is filled with prayer. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the people, the incense. What are your prayers for this Christmas? Are they filled with selfish wishes or are they seasoned with concerns for others? Can others tell you’ve been with the master? Is there a spiritual fragrance about you?
  3. The Christmas story is good news. Evangelism is our English Equivalent. Have you ever thought that Christmas just might be the best time to share Christ with those around you – with whom you work: your boss or your employees? What about with your neighbors? Why do we give gifts and decorate? It’s an opportunity to share!
  4. Finally, I’m amazed that John has been praying and Gabriel says – Good News, Dude! God has heard your prayers. And yet, when John is given this positive response – he doesn’t believe it. Do you pray believing? Isn’t that how this journey with God begins? You believe God for his forgiveness and you surrender yourself to his Lordship.
  5. It had been a long 400 years of silence from the Father for them. And they should have been watching and waiting. It has been 2000 years for us. When Jesus comes again, will we be ready? Are you watching and waiting?

Invitation: Maybe it’s time for us to break the silence – to begin sharing – to begin praying – to begin believing

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