Monday, August 27, 2012

Jesus...Not Too Good for Anyone!

Luke 5:27-32 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. (28) And he left all, rose up, and followed him. (29) And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. (30) But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? (31) And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. (32) I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 

Jesus certainly did things in an unusual way didn’t he?  

If you wanted to start a new religion, who would you try and recruit for your core ambassadors?  What is the best kind of person that would continue your message into the future?  Would you choose the most educated, well spoken and influential citizens or the dredges of society?  I for one certainly wouldn’t trust people like Tax collectors or ordinary fisherman...and I would be wrong!

In our text this morning, we find that Jesus approaches a publican or tax collector named Levi.  Our distain for tax collectors today does not even begin to approach the hatred that they had for them in Jesus time.  The reason is that the Roman government recruited people from respective societies to collect taxes from their own people.  This made tax collectors traitors in the eyes of their peers.

Jesus had the audacity to not only approach Levi but actually asked Levi to follow him.  Jesus wanted a despised Tax Collector?  Yes he did.  In verse 29 we get a hint of why Jesus did this. 

Luke 5:29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. 

Levi was so appreciative of his being picked by Jesus that he threw a great feast and invited his friends.  Levi wanted to share his new find with his those that were important to him.  Are we like Levi?  Are we too thrilled that Jesus is willing to pick us that we are excited to share him with our friends?  If not why not?

When the religious leaders of the day saw that Jesus was ‘stooping into the gutter’ to eat and socialize with ‘such people’, they were outraged!  They thought that if Jesus was trying to promote himself as a leader that he should be trying to endear himself to them instead of tax collectors and such.  Jesus...why on earth would you want to eat and drink with SINNERS?

But Jesus’ response says it all!

Luke 5:31-32 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. (32) I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Because Jesus is a spiritual doctor and his mission is to heal those that are sick!  It is the tax collectors and sinners of the world that will sooner acknowledge their sin than those that perceive they have no problems, like the scribes and pharisees.

I for one am SO thankful that Jesus stoops down into the gutter to try and relate to the sinners of the world.  If he didn’t, I couldn’t have ever been saved.  I am SO thankful that Jesus was not too good for me!

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Was Jesus’ PURPOSE?

Luke 5:17-26 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. (18) And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. (19) And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. (20) And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. (21) And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? (22) But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? (23) Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? (24) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. (25) And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. (26) And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day. 

Jesus is truly an intriguing individual who is so hard to put in a “box”.  While some folks try to portray him to be ONLY this loving, forgiving, compassionate, mild-mannered, soft-spoken religious push-over, this passage some what breaks him out of that stereotype.

Jesus, of course is traveling around the region of Galilee and his popularity is spreading.  This is drawing large crowds as well as his critics.  People are flocking to hear what he will say, bringing him loved ones to be healed and his detractors are equally being drawn to the crowds to try and catch him in an error.

So if you are Jesus, and you KNOW that people want to find fault in the point that they will murder you, do you antagonize them or do you try to choose your words carefully so as not to fan the flames?  In my mind you choose your words carefully so as to NOT antagonize. But Not Jesus!

In this snapshot of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus is preaching inside of a building and a group of friends are so determined to get their crippled friend to Jesus to be healed, that they hoist him upon the building where Jesus is so that they can lower him down in front of Jesus.

When Jesus sees this man, he breaks from his normal routine.  He deters from the expected....with full knowledge that he is going to rile up his critics.  Notice what he says to the sick man.

Luke 5:20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

This man is clearly sick.  He clearly is need of physical help.  He clearly has has come to Jesus to be healed of his infirmities, but Jesus decides to set that aside for a moment and tells him that his sins are forgiven.  Now notice the reaction of Jesus’ enemies.

Luke 5:21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

Jesus has the ability to know what people are thinking.  in verse 22, along with many passages in the gospels, the scriptures plainly tell us Jesus knew their thoughts. He KNOWS why these men are were here and it wasn’t to be a follower.  So Jesus has clearly chosen to take this path to stir the pot and to make sure we know his real purpose in his ministry.  Here is the whole point!

Luke 5:23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? (24) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. (25) And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. (26) And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

Jesus’ Purpose in his life on earth was NOT to eliminate hospitals and illness.  Jesus’ purpose was to eliviate human suffering.  His ENIRE purpose was to forgive the sins of man and he had to PROVE beyond the shadow of any doubt that he had the POWER to do so.  Even if it upset people.  Even if it caused people to hate him.  Even it it would lead to his death.

To understand WHO Jesus is, we must understand his mission and purpose.  Jesus has set the standard.  Jesus has paid the price.  Now in order for us individually to be forgiven of our sins, we must be willing to accept his gift,  but that will require us to make a change in our lives.  We must be followers of Jesus which means that we must live according to HIS will, NOT ours.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

They Forsook All and Followed Him!

Luke 5:1-11 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, (2) And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. (3) And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. (4) Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. (5) And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (6) And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. (7) And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. (8) When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. (9) For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: (10) And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. (11) And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. 

This story has always interested me because of my passion for fishing.  I have gone out more times than I care to remember and spent hours to come up empty.  But I didn’t have Jesus to assist me!

Jesus had been in the immediate area because a crowd of people followed him to hear him preach.  In order to be in a vantage point so everyone could hear and see him, Jesus convinced Peter to launch his ship out a bit from shore so he can preach from the lake.

After the preaching was concluded, Jesus suggest that they go on back out and fish again.  The manner in which they fish is anything but recreational.  It is hard work and they had already been out all night, so Peter was less than thrilled at the thought of going back out.  But Peter had a reaction to Jesus that we all need to have.

Luke 5:5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

From a human perspective, there may be lots of reasons why the will of God may seem to be inconvenient.  From our logical perspective, some things he wants from us may not make any sense.  But this example demonstrates WHY we should suck it up and do what he says.  Peter was the expert here, but he did not know what he was talking about for 2 simple reasons.
1.  God ALWAYS has a better perspective than we do
2.  Go is in control of things that we cannot consider.
So even if something in God’s word seems strange, odd, or downright illogical, we need to follow the lead of Peter... “Nevertheless...I will DOT IT!”
When Peter and the others submitted to the will of Jesus, they were enormously rewarded.  They took in so many fishes that two boats were filled to the point that they began to sink.

Peter’s reaction is again is worth following.

Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  

Due to this unusual miracle, Peter realizes that he is in the presence of Greatness.  So much so that he quickly sees himself as undeserving due to his sin.  This encounter changes his life forever.  For the text says that when he gets to shore, they forsook all and followed Jesus!

When we see what Jesus can do to our lives, we again ought to follow the lead of Peter and follow Jesus!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Behavior of Gratitude!

Luke 4:38-39 And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. (39) And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. 

We have been taught from early on in our lives to say “Thank You” at at kind gesture.  If someone gives us a stick of gum, if some one offers us a compliment, a warm “Thank You” tells the giver that their act of kindness did not go unnoticed.  To fail to offer a word of appreciation is generally understood to be just plain rude.  Depending on the nature of the kind gesture, the lack of appreciation can be interpreted as arrogance or selfishness.   

As we got older, we also grew to understand that the larger the act of kindness the greater the expression of appreciation. For instance, If my car breaks down and I am stranded I might buy lunch for the friend who comes to help.  Sometimes the words “thank you” are just not big enough to fully convey the appreciation felt.

In our text today, Jesus has come to Simon Peter’s house because Peter’s mother-in-law is ill with a fever.  The text says that she has a “great” fever.  Although the text does not specifically say this, I would guess that they were afraid that she was going to die.  Jesus, being full of compassion that he was, comes and instantly ends the fever.

I want us to really focus on the woman’s response after she was healed.  The text says that: 

Luke 4:39 .... immediately she arose and ministered unto them. 

The word “ministered”, as used in the King’s James version, simply means to serve.  The NIV version used the phrase “waited on”.  She got up and served Jesus and those responsible for bringing him there.  She was so thankful, she was so grateful that she wanted to express it by serving them with what she could do.  Could she have really served them in any manner as to “repay” them for helping her?  Of course not!  Life is too precious to be able to “repay”!  But that is not why we DO things in return.  It is all about the expression of appreciation.

What would have been the alternative behavior?  She could have gotten up, thought “whew...I escaped that bullet” and served HERSELF!  What if she popped up and said “thank you” and THEN went about serving herself?  Better?  Not really!  The act of healing her was much too big for simple words.

For those of us that are Christians we have similarly escaped death by the hand of Jesus and healed from the disease of sin.  Furthermore, the price that he paid to offer us this renewed life was far too significant.

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 

So what is our subsequent behavior saying?  Have we been behaving like Peter’s mother-in-law by serving to express our gratitude?  Or have we gone about serving ourselves?

Let us contemplate the enormous gift that God has given to us by giving us new life and to a greater degree serve him to express our gratitude!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

He Spoke with Authority!

Luke 4:31-32 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. (32) And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power (authority). 

As Jesus travelled around Israel during his ministry, the one thing that he did consistently was to teach and/or preach.  We are told that his purpose in his existence was to SEEK and to SAVE the lost.  Salvation, from a spiritual stand point, is offered through knowledge so Jesus spread the message of salvation through his teaching.

But Jesus’ teaching is different, and it was recognizable by those that heard.  Jesus spoke with Authority.  This is not a description of his preaching style, but rather the foundation from which the truth comes.

When I preach each Sunday I stress to encourage every member to take their Bibles and turn with me to the passages that I use.  I want everyone to SEE the authority from which I speak.  I say “that if I am doing my mission correctly that I am ONLY reflecting what the Bible says.”  

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 

A preacher should NEVER give his own opinions, ideas or philosophies as it pertains to ANY spiritual matters.  

But Jesus was different.  Jesus spoke with authority.  He was the source of the truth!  He was not just perpetuating the teachings of the Old Law....He was establishing a NEW Law!

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

So why is Jesus able to speak with authority?  Why is it that he was able to establish a new covenant?  Three Reasons:

1.  He is God!

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

2.  He is the Son of God

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 

3.  He is the Founder Christianity

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

If Jesus is all of those things...and he is.  If Jesus is spoke with such authority, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should listen to him as an authority?  When I was growing up, I remember a series of E.F. Hutton commercials.  In them, two people would be talking in a public setting and one would say:  “My broker is E.F. Hutton and E.F. Hutton says.....”
And the entire room would stop what it was doing and listen intently for what was about to be said.

Jesus is far, FAR more significant that EF Hutton.  What Jesus talks about is enormously more important than stocks and bonds.  Therefore, shouldn’t we follow that lead of those in the commercial and listen to EVERY word that Jesus teaches and have the courage to apply it to our lives!

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Beat Sin!

Luke 4:2-4 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. (3) And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. (4) And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 

Very early on in Jesus’ ministry, he had a face-to-face encounter with Satan who tried to tempt, deceive and ultimately destroy Jesus.  We may look at this series of temptations and conclude that they were no big deal, but we should not be quick to dismiss them.  There are two very important principles that come into play.

1.  Jesus Was CAPABLE to Succumb to Temptation
Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 

For Jesus to be the PERFECT example, he had be fully human and endowed with the weaknesses that cause man to fall...and he was!  But not only that, something that is easily missed with this event of Jesus’ life is that the text says that he was tempted for 40 days.  How many times have we heard that person being interrogated for hours by police and finally make a confession because they are simply worn down?  Satan was in Jesus’ face for 40 days.  All the while Jesus was continually weakened due to the lack of food.

2.  Satan is Convincing
2 Corinthians 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 

One of the best things that Satan has going for him is his ability to make evil appear righteous. Wrong to appear right.  Bad to appear good. After 40 days of temptations, we cannot underestimate how convincing Satan could be.

But even with that said, Jesus lived and died a SINLESS Life!  

So HOW did he do it?

If we could understand that, maybe we too could become more effective against the wiles of the Devil.

The first temptation that we have recorded played on the fact that Jesus had gone without food for a significant amount of time.  Satan encourages Jesus to turn the stones to bread.  But Jesus response is the KEY for us.

Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Most poisons known to man has a specific antidote. The specific antidote to temptation is the word of God!  When we know that something is sin, we can avoid it for the danger that it is.  Without that understanding, we are much more likely to fall for tactic of Satan that the evil activity is OK.

But one of the most important words in this verse is “EVERY”!  We must understand that we cannot choose to overlook some of God’s commands and conclude that as long as we do most, all will be fine.  It will not.  We must have an Active, Ongoing and Engrafting knowledge of God’s word and then we will be able to counteract the deceptions of the devil!

Let us all look at each situation given to us today through the eyes of God’s word and have the courage to do the will of God!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Excited about Jesus!

Luke 2:15-18 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (16) And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (17) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 

We continue for the third day talking about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Yesterday, shepherds in the fields, in the Israeli countryside are visited by angels to inform them of the coming of the Messiah and the Birth of Jesus.

Today in our text, the shepherds demonstrate for us an example that we all should follow.  They really encapsulate for us the epitome of what we should do as a Christians.  In a very condensed manner. let me give you the formula that they followed.

1.  They hear
2.  They Do
3.  They Spread

1.  They Hear:  The angels appeared to them for the sole purpose of passing o information that God wanted them to know.  They clearly, from their actions, took in what it is that they heard.  That seems painfully obvious but so often we hear information and dismiss it for a variety of reasons.  In fact, Jesus says that is one of the primary reasons why folks are not followers of his.  WE hear, but don’t HEAR!

Matthew 13:10, 13-15 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? .....(13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 

2.  They Do:

Luke 2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 

The shepherds, IMMEDIATELY after the angels left, knew they had to act upon the information they heard.  They did not wait to see what happened.  They did not wait for a convenient time.  They did not take a poll of others to see if it was worth while.  They simply had to go and see for themselves.  They ACTED!

3.  They Spread:  

Luke 2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Once they heard, they acted, and once they acted and were convinced of the information, they simply could not stop from sharing the good news.

This simple yet powerful formula is exactly what we are to do when we hear about the good news of Jesus.  Let us have the courage to truly hear what God has to say and not just hear the parts that feel comfortable.  Once we do, I hope that we have the courage to do what it is that is imparted in God’s word.  And once we personally act, we need to have a love and compassion for others that we tell them about what we have heard and done!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Glory to God!

Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (14) Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. 

Yesterday, we began looking at the angel’s conversation with the shepherds who came to announce the birth of Jesus.  But something happens in the text today that I never really noticed before.  In verse 13, it says suddenly, with the one original angel, appeared a multitude of angels praising God.  The birth of Jesus was so significant that the heavenly servants came to pay honor in MASS!  

But not only was the appearance of  a multitude of angels noteworthy, but what they said needs to be discussed.  They said two separate things.

1.  Glory to God in the Highest
The word glory is a word that is hard to accurately define in english.  The closest thing thing that we have is “praise”.  Their chant was an expression of giving honor and praise to God for what it means for Jesus to appear on earth.  God deserves credit, not only from the multitude of angels, but also from EVERYONE on earth.  It is not obvious at this vantage point, but this enormous gift, (the sending of Jesus in human form), to mankind changed the history of mankind and it truly changed the direction of many individual’s eternal destination.  For that, not only should we join in the praise of God with our voice, but we should express our gratitude by the manner in which we live our lives!

2.  Peace among Men in Whom He is Well Pleased
This part of the angel’s statement of praise expresses the purpose of Jesus’ bring peace to mankind.  The peace in which they speak is not in the traditional sense where there is a cessation of physical violence between two warring countries or peoples, but rather a spiritual peace.  This peace is a settling an enmity between God and those that sin.

Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 

But that peace, according to the angels is not GIVEN to everyone.  It is however offered to everyone!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

But the statement that the angels made was that...

Luke 2:14 ...on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. 

The peace is given to whom God is well pleased!  How are we pleasing to God to accept this peace? How then can we receive the peace to be reconciled back to God?  

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 

Luke 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

Matthew 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 

Romans 6:3-4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 

For Jesus’ birth to have any relevance in our lives, we must take advantage of the offer made in his death.  When we do, we will have the true understanding of the praise that the multitude of angels offered that evening.  Then we will gladly join the praise with our mouths and with our lives.  Praise God for his great and precious gift!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not Just Good News...The BEST News!

Luke 2:8-11 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (9) And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (10) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 

If you are like me, I hear so much bad news that if we focused on it, we could easily spiral into depression.  We turn on the evening news and hear about natural disasters, plant closings and countless people losing their jobs, more murders, missing children and deaths in war.  It seems sometimes that all there is is bad news or worse news!  When we do hear good news, we want to truly embrace it because it is so rare.  One of my favorite good-news stories is when we hear of a person doing something heroic to save another person.

In our text today, we find that shepherds in the countryside of the land of Israel are getting a rare visit by an angel of God.  The angel starts off by stating that he brings Good News of Great Joy.  In so many ways, the statement of “Great Joy” is quite an understatement!  I get great joy from being married for 24 years (today is my anniversary...I love you Peggy...Thank you for 24 awesome years), I get great joy seeing a baby laugh.  I get great joy having my 20 year old daughter come home for the weekend to visit.  But nothing compares to the joy that we should have at the news that the angel brings.

The angel then reveals the good news of great joy:  The birth of a Jesus!  I don’t know about you readers, but from my vantage point, the news of the birth of Jesus seems more significant to me than it could have ever meant to them.  Surely it had to be unbelievably significant to them since the news was delivered by an angel of God. What an impact it must have made to see the glory of the Lord shine round about them in there presence.  No doubt they had to take notice that something of huge and of vital importance was taking place.  

But in hindsight, we have the ability to truly see the impact of what that event meant.  For the real significance of Jesus was not just in his birth, but in his death.  The buying back of our sins! (Eph. 1:7)  The washing away of our iniquities! (Rev. 1:5)  The reconciliation back to God! (Eph. 2:16)  The transformation into his kingdom! (Col 1:13)  The opportunity that we can be his children! (1 John 3:1)  And the possibility that we can spend eternity with God some day!  (John 14:2)

It may have been a life changing event and may have been the best news that those shepherds ever heard, but truly, if we understand the significance of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death and sacrifice, this should be the best news we have ever heard as well.  May we be truly mindful of God’s great sacrifice and live today acting in a manner that shows our gratitude!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blessed be the Lord God!

Luke 1:67-79 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, (68) Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, (69) And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; (70) As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: (71) That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; (72) To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; (73) The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, (74) That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, (75) In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. (76) And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; (77) To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, (78) Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, (79) To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 

As we look at the text this morning, let us consider the context that leads up to it.  Earlier in the chapter, an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, and informed him of the upcoming birth of their son, John (Luke 1:11-17).  But due to Zacharias’ and his wife’s old age, he doubted the news that the angel delivered (Luke 1:18).  So to prove who he was and by whom he was sent, the angel struck Zacharias mute until the birth of John (Luke 1:20).  In verse 64, we find that Zacharias’ mouth was finally loosed and so he spoke the words of our text today.  Keep in mind that the passage makes clear, as Zacharias is speaking, he is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies...that he is speaking the specific message of God!  We will single out a few statements that we want to key on this morning.

1.  God has visited and Redeemed his people (vrs. 68):  It is simply amazing the Love that our Father has for us.  He knew that we were unable to save ourselves...he knew that we were unable, ON OUR OWN, to be reconciled back to him so he made the ultimate sacrifice to bridge the gap.  That sacrifice was Jesus, as God (John 1), literally visited us as a man for the purpose of washing away our sins, which is what causes our separation from God.

2.  Raised up a Horn of Salvation (vrs. 69):  The term “Horn of Salvation” is used in the Old Testament (Psalm 18:2).  It symbolizes strength and power.  The power of God to save man is far more powerful than that which Satan has with sin and temptation.

3.  The Words of the Prophets are about to come to Pass (vrs. 70):  Nearly a third of the Old Testament are books of Prophecy.  Much of the prophecy was written for the contemporaries of the writers of that time to help guide them in their own lives.  However, there is an enormous amount prophecy given about the coming Messiah which Jesus will fulfills and is revealed later on in the book of Luke.

4.  He Will Remember the Covenant Made to Abraham (vrs. 73):  While the Israelites benefitted from the promises that God first gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, much of the promises were much more forward looking.  The ultimate fulfillment of the those promises comes from the embodiment and sacrifices of Jesus (Galatians 3:29).  Those prophecies are about to come true as Jesus is due to come into the world.

5.  John Will be a Prophet who will Prepare the Way of Him (vrs. 76):  In this prophecy uttered by Zacharias, he tells of the future of his newborn son.  He will prepare the way of Jesus.  He will be a preacher that will get the Israelites ready for Jesus to come and to make his way ready.

6.  John will Give Knowledge of Salvation (vrs. 77):  In his preaching, John will give knowledge of Salvation.  It is so interesting how God phrases this.  Salvation is NOT some sort of mysterious “event”.  Salvation is not a purely emotional occurrence.  But rather Salvation is based upon KNOWLEDGE.  One cannot be saved without PROPER knowledge of who God is, what he has done for us, and what he wants from us.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 

That is why Paul wrote this:

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 

The ONLY way that man can be saved from our sins is to have FAITH in our Great Creator.  That faith comes only from a knowledge of God’s word and then a specific application of that knowledge.

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 

As we begin this day, let us keep in mind the enormity of God’s Love and all that he has done to make his salvation available to us.  Then let us search out his will and have the COURAGE to follow it in every detail!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Great in the Sight of the Lord!

Luke 1:13-17 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. (14) And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. (15) For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. (16) And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. (17) And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

Is mediocrity our goal?  Are we satisfied with just getting by?  Do we want to do just barely enough?

Most folks don’t have this attitude when it comes to many aspects of their lives.  People generally don’t want to be mediocre as a parent.  Folks typically don’t participate in a hobby just to get by.  But somehow, Christianity is something that many people do just enough.

On the other hand, as the birth of John the Baptist is being announced, it is told that he will be GREAT.  If the average person has the choice to be great versus being mediocre, most will choose greatness.  Does anyone really want to be less than ordinary?  So if people don’t really WANT to be mediocre why do we tend to act that way in certain circumstances?  Because we don’t want to put forth the effort.

So what made John the Baptist great?  Several Characteristics are given
1.  Shall not drink Drink Wine or strong Drink
2.  Shall Be filled with the Holy Spirit
3.  Many children of Israel will be turned to God
4.  Shall prepare the People for the coming of Jesus

While these characteristics and/or actions may not specifically apply to us because John was an Israelite and we are talking about christianity, there are some generalizations that can be made.  First we know from this and other verses about John, that he was not influenced by the trappings of this world.  That allowed him to focus his attention on serving God.  Secondly, he actively did the work of God.  He was a preacher and he turned many people to God.

Do you really only want to get by with God?  Or do you want to be GREAT in the sight of God?  Like John, to be great we need to focus our attention on him and we need to actively serve him. Let’s all aim for GREATNESS today!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Righteous Before God

Luke 1:5-6 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. (6) And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 

As Luke opens up his gospel, he begins by presenting to us the family background of John the Baptist.  We are introduced to John’s parents Zacharias and Elizabeth.  Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, they were chosen to care for this very special servant of God due to their faithfulness.  In verse 6, we are told that Zacharias and Elisabeth are Righteous before God.

So what does it mean to be righteous?  Is righteousness really critical to our salvation?  How can we be righteous?  

First let’s understand that being righteous is necessary for having a relationship with God and ultimately gaining the reward of Heaven.

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 

Clearly, being righteous is absolutely essential.  John tells us that if we do not the righteousness that God desires, then we are NOT of God.  So how are we able to be righteous?

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Romans 5:18-19 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Here we are told two very important pieces of information.  First, man is incapable of being righteous ON OUR OWN!  Righteousness is NOT anything that we have individually done!  We cannot avoid enough sin ON OUR OWN.  We cannot do enough good deeds ON OUR OWN.  We cannot do a combination of the two ON OUR OWN to be pleasing to God.  So why try right?  Because Paul tells the Romans that through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can be MADE Righteous!  So if we are made righteous, is there any sense of us trying?  Absolutely!  Once made righteous by the purifying blood of Jesus, we MUST continue living in a manner that reflects our new persona!

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 

1 Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. 

Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

The bible unequivocally informs us that we must live a manner that is befitting the gift that God gave us when he made us righteous.  There are two keys given here in our quest to Live righteously.  We are to: 1.  refrain from sin and we are 2.  to be obedient to the wishes and commands of God.  As a matter of fact, obedience was the one characteristic of Zacharias and Elisabeth was noted as proof of their righteousness.

Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

So how do we know HOW to live?  What must we do?  What must we NOT do?

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 

The scriptures that God gave to us through inspiration are the instructions that we need to live the righteous life that God desires of us.  Let us a seek out God’s will for our lives in his word and strive daily to live a RIGHTEOUS life!

Monday, August 6, 2012

That We Might KNOW!

Luke 1:1-4 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (2) Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; (3) It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, (4) That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. 
Luke opens the his account of the gospel of Christ by stating his thesis:  That we might know with certainty!
An important characteristic of being a follower of God is confidence!  The Bible does not teach of having a suspicion about whether there is a God.  It does not speak of an optimism that there is a Messiah and savior, but rather that we can have an absolute security of that which we believe.
So how can we have this kind of confidence with what Luke has to write?  Luke states that he had a perfect or complete understanding of these things...”from the very first”.  Luke does not give us detail about that statement but but there are several conclusions that we can make.  
First, it appears that some of what he writes he was a personal witness to.  This was a small world, and it would seem logical that his path would have crossed with Jesus’ somewhere along the line.  If he was just an investigative reporter after the fact, it would not have made sense that he use the phrase “from the first”.  The Bible speaks often of people that heard about Jesus, heard that he was coming nearby and decided to see him and learn about him first hand.
Luke 19:1-4 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. (2) And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. (3) And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. (4) And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 
It just seems obvious that an intellectual and inquisitive person like Luke would have behaved similar to Zaccaeus and went to see Jesus when he was nearby.  I would even conclude there were times that Luke might have even followed Jesus around witnessing  many of these things first hand
Secondly, several other versions interpret verse 3 as
Luke 1:3  ....since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning
Not only did Luke see many things for himself, he also had enough interest Jesus to investigate him as well.  Luke was a physician so he was an educated and intellectual individual.  In the same way that we could trust the investigation of Walter Cronkite many years later, we can trust the work of Luke.  
But "knowing" is not the end result.  We should not just know about God for the sake of knowing.  The knowledge of who God is, ought to inspire and motivate us to act in a prescribed manner.  Once we have certainty of what we believe, due to the work of men like Luke, we must put that belief into action and BECOME the people that God wants us to be.