Christmas 2020: Luke 2:1-20 How and Why Jesus Came

Christmas 2020
Luke 2:1-20
How and Why Jesus Came

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with and turn to Luke chapter 2. Yes, we are travelling backwards in time to October, which is when we recently looked at this text. Go ahead if your able and put your finger or a bookmark or whatever into Matthew chapter 1 as well.
You know, most pastors love doing their Christmas and Easter Sermons because its easy for them. It’s the same source material for each year, and its material they know intimately well. There are no more important days to Christianity than Christmas and Easter.
The stories and the verses in the Bible about Christmas are some of the most well know stories in the Bible by people in the congregation. We get so familiar with the texts and the themes.
But I’m going to be honest with you. These are the sermons that are really tough for me. Partly because we ARE so familiar with the stories of Christmas and Easter. Part of it is because these are the stories that you hear the most. We bring aspects of Jesus birth and incarnation and Jesus death and resurrection into, most if not all of the sermons we do on a weekly basis.
In this particular case, we add in that we just went through Luke chapter 2, and the birth of Jesus in October and this was a tough sermon to plan and prepare. So, here’s my thought, we are going to go back and camp in Luke chapter 2, reviewing his birth, with an emphasis on why Jesus came, for what purpose he was born.
We will bounce around into a lot of scriptures and let the Bible speak for itself in a lot of places. Because of this, and so that you’re not frantically trying to keep up and wasting time turning to pages that I am already moving on from, I’ve included in the bulletin a list of most, if not all of the scriptures that we will be reading during the sermon this morning, so please feel free to refer to that and turn ahead if needed.
So, let’s start first with the Christmas story itself, reading from Luke chapter 2, verse 1-20. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, please follow along in your Bible, with your preferred translation. The Word of God is inspired and inerrant and we believe in letting it speak for itself, so its absolutely important for you to read it for yourself and not just take anyone’s word for it.
Luke 2:1-20, the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to write:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 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 those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

That’s the story we all know. That’s the story we all grew up hearing. This is the Christmas story. This is where we see Jesus born and brought into this world, and the effects are immediate.
Jesus, from Nazareth, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, under the humblest and the lowliest of circumstances. This was all foretold, both in the recent past, to Mary and Joseph, and in the distant past, starting all the way back in Genesis 3.
And where I want to start is touching on just a few of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that God gave to the people of Israel that would lead to them waiting for the Messiah to arrive and that Jesus would fulfill.
Genesis 3 is where it starts. Setting the context, Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, perfect, sinless and walking in perfect communion with God. The Serpent, or the devil, comes along and tempts Eve to go against the one command the God had given them. Adam, right there with Eve allows her to give in and gives in as well. Sin enters the world. Death enters the world. Sin has now infected mankind. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. God told Adam in Genesis 2:17 that if he would eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that he would surely die.
And so, now what? Adam and Eve are doomed, right? And so are any offspring coming from them. Except God. Except God already knew all about this> God knows and ordains the future and so he already had a plan for this before he even created Adam and Eve. So, after they sinned, God talks to Adam, Eve and the Serpent and says in Genesis 3:14 & 15:
The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[e] and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
God the Father knew before then and told us that he was going to send a solution, a savior to rescue us from our sins, to restore our broken relationship with him and to grant us forgiveness and everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And so, throughout the Old Testament, through Genesis with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph. Through Exodus and the rest of the Pentateuch with Moses and Joshua. Through the historical books with the judges, Ruth, King Saul, David, Solomon and the rest of the Kings. And through the prophets, God continued to foreshadow, to prophecy and to remind all people that there was one coming who was going to make everything right again, who was going to restore the peace and the rhythm of the world of which he created.
Real quick, two of the most famous prophecies we read in the Old Testament, two of those that are most common attached and used in the Christmas story; first, Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
One of the greatest Christmas songs there is is Oh Come, oh Come Immanuel. Read the Lyrics, seriously. Goosebumps. Immanuel means God with Us. That’s exactly what the messiah, the promised savior would be, God with us.
Second, Isaiah 9:6 & 7:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

This is who Jesus is and would be. This is what he would accomplish in many ways. He will reign from the throne of David, and his kingdom will be everlasting. It will be perfect, justice and righteous. We see the trinity hinted at in that passage as well. Counselor, Holy Spirit, Father, Son and Prince, Jesus Christ. All God.
So, everyone was waiting for this promise to be fulfilled. They were waiting for a few thousand years. We see God speaking to the prophet Malachi and then, nothing. Silence. For over 400 years. Not until we see the angel Gabriel show up to Zachariah and to Mary and Joseph prophesying the births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah.
Luke records Gabriel showing up and speaking to Mary in Luke 1:26-35:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God.

A virgin birth. The throne of David. Son of the Most High God. A Kingdom with no end. All things we saw prophesied about in the passages we just read. What they had been waiting for. And then, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4&5: when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
God became man. God clothed in flesh. God with us. That’s How Jesus came to earth. How he was sent, by God the Father on a mission. That’s the how, now we let scripture tell us the why.
First, back to what the angels told the shepherds in the field the night that Jesus was born. Luke 2:10-14:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 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 those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

The Glory of God. Good News. Peace among Gods people. These are some of the reasons that Jesus Christ condescended from heaven, incarnated truly Go and truly man.
He came and he started preaching Good News, preaching the Word of God. He preached at the synagogue in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4:17-21:
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Spiritual healing. Setting the captives free. Free from our bondage to that very sin we looked at moments ago that Adam cause to enter the world. Good news to those who are poor in spirit. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And very importantly, Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the scriptures.
Now, Jesus is the cure for the disease that is sin. Sin is what separated us from God and what keeps us from pursuing him and reconciling with him. Because of sin, we are in rebellion, open war with God. Jesus brings peace.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

If this passage is ever used to pit people against each other, its being used wrongly and out of context. This is not the second group is better than the first group. The point of this is Jesus, the grace of God and the work that he did on our behalf. We are all born sinners and all live as sinners until God intervenes on our behalf. Jesus came into this world, intervening into history, on our behalf.
Why? Romans 5:8. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus being born a human man was not enough. Remember that that wages of sin is death? Death is the consequence of sin. It is required to atone for sin. To make things right from sin. Jesus, living a life free from sin had no sin to atone for. He did not need to die because of sin. But he did so on our behalf. Paying the price, we could not pay. Atoning for our sin. Bringing forgiveness where we deserved none. Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection are the whole of his mission, to bring us back to God.
Paul sums up this Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Jesus fulfills the scriptures, the promises that were made thousands of years before hand. He fulfills a plan that was made before the creation of the world. Jesus is God become man. Jesus came to save sinners, one mediator between God and man.
Salvation, freedom from sin. Forgiveness. Eternal life with God. Citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. Christs righteousness. All these things are available to us because of what Jesus did 2000 years ago. Available to us by the grace of God alone. Gods grace poured out on us, the vehicle for which is faith alone, no works, no deeds, no nothing on our end. The object of that faith shall be Christ alone. Jesus and only Jesus saves. There is one path to God the Father, and it is Jesus. And all of this as we have seen is for Gods Glory alone.
Ephesians 2:1-10 speaks to this, with Paul writing:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This gift of God is free, though it is not what some would call Free Grace. Jesus doesn’t just save us so that we can stay as we are. Instead, he calls us to repent, to turn away from our sins, from our previous lives. The passage in 1 Corinthians 6 showed us that as well. There is a change in us if we meet Jesus and accept his gift by faith.

Lastly, God didn’t do any of this because he needs anything from us. He is trinity. Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Co eternal, Co-existence, One God. He wasn’t lonely or anything like that. But he does love us, his creations. And so that calm, starry night, 200 years, Jesus came down, in the fullness of time, to fulfill all prophecy and scripture to do something for us that we couldn’t do. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. That is what forget when we focus on anything other than the entire life and work and mission of Christ. Jesus born, but it didn’t end there, he lived and died and rose again and he is right now sitting on the throne of David, reigning and ruling over all of his creation.
So, we end with the most simple answer to the question: Why did Jesus come? WE let scripture answer, John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus First Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus First Disciples

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 5. As we really start to get into Jesus ministry here on earth, we get to see how people respond to him and how people today respond to him in those very same ways.

So, a brief overview of where we have been, of Jesus public ministry so far in the Gospel of Luke. We started in Nazareth where Jesus preached the Word of God, announced that he was the fulfillment of the Word and was rejected out of hand by his hometown. They wanted to kill him, and he was run out of town.

He then went down to the region around the Sea of Galilee, to the town of Capernaum. Now, they reacted exactly the opposite of how Nazareth did. They propped him up and wanted him to stay there. Jesus continued to preach the Word and seemingly because of their willingness to listen and believe, Jesus also performed many healings and cast out many demons during his time in Capernaum.

Stories about Jesus spread throughout the region and he gained many followers, people listening to his teachings and wanting to see him perform more miracles. But today is going to be the first time we see committed followers, actual disciples of Jesus the Messiah.

This morning we are going to read from Luke chapter 5, verses 1-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, always making sure to read for your self what the Word of God says.

Luke 5:1-11, Luke based off meticulous research and firsthand eyewitness interviews and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

 

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”[a] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

 

 

Now, we see that the events of this passage take place during his time around Galilee. The lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee. So, this week’s events take place during the time of the events we looked at last week. We know that it for sure takes place before v 39 when Jesus went into Simon, who was Peter’s house.

And that’s the first thing we will look at this morning. We know that each of the four Gospels are not written or put together strictly chronologically. So, we ask, why did Luke put both sections of chapter 4 before the events of chapter 5, some of which take place before some of the events of Chapter 4?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. The Gospel writes in general, and Luke here specifically will often group stories together because together, they make a point, or show a truth. It emphasizes something about Jesus that the Gospel writer, inspired by the Holy Spirit wants us to see and wants us to know.  In this case, Luke is showing the two different reactions and responses to Jesus and his teachings. One rejecting him completely and one accepting and continuing to listen to and follow his teachings.

 

Now, we see that on one occasion during his time in Capernaum, there were large crowds pushing up on Jesus. They were treating him like we see today with rock stars and celebrities. The crowds were pushing up on him like he was the Beatles or Elvis, and we know, despite John Lennon’s famous claim, that He is bigger than they are.

And they were doing so for good reasons actually. These people wanted to hear the Word of God preached by him. Scriptures says that. They were by the Sea of Galilee and pushing Jesus towards the sea.

There just happened to be two boats right by where he was being pushed up against the water. Of course, we know that nothing just happens, there is no “luckily,” God is sovereign over it all and he makes all things happen. These two boats were there for a reason. And we will see that reason.

There were two fishing boats there, they were in for the day. Fishermen would take their boats out during the night, bring them back in the morning, have breakfast and then work on whatever the boats needed, including washing and mending the nets they used. That’s what Peter and his partners were doing on the beach that morning.

Jesus commandeered Peters boat and had him push off the land into the water. Here he was able to sit, which again, was the custom when teaching in those days. The water also allowed there to be much better natural acoustics, not the last time we will see this be the case in Israel in Bible times. But remember this was a big crowd coming to listen to Jesus and he just made it so that they could all hear Him.

Now, we don’t get a report on what Jesus taught that morning. Sometimes we do because that’s the point of the passage that we are reading. This mornings passage is not about what Jesus was teaching but in the responses of people to the teachings of Jesus and therefore to Jesus himself.

So, after he was done teaching for the morning, he decides to show Simon, who was Peter, something. He tells him, go over here and put your nets out. Peter is often, if we are honest with ourselves, an example of how we all react, saying things that we all want to say, or that we all think but don’t say out loud.

What he says is that there is no reason to go put the nets down over there. They had been fishing all night and it was one of those nights where they just didn’t catch anything. Peters implication is “Jesus, your great at that preaching stuff! But now you’re encroaching on my turf. I’m the fisherman, I’m the expert here.”

And we do that often with Jesus. We come Sunday and whenever else and we give that time to him and we think we are doing such a good job. Then we get to wherever we go to, our job, our family, our school, our hobbies, whatever, and we act out “ok Jesus, I’ve got this now, I don’t need your help with this.”

But, to Peters credit, he does say, “Since you say so, Ill do it.” There is still obedience there. And he does this, in the middle of the day, when fish were known to avoid the waters where the nets might be, after being up all night on the boats, tossing the nets out, dragging them back in and being frustrated at them not catching anything, he still obeys.

And what Simon finds is that, quite simply, the LORD provides. The nets that Simon threw out there caught more fish than he could handle. It was going to break the nets. He had to call for his partners to help pull the fish in.

RC Sproul says that the record catch was a “Reward for obedience, not the result of skill or technique.” He was responding to the false idea that the fish were a result of anything that Simon did. It was a bona fide miracle from   Jesus. All Him, nothing of us. So, the second boat comes over and helps with the fish, but again, there are so many that the second boat begins to sink.

Now, notice the switch that happens with Simon at this point. Luke had been referring to him as Simon. Now he is listed as Simon Peter. This switch happens when Peter acknowledges and confess Jesus as LORD.

See when that happens, when we do that, our identity changes. We see it often in the Bible. We see it in this case with Simon, would have his name changed by Jesus to Peter.           His identity is changed, and Jesus gives name to that.

Now, we don’t have our names changed in these cases, but our identity still changes.

Our identity changes from sinner to saint.

Our identity changes from goat to sheep.

Our identity changes from child of the devil to a child of God.

Our identity changes from unrighteous to clothed in His righteousness.

Our identity changes from condemned to redeemed.

 

A prerequisite for our identity changing is what we see happen with Simon Peter. He recognizes his sinfulness. He recognizes that he is unworthy. He knows that God cannot be in the presence of sin. He was astonished at this fish miracle.

Simon Peter recognized and acknowledged who Jesus was. He was LORD. This was not just some great teacher they were listening to. He was so much more than that. He was God.

CS Lewis made a famous argument that Jesus, with all He said, had only three options. He was a Liar, making it all up to fool the people. Or he could have been a lunatic, truly believing that he was who he said he was but deluded in that belief. The last option was that he was in fact who he said he was. That he was God. That he was LORD. He was either a Liar, a Lunatic or LORD.

Simon Peter recognized which one he was. And not only he, but his partners as well. We know from Marks Gospel that Simons brother Andrew was there too and a part of this. We also see Luke specify here brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee and they have probably the best nicknames in all of the Bible, the Sons of Thunder!

Faith is often contagious. It could have stopped with Simon Peter, but all four of them responded by faith. When one person comes to faith, often more people around them will as well, sometimes friends, sometimes family, whoever.

And we see no hesitation among those who consciously recognize Jesus as God. As soon as they knew, it was time to act. It was time to follow. This also shows that there is no time to hesitate in our decision to follow Christ. Death bed conversions do happen, but if you are banking on one, then you should be worried. You can’t bank on tomorrow; you never know if you will have tomorrow. But Jesus does promise eternity. Today is the day of salvation and salvation belongs to the LORD. Don’t out it off because you may not get another chance.

Jesus makes it clear to Simon Peter what he expects from him.   He was no longer going to be catching fish, but he would now be a fisher of men. He literally says that he will catch alive men, as if to rescue them from danger. In this case from eternal danger of Hellfire and brimstone.

As Philip Ryken relates, “People often say, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for the day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ But Jesus shows us that if you teach a man to fish for men, the people he catches will live forever.”

Jesus gave them a call, a mission. He said to follow me. And they did. They dropped everything and left it all immediately. They left their businesses. They left comfort and knowledge of what tomorrow would bring. They left their livelihoods. You know I wonder if that might have had something to do with Simons mother-in-law being sick, wondering how this guy was going to take care of her daughter now that he was following this Jesus teacher guy…

Life in the church, a life of true faith is not a sectator sport. It is a life of action. It is a life of going and being fishers of men, casting our nets and letting God provide the catch. It is a life of actively pursuing God. It is a life of actively seeking to serve and obey him, of actively repenting of our sins. A life of faith is a life of action.

We see in this passage this morning the things that Jesus calls us to as disciples. He calls us to listen to his Word. He calls us t repent and grieve our sins. He calls us to tell others about Christ and who he is.
One commentator tells us about being fishers of men, writing: A fisherman never knows what he is going to catch. The catch is up to the sovereignty of God, as any fisherman can tell you.  But if a fisherman refuses to drag his net, he will never catch anything at all. The same is true in Christian evangelism. WE are called to cast a wide net by inviting our neighbors to Bible Study, bringing our friends to church, speaking to family members about spiritual things, supporting Christian broadcasting, sending out foreign missionaries, and sharing the Gospel in every way we can. This is our calling both as the church and as individual Christians.

As disciples of Christ, as disciples of Jesus, we are to show everyone we can who exactly Jesus is. He is the Messiah. He is God, the second member of the trinity. He is our savior. He is the one who died on the cross, shed his perfect blood, rose form the dead and is living and reigning right now in heaven. He is the King of Kings and the LORD of LORDs. He is the ultimate object of our love, affection and worship. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of the universe.

When CS Lewis was setting out the three options, we have for our response to who Jesus claims to be, he ends it with this quote, which Ill close with us and then Ill pray. He sums up that section, writing:

You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 4:31-44 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus Preaches the Word

Luke 4:31-44

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus Preaches the Word

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Luke chapter 4. IF you need a Bible, if you do not have a Bible, see me after the sermon and we will get a Bible for you to take as your own.

Last week we saw that Jesus started his earthly ministry and he started it by preaching in the synagogues. He started doing what He was sent to do by the Father. He returned home to Nazareth and preached in his hometown synagogue one Sabbath.

He shows that he has come to preach good news to the poor. He came to bring sight to the blind. He came to preach the Gospel and Salvation, making it available to all, all who would hear and all who would accept, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Now, the people of Nazareth did not appreciate this. So much so, that they wanted to kill Jesus after hearing his message. But it was not his time. It was not the time or the place that God the Father had planned out and orchestrated and so Jesus was able to slip away untouched and unharmed. Jesus then left Nazareth, and as far as we know, never returned.

This morning we are going to read three mini stories about Jesus after he left Nazareth. These three stories fit together to show Jesus establishing his authority here on earth and over all things. So, we are going to read Luke chapter 4, verses 31 through 44. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke, after doing very thorough research and investigations, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha![b] What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.[c]

 

 

So, Jesus left Nazareth and went back to Galilee. He went down to Capernaum. It says down because, even though Capernaum was north of Nazareth, it was 2000 feet lower in elevation. And he continued to teach and preach in the synagogues on the Sabbath.

And we see that his Word, his preaching continued to astonish people. What Jesus was telling them was not what they were used to hearing. Mark tells us in his Gospel that he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. Jesus was establishing his authority over and through the Word of God. The people were used to hearing teacher reference other teachers. And there is nothing wrong with that, to a point. We should study and build on what people smarter than us have taught and written. But Jesus didn’t need to do that. He didn’t have to appeal to authorities because he was and is the authority.

Now, at some point during one of Jesus sermons, a demon possessed man interrupted things. This was something we saw rarely in the Old Testament and we would see it occasionally during the Apostles ministries. But we will see quite a bit of this during Jesus earthly ministry. RC Sproul makes the connection that demonic possession was more prevalent during this time because it is a “primary part of the opposition of evil to the coming of the Son of God.”

We see in scriptures that spiritual warfare is very real, though often physically unseen. It is happening all around us today, Demons, or fallen angels do exist. They exist to battle against angels and the Son of God. They are led by Satan and they do have some power, some ability here on earth.

Their activity seems to even more focused in the time when Jesus was here because they knew who he was, what he was able to do and what he would eventually do.

We see them yell out right here, “Ha![b] What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.

          They knew why Jesus was there. They knew who he was. They knew he had ultimate authority over them. They were not blinded to him like all of us are and were. And yet, it seems they can’t help themselves. They have to talk trash. They have to portray this bravado. They puff themselves up and try to intimidate. And it can work against us if we are not careful.  But it couldn’t and wouldn’t work against Jesus.

C.S. Lewis speaks about demons, which he calls devils. And I see much truth in this statement. He says:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

 

          IF we don’t recognize their existence, if we ignore them entirely, we leave ourselves wide open to their spiritual attacks and the warfare that is being waged. No military can win a war by ignoring that their enemy exists or is fighting the war. But we can often give them way too much power and way too much credit.

One commentator points out the error on this side. He says: In some Christian circles it has become popular to attribute every sin to a particular demon. People who think too highly of themselves have a demon of pride; people who eat too much have a demon of gluttony; and so, one. When people talk this way, they are really blaming Satan for their own sinful nature. Their sins are not the direct result of demonic control, but simply the expression of their own sinful desires.

 

          We are responsible for our actions and no one and nothing can make us give in to temptation. But if we let them, they can intimidate us with their puffed-up bravado. Jesus was not so easily intimidated.

Jesus speaks, simply speaks. “Be silent and come out of him!” And with those simple words, Jesus shows and exercises authority of the spiritual forces, the powers and principalities, over the heavenly beings completely. He speaks and they have no choice but to obey.

He speaks and things happen. His Word has power and authority. We start the entire Bible off with this, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16: For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

          As the one who created everything, he has authority over all creation. We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus merely speaks, and things happen. He speaks and the results are immediate.

The people in attendance recognized the authority that they had just witnessed. When Jesus spoke, people listened. He spoke as one with authority. They didn’t always believe him or like what he said, but people couldn’t help but stop and listen. And when he spoke and when he acted, when he exercised his authority, people talked about. We saw before he went back to Nazareth that there were reports of what Jesus had said and done going through the region. People can’t help but talk about him.  We see that here again, reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

So now, Jesus leaves the synagogue and heads over to Simons house. Simon would become known as Peter later in Jesus ministry, but Luke hasn’t actually introduced the Apostles yet, so he still refers to him as Simon. But Luke does put his doctors’ hat back on, so we have Dr Luke writing in this section.

Jesus went to Simons house and Simons mother in law was sick with a high fever. First, before we get to the fever, one quick aside we see in is that Simon Peter was married. The first pope according to the Catholic church tradition was married.

Anyway, to the point of the story. When Mark relays this story, he simply says that she has a fever. Dr Luke uses his medical background to very specifically say that it was a High Fever. This means that it was dangerously high. She was not just under the weather; she was very sick.

Jesus stands over her and rebukes the fever. I think the word rebuke is used here specifically to denote the authority that Jesus had over diseases. He rebuked the fever and it left her straight away. And not only that, but she got up immediately and started serving them. Talk about a gift of Hospitality! Now, most of you can remember times when you have had a fever and it broke and you didn’t have the fever any longer. Were you able to jump up and immediately start serving people? Depending on the fever, you might have been able to push through if you really needed to, but I doubt there would have been anything immediate about it. It takes time to get your energy back and to get back to feeling normal.

Not so when Jesus heals. When Jesus heals, we see that it is immediate, and it is complete. There is no process of recovery. The high fever is not just broken and going away, its completely and fully gone. When Jesus calms the stormy waves, when he heals the lepers, when he heals blindness, and so many more examples, there is no partial healing, no process, no waves gradually calming down as they do in nature, no gradual healing. It is complete and immediate.

Well, word got out about this and everyone who was sick with a disease came over to Simons house and Jesus took the time to heal all of them. This was a rarity in Jesus’ ministry. He would often heal one or a couple and leave the rest. He would rarely heal everyone. That was not the purpose of him being here. But especially here, Jesus was showing that the same authority he had over the demon possessed man, he also had over diseased people.

While he was healing diseases, he also brought out many demons. Some sickness is simply sickness, but there re also sicknesses that are reflective of spiritual battles and forces. Its not very easy to tell them apart. We often will treat one when the other is the problem. Jesus didn’t have that problem and healed each person according to their need and their root issues.

One of the things we can infer from this story, and from other stories in the Gospel as well, is that this was exhausting work for Jesus. We see that we went out into a desolate place for rest and solitude.

This would be a common occurrence in his ministry, making sure to take time to rest and to get away with God the Father. Mark specifies in his Gospel that this was intended to be a time of prayer. Jesus shows us the importance of making time with God a priority.

And how tempting it must have been to stay there in Capernaum. Especially after the events in Nazareth. These people wanted him to stay. They wanted to keep him there. This didn’t necessarily mean that they trusted him as their savior. But he was preaching things that intrigued them and he was healing people from their diseases and casting out demons. Why wouldn’t they want him to stick around?

But Jesus’ purpose was not to stay in Capernaum. His purpose was to spread the Word about the Kingdom of God. Jesus did miracles and especially the healing not to make us expect to be healed, or to expect the miraculous, but to confirm his identity as the Messiah and to prove his authority over all creation.

That doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t still miraculously cure illness and disease. He absolutely does. We pray for that often with ourselves, friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, and the like. But the miraculous are, by definition, rare. They are not Gods normal method. He much more often uses the ordinary and the mundane. He uses doctors, medicines, herbs and food and lifestyle to bring people to health. But Jesus shows that he is who he says he is and that he has authority over diseases and demons and so much more.

And Jesus came, not only to show this to Capernaum but to others as well. He came to preach the Kingdom of God to all who would hear. This was the purpose he was sent for, to bring forgiveness of sin and salvation to those who believe, to grant citizenship to the kingdom of heaven. He came with a mission. To preach good news to the poor. Healing to the sick. Sight to the blind. And to set the captives free.

He came to preach the Word and to love the people.   He came to preach the kingdom of heaven. Ligon Duncan says: The kingdom of God
establishes for us who our authority is, and our recognition of that authority
is a very important point in our Christian lives. It also sets forth before our
eyes our proper aspiration in this world.

 

 

          The people of Nazareth couldn’t and wouldn’t recognize who Jesus was or what authority he had. The people of Capernaum recognized his authority but didn’t show any sign of recognizing who he was. But we see that demons knew both who Jesus was and how extensive his authority was. They knew and had the knowledge of all those things. But they did not love or worship Jesus as God. They had no faith.

But we also saw the curious thing that Jesus did not want the demons to testify to who he was. I spent a bit of time trying to figure out and research why this was. Many think that Jesus didn’t want people to know who he was yet. And I just don’t think that makes sense in the context. He was actively preaching the good news to the poor and performing signs and wonders.

He was trying to show people who he was. Instead, I think that Jesus didn’t want them telling people who he was because even if some truth comes out of their mouths, they are liars. They are not trustworthy. We are better to not get in the habit of listening to liars, even on the occasion that they tell the truth once. If we listen to them just that once, we are more open to listening to them about other things they are not telling the truth about. They are saying the right things, the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.

And the other thing we see is that the Gospel, the truth about who God is might be verified by signs at times, as we see Jesus doing, but his main thing is preaching the Word. The Gospel spreads by the spreading of and hearing of the Word.

Philip Ryken elaborates on this point, writing:

This is how the word spreads: by word of mouth, from person to person. When we see what Jesus can do, we want others to know about it, so they can see for themselves. In this case, people not only saw his power, but they also saw how he exercised it: by speaking his word. Just as God once spoke the universe into being, so Jesus spoke, and it was so. Here was a clear demonstration of his divine power. He spoke his words with the very authority of God.

 

We are to preach the Word of God. We are to preach the power of Gods Word. We are to preach the authority of Gods Word. We are to preach the truth of God’s Word, in season and out of season, especially in a world that doesn’t believe in Truth.

But it is the power, the truth of and the authority of the Gospel, of Gods Word that leads to changed lives, that leads to loving the people, that leads to living with biblical worldview and living sanctified lives. The Gospel is what brings sight to the blind. The Gospel is what sets us free from the captivity of sin. The Gospel is the good news for the poor.

I’m going to leave you with one last quote from Ligon Duncan. He writes:

 

My friends, does the knowledge that you have of
Scripture make you love truth? Does the knowledge that you have of Scripture
make you hate sin? Does the knowledge of Christ that you have make you trust Him
and love Him? Does the knowledge of God’s will that you have make you to say
with the psalmist, “How I love to do Your law, O Lord”? Knowledge that does not
lead to trust and faith and love and service is knowledge that will only puff
up, and at last will condemn you. Do not leave the precious truths that are
proclaimed to you from God’s word rattling around somewhere between your ears.
Embrace that truth with all that you are, in the very depths of your heart, and
love and trust and believe on and follow the Savior; or James will be saying in
your ear as he did in the ear of the unbelieving one who claimed to be a
believer in James 2, “Do you believe in God? You do well. So also do the demons,
and they tremble.” Don’t tremble, trust. Don’t fear Him with a servile fear;
have faith in Him. Believe on Christ as He’s offered in the gospel. Acknowledge
Him to be your Messiah, the Son of God, your Savior.

 

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 4:14-30 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Luke 4:14-30

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 4. As most of you know, if you do not have a Bible, or need a Bible, please see me after the service so we can get one into your hands.

So far in Luke’s Gospel, we have seen Jesus preparing for his public earthly ministry. We saw him studying. We saw him being discipled. We saw him preparing.

At the end of chapter 2, we saw Jesus study and learn Gods word, listening to the rabbis and teachers in the temple. He was being taught Gods Word and submitting himself to the teaching authorities.

In the first part of chapter 3, we saw his baptism. In this, we see that he affirmed the ministry of John the Baptist. It was also a personal declaration of Jesus faith and his affirmation of who he was, or Christ is, and who God is. Lastly in that passage, we see that Jesus had an active prayer life.

Last week, in chapter 4, we see Jesus being tempted. We see him living a holy, sanctified life, what would be evidence of conversion in our lives. We see the Holy Spirit helping him resist temptation. We see more evidence of his active prayer life. We see him accurately and rightly using his knowledge of the Word of God. And we see him practicing various spiritual disciplines, fasting and the like.

All of this prepares him for his public ministry. All types of ministry, preaching, teaching, leading, serving, and so much more, all of them take at least some kind of preparation. It takes prayer, it takes knowing the Word of God, it takes living a holy and changed life. It takes these things to prepare a person to serve in the way that God has designed us for.

But one of the things that we are going to see Jesus show us here, is that, even with all the preparation in the world, even with all the Bible Knowledge, even with all that, as written in 1 Corinthians 13, if we have all knowledge, but have not love, we are nothing.

And so that brings us to out text for the evening, Luke chapter 4, verses 14 through 30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your preferred translation and follow along in the text, reading for yourself what Gods Word says. Luke 4:14-30, Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

 

 

Thus, ends the reading of Gods Holy Word.

 

We start with Jesus travelling once again. He went to the Jordan, for his baptism, he went out into the wilderness and now he is back from the Galilee region. He went back home. Home to Nazareth. But before he went home, we see that he had already done some stuff. His ministry had already started. There were reports coming in, even to Nazareth about some of the stuff that Jesus had been doing.

Its interesting. The Gospels, all four of them. They are not written in chronological order. And all the authors choose different events in Jesus life that were important to share, that speak to what they are showing us about Jesus.

There are books called the Harmonies of the Gospels, and they try to align all the Gospels in chronological order within themselves, but also show how the Gospels line up with each other.

Luke skips the events of John 3 and 4, and the most of Matthew 3 & 4, which most theologians agree took place before this event in Luke 4. Jesus has established his name in the region, Luke, remember he is inspired by the Holy Spirit when writing this, doesn’t not feel the need to spend time on those events. He sums up in verses 14 and 15, that reports about him went out and that he had already been teaching in many synagogues.

And now Jesus comes back home. He comes back to his hometown. He comes back to his home synagogue, his home church essentially. As an aside, not the main point, but a valid point I believe, is to look at what this says about Jesus and his commitment to regular, public worship. They didn’t have churches then, they had synagogues. They didn’t meet on Sunday Mornings, they met on Saturday. But they did meet to worship God and to learn about his Word.

Jesus made sure that he attended this worship on a regular basis. There was no thought that since he was, you know, God, that he could worship God on his own, that he didn’t need fellowship or community. We have made this point with a few other things too, but if even Jesus, the Son of God himself, the Word incarnate, if even he needed regular worship and teaching and preaching, how much more do we?

Now, the Bible does not give us much regarding the order of the worship service in synagogues. What we know comes from outside sources, rabbis’ writings from this time and from this little bit of Luke. There was no set, weekly preacher. Often, if there were visiting rabbis from out of town, they would be asked to teach in the synagogue.

There would be singing, or reciting of some psalms, then the teacher would open up the scroll, would stand out of respect for Gods Word and would read a passage from what we call the Old Testament. He would then sit, and he would exposit the Word of God.

And that’s what Jesus did. He stood up and read from the scroll, finding, without chapters and verses, exactly the passages he was looking for. Even more impressive, if you took our Bibliology class, we know that Hebrew was written much differently than what we are used to reading. First, they did not write the vowels, just the consonants. Second, they didn’t write spaces in between the words, so it would look to   a non-Hebrew reader like a random string of letters.

All these things put together and we see that Jesus was intimately familiar with Gods Word, able to find the exact passages he was looking for and find them easily.

Jesus was very specific about choosing these verses as well. He read from Isaiah 61:1 & 2, and Isaiah 58:6. Why dd he pick these verses? Philip Ryken tells us: Luke recorded this sermon because of all the things that he wanted us to know for sure, the most important is the good news of salvation in Christ. And what better way for us to hear than from the Saviors own lips?

          Some call this passage, the Gospel according to Jesus. All that is wrong with this world, all that is broken, all that is because of sin will be restored and will be fixed. Those under bondage will be set free. Those who are blind will see. The poor will receive good news. This has a lesser, more immediate context of the physical and earthly. However, the fuller meaning of this is, of course, the spiritual, the heavenly and the eternal.

Jesus came to bring the good news of salvation. The poor that are mentioned here are the same words and the same meaning as the poor in Spirit in Matthews recount of the Sermon on the Mount. He came to show love, compassion and inclusion of the seeming outcasts of that time, to show that the Kingdom of heaven is open to many who would not be otherwise assumed.

Jesus announced the year of the LORDS favor, the jubilee of jubilees. Its interesting that Jesus didn’t read the last half of Isaiah 61:2 which mentions the day of vengeance of the LORD. Jesus rolls up the scroll and tells the congregation that the scripture he read is fulfilled that day with their hearing.

The day of vengeance was not fulfilled that day, but the season of the LORDs favor was fulfilled that day, fulfilled through Jesus. The day of evidence is not until Jesus comes back. But now, today, this very day, the blind are able to see, the captives are being set free and salvation is brought by Christ.

He says it is through their hearing that this is fulfilled. Jesus came and offered salvation by grace through faith in him. We know that Faith comes by hearing, Hearing by the Word of God.

Jesus says that it is now fulfilled. Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is the fulfillment of all signs, and types and shadows. He is the fulfillment of all promises and blessings. And we see that TODAY it is fulfilled. The blessings and the promises of God have started to be fulfilled and they are already accomplished, though we will not see the completion and the ultimate fulfillment of that until the Day of the LORD.

This is called the already and the not yet. Jesus speaks through the Gospels, of the Kingdom of Heaven in the present tense. Jesus is currently reigning in on his throne. We are currently being saved and glorified and sanctified. The Kingdom has already started to manifest itself here on earth, starting with Jesus first coming. IT will be finally and completely and perfectly and totally fulfilled and renewed and transformed when Jesus comes a second time. So, the Kingdom of God is already here and, at the same time, not yet here.

Jesus reads these scriptures to the congregation and we see that they spoke well of him and marveled at his teaching. Then they started asking, “Wait a minute, isn’t this Josephs boy?” They remember seeing him playing around the neighborhood. They remember him learning in the synagogue. They remember him working with Joseph in his carpentry business.

There seems to be a recognition that Jesus was a good teacher and a nice guy, but we certainly weren’t God, like he was insinuating with his sermon. By the way, he was doing a lot more than insinuating there.

 

You know, we see this a lot today. We hear it a lot. Some of us have even said it before, maybe not that long ago.

“Prove it.”

“Show me.”

“If God would just show himself, then Id believe.”

No. No you wouldn’t. How do I know? Because he did. And we see this morning how they responded. They didn’t believe Jesus when he was standing right in front of them. He even said, you didn’t believe me, why would you believe Moses?

He then goes and shows us a couple of examples from the Old Testament about those who didn’t demand signs or wonders or proof but believed by faith.

We are not going to read the whole stories, but the first one Jesus mentioned is from 1 Kings 17. In the middle of a three-and-a-half-year famine and drought, Elijah came upon a gentile woman in Sidon. She had just enough flour and oil for a single loaf of bread for her and her son. In fact, she said, I’m going to make this loaf and then we will sit down to die. Elijah tells her to bring him some too. She responded by faith and did bring him some, and the flour and oil she had lasted here throughout the rest of the famine.

Next Jesus tells a story from 2 Kings chapter 5. The Syrian king came down with a case of leprosy. He tried everything, from every god he could think of, but eventually sent for Elijah. He told him to dip himself in the Jordan river 7 times and then he would be healed. Now, he definitely fought back on this. He didn’t want to do it. But eventually he did, without and signs or wonders ahead of time. He responded out of faith that he didn’t fully have yet; it was still developing.

Jesus was telling them two things. First, that salvation comes by faith. It does not come through ancestry, or heritage, or any ability to see, or being a prisoner or a freeman, or a king or a widow, or anything else but faith alone. And second, this is Old Testament evidence, that salvation for Gentiles, that Gentiles being brought into the fold of the people of God was not a Plan B. Gods plan for salvation was always that both Gentiles and Jews would be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Nazarites in the synagogue did NOT appreciate this. It says they were full of wrath and fuming at what Jesus had to say. It seems that they didn’t even let Jesus finish the service. They were going to kill him.

See Jesus offended them in one of the deepest ways. He told them; they were not worthy. They were not good enough on their own to earn salvation. I love how Kent Hughes describes this. He writes: The fine citizens of Nazareth had heard enough. It was bad enough to be told that they were poor and blind and captive and oppressed, but now to be told they were less spiritual and less wise than the Gentiles, both Naaman and the widow, was just too much!”

 

          Jesus cut through their religious façade, through their outer moral shell. These would have been the people in church every Sunday. These would have been those who knew their Bible, inside and out. These would have been the church leaders and prominent members of the church community. But they were still spiritually blind. They were still captives to sin. And Paul writes in Romans 8:7 that the mind that is set on the flesh hostile to God. That’s what we are seeing here in Nazareth.

The congregants. Who knew Jesus, had grown up with him, who watched him grow up and who spoke well of him and marveled at his words, they back up Jesus to a cliff and were going to kill him.

Somehow Jesus escaped. Some say it was because he was so ordinary, that he couldn’t be picked out of the crowd. I believe this was a supernatural event. We know that this was not his time, and this was not the place that He was supposed to die. And so, somehow, he slipped through the crowd and escaped this attempt on his life.

It was not Gods will. It was not Gods plan for Jesus to die there in Nazareth. The plan was and always would be for Jesus to be tried and crucified by Pontius Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders. The plan was for him to be buried for three days and to rise up from the dead. The plan was exactly what happened. Paul recounts that in 1 Corinthians 15. That’s what happened and that’s what scriptures said was going to happen. That was what Jesus came to do and that’s what Jesus accomplished.

This is the last time we have Jesus recorded as being in Nazareth. Sometimes we are called to stay home when we want to go, sometimes we are called to go when we want to stay. But we are not going to get into that, that’s for next week.

The key takeaway for this passage in Luke is that the Grace of God needed by all and it is open for all who know that they need it. We can’t repent, we can’t believe, we can’t receive Gods grace unless we realize we need it. We are blind and cannot see without God opening our eyes.

Hebrews 11:6 says: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him

I think of who I was when I read thins like this. Before Christ, I was a good guy, a nice guy, moral and standup. I believe that God existed. I believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I believed that the Bible was true, but I had never read the Bible, so I didn’t know what it said. I didn’t know what it meant to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I did not have saving faith.

Then I started going to church. I started hearing the things the preacher was saying. It didn’t track with what I thought I knew. I realized I had to start reading the Bible and seeing what I claimed I believed in, what it truly had to say. It was then that I realized that I was in need of Gods grace. My morals, my being a good guy were worthless. I was blind. I was oppressed. I was captive. But Jesus came to set me free.

We all were and still are sinners in need of Gods grace. The quicker we stop trusting in ourselves and start to realize who we really are. The quicker we realize how needy we truly are before God, the quicker we can respond to his call.

 

I want to leave you this morning with a story I read this week.

 

A large prestigious British church had three mission churches under its care. In the first Sunday of each new year all the members of the mission churches would come to the parent church for a combined Communion Service. IN those mission churches, located in the slums of a major city, were some outstanding cases of conversions—thieves, burglars, and others. But all knelt as brothers and sisters’ side by side at the communion rail.

          On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England- the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served 7 years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker.

          After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the communion rail this morning?” The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of Grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “A marvelous miracle of grace indeed.” The judge then inquired, “But to whom do you refer?”  “The former convict,” the pastor answered. The judge said, “I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The minister, surprised, replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I do not understand.”

          “You see,” the judge went on, “it is not surprising that the burglar received Gods grace when he left jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he understood Jesus could be his savior, he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me- I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman, that my word was to be my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take communion and so on. I went to Oxford, obtained my degree, was called to the bar, and eventually became a judge. I was sure I was all I needed to be, though in fact I too was a sinner. Pastor, it was Gods grace that drew me. It was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m the greater miracle!”

          All who bow to him, acknowledging their need and hopelessness, receive eternal life. Miracles of Grace! (From Kent Hughes)

 

Let us all see our need for Gods grace and what a miracle indeed it is that he opened our eyes to him and poured his grace out on us.

Let’s Pray.

Village Missions Sunday Focus on Rural Missions Ephesians 4:11-16

Village Missions Sunday

Focus on Rural Missions

Ephesians 4:11-16

 

 

Good Morning! SO. Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Ephesians chapter 4. We are going to be taking a break this morning from our series through the Gospel of Luke to look at Gods design for the local church and what our role in that is and what role Village Missions plays in it as well.

Who here had heard the name Village Missions? Who here has a general idea of who they are and what they do? Who here knows exactly who they are and what they do? Village Missions mission statement is that they exist to produce spiritually vital churches in Rural North America.

The text I want us to read this morning will show us what it means to become a spiritually vital church in our community. So, we are going to read from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16. Grab your Bibles, follow along with me. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though more important than which translation you read along with, is that you do in fact read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

The first thing I see in this passage is that God has given us all the things we need, people, gifts, each other, to grow the local church into a spiritually vital church. A lot of people think that it’s just the pastor’s job to grow and build the church.

But we see that has given the church more than just the pastor. As the pastor, I have very specific purposes and very specific things that God has called me to, and I will be held accountable for. But it is not solely my responsibility to grow and build the church. It is all of our responsibility.

The church is what and who helps the church grow. I have been around when new people have come to a church. Sometimes they are there for a day, sometimes they are around for a couple weeks, sometimes a couple months, but they leave because of someone or someone’s in the church.

At one church, we had many families start to come into the church, young families with kids. Exactly what the church said they wanted. Only the inner influencers at that church chased away every single family that came through the doors. Families didn’t dress or live the way they were supposed to. Kids didn’t sit down, shut up and stand quietly off to the side. The church actively, though likely unknowingly, stopped that church from growing.

The other option is that people come in those church doors and the people in the church help them stay. Bring them in, welcome them. Make them feel like the church is happy for them to be here. Help them to hear the Gospel and to grow in maturity of Jesus Christ.

That is the responsibility of each and everyone of us in this room. One of the things that Ephesians 4 makes clear, both in our passage this morning and back in verses 3-6 is that the unity of his church is absolutely vital to the church being spiritually vital.

Unity. Its one of the things that we have talked about and prayed for for the entire 2 ½ plus years I have been here. Unity is something that we are continually striving to get better at. We are a community Church. We are not a specific denomination. We hold the Bible up as our standard. With that, people from all different theological backgrounds and no theological backgrounds.  We are not going to agree on all the different details, and we don’t have to. You hear me say it often, but it bears repeating often. Unity is not uniformity.

Hear that. WE don’t all have to believe all the same things. We don’t all have to live the same life. We don’t have to look a certain look. We have to believe and be united in one thing. And that is Jesus Christ. We have one core set of beliefs that classify us as Christians.

We are saved by the grace of God alone. That grace is poured out through a gift of God called faith. And it is through that faith alone in the one and only Jesus Christ alone, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, through that faith that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God the father and grants us eternal forgiveness and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe that this is revealed only through the Word of God alone, that Word given to us by the scriptures that are combined into what we have and is known as the Bible. None of this is or can be deserved by us. It is done for the glory of God alone and by the glory and holiness of God alone.

We believe that core group of beliefs and everything else is secondary. We believe those core beliefs and we can rightfully call ourselves Christians. We believe those core beliefs and we are united as a church family and as the chosen children of God. We are united in our standing before God. Justified by faith. Justified through Christs perfect righteousness. In united in that we are all disciples of Christ.

You know, I use that word “disciples,” very purposely. New Village Missions Executive Director John Adams asks this question; “Do you think like Jesus, respond like Jesus, trust God like Jesus does?”

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. God is always offering opportunities for us to grow. But we can’t do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians that the church is to be “No Christian Left Behind.” WE build up the body until we ALL attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

          Christ is our standard. We cannot and will not meet that standard here in this lifetime. But we work towards and we desire for that progress. The Holy Spirit works in us and if we are truly Gods children, we will see continual growth and maturing over our lifetime. And we will see it together. And of course, it won’t be like a rocket, a straight line moving up, instead our sanctification is more like the stock market. It will have us and downs. We will rise and we will fall. But over time, we will always see it trending towards that maturity and that unity in the faith.

We work together, walking with each other from the beginning of our walk with Christ. We don’t start immediately mature. I know when I became a Christian, I knew very little of the Bible. Most of us are in the same boat. And because we don’t have that anchor in place, that foundation set of the Word of God, we are susceptible to false teachings. We are susceptible to passion and persuasive abilities to deceive. We are susceptible to those who would play off our emotions and take us down the wrong path.

We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we already agree with. We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe instead of what’s true.  We see this all the time. Do you have a bible teacher, a pastor online, or an author that you really like? Be careful, because we tend to put blinders on to what they teach and ignore if they say something unbiblical. Worse yet, if they start sound and go down the path and end up completely unbiblical, we ignore the problems with the new teaching and when confronted with it, we point to the older, more solid stuff. My point is this; if there is anyone that you let teach you or influence you and you cannot find anything that you disagree with them on, you just made them an idol.

Focus on the Bible. In context. Focus on learning and knowing his Word. That’s how we get to know Jesus. John Adams makes the point that The Better you know Christ and the more entrusted every area of life to his will, the less likely you will be deceived. Know and Trust his Word. BE sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit but be cautious. Only Jesus had a 100% true belief system. We only get a diminishing percentage of error.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we can speak the truth to others. But we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of speaking truth in a very unloving way. We unfortunately see it too often. I see it around here more often than I would like. I have also been guilty of it myself more often than I would like. We don’t always realize we are doing this when we do it though, so I want to say that if I have spoken truth to you or spoken anything for that matter, in an unloving way, I am sorry.

Paul here is talking about more than just the words that come out of our mouth though. The word used for truth here is a verb. It basically means that we are to be truthing in love. Our Words, our actions, our attitude even when we are speechless, our whole lifestyle, living out truth and love. Again, I know we can all agree that God gives us plenty of opportunities to improve in this area and to build unity.

If we have truth without love, we have hurt feelings, anger, and so much more. If we have so called love without truth, we have pretty lies. We give false hope. We see this in some many portrayals of Christianity in our culture. Christians are often only portrayed one of two ways.

First is that bigoted, close minded, hate filled protestor that says that everyone except them is going to hell. Now, they have some truth in that, in regard to we need to repent of our sins when we come to Christ. Rejecting Christ and embracing our sins will unfortunately lead us down the road to eternity in Hell. The other portrayal is those who claim that none of that matters and that every one gets to go to heaven or as long as you’re a nice person, you get to go to heaven, or that all religions lead to the same path towards heaven. They have what looks like love, but there is no truth there. Jesus makes the claim, the true claim, that He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. You can’t have it both ways.

Truthing in love can and will be hard. But that what God calls his church to and it’s a sign of that spiritual maturity. And Paul is showing us what Gog has called his church to look like.

Discipleship.

Truthing in Love.

Unity in Christ

Growing in Maturity.

Using our gifts to build up the saints and to do the work of Gods Kingdom.

 

Gifts that Christ has given the church. Pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. You. You are the saints. You are here to do the work of the ministry. To walk and grow with each other. Make Bangor Community Church a spiritually vital church. You determine what this church looks like, how it acts, how it is seen in the community.

If you are here because God called you here, then you have a vital role to play in this church. If you are here because God called, you here you are responsible to use your gifts for the betterment of the church. You play a vital role in making this a spiritually vital church in our rural community.

First, and I’m not talking chronologically, but first, we make ourselves and our church family more spiritually mature. We walk together and grow to act more and more Christlike. We gather together and we worship together.

I said it recently and Ill say it again this week. A common anthem over the past 6 months with COVID and the church shutdowns and what not, the anthem is that the church is not the building, it’s the people. And that’s true but its not the whole truth. The word that is used for church in the New Testament means gathering. So more accurately, the church is the gathering of Gods people.

We gather to preach the Gospel. We learn and teach and study the Word of God. WE preach the Word.

 

The second thing we do. We love the people. We look out from this church; we look out from the building and we look at the community around us. We look at our family and our friends. We look at our co workers and all those we know that don’t know Christ.

Each and every one of us is responsible for showing and more importantly, telling those we know about the good news of the Gospel. Each and every one of us is responsible for praying for our friends, neighbors, loved ones, the Bible even says we are all responsible for praying for our enemies and those who don’t like as well. We are to love the People.

 

You know, one of the mottos that I fell in love with from Village Missions, and I cling to this, and use this as one of my guides. They say our job as Village Missionaries is to Preach the Word and Love the People. That’s what I just described.

Someone asked this week, “IF we don’t Bangor, who will?” There is so much truth in that question. Most rural communities are forgotten places. Most rural communities the non-hyperbolic answer is that outside of their own community, literally no one will be praying for them.

This one of the benefits to Village Missions. Its an organization, a web of churches in rural communities that can and do pray for each other. And they make it so easy to pray for each other. In our bulletin each week, we include the Village Missionaries of the week. The give a brief description of their field and then give a few brief prayer requests. They include in their communications, Stories from the Field. These are actual stories sent in by Village Missionaries about the work that God is doing on those fields. This way you can see how to pray and see the answer to those prayers.

Their quarterly Newsletter called Country Matters gets sent out as well, highlighting Village Missionaries and the mission. This most recent one talks about the retirement of Executive Director Brian Wechsler and the new Director, John Adams.

AS you all walk in the front, you will see the work in progress map I’ve got going on. That is a map of all the Village Missions fields throughout the country. These are rural or formerly rural in a few cases, rural communities that are all connected. They pray for each other. They know and share the unique challenges that come with rural ministry. They know the struggles and the blessings. The know the opportunities and the joys of seeing friends and family come to know the LORD and the heartache of seeing families destroyed, communities torn apart and disunity in the church.

IF you wonder if there is anyone outside of Bangor praying for us. There is. 230 communities throughout North America. 230 communities that Village missions serves plus numerous others that receive the Village Missions material. All praying for Bangor Community Church and this community.

Praying for the saints for each and everyone of us to build up the body of Gods church. Remember, Paul tells the Ephesians, no family member left behind, until we all attain the unity of the faith.

We sow the see of the Gospel. We go out and make disciples. We preach the Word and Love the People. We do that and God grows his church. In the book of Acts, it says that God added to his church daily.

IF we do Gods work, if we use the gifts that God gave us to use for the building up of the body of Christ, our local church, Bangor Community Church, will grow into a spiritually vital, spiritually healthy church.

And Gods church, the universal church will grow in numbers. God will bring the increase. We sow the seeds and he bring the growth. Numerically, that may or may not our local church. But we know that his church will increase, his people will come to know him and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

After I pray, I’ve got a few Village Missions videos to play, maybe take 10 minutes total.

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

Luke 1:39-56 Jesus is the Son of God: Mary and Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56

Jesus is the Son of God

Mary and Elizabeth

 

          Good Morning! Please grab with me, if you will, your Bibles and turn to Luke Chapter 1. So, as we are going through Luke, you can see that we are going to be taking awhile to get through. We are in the fourth sermon and still in Chapter 1, with at least a little longer as we move forward. Now, as I always mention, if you do not have or own a Bible, please grab one from the back or see me after the service for a Bible that is our gift to you.

Now, we have seen a lot in the previous three sermons as we start the Gospel of Luke. Remember First, we saw the purpose. Luke wrote this Gospel so that we may be convinced and assured of the things we have heard about Jesus who is the Christ. To ensure this, Luke did massive amounts of research, interviews with the main characters and eyewitnesses and went to the places these things happened.

And as he recounts this story, this truth of who Jesus is and what he has done, he spends a lot of time leading up to the birth of Jesus. And we are not there yet. First, the angel, Gabriel visited Zechariah, whose wife is Elizabeth. They were old, barren and righteous before the LORD. By the Word of the LORD, they would become pregnant. Their son would become John the Baptist.

6 months later, Gabriel would appear to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. She was young, a virgin, unmarried and childless. She was a cousin of Elizabeth she too would become pregnant. Her son would be Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

When she didn’t understand how this would take place, Gabriel gave her a sign by telling her that her older, barren cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. With God, anything is possible. And in that, Mary submitted her will to Gods will.

And we are going to pick up right there, starting in verse 39. This morning we will read Luke chapter 1, verse 39-56. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version. I exhort you to read for yourself, in your preferred translation as I read the passage out loud. Luke 1:39-56.

Luke, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit records:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.

 

 

So, after Gabriel left Mary, she likely wasn’t sure what to do next. Gabriel had told her that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. So, Mary hightailed it to Elizabeth’s. She likely left within a few days, at most. All the commentators I’ve seen estimate this journey at around 100 miles, a trip that would have taken her 3-4 days.

Mary would have been so excited for Elizabeth and she knew that Liz would be excited for her. I mean, this is big, this is physically impossible. Liz is really pregnant? After how long she has been waiting and trying and praying? Mary had to go see for herself. So, she went to another small, out of the way, nowhere, rural town.

And while Mary wanted to see and be excited for Liz, she also wanted to share with someone what had just happened to her. She wanted to tell others of her experience with God. Because those experiences change us. They will have an effect and they will make us want to spread it around.

And when God does something great in out lives, we want to share it, not just with everyone, but especially with those who will understand. We want to share it with those who will be genuinely happy and excited for us. For those who will support. In other words, with our church family.

Mary knew that Elizabeth was a righteous woman, that she believed in and worshiped the one, true God. The joy and encouragement that Elizabeth would be sharing with Mary would help confirm what just happened. It would give Mary the encouragement and strength to stay faithful and strong during those weak moments that always seem to pop up.

I know, for me, this last month has had some tough moment. During and around Daniels birth, I wasn’t down here as much. Two weeks ago, we didn’t have service due to the smoke and evacuations and those weeks, I felt it. I missed being around you all. I felt like I wasn’t doing my job as well. And then last week and this week, is getting together and worshipping, meeting Wednesday mornings. Talking to some of you throughout the week, I feel that weightlifting off my shoulders as we move forward. The need to be around and to share with other believers who will hold us accountable, yes, but to build us up and to encourage us and to genuinely pray for us, it is absolutely vital for our Christian walk in this world.

You know, especially during this pandemic, these last 6 months, Christians have been quick to point out that the church is the people not the building. And that’s very true. But it leaves something out. The word in the New Testament for the church, ecclesia, literally means gathering. So, we can’t be the church, the people are not the church without gathering as the church.

Kent Hughes writes:

Like Mary, we must fly to the church because we find people like Zechariah and Elizabeth who share a mutual faith, believing the same things. Mary’s faith, as great as it was, would very likely have faltered had it not been for the fellowship of Elizabeth. Therefore, we must purposely place ourselves deep within the fellowship of those who also believe God’s Word. Christians will naturally experience a mutual elevation of faith in the credo, the “I believes,” of the Church.

Like Mary, we must make a priority of being with those who share the mutual experience of miraculous new life within. The resonance of soul that comes from such mutually experience universally empowers all believers.

And like Mary, we must hurry to the community of faith because there we experience elevation through our mutual hope in the ultimate fulfillment our own new birth, as the Apostle John so memorably explained: Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

 

You know, one of my favorite scriptures speak to this very same thing as well. Paul, when writing to the Romans, explained early on, one of his goals and desires for wanting to go and see them in person. He says in chapter 1, verses 11 & 12: For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

 

 

          So, Mary gets to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth and what a meet up it was! One commentator makes the point that this was even more of a meeting that we see on the surface. John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was there to pave the way and to announce the coming of the messiah, the coming of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. And Jesus was and is the Christ. He is the LORD of the covenant, instituting the New Covenant. This is was literally the meeting of the two covenants. And it was John beginning the fulfillment of his calling.

 

 

 

We see here that Mary, who would have left Nazareth almost immediately, was already pregnant when she got to Elizabeth. She already had fruit in her womb. When she showed up to Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb. Moms, you know this feeling. Dads, we can know a fraction of this, but Moms, you know exactly what Liz felt here. Luke already told us that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even in the womb.

And again, John, in the womb, a fetus, was already a person here. He was reacting to who was around him and he was being influenced by the Holy Spirit. Person hood exists before birth occurs.

And Liz was of course, super happy for Mary and what was happening. And this is key. It would be easy for Liz to focus on herself or to demand preferential treatment. But we see that both Mary and Elizabeth can be happy for each other, can encourage each other, can build each other up without it taking away from the other. It reminds me of Paul in Philippians 2:3, writing: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

          Elizabeth says to Mary that she is blessed. Again, as we emphasized last week, we are not lifting Mary up too high to a position of worship or to be prayed to. But we are careful no to swing the pendulum too far the other way and diminish the call and the faith of Mary. Mary is blessed by God, to be chosen for this honor to give birth to the second member of the trinity, God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Liz was also blessed because she gets to see Mary, the Mother of her LORD and gets to worship Christ before he is even born. We remember too that Mary is blessed because of her faith. She believed what the Angel Gabriel told her and submitted her will to the Gods Will.

One commentator brings up a great question. Elizabeth says in verse 45,  And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And the question becomes, was Zechariah standing there hearing this. If so, did he take it as a rebuke? Remember his problem was that he did not believe what Gabriel said that God was going to do. But Mary was blessed because she did believe what Gabriel said God was going to do.

Now, Mary had a number of reasons to be worried. She was away from home. She was super young. She was a pregnant virgin whose reputation was going to be dragged through the mud in the next 9 months, let alone for the rest of her life. Even the pregnancy itself. She had never been pregnant. This was going to be all new to her. Moms, how much do you worry about the pregnancy and about the baby’s health as you go through those 9 months? And to do it for the first time, so young? And carrying the son of God? Fuhgeddaboudit.

And so, with so much to worry about, to stress over, Mary instead chooses to worship. And she lays out this song, it is widely held up as one of the greatest songs of worship ever. Its is called the Magnificat.

Song is such an important part of worship. We worship in all we do. Worship is more than singing, but Singin is one of the ways that God instructs us to worship.

Some people may ask why, a few months ago, we never stopped singing when the Governor told us we shouldn’t. It would be easy to answer and for it to be true that we sang in protest, or to prove a point. However, if we weren’t singing for the sole purpose of praising and worshipping God, then our hearts were wrong.

Mary here, pours out her heart and lifts it up to God. There’s a lot here that we don’t have time to get into this morning, but we will touch on some of the main themes and points. Alistair Begg says that this song announces that God is Mindful, He is Mighty, and He is Merciful.

HE is mindful of us all as individuals. He does not save or condemn nations or groups, but each individual has the opportunity to put our faith and trust in Christ, to repent of our sins and to worship and follow God. When God made a promise to bless the world through the seed of Abraham, that individual seed would come through the individual of Mary giving birth to the individual who was Jesus, the Savior. He saves us individually. We can not be saved because of our parents, or our children or our friends or whoever. We cannot save our children, our parents or anyone else. God saves each of us, is mindful of us individually.

God is mighty. He keeps his promises. He blesses the humble, the contrite. He takes down and he humbles the proud. This point is also a common refrain throughout the Gospel of Luke. A right heart and a right spirit are required for us to submit and turn our lives over to God.

IT takes a Mighty God to make that change in someone. Alistair Begg points out that nobody except someone who has had their heart changed by the Holy Spirit would want to know a Jesus who humbles you, who casts you down, who shows you you are blind before he opens your eyes.    A Mighty God changes those who encounter him and only God can change us that way.

A Mighty God is also a Merciful God. Because God is the one that changes us, it is his mercy through which he decides to change us. Gods mercy is powerful, it is mighty, it is worthy of our praise.

We are all recipients of that Mercy. Some people choose only to receive mercy in this world and this life. For them, Gods mercy runs out when the die and is not extended into eternity.

But, for everyone who enters in Jesus eternal kingdom, for everyone who worships God forever and ever, the story will be the same. Everyone who responds through faith, everyone we will meet in heaven every Christian, then, now, forever, we will all have the same story. Gods mercy was extended to me.

That’s what makes Christianity so different. It is Gods mercy, God’s grace that grants us salvation. Nothing we do. We live in a world full of pride, full of hubris. Look at all the politicians we see in the news on every side.  Look at the world leaders today and throughout history. All of them believe that either they don’t need any salvation, or that they can provide salvation. The truth is that God is Mightier that the Mighty and Greater than the Great.

Martin Lloyd Jones writes:

When the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords came into this world, he came into a stable. If you do not feel a sense of holy laughter within you, I do not see that you have the right to think that you are a Christian. Thank God, this is the Gospel, this is salvation. God turning upside down, reversing everything we have ever thought, everything we have taken pride in. The mighty? Why, he will pull them down from their seats. He has been doing so. He is still doing so. Let many arise and say he is going to govern, to be the god of the whole world; you need not be afraid- he will be put down. Every dictator has gone down; they all do. Finally, the devil and all that belongs to him will go down to the lake of fire and will be destroyed forever. The son of God has come into the world to do that.

 

 

It is easy to see the mercies and the grace of God when things are going smooth and easy. Its harder in times like we have seen in this country over the last 9 months or so. But his mercies are new every morning. And when we gather together for mutual edification, for the building up of each other’s faith, for God ordained fellowship, we are to sing those mercies.

 

I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness through all generations.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.[20]

 

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:26-38 Jesus is the Son of God: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Luke 1:26-38

Jesus is the Son of God

Mary, Mother of Jesus

 

          Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke Chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible or do not own one, please let us give one to you as a gift from Bangor Community Church. You can grab one off the back table or see me after the service.

We are continuing with our series through Luke’s Gospel here and I want us to remember why Luke wrote this. We saw the very first week that Luke wrote his Gospel so that Theophilus and others, ourselves included, so that he and we could trust what was heard and that he and we could have a well grounded faith in Christ.

And to do so, Luke goes and does a whole lot of thorough research. We see this as he starts off his Gospel before the birth of Christ. We looked last time at Gabriel announcing to Zechariah that he and his barren wife would give birth to a son, John, who would be great, and we know now, pave the way for the coming Messiah. This morning we are going to see Gabriel go to a young virgin, Mary, and tell her that she would give birth to a son, Jesus, who would be greater than great and would save his people.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will see Luke continue this parallel, showing, first the birth of John the Baptist and then afterwards, the birth of Jesus Christ.  And part of this is to show the similarities between the two, but even more so, to show the disparities of the two. That Jesus is the greater and that God is in charge of the timing and the details of all of his grand plan.

So, again, last time we saw Gabriel appear to Zachariah, and tell him that he and Elizabeth would finally have a son, John. Joh would do great things. Zechariah doubted what Gabriel had said, doubted what God could and would do. Because of this, Zechariah was struck mute until after John would be born. Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant and that’s where we left off.

Interesting to me, as we read this, is that Mary would have had no idea about the events that we already looked at. She had no idea about Gabriel appearing to Zechariah and the pregnancy of Elizabeth. And that’s where we pick up this morning.

We are going to read and look at Luke 1, verses 26 through 38. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bible, read along with me in whatever your preferred translation is and see for yourself the very Words of God. Luke 1: 26-38, Luke writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 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[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

 

So again, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and then, 6 months later, he appeared to Mary. And Mary and Zechariah could not have been more different. They could not have responded more different.

Mary was too young as opposed to too old. She was betrothed and not married. She was a virgin, not married. She was a woman, not a man. Mary could tell others what happened, Zechariah was struck mute. She asked out of not understanding, he asked out of unbelief and doubt.

Now, a couple of things that we pull out of who and where Mary is. First, she is betrothed. This is a hard concept for us to understand in the modern West. We tend to think of it like an engagement because its not quite married. Its being promised to your partner, but not finalizing the full covenant as of yet. But its so much more than an engagement. It was a legal agreement. This is why we see in the story that Joseph was able to give her a certificate of divorce. But a betrothal did not have all of the benefits, the partnerships of marriage. Mary and Joseph would not have known each other in any kind of relational or physical way.

Mary was from Nazareth. Nazareth was nowhere. It was nothing. It was a simple, small, rural town in the middle of nowhere in Israel. IT was, at most, a few hundred people. For sure smaller than Bangor here, which is saying something. It was likely less than 100 people. In John 1:46, Nathaniel sums up the prevailing view at the time of Nazareth, saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

          That’s what Nazareth was for them back then.

 

We also see that the House of David was mentioned. Joseph, legally Jesus father was shown to be from the kingly line of David. And Mary, being kin, being family, was shown to be from the priestly line of Aaron. I told you a while ago, we would be exploring the different titles, different offices of Jesus, Prophet, Priest and King. And Luke is going to show us a lot about the fulfillment by Jesus of those offices. Right here we see two ways that he will be able to fulfill them by his earthly ancestry.

 

 

And then we see Gabriel’s words to Mary, “Greetings oh favored one!” A clear misunderstanding of the words of Gabriel here can get us into a lot of trouble and can give us a very false impression of Mary.

This text can be and sometimes is used to elevate Mary to deity status. It is used to elevate Mary above who she is. She is not “full of Grace” in terms of being a source of grace for others. The term “full of grace” itself is an inaccurate translation.

Mary is not to be prayed to. Only God is to be prayed to. Mary is not more than a person. She is not a co-redemptrix along with Christ. She is a woman who is full of God’s grace poured out in her.

Despite some teachings out there, Mary was not virgin born. She was the result of an earthly mother and earthly father being married and having children in the way that God designed. Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus and gave birth to him. She did not stay a virgin after giving birth to Jesus. She and Joseph had more children after this, that scripture testifies to in numerous places.

Mary is not a part of the trinity, nor is she someone whom God just happened to decide “Hey, that girl right there will do.” God does not just work with what’s given to him. HE is not waiting for us to allow him to work. He is not standing outside our houses, our schools, our public buildings, or our country just waiting for us to invite him back in. God does what he decides to do, and he chose Mary before time began. He knew that Mary would be the one in Genesis 3:15 who would give birth to the offspring that crush the head of the serpent.  He had already chosen her and decided that she would be the mother of Jesus.

Mary is not to be deified. She is not to be worship. She is not to be prayed to. She is not on the level of angels. But, as Gabriel says right here, she is favored by God. She is looked upon with favor. She was chosen by God for one of the most important jobs in the history of the world.

And she did it believing. She did it with faith. She did it with dignity and honor. She did it with a heart for serving and obeying God. She did it because she was favored by God. IT show be clear as we look at the Gospels and see what Mary dealt with in her life that favored by God is not a life of unbroken happiness. IT is not a life without hardships, or a life without sickness. It is not a life with all the money, our all the possessions we want. But it means that we have God on our side.

Favored, the free bestowal of Gods grace. Undeserved. It was nothing about Mary that made God choose her. She didn’t earn it. She didn’t achieve it. God choose her because of his goodness and his grace. This is just like we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t do anything to achieve our salvation. Its not anything about us, but God choose us, because of his goodness and his grace to be saved from His wrath against our sins.

 

Now, Mary got this greeting from Gabriel and she was nervous. She didn’t know how to react to this. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. Well that sounds familiar doesn’t it? Again, this is the normal reaction to an angel appearing before you. Not warm, fuzzy feelings, but awe, fear and trembling.

So, she is told not to be afraid, but she still doesn’t know why Gabriel has appeared before her. So, he proceeds to tell her. Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to get pregnant while still remaining a virgin. You are going to have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High, he will reign over the house of Jacob. He will be given the throne of David. His kingdom will have no end.

What that all means is that Jesus is God. That he is and will be the fulfillment of and the King of Israel, the house of Jacob. He is and will be the king over all of creation for all time. Jesus is reigning. This is an important part to this. I want you to understand that we are not waiting for Jesus to reign. HE is doing that right here, right now.

Listen to how John Piper said this, albeit dated in its references because he said this in 1984, but really listen. He says:

Gabriel says, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Do you see what this promise means? It means that Jesus is alive and ruling over his people at 11:50 AM, Sunday, March 11, 1984. Do you believe that? Jesus, Savior, Son of God, King of the world, is governing just as realistically today as Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher or Helmut Kohl. If Gabriel has spoken the truth, THE ISSUE in 1984, no matter where you live on this planet, is: Will you bow before the kingship of Jesus and obey the rule of his kingdom?

 

Think about that. Today. Sunday, September 20, 2020. Jesus is reigning and governing just as realistically today as Donald Trump, as Vladimir Putin, as Justin Trudeau. They are ruling over America, Russia and Canada, but Jesus Christ rules over them all.

 

Now, free grace is hard to accept. We don’t understand how it works and it goes against all of our human instincts. And Mary doesn’t quite understand how this is all going to work. She asks that very question, How? She asks out if confusion, in a direct contrast to Zechariah, how asked “IF…” and did so out of disbelief. Mary says, how can this be, as I am a virgin. I believe you; I just don’t understand.

Now, a couple of good things come out of this question by Mary. First, you don’t have to have all the answers in order to believe. You don’t have to know all the nuances and the details and the theological intricacies in order to have faith. You don’t have to understand every aspect in order to become a Christian. Keep asking your questions. God will answer some of them.

Second, Gabriel answers her, saying that the Holy Spirit will conceive Jesus in Mary. The Holy Spirit is God. One third of the trinity. And each of the trinity fills a different role. The Holy Spirit is here to point to Jesus. The Holy Spirit only comes along with receiving and following Jesus.  We can’t have the Holy Spirit with out Jesus.

Pointing towards, building up and affirming Jesus Christ is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to point towards and glorify and build up Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ comes to save sinners, but to do so so that God the Father may be testified towards, and glorified.

John Piper makes the point that the Holy Spirit is not to be look for as an end in and of Himself. He says:

in seeking to be filled and empowered by the Spirit we must pursue him indirectly—we must look to the wonder of Christ. If we look away from Jesus and seek the Spirit and his power directly, we will end up in the mire of our own subjective emotions. The Spirit does not reveal himself. The Spirit reveals Christ.

 

And he continues:

Devote yourselves to seeing and feeling the grandeur of the love of God in Jesus Christ and you will be so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that his power will flow mightily in your life. Christian spiritual experience is not a vague religious emotion. It is an emotion with objective content, and the content is Jesus Christ. The shy member of the Trinity does mighty work, but he never puts himself in the limelight. You might say he is the limelight that puts the attributes of God the Father and the person of Christ into sharp relief.

 

Mary was not looking for the Holy Spirit. She was looking to serve and obey and honor God and what she received was the Holy Spirit.

Now, the fact that it was the Holy Spirit that would conceive Jesus is vitally important to Christianity. Why? Because it means that Jesus was not born of man. He had no original sin to corrupt his nature. He was born of a woman, the Son of God. Because of this, he would fulfill all the temple requirements of the Old Testament. HE was the fulfillment of the temple itself. It means that through Jesus, because of Jesus, there will be no more need of a temple and there will be no more need of sacrifices and the sacrificial system.

The fact that Mary was a virgin and the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus means that something supernatural happened. Something literally physically impossible. If you do not buy into the virgin birth of Jesus, there is no reason to believe any of the miracles, any of the works, any of the promises of Jesus.  Just like creation and nature and the beginning of everything start with Genesis 1 through 3, the beginning of Jesus and all that he is starts with the virgin birth.

Gabriel then, essentially says, you have not asked for a sign, but I am going to give you one anyway. Your cousin Elizabeth, who was old and barren, she is in her 6 months of pregnancy.

God can do it! What is impossible for man, with God it is possible. Again, what is physically impossible, what is the definition of impossible, God speaks and makes it happen.

 

Now, I think that Mary’s response in v 38 may just be the biggest takeaway of this whole passage. And it definitely puts her question in v 34 in proper context. Mary responds to all that Gabriel has told her by faith. Remember that Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

          Mary could not yet see what Gabriel had promised her, but she responded in faith. “I am the LORDs servant. May it be according to your Word.” What God says, what he wills, what he calls me too, that I will do. I will serve and obey him.

And so, we need to ask ourselves, will we respond, as Mary did, with absolute faith? Will we submit to Gods call on our life? Will you go where he wants you to go? Will you do what he wants you to be doing? Will you do it with who he wants you to? Will you do it for how long he wants you to do it?

In order to do so, in order to follow and serve God in the way he deserves to be served, we need to be willing to give up everything we know and love. God comes first, above all else. He wont always take away from us everything we know and love, but I guarantee that the tighter we hold on something and keep it way from or above God, the more he will rip it right out of our hands.

When we respond to Gods call through faith, we will approach him with open hands, giving all of us, and all we have to him, knowing that he is in control, knowing that he is reigning above right now, forever and ever, we will see that we too, by the grace and choice of God are also highly favored.

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:1-4 Jesus is the Son of Man: The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel

Luke 1:1-4

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel

 

Good Morning Bangor! Let’s grab our Bibles and turn in them to the Gospel of Luke. If you don’t have a Bible, or don’t own a Bible, please grab one off our back table or come see me after the service so that you can have one as our gift to you.

We are starting a new Series this week through Luke’s Gospel. We finished up through Daniel last week and there is an interesting connection between Luke and Daniel. One of the ways that Daniel identifies the coming Christ, the coming Messiah is to call him the Son of Man. One of the most common ways that Luke refers to Jesus is as the Son of Man.

Today we are going to be introduced to both Luke himself and to his Gospel. We are going to answer at least three questions about this Gospel, Who, when and why. Who wrote it? When Did he write it? And Why did he write it?

The Gospel of Luke is an interesting book. It is, by far, the longest of the Gospels. It has stories, parables, teachings that none of the other Gospels have. It is also one of the synoptic Gospels. What that means is that it is paired with Matthew and Mark and the three of them all seem to share a common source, as some describe it, the share much of the same stories and content. So, we will look at many of the parable passages as we go through Luke.

This series will take us quite a long time to go through, and I do encourage you to read and study it for yourself as well as we go through it.

We are going to start with the introduction of Luke, the first four verse of the book. We will read those and then answer the Who When and Why questions w just mentioned. Luke chapter 1, verses 1 through 4. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Let’s read the text. Luke 1:1-4, Luke writes:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

What a beautiful sentence. All one sentence by the way, and it’s the same in the Greek. It is also a classic literary introduction, showing us that Luke was a learned man, a well-educated man. And that makes sense, as we find out in Colossians 4:14, Paul refers to him as a physician, a doctor. So, you may, on occasion, or more than on occasion, refer to him as Doctor Luke.

We know that he was a close friend of Paul’s and very loyal. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is imprisoned and getting close to being put to death. Paul writes that everyone has left his side, that he is alone, except for Luke.

Doctor Luke traveled with Paul for much of Paul’s travels. Some believe he also was Paul’s personal doctor. In Acts, which Luke wrote, we see many passages where it is written that “we” went and did this or went there. That “we” refers to Luke, the author being with Paul during this time, not just writing what Paul told him.

Luke was very thorough in his investigations, in his research. He held accuracy in detail very high. All of his material was well documented. Many of the commentators I’ve been reading have made bid deals out of Luke’s accuracy, pointing out that if we can not trust some of the minor details or historical details, then how can we trust the actual Gospel that Luke is presenting. Every commentator I’ve read has included a quote from Sir William Ramsey where he says: Luke was a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident

 

          Luke was a prolific writer. Luke wrote this Gospel and Luke wrote the book of Acts. He wrote more of the New Testament than anyone. He wrote more than Paul did. When you count the words, when you look at the volume, Luke’s writing is more than Paul’s, even if you include Hebrews in with Paul’s writings, which is unclear at best.

Lastly, Luke was humble. He doesn’t mention himself or bring attention to himself as he writes through Acts. He just says “we.” The only reason we know many of these things about him is because of what Paul says. Some come to the conclusion that Luke started out as a hard-core skeptic. They say that this is why he is so thorough in his research and presentation, trying to eliminate any doubt from the mind of the readers.

So, that who Luke is, that’s what we know about him. Next, we ask, when did he write this. Now, its very likely that The Gospel and Acts were written at the same time. Rabbit trail moment: I have always wondered why the Gospels are not laid out Matthew, Mark, John and Luke. Then Luke would end and flow right into Acts… I know it’s because Matthew, Mark and Luke are the synoptics and John is the outlier, but still, c’mon!

So, there tend to be a few different ideas and thoughts about when Luke and Acts was written. I’m really only going to focus on the only one that makes sense to me. The book of Acts ends with Paul being imprisoned in Rome in about 62 AD. Now we know that Paul was released from this imprisonment and was arrested at least one more time, and ultimately was put to death as the result of one of his later imprisonments. If Acts was written later on, it would make sense that Luke would have included more of Paul’s story. So, I believe that it was written very shortly after the book of Acts ends, likely around 63 AD or so.

 

And now we get to the big question; Why did Luke write this book, the Gospel according to Luke?

Well known atheist, Sam Harris has said, “I don’t want to pretend to be certain about anything I’m not certain about.” To me, this sounds like exactly the person that Luke was writing for.

Now, Luke was not an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He is the only Gospel writer who wasn’t. But Luke did his researched. He spoke to many eyewitnesses who were still around and were willing to testify to the truth and life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

There were still many eyewitnesses around, this was less than 30 years after the death of Christ. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:5 & 6, after Christ rose from the dead: that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 

Paul even testifies that many were still alive, and he is telling people, “Go ask them for yourself if you don’t believe, or if you have doubts or if you’re not sure.” And that’s just what Luke did. And What he heard form them is what he is relaying to us in this Gospel.

Again, Luke is a historian. And Christianity is not irrational. Christianity is not illogical. It is not without evidence and historical legitimacy.  It is in fact, rooted in and grounded in history. IT is rational and it is reasonable and there is lots of evidence for the truth that is right here in our hands.

I was having an online conversation this week with someone, and they made the comment that the Gospel has everything to offer to any who are willing to consider it honestly.

Most of you know at least part of the story of Lee Strobel. He was a courtroom journalist. He knew the importance of eyewitnesses and their testimony. His wife came to know Christ and he saw a change in her. He went out to use his investigative talents that he developed as a journalist and he went out to prove Christianity false. Over the course of his investigations, talking to scholars and theologians, hearing about the eyewitness testimony of the Bible, how the Apostles personally witnessed these things and wrote them down, even under the threat of death. In the end, it was too much and instead of proving Christianity false, he turned in faith to Jesus Christ, being certain in what he was taught.

Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, wrote, what I think is truer than even he knew when he wrote: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

And that’s what Luke did. He eliminated the impossible. He eliminated the questions, the doubts. He researched and opened himself up to the truth and went where it led him. What remained, what he wrote down in this Gospel, was the truth.

Known truth, not blind faith, but learned faith are the foundation of Christianity. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. I’m not saying that there isn’t a leap of faith. I’m not saying that you have to intellectually know all the details, all the nuances of the faith before you can trust in Christ. But I am saying that you can know that your faith is grounded in reality. Its not arbitrary. It is something that has a firm foundation and the trust that you put in Christ, the faith that you have will not disappoint, it will not crumble and I will not be proven wrong.

 

Now, Luke was writing this to the most excellent Theophilus. Theophilus is either a name or a title given to this person. Theophilus means “friend of God.” Most likely, based on Luke’s other uses of the term “most excellent,” he was a fairly prominent member of the Roman government.

And someone, sometime had a chance to share the truth of Jesus Christ with Theophilus. Maybe Luke, maybe not. To be honest, we can’t even be sure that Luke was a Christian at the time he started this mission. But Luke was sent out and was going to make sure that Theophilus could be certain about what he had been taught. My guess is that he was, but again, there is no indication about whether Theophilus was a Christian at this point, or was a curious person, looking to learn more about what had been shared with him. Luke was going to make sure he received the complete and total truth.

Something that I share with you guys often, don’t take everything you were taught as Gospel fact. I remember being taught that Luke worked for Theophilus. Maybe he was Theophilus’ doctor. But I was taught that Luke was commissioned by Theophilus to go out and investigate and research and verify the Gospel. Yet, there is nothing in the text that indicates this. We can read a lot into the text, and some or much of it may be true, but we need to discern what the text says from what we read into the text.

Let us also notice as we read and study this book that Luke is a storyteller. Luke investigates, learns the details, and tells the story. This is opposed to Johns spirituality and philosophy. This is opposed to Marks action packed Gospel. This is opposed to Matthews focus on prophecy fulfillment. Luke researches and tells the stories with details.

Luke is writing to a universal audience. He is writing so that all may hear. Again, this is opposed to Matthews Jewish audience. This is opposed to Marks specifically Roman audience and this is opposed to Johns church audience.

One of the key messages of Luke’s Gospel is that the offer of salvation, brought by the Son of Man, is an offer to all. Every person has the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. I read this and I am reminded of something Charles Spurgeon said, He said:

If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect, I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t, I must preach “whosoever will” and when “whatsoever” believes I know that he is one of the elects.

 

Luke is writing this to a universal audience, but he is also writing it personally to Theophilus. Relationships play a big role in Luke’s stories. And in his stories, we see where Luke’s heart lies. We will see his heart for the lonely, the poor, the beaten down, the oppressed, and, as a doctor, his heart for the sick and the suffering.

Jesus came to save even them. Jesus came to say even us. Jesus came to offer salvation to all, not just the powerful. Not just the popular. Not just the put together. Not the sinless. It is in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 31 that Jesus says: It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

          The last thing that Luke says in this introduction, V4:  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

          Luke wants you to believe. And he wants you to know what you believe. That Jesus Christ is the Son of Man. That Jesus Christ is the Messiah. That we are sinful, broken, spiritually dead. Jesus Christ came and offered his life in place of ours, to give us the forgiveness of sins. By Gods Grace, poured out through our faith in Jesus Christ. All of this done to glorify God and God alone. Jesus first words in Marks Gospel, he says repent and believe the Gospel. In order to have eternal life with Christ, eternal citizenship in the kingdom of God we must believe. Not just intellectually, though that is important, but to believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Christ is LORD.

If you haven’t, today is the day. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation. There are no second chances and life on this earth can end in a flash. Jesus Christ is the means to salvation and eternal life.

 

 

 

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 11 & 12 pt 1 God of All Nations: Daniels last vision

Daniel 11 & 12

God of All Nations

Daniels last vision

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 11. If you do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

We are in the stretch run of our series through Daniel that we have titled, God of All Nations. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 are on last episode in Daniels life. One last vision that God is sharing with Daniel, and through Daniel, sharing with us.

As we come into chapter 11 and look at the vision that God is presenting to Daniel, we remember that the context of this vision includes what we looked at last week in chapter 10.

In chapter 10, we saw Daniel upset and discouraged at the vents that were getting in the way of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. He was praying and fasting over the situation and he had a vision, an appearance by one who had an appearance like a man. That messenger who appeared, pulled back the curtain and gave Daniel a glimpse at the unseen spiritual warfare going on between Gods Angels and Satan’s Fallen Angels, or Demons. We saw how prayer affects those battles and how those battles affect the things of this world.

And today we will see some of the things of this world that will be affected by this spiritual warfare. We will see history predicted and prophesied from the other end. We will see quite a bit about Antiochus IV, otherwise known as Antiochus Epiphanes, who we also saw and talked about in Chapter 8. In short, we are going to look at 400 years of history before it happens.

Before we read our first section of this morning, what we are going to see is a long list of kings and rulers and conflicts and history being prophesied. And if we just read through it, it can easily be read in the same way as the genealogies throughout scriptures or the lists of kings in the Old Testament, where we just read, or skim through it until we get into the narrative further along.

We want to avoid that because it is scripture and it is included in this vision for a reason. So, lets go ahead and read Daniel chapter 11. We will start with verses 1-20. As always, I will read out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, whichever that may be.

Daniel continues to record, as the messenger continues to speak from chapter 10:

And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

“And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.

“Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority. After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported[a] her in those times.

“And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.

10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. 13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years[b] he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.

14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. 15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom,[c] but it shall not stand or be to his advantage. 18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed,[d] he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle.

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, all of that was entirely crystal-clear right? No questions?

 

In all seriousness, all of what we just read, can be and is verified and confirmed by the historical records we have. We have the names, the years these events happened, and we have the details about what these prophecy’s mean. WE are not going to get into all the minute details this morning. One of example of doing so in a commentary, John Calvin filled over 40 pages going through this section. If you are interested in point by point breakdowns, I can recommend a number of commentaries or, once we are done in Daniel, I can lend some out.

That being said, there are some things we will point out and some things we should know. It starts off with telling Daniel that there will be three more Persian kings and then one will come along with great wealth and then great power. This fourth king would be who we know as Xerxes from the book of Esther.

With his wealth and his power, around 480 BC, he would start a military campaign against Greece that would start the ball rolling to the Greeks conquering Persia after we skip ahead in v3 and see, once again, Alexander the Great. Remember Alex reigned and conquered from 336 to 323 BC.

We see and we know from previous visions that Alexander only ruled a short time, he conquered everything there was to conquer and then he died. His Kingdom was not given to his children, they were murdered. Instead it was divided amongst four of his generals.  One of the things we see is that the world sees this man as “great” and he was incredibly powerful in this world. And yet, the scriptures see him and describe him as a broken horn, like we saw in Daniel 8:22.

What you achieve in this world is nothing compared to what God can do. Alexander found out, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will find out, each and every one of us will find out what Isaiah says in chapter 40, verses 22 & 23:

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

 

 

Alexander was a great military leader, but once he died, as we all do, his kingdom was not what it was supposed to be or what he wanted it to be. IT was divided into four pieces and for the purposes of this vision, we are going to see the North Kingdom, the Seleucids, and the South, the Ptolemies.

It is through their families and through the leaders of these two kingdoms that go down through the major events in the region, in the known world at the time, of the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. We see all sorts of political intrigue, family drama and all sorts of betrayal and conflict.

God knew all these things ahead of time.  He knew how all the conflicts and drama would play out.  Throughout history, in the bog and in the little, God knows who will win and who will lose. He knows who will betray who and who will cross who. He shows that he knows by showing us hundreds of years before it happens. Major moments in history and minor moments in history, none is out of the control and the sight of God.

Long story short, this is the history of the rulers of the North and the south Greek empires. They are the North and South because they are north and south of Jerusalem. The geography here is why it was included in the scriptures, why it matters to the vision. We start to see in this section, but we will really see with Antiochus Epiphanes the affect this has on Jerusalem and Gods people.

But what about us? If its in the scriptures, if its part of Gods Word, it has to have some meaning for us as well. I will give you the words of Iain Duguid as he expounds on the application of this passage. He writes:

This is an important lesson for us to learn from this history. The kingdoms of this world often seem overwhelming in their power to accomplish great things, a power that can easily either cow Christians into a state of depressed submission or, alternatively, seduce them into trying to use the worlds power to do Gods work. Some Christians seem to believe that they can hasten the coming of Gods kingdom by achieving certain political goals. Yet at the end of the story, and for all their vaunted power, the kingdoms of this world can neither destroy Gods work, nor establish it. They are merely tools in the hand of a sovereign God who is able to declare the end from the beginning because he alone ultimately controls the affairs in men and nations.

This truth is of great practical value to each of our lives. We all experience times when our existence seems caught up in a larger conflict that is completely out of our control. Perhaps our job is threatened when a manufacturing plant is closed by corporate authorities located thousands of miles away. Perhaps political decisions or terrorist acts that are beyond our power to influence threaten our freedoms and lifestyle. Our health, or the health of someone we love, may be threatened by a disease against which we have no ability to guard. We live in a great big world and we are ever so small.

 

Next, we see the rule of the northern Kingdom delivered into the hands of a familiar face, one that we spent some time looking at in Daniel 8: 9-14. Let’s read Daniel 11:21-35:

In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts[e] of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.

29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.

 

 

Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (a name given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. He was not the legitimate heir, but ascended to the throne through cunning, plotting and intrigue. And Scripture tells us that he was contemptable. He was cunning, he was ruthless, he was evil. He was, as we saw in Daniel 8 and we see here in Daniel 11, a foreshadowing, a type looking towards the end antichrist.

Antiochus would kill the high priest in Jerusalem and replace him with someone more politically pliant. He continued the battle between the Northern and Southern Greek kingdoms, sometimes doing well, but ended up having Rome start siding with the Southern kingdom, out manning his northern kingdom. He made deals and then broke them. He plundered the temple and was determined to exterminate the Jewish religion. When he was on one of his military campaigns in the south, there was a rumor that went around in Jerusalem that he had died. There was great rejoicing and a revolt and when he got back, he went ballistic on the Jews.

Antiochus is a great example of history repeating itself. Again, he is a type, a foreshadow of the antichrist. He has the heart of the antichrist. Very specifically and fully historically, this passage is talking about Antiochus IV. But we see rulers throughout history that could easily fit into this imagery.

In verses 31-35, we see again, some of what Antoichus did in Jerusalem and in the temple. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.

In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.

He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.

More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings.   At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through God’s grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

The Maccabees where those who, in verse 32, were “those who knew God,” and they were to stand firm and take action. We looked at 1 Corinthians 15 this week during prayer meeting and the last verse of that chapter reads Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

We are called both to stand firm and to take action. WE also see in verse 33, a mention of those who are wise. The wisdom is how we determine when and how to stand firm and when and how to take action. By being wise, we are to be prudent and understanding.

We use wisdom to know what to say. We use wisdom to know what not to say. We use wisdom to know how loud to say what we say. WE use wisdom to make sure that we share truth and not false. We share our wisdom with others.

Be wise. Stand Firm. Take Action.

 

Let’s finish up this chapter of Daniel, reading verses 36 through 45:

“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.[f]

40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack[g] him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.

 

Now, all previous events, all of chapter 11 til this point, are able to be historically verified and, as I said, we know who all the people and what all the events are. Starting with v 36, we don’t have historical verification of who this applies to and we know from other things we know about Antiochus that these verses cannot fully apply to him. Some will argue that v 36-39 still applies to Antiochus. But most will read into this that there is a major time gap between verse 35 & verse 36.

For those who see the time gap in these verses, the rest of this chapter is looked as talking about the end time Antichrist. One of the things I appreciate is in verse 36 when we see “what is decreed shall be done.”

We see throughout this chapter that bad things only happen until its time is over, until the time is determined, that what is decreed shall be done. It helps us see that even the immense persecution of Gods people is subject to Gods timing, to Gods control, to Gods allowance, and Gods sovereignty.

Verses 37-39 we see that all deception regarding false gods will melt away. There will be no more pretenses. We will be face to face with two clear and disparate choices. Either we will believe in, trust and choose the God of the Bible, the one true God. Or we will decide that we will reject God and side with Satan, with the antichrist, with the god of self and whatever else we think we might gain from this choice.

Verses 40-45 finish up the chapter and we see that it is bracketed with the terms time of the end and he shall come to his end. And the battles that are described here are hard to fit into history. I think that, if we look at them in context, especially in the context of Chapter 11 being inextricably tied to chapter 10, that we see that this battles are a part of the spiritual battles that we caught a glimpse of last week, with the Gabriel, Michael and who knows who else battling the Princes of Persia, the prince of Greece, and who knows how many other fallen angels or demons.

And then, he shall come to his end, referring to the antichrist. And we see that to remember that no matter how bad things get here. God will end it. No matter how elections play out, no matter what our governors and our presidents say. No matter what, God is in control. And those who go against God and his work, those who make the wrong choice mentioned a few moments ago, their time will be brought to an end.

And so, I am going to finish up, I read a passage from Iain Duguid earlier and I want to leave us with the very next paragraph following that passage.

In such times of personal uncertainty, we need to cling firmly onto the knowledge that all the worlds events , from the greatest to the least, are not only known ahead of time to God, but are under his sovereign power to control. Even those actions that are initiated by godless men and women in pursuit of their own wicked purposes will ultimately achieve the LORD’s holy purposes (Acts 4:27-28). He is the first and the last; apart from him there is no God. He alone can foretell what the future holds because He holds it in his sovereign hand.

 

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Daniel 10 God of All Nations: A Glimpse of Gods Glory

Daniel 10

God of All Nations

A Glimpse of Gods Glory

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 10. IF you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.

Well, we have entered the endgame now. Chapter 10 through the end of chapter 12, which is the end of the book, are all telling about one vision that Daniel would receive.

As we get into this mornings text, we wont actually be getting into the vision yet, that will start next week as we get into chapter 11. This week we will set the scene and we will be introduced to some angels and possibly more. We will see a lot of behind the scenes ideas and revelations regarding spiritual warfare and prayer. One commentator says that this chapter shows that life is hard, and it shows why it is hard, and it shows us that we are not alone in this battle.

Sinclair Ferguson writes, “As we shall see, chapter 10 contains vital biblical insight into the nature of reality. It emphasizes that human causes and effects are not the only forces or influences operative in the history of the world.

 

          So, with that being said, lets go ahead and take a look at the start of our scripture this morning. WE will be looking at all of Daniel chapter 10, but we will be starting with verses 1-9. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to read along in your Bible, whether that’s the same translation, or another one that you prefer.

Daniel 10:1-9, Daniel records:

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict.[a] And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed,[b] and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

So, we see from the beginning that this chapter and the rest of the book takes place two years after the events of Chapter 9. I don’t know if it has any theological or practical application, but one thing I did find interesting is the pattern with the visions over the last few chapters. We had visions taking place in the first and the third year of Belshazzar, and now we see the visions taking place in the first and third years of King Cyrus.

Now, we do know that the timing of this does have some importance. See, in Ezra 1, taking place in the same year as Daniel chapter 9, we see this in verses 1-3:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.

 

So, some had already made their way back to Jerusalem from Babylon. They would have gone and been back in their home city and their home country. Now, we also see that they would have troubles back home as they attempted to rebuild the temple.

But Daniel didn’t go back to Jerusalem. There is no indication as to why. Likely he was too old. Certainly, God still had work for him to do here in Babylon. As we see through this chapter, God needed someone, Daniel, who would do, as one commentator says, “The hidden and strategic work of prayer for the defense AND the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

Daniel knew about the troubles that they were having in Jerusalem. He had, at this time, dedicated himself to three weeks of mourning and prayer and fasting. The way that he says it, it seems Daniel is adhering to the same diet he spoke of and held to in Chapter 1. My guess is that he didn’t just randomly remember this event from 70 years ago, but this was a regular or semi-regular thing, too fast in this way.

Ezra 4:4 tells us:  Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build.

 

          We know that in this world, in our spiritual walk, we will have ups and downs. We will have spiritual highs and lows. Daniel was excited to see the fulfillment of Gods promise. He would have been overjoyed to see those in Exile return to their homeland. And he would have likely been heartbroken and for sure disappointed to see and hear about the struggles going on in Jerusalem.

But what Daniel took from all of this was not a lose of faith, or to doubt God, but all of what happened, highs and lows, good and bad, all of it drove him to prayer. And Daniel knew a truth that St John of Chrysostom put into words about 8 centuries later when he said, “God is everywhere. You decide whether you are close to him or not.”

          Daniel knew that God was still at work. He knew that God would continue and finish keeping his promises.  He knew a spiritual principle that one commentator says this way: Knowledge of Gods work of grace in the past encourages us to trust Him and seek His blessing in the present and for the future.

 

          V4 gives us the exact location and date of Daniel when all this happens. He was on the banks of the Tigris river, possibly only 20 miles from Babylon. Still well within the Persian empire. We can figure out through the date that the three weeks that Daniels was fasting and praying included the Passover. That’s how serious he was, that he did not observe and celebrate the Passover. Again, the Passover was to celebrate God leading his people out of slavery and a foreign land and leading them back to their homeland, the promised land.

 

As Daniel is there by the river, he lifted his eyes up and saw an appearance. He looks up and sees one described like we saw in the scripture reading this morning in Ezekiel 1 and like described in Revelation 2.

Did he see Jesus?

Did he see Gabriel?

Did he see Michael?

Did he see someone else entirely?

None of the answers are satisfactory, they all have reasons why not. Michael is mentioned separately in v 13. Gabriel has been mentioned before and not described like that. I lean towards it being Jesus. The reasons being, the description Daniel gives, the clothing and the appearances, give the impression of Jesus threefold office of prophet, priest and king. We haven’t talked much about this before and we don’t have much time today, but we see each of these offices from God in the Old Testament and Jesus is the fulfillment of these offices. He is the better prophet, the better priest and the better King. Also, the type of reverence, the reaction to seeing the person that Daniel saw is usually reserved for an appearance of Jesus.

Ferguson says about this, “More important than identifying the figure- it was, aside from that indefinable reality, a vision- is recognizing the impression the vision is intended to create. Even if the figure is not divine, Daniels vision is still essentially theophonic in nature because it communicated to him a sense of the omnipotence and all-gloriousness of God.

          And Daniel was the only one who could see him. This is very similar to Acts chapter 9, where Saul was on his way to Damascus and Jesus appeared to him. Those who were with Paul heard and knew something was going on, but only Paul could see Him. Daniel was the only one who could see this vision, this appearance. The rest of those with Him turned and ran away.

 

We see in scripture that the typical response to seeing an appearance by an angel or a heavenly body is usually the same. We see fear and trembling. We see Awe and shock. Daniel says here that he had no strength and that his appearance was fearfully changed. And he heard the sound of words, which along with what we will read in verse 11, seems to imply that he was not understanding the words being spoken at that point.

 

Let’s go ahead and read the rest of the chapter and continue our journey through the text. Daniel 10:10-21, he continues:

 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

 

          The touch makes Daniel fall to his knees and tremble. But he tells Daniel, you are greatly loved, now understand the words that I am saying. Your prayers have been heard from the very beginning. He is saying, your prayers worked, they were heard. I am here because of your prayers.

I’ve always lived what EM Bounds has to say about prayer:

What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

 

And from this, we see the curtain pulled back a little bit. We get a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going on between angels and demons. We see behind the scenes, into the unseen world that is not flesh and blood, but powers and principalities.

This is why it took three weeks for this appearance, for this vision to come to Daniel. OITs not that Heaven is three weeks from Earth, but rather that there were obstacles and diversions that needed to be dealt with.

We know, from scripture, Job 1, etc., that fallen angels, demons, have real power, but their power is limited by God. They could not stop Gods plans or his message, all they could do is delay it a bit. And even that is because God, in his complete sovereignty, allowed it to be so. We don’t know why, we probably never will, but we know it to be so.

There is a lot that we see from scripture that we know to be true, even when we don’t have any idea how it works or why it works. How our prayer affects this unseen spiritual battle is one of those things. But we are told it does. Daniel has been praying. HE is a prayer warrior. He knows and has seen time and time again the evidence of Gods Sovereignty and control over everything. But I don’t think even he could have had any notion of the reality of angles and demons locked in perpetual battle and the role prayer would play in it.

Listen to Abraham Kuyper speak on these things:

If once the curtain were pulled back, and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere game. Not here, but up there- that is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.

 

          This is not something we often like to think about. That Satan and his fallen angles are real, and they are active. Our two reflexes are to either credit him too much power or to not give him not enough. HE either give him too much credit by blaming him for everything that goes wrong in this world.

“The Devil made me do it.” That’s the common refrain. The reality is that we are sinful people. We did it because we wanted to. We did it because we did not resist temptation. We did it because of our sinful nature. He does not have the power to make us sin. Especially if we have been set free from sin, we are not bound to sin, we are not bound to give in to temptation. We still, in our earthly, fleshly bodies, still have our sin nature, but we are not bound by that sin.

On the other side, there is a great quote, from somewhere earlier, but I know it from a movie. The Greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn’t exist.  People today don’t believe. If they can’t see it, touch it, feel it, study it, test it, they don’t believe it. And if they don’t believe, then they are not on guard against it and they definitely won’t pray against it.

When Paul writes in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare and putting on the spiritual armor, He ends with two things. First is to wield the only offensive weapon listed, the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. Knowing the Word of God and using it. Second, to pray at all times, in the Spirit.

Sinclair Ferguson gives us one warning about how we think of the power of prayer, saying: The power does not belong to the praying or to the prayer, but to God. Prayer has no power in and of itself; prayer is wholehearted dependence on God. It is a confession that we can do nothing, and that God alone can work.

IF we forget this, scripture is clear. God alone has the power. Again, as I said before, sometimes it can be hard to see how the truths of scripture work our mechanically or practically, but the truth of Scripture is that prayer matters and makes a difference and, at the same time, without contradicting, that God and God alone has the power to do anything.

After getting a glimpse of the spiritual world, Daniel again says that he has no strength in him. The vision and message have drained him of his strength. But he was told to be strengthened and he was.

Once we encounter the glory of God, we cannot be unchanged by it. Once we have encountered Jesus Christ, He will change us. And that’s a good thing. That encounter, Gods grace poured out on us, delivered to us by the faith that is given to us in Jesus Christ is what changes us from sinners deserving of Hell, to saints, given mercy and forgiveness by God.

As the messenger gets ready to tell Daniel the vision, he also lets him know that he will have to return soon to continue the battle, first against the prince of Persia, then later against the prince of Greece.

Now, of course we know these are spiritual opponents primarily, but I believe also, based on the vision coming up, a hint as to what’s to come at this point in history. We have already seen numerous visions referring to the kingdom of Greece coming up, and that’s what we will see in the vision that Daniel is about to get.

But the messenger ends by telling Daniel that he is going to tell him truth. Only Michael is by his side as he fights these enemies. This is two angels, or something like that. Two entities doing Gods will, fighting against a whole host of Gods enemies and they are enough. One of the would be enough if God wanted it done, truth be told. But again, God is allowing some power, for a time and for a purpose that we don’t ultimately know. We also don’t know the affect our prayers have on these battles, only that they do have an effect.

And so, prayer is the biggest takeaway today. Praying as if the future and Gods Kingdom depend on it. IT doesn’t, not quite. But God gave us a mission. Going back to the beginning of this sermon. God needs someone to do ““The hidden and strategic work of prayer for the defense AND the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

If this is scary or overwhelming, I get it. Prayer is not my spiritual gift. But it doesn’t have to be. Be encouraged by Romans 8:26:  Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words

 

          It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. Let God do the work, you be faithful to him. Pray what you see in scriptures. Pray for his will to be done. Pray for those spiritual battles going on that we have no idea about. Just pray. With the right heart, the right motivation, God will hear, and God will answer.

Speaking of, let’s go ahead and end in prayer.