What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Part 2. Sermon Sunday December 22, 2019

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Isaiah 9:6-7

When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had some idea who he was, but didn’t begin to grasp the full potential of the baby they were called to care for. Why did God choose for Jesus to be born as a baby? Why didn’t he simply appear as a full-grown man and begin to perform miraculous signs and wonders?

When speaking of the promised Messiah, the teachers of the day would have described someone who had the wisdom of Solomon, the charisma and authority of David, the leadership ability of Moses and the military genius of Joshua. But, instead, Jesus came into the world as a little baby, weak, needy, and humble. It was, and still is hard for us to fully understand how the second person of the trinity would enter the world in the form of an infant.

But Jesus was both fully God and fully man. The virgin birth is proof that he was divine, but being born as an infant shows that he was also human in every way (see Hebrews 4:15). If Jesus did not take on the form of a man, his sacrifice would have been unconvincing, because he would have been aloof and separated from the common man. If Jesus had been a mere man and not God, he would have died a martyr’s death. We can trust this same Jesus with our lives, because he knows what we are going through, he overcame the world and all its temptations.

In the first chapter of Matthew, we read that the angel told Joseph that the child born to Mary was to be called Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”, which means, “God Saves”. The Hebrew name Joshua, and the Greek equivalent, Jesus, were common names at the time of Jesus’ birth and life. But after Jesus died and rose again, historians have found that the name Jesus was no longer used in the region. The simple reason is that the name Jesus took on a much more controversial meaning. For early Christians, they felt that no child was worthy to carry the same name as the messiah. For those who did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they did not want their child to be associated with such a controversial character.

But now the name of Jesus means so much more to us.  We call on the name of Jesus for our salvation and we pray in the name of Jesus (see John 14:13-14 and Acts 4:12).  

The Prophet Isaiah calls Jesus, “…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6b)

If you are struggling to lead your family in the ways of the Lord, or you are struggling with a difficult situation in life and need wisdom to make tough decisions, remember that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.

If you are facing spiritual warfare and opposition in your Christian walk, and if you seem to be facing impossible mountains, always wrestling with temptation, remember that Jesus is the Mighty God.

If you simply need to cry in the loving embrace of One who understands when everyone seems to have abandoned you, remember that Jesus is the Everlasting Father. – He is the uncreated creator of all things.

If all around you seem to be facing personal conflict, and it seems that your world is in a state of perpetual conflict, remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace

Jesus wasn’t simply a baby born with potential, he is the one who was born so that every child born could have unlimited potential. A personal relationship with Jesus begins the unleashing of that potential (see Acts 4:12).

This time of the year many people who don’t even know Jesus, are celebrating Christmas. Sadly, many people who attend churches every Sunday, may believe in the existence of the historical person of Jesus, but that is not enough (see James 2:19). James wrote that belief in God is not enough unless it is accompanied by a life of faith and action.

Merely giving mental agreement to the virgin birth, even believing that he came to be a sacrifice for our sins is not enough. Someone who is truly saved is someone who takes the truth of the Gospel, believes it and then acts accordingly.  The Gospel message must change our lives, as we make Jesus lord of our lives. Belief doesn’t change lives, lordship does.

Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again in John 3:3. The term Jesus used, “Born again”, is better translated, “Born from above”.

So, what does it mean to be born from above? We say; “I was saved”, “I became a Christian”, “I decided to follow Christ”, and other phrases. For many people what this translates to is a decision to raise your hand in a meeting or walk down the aisle for prayer. But the truth is that there are many people who claim to be Christians, who show no evidence of a transformed life, they show no evidence of being born from above.

Jesus made it clear that to follow him is not a simple decision to raise your hand or saying a prayer; to follow Jesus means to die to your old self, to take on a new name, to completely give everything you have to God.

When we are born again, we take on the name of Jesus, we become so closely identified with him, that we are his ambassadors, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20.

As we are born again, the Holy Spirit works in our lives to produce faith and change the way in which we live our lives. We grow in a Biblical worldview, seeing everything through a different lens with an eternal perspective.

In Isaiah 9:7, the prophet speaks of a time yet to come. The final outworking of this prophesy is not fully realized, and we wait for the day when Justice and righteousness will be established and continue forever.

The first coming of Jesus was a mission of humility and sacrifice where he came to deal with the problem of sin and conquer death. But the next time Jesus comes, he will come on a mission of triumph and justice. Only those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior will celebrate with him when he comes again.

Can you say today that you will be part of that celebration?

Sermon September 17, 2017 – Jeremiah part 3

Jeremiah 17:1-10

The nation of Judah had drifted far from God, worshipping idols and ignoring the covenant and the law that God gave Moses on mount Sinai. Their sin was deep rooted, it wasn’t simply a fleeting failure. Jeremiah uses the picture of an engraving tool in verse 1, the sins were indelibly marked in their culture. This has been the condition of man since Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Sin is not a matter of mere actions, sin is a matter of the heart, and all of us are desperately sinful in our nature.

The Greek definition for sin is to miss the mark, to miss the standard for which we were created. We as human beings, like no other creature, were created in the image of God, and as such we were created to glorify Him by our worship, and our enjoyment of Him forever.

This is the mark we have missed, we worship, money, sex, fame, various forms of entertainment and objects of our own creation just to name a few idols.  We are no different to the nation of Judah, we have missed the mark, we are sinners. In verse 3 and 4, God says that because of their sins, he will punish them and give away all their treasures and wealth as plunder to their enemies. Even though God spoke so directly through the prophet Jeremiah, the people ignored the message and treated Jeremiah like the enemy.

The irony is that God tells them that he will enslave them in a land they do not know, but the reality is that they were already slaves. When we are living in willful sin, we are enslaved by that sin. Sin itself is slavery, because we are separated from the joy of knowing the pleasure and the grace of God in our lives.

The Lord continues in verse 5, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Where do you place your trust? Do you trust in your retirement fund? Your paycheck? Your savings? Your inheritance? Perhaps you trust in a person to take care of you? The truth is that no matter what we trust in, if it is not God, the Bible says we are under a curse.

The converse of verses 5 and 6 are verses 7 and 8 said. Verse 7 says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Do you want to experience God’s blessing? Trust Him!

In verse 8 we read that the person who trusts in the Lord will receive a promised blessing from the Lord, they will have no fear, no worries, and they never fail to bear fruit.

As we look at ourselves, how do we really know if we trust the Lord? We can easily fool our neighbor, our pastor, even our spouse, but God knows our heart (see Jeremiah 17:10).

Just like God knew the hearts of the people of Judah, he knows our hearts today. As a result of their sin, God punished the nation of Judah, the attack from the north came and most of them were taken into captivity. It was a terrible and dark time for the nation. The captivity in Babylon was relatively short, only 70 years, but the nation was destroyed and would never be the same again.

The punishment for sin was severe, and God still punishes sin today, we don’t like to talk about it, but He does, God loves us too much to leave our sins unpunished.

But there is good news, as we look at Jeremiah 31:31-34. This prophecy in Jeremiah 31 talks about a time far in the future for those living in the 6th Century BC, Jeremiah was prophesying about the new covenant, he was pointing to our time, this day and age.

Obviously, we still struggle with sin and the world is in a desperate state because of our rejection of God. Our problem with sin is far worse than we could ever imagine. Our sinful self is so wicked that we don’t even have the desire to know God, let alone want to come near to Him. Our hearts are inscribed with sin, we cannot erase it, it is impossible for us to change our hearts.

But here is the Incredibly Good News, God made a New Covenant with mankind. Jeremiah was prophesying about The Gospel, Jesus, the son of God, coming to earth as a child, living amongst men, and then giving his life as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice in order to save us from our desperately wicked state. We sometimes take the Gospel for granted, we gloss over it every time we celebrate communion together. But this is incredible news in Isaiah 9:2 we read, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;”

Of all the 1366 verses in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31 and verse 33 is the pinnacle of his revelation from God.

Notice the contrast between chapter 17, where our hearts are engraved with sin, and the New Covenant in chapter 31, God promises to write a new law on our hearts. It takes a miracle to remove engraving, we cannot do it, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, by submitting our lives to his glorious gift of salvation, we get new hearts. We get the very presence of the living God living inside of us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus spoke about in Luke 22:20

The Old Covenant was important to reveal to mankind that we are desperately sinful and cannot begin to fulfill the holy requirements of God. But God created us with the capacity and the need for a relationship with Him, not simply to follow a set of blind rules.

This is where the church has missed the point I believe. In our desire to make “good Christians”, we have created rules and structures, and our efforts have resulted in legalism. The truth is that:

Rules without a Relationship is Bondage.

I am not advocating for the erasing of all rules, that is anarchy, but if we are content to follow the rules without a relationship with our Heavenly Father, in a sense we are still living under the Old Covenant.

Are you still living under the Old covenant, trying to be good enough for God? That is impossible, that is why Jesus came to save us, that is why we have the Gospel!