Classic Christianity – New Years P4 (12-31-20)
Simeon prophesied that Jesus will cause the rising and falling of many in Israel, a sign that will be spoken against, so that the hearts of many will be revealed. There is something about mankind, who is born spiritually dead, that he is naturally opposed to truth. Truth sounds as foolishness to him. You can talk about God all day long, and people seem to be okay with that. People talk about all kinds of religions, and people are okay with that. But once you talk about Jesus or the truth of His word, there is an aversion, a pulling away, or even quite a reaction with false accusations.
In today’s world, hardly anyone wants to hear truth anymore. The bible and prayer have long been kicked out of the public sphere. Situational ethics and evolution have been taught in our schools. Seminaries are teaching things that ought not to be taught. Even bible societies and bible translators are not required to uphold the bible as the inerrant word of God. Jesus warned about this when he spoke about the tares among the wheat.
How did this all come about? This, of course, all started with the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden, where Adam chose for himself what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. This attitude of the heart is essentially saying, “I do not need you, God. I can figure all these things out by myself.” So all men, by nature, born in Adam, are independent and rebellious toward God. The flesh is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit contrary to the flesh.
Now, consider that God created mankind with free will. That was a choice God made in creation. He did not want robots, but He wanted to create beings that can choose to love him. With that choice comes the possibility that such beings, humans or angels, would choose not to love God. That was the case of Lucifer, an angel, known now as Satan, who wanted to be God, and set himself against God. Satan wanted to be worshiped above God! A third of the angels followed Satan and were cast out of heaven. Adam and Eve also choose against God. Since that time, Satan is called the god of this world
This free will of man is why we see evil around us. How many of you have asked God, where were You when my son or daughter died? Why does God allow evil in this world? Why does God allow Hitler or Stalin, these dictators and madmen, to live? Free will is why we have madmen like Herod, who murdered every child under two years old in Israel, because he did not want any competitor to his throne, to his kingdom and authority. So too did the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees, sought to put Jesus to death. Here is a man, Jesus, they considered a threat to their position and authority, as teachers under the law. So there has always been a battle raging for the souls of men throughout the ages.
Could Jesus, who is God in the flesh, have just prevented all these atrocities from happening? If Jesus did not die on the cross by the hands of men, would anyone even be saved today? No. Why? All men are dead already and have the need of their sins taken away so they can even have an offer of new life. God would have to destroy all mankind, and remove all free will, and be a dictator, if he was to destroy all evil, in the way natural man thinks. And, if God destroyed one madman or dictator, there would be another to take his place. So the wheat and the tares must live together until the time of the end, at the time of the harvest, at the end of the age.
Does God ignore evil? No. God has also instituted governments among men for the purpose of punishing the wrongdoer and praising the good (Romans 13). But who can maintain a government according to God’s purpose? No such utopia can ever happen by men despite this push today for a one world government or this kingdom now theology promoted by those who do not know God or His word. God Himself will come and reign on earth some day, as prophesied by the prophets, on his time clock, and not by us preparing him to come by whatever kingdom we try to create. God is sovereign, and knows what has to be accomplished, at any given time in history, so men are saved. He raises up kingdoms and tears others down. Consider the words of the prophet Habbakuk of Israel. What we read in Revelation will also happen just as God has said. His ways are higher than our ways.
God has spoken to us in numerous ways, through the prophets of God, through men whom God spoke through, such as Simeon and Anna, and God still speaks to men today. The Spirit of God has gone into all the world, imploring men to be restored unto Himself through the Son He has given, through Jesus Christ, who is the only Savior, God and Lord. Receive new life, the Spirit of God, to come to live in you, to renew your mind, to give you the mind of Christ, to know Him, to walk in dependence on Him, who loved you.
Throughout the Old Testament, you read about God’s long suffering and patience with men. He tells the Jews to not conquer lands until their sin has reached its full. That would often be as long as 400 years or more before God would judge a nation. Consider the nation of Nineveh, a vile and wicked Gentile nation, whom the unwilling prophet Jonah was sent. Jonah eventually proclaimed God’s words of judgment, and they all repented, from the king on down, so Nineveh was not destroyed. The heart of God is mercy. He does not delight in punishing the wicked. Consider also God’s patience with the Jews, whom he has not set aside, after scattering them to all the corners of the earth for violating the Old Covenant, worshiping Baal, sacrificing their own sons and daughters to man-made gods! God, in His amazing mercy and grace, has now restored the Jews back into a nation again, the nation of Israel, after thousands of years. Yet, according to prophecy, they are restored in unbelief. They are a stubborn and obstinate people.
Now, consider this, you, a Gentile, to have received the message of good news concerning Christ. Your descendants were from the Gentiles. You were not under the Old Covenant, had no understanding of God, were not even tutored by the commandments of God, excluded from Israel and oblivious to what all the prophets, whom God had sent to the Jews, had said. The Gentiles were a vile and idolatrous people, the most heathenistic group of people, and God spared them, many of whom heard the preaching of Paul. Paul, a Jew, who came to know the message of Christ in a most unusual way, was appointed to proclaim that message to you. Are you glad God did not wipe out all the Gentile nations? If He did, who would Paul be preaching to? Would you be here today, with the option to choose eternal life, to know God and His Son Jesus Christ?
There is no greater love than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. But God sent His Son to lay down his life for us all, who were enemies of God in our minds. He did so that he could also be raised to new life. Sin caused our death, and Jesus took the punishment of death we deserved for sin, so we could live again, as God intended in His original creation. You can choose to live in total dependence on the one who created you, who knows how you were intended to function, in all love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These are the things God produces in you, as you come to learn what it means to depend on Him, for that is how you were intended to be created. Instead of relying on yourself, rely on him in a loving relationship of trust. Jesus came full of grace and truth. Do not reject the truth. Do not lean on your own understanding, which is the cause of the fall of mankind. Accept the words of truth spoken through the prophets and Jesus, whom God has given. Come to Jesus for eternal life.
34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
We have to understand what he is dealing with here. That is, your hearts are going to be revealed. You can go to people and talk about God all day long, but you mention Jesus and you got a division on your hands. Have you ever noticed that? How easy it is for people to talk about God, the man upstairs, or the good Lord, or all kinds of other expressions. But you say “Jesus” and you see how easy that is if you do not know Jesus, and see how accepted that is to people you are mentioning Jesus to.
1 Corinthians 12:3
3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
We have to understand that Jesus becomes a divider of mankind. You cannot compromise that. There is no compromise in the gospel. Jesus is God or he is not God. If you do not think he is then join the rest of the world. If you believe in who he is, that he is God, and that he is the savior of the world, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the savior of the world, by that nature you are going to be controversial and separate from the rest of the world. So he says this man will cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and will be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[Micah 7:6]
What do the thoughts of God do to your and mine heart? It reveals what we are thinking, doesn’t it? Isn’t that fun? But you know, that is what the Spirit of God living in you is for. He shows us when we have got stinking thinking, doesn’t he? He points that out to us. That is where the Holy Spirit of God lives. He lives to renew your mind on truth and set you free from the error on truth. The only thing that will separate me from the error of the world that is constantly bombarding my mind is the truth of the word of God. That gives us a plumb line. It gives us something we can gauge whether this is proper thinking or improper thinking, and it is the word of God. You cannot compromise that.
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free
So when the word of God is in you, and you internalize this, you have someone and something living inside you who is constantly in the process of renewing my mind, teaching me truth, and setting me free from the error that keeps me in bondage. That is important, isn’t it?
7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Jesus said, “When I go away, I am going to send my Counselor to you.” What is a counselor? Someone in there who is supposed to give advice. Do we need advice? I would think so. We all need advice. Incidentally, that is what discipline is. Discipline isn’t going out and beating the daylights out of somebody. When it says we are disciplined by the Lord, everybody shutters. No. Discipline is wonderful. Discipline is discipleship. That is where the word “discipline” comes from, disciplining someone. So what does this word of God continually do to you and me? Disciplining us. Disciplining our mind by teaching us truth up against what we are trying to hold onto as truth, but is nothing but error. It is not a bad word. Nor is discipline something that comes upon you. Discipline is something that remains upon you. You and I are continually, if the Spirit of God is alive living in us, are under the discipline of the Lord. He doesn’t sleep. He is always there. He is always teaching your and my mind truth that is setting us free against the error that is also bombarding our mind. I do not think Satan is sleeping either.
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Let us turn now to Matthew 2. Now at this particular juncture, in Luke 2:39, we read that Joseph and Mary returned to Galilee.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
In the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that only in Matthew are the next events picked up. That is what took place in between the time where Joseph and Mary did everything required by the law. Jesus had been born and went back to Nazareth. We know, and will cover this in a moment, that there is now approximately a two year period we will deal with here. It was customary for the Jews to return back to Jerusalem on a yearly basis. I am assuming. This is an assumption that this would be about a year later, when Joseph and Mary would have gone back to Jerusalem, and probably would have stayed in Bethlehem, which is just outside of Jerusalem. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are neighboring cities. This is a possibility this was a year later. Whenever it was, it was at a later period after the birth of Christ. So let us pick up in chapter 2 in Matthew.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
So they were inquiring of the people in regard to where this one who has been born King of the Jews. Another thing that we have to see is that there is no place in scripture talking about there being three wise men. We sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are” but that is tradition because there is nothing in scripture about how many magi were there. It could have been three. It could have been thirteen. We do not know how many were there. We just made that up. We do not know how many were there. We do know that the magi were there, but how many, we do not know, and really it is not that important.
They called him Herod the Great but he was probably the most wicked and vicious man who has ever lived. If you wanted to pick out an anti-Christ, this would certainly be one. He was a horrible, detestable, and vicious human being. He heard this and was disturbed. He was also a maniac.
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
Do you think the people who lived in Israel at that time were familiar with the scripture? They knew what it said, didn’t they? Did they believe the scriptures were reliable? Absolutely. They quoted them. Where is this Messiah going to be? They did not go to Reader’s Digest to find out. They went to where it was told the Messiah was going to be, and that was in the Old Testament, from the prophet Micah. So they quoted to Herod out of the scriptures.
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’[Micah 5:2,4]”
Was that good news to Herod? This egomaniac, sitting there saying, “some kind of king going to come and replace me”. What is it that killed Jesus? Job security killed Jesus.
John 11:48 (ESV)
48 “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
They said, “if we allow this man to continue, before long everyone is going to follow him and we are going to lose our place and our position. If this man Jesus, if we let him go on, we are going to lose our position.” First, their position was as teachers of the law. Jesus is teaching grace. “If he is teaching grace, then who needs a law teacher. So if we let this grace teacher go on, we will lose our jobs. I am not going to teach grace. I do not know anything about it. And if you teach grace, you have to humble yourself and put aside your education. Paul said that he considers all that dung in comparison to knowing Christ. I am not about to do that. I got my PhD from Jerusalem U. I know the scriptures and I am going to stay on those. Do not tell me that is dung. I am proud of those degrees.”
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
What you are dealing with there is the fact that job security is much stronger than you and I think. In these particular cases, these were religious rulers that were saying if we allow Jesus to continue, we will lose our place. Now, Herod is saying, “if there is supposed to be a king, and it is prophesied in scripture, then that means I am not going to be king. If anyone thinks they are going to take the kingship away from me, even God.” That in essence is what he is saying. “If this God of these Jews, to think that God is going to remove me from office, he has got another thing coming.” So he developed a plan. Here is his plan.
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly
That is how all these people deal, in secret.
and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
What a hypocrite! “Go find him so I too can worship him.” You can just see him saying that.
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen [in the East] when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
We can sit here all day long and talk about that being a normal star in the sky. We have people talking about how the planets all lined up and that is how it happened. I do not care how you line up the stars, a star does not lead you to a place. This star we are talking about is something special that God put there. It was not something that could be explained by the study of stars. It was a unique thing in the sky. That star, the only thing you could call it, but it was a light that led them to the place of Christ Jesus, and then stopped. Stars do not start and stop. Have you noticed that? So it stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Jesus was not born in a house. He was born in a manger, wasn’t he? Then it said that Joseph and Mary returned back to Nazareth, after they had completed all the purification rites. Now, why they are back in Bethlehem, we do not know. It could be that they moved back there after being in Nazareth. They moved back to be close to the temple, recognizing the fact their son was someone special, and recognizing that Jerusalem is the holy city. It could very well have been that they decided they needed to be there close to Jerusalem, and educate this boy in Jerusalem. We do not know those things, and we do not need to know those things. What we do know is that they are back in Bethlehem, for some reason or another, living in a house. That was after the birth. This was in a two year period. So we do not know when, within that two year period, but as we read on what Herod did, I assume it was closer to the one or two year period, as we will read about in a moment.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Maybe that is how they got the three wise men, because one had the gold, another had the frankincense, and another had the myrrh? Just like us to presume such things. Nevertheless, those gifts were given to Jesus.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
So we assume they were in Bethlehem. Instead of going back from Bethlehem through Jerusalem, they took an alternate route and escaped Jerusalem for fear of their lives.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
Here is another dream.
“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[Hosea 11:1]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[Jeremiah 31:15]
So here was Herod, and he had learned the time from the Magi as to the approximate time of the birth of the Messiah, the time then they had seen this star leading them to the Messiah, and he knew that if he set a rule to kill every boy under two years of age, he would be sure to get this one. So in an attempt to kill one child, he ended up killing every boy under two years of age. How many of you have a child under two? How would you like to take that baby and have someone rip him out of your arms to cut his head off? Can you imagine the lament and the heartache of mothers and fathers, seeing their children dragged from their homes and killed, for no reason. Why? Because of this madman that was so egocentric, that he said, “no one is going to be king in Israel”. So he goes out and kills every boy in Israel. Every one of us who have had children, can imagine taking a one year old and almost a two year old, and having him snatched out of your home to be murdered by a maniac. That is what took place.
We ask ourselves sometimes, “Where was God in all this? Where was God when John the Baptist was beheaded? Where was Jesus, his relative?” We ask ourselves that question sometimes. “Where was God in all this?” The answer to that is God was exactly where He has always been, on His throne.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
When God created man, He created man with a free will, did He not? He could have created us as a robot. We would just be robots running around down here. If you were a robot, could you love God by free will? No. And if God was going to create a creation in whom He could love and interact, then He had to create a creation in such a way that could respond to that love and interact with that love. In order to do that, in the foreknowledge of God, in His creative work, He created man with a will.
He also created the angelic beings with a will. And some of those, one third, chose to follow Satan to this earth, in rebellion to God, right out of heaven. Angels were not propagated. They were created individually, by the hand of God, yet with a will could choose to turn their back on God.
Isaiah 14:12 (KJV)
12 How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations? 13 For thou has said in your heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the North. 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the most High.
Revelation 12:9 (KJV)
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
So you and I were created with a will. I have to say “Thank God for that”, because if I did not have a will, how could I be choosing to love God? How could you make choices? You couldn’t. You would be a robot, just like these things you turn on with a remote control.
James 3:9-11 (NIV)
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both freshwater and salt water flow from the same spring?
Was there a gamble with that? Is there a gamble in giving man a free will? What is the gamble? Even though we are created by the hand of God, we could choose to rebel against God. We have a will today, don’t we? I could choose to live a life that is commensurate with who I am as a child of God, and I could also choose on occasion, to live contrary to that. That is some of the things James is talking about. How can it be that out of the same mouth, to praise God with the same tongue that you curse man. That should not be? True, it should not be. But is it possible? Yes. Why? One day I choose to praise God, and another time I choose to blast you. Is that true or not? So free will was given to man. God had to do that.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
If free will is given to man, then can people, like Herod, choose who needs God? Can a man say, “I want to be God”. I want to tell you, if Lucifer said, “I want to be God”, then we could too? Can we not? Is not the temptation given in the garden of Eden, that you could be like God. You can choose. This was the temptation: “You do not need God to teach you right from wrong and good from evil. Choose it yourself. You do not need God for those things. You determine right from wrong and good from evil. You control what is going on.” I am absolutely convinced that is what indwelling sin is, that propensity inside each and every one of us, to control everything.
We want to control, do we not? I want to be in control. After all, if I am the center of the universe, I want the universe to flow around me. If I am center, I want everyone to please me and do what I want them to do to please me. I want everyone to treat me the way I want to be treated. We are self centered, egocentric and we want to control everything. That is indwelling sin.
Colossians 1:16-18 (TLB)
16 Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory. 17 He was before all else began and it is his power that holds everything together. 18 He is the Head of the body made up of his people – that is, his Church – which he began; and he is the Leader of all those who arise from the dead,[firstborn from the dead] so that he is first in everything;
Is that not what God does? Does He not control the universe? We say, “I could do it better.” I love that song that Tony Bennet did years ago. “If I ruled the world, what a wonderful place it would be.” “If I just ruled the world.” In the flesh, I look at that and say “that is a good song”. It kind of describes me. That is the way we are. We have to understand that. That is a desire that is in your flesh and in my flesh, that is there, and it raises its ugly head any time you let it. Any time we are not allowing Christ to control our lives, that propensity to want to control is right there.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
So what we are dealing with here is this. Are we going to allow Christ to control our lives or are we going to allow our flesh to control our lives. He gave us a will. If God gave a will, how is he going to stop a Herod from killing those babies? What is He going to have to do? He would have to take away the will of Herod, wouldn’t He? Or, just blast him. Well, if you just blast everyone who chooses not to do the will of God, what will you have to do? Just turn us all into apes. Where do you stop that?
Where was God when Hitler was annihilating the Jews? Same place he has always been. And, He gave Hitler a free will, and Hitler had a choice. All his life, Hitler had a choice, to walk with God or feed his own egocentric nature. What did he choose to do? So he started out killing one, then two, then it was easy to kill more. So then he killed millions. Where was God? The same place as He always was. What could He do? Kill Hitler. Why did He not figure that out? If he killed Hitler, there would be another one right behind him, and He would end up having to kill all of us. So we have to understand that as long as God chose to give man free will, you will find evil in the world and you will also find the righteous. All of it is a choice. We are in the driver’s seat in regards to making a choice, to be controlled by God or to be controlled by Satan. Stop it. How are you going to stop it. The only way you are going to see non free will is if He jerked free will out of every person and made robots out of us. Then you will not see any evil at all. As long as we have free will, you will see good and you will see bad. Is that true in your own family? If it is true in your own family, then why would it not be true in the rest of the world?
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