Classic Christianity – Christmas P3 (12-23-20)
As we read through the gospel of Luke, and other accounts surrounding Jesus birth, we gain insight into the hearts and nature of mankind. We learn about the emptiness in our heart, the void in our life. We learn how we cannot live up to the demands of the law. We learn we cannot please God by what we do. We learn about our wretched condition in our natural flesh. But we also learn of the different nature that is in Christ Jesus, that we might want what He has living in Him. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He sees our fallen flesh and cares about our immediate needs so we can see our greater need, our need for a personal relationship with Him. He sees the deception and lies we have believed and wants to be our Father to guide us into all truth, so we can live in true freedom. For error is what binds and keeps us enslaved to fear. Perfect love casts out fear, and God is love.
God reveals truth to the hearts of men, longing to be gracious to them. But who will respond to His love? Who will receive His love? The religious leaders saw Him as a threat, for as teachers of the law, they feared He would take away their place and their position. They were law teachers and did not understand grace. This person is teaching grace and we know nothing about grace, and everyone is following Him. We cannot allow this to happen. But the tax collectors and sinners, they heard His message, that He did not come to condemn but to save. They understood and experienced His unconditional love. Then He healed the blind, and made the lame to walk again, and healed the sick. But did even all of those who saw His miracles understand His message. Judas Iscariot certainly didn’t but neither did those who went to see Jesus perform another miracle and Jesus told them not to work for food that spoils, but for food that lasts. He told them that He is the bread of life.
So was His message understood? Mary, in those early years, at Jesus birth, and even to the death of her son on a cross, did she fully understand what Jesus came to do? She had some revelation. She did hear from an angel and believed what the angel said. So she had some revelation for sure. But no one really understood, and certainly not completely, what Jesus came to do ultimately. Truth must be revealed to men. For we read that Mary pondered all these things in her heart.
Now, we have all kinds of information provided by the prophets, and witnesses at Jesus birth, whom God revealed truth to, who spoke what had been revealed to them. Joseph and Mary and the shepherds heard from angels. Simeon, an 84 year old man, and another old widow received revelation from the word of God, and testified before Mary what the Spirit revealed to them concerning her son. God wants to reveal truth to men concerning Himself, what He came to do for men. Simeon testified that Jesus came to bring salvation not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles also. He was told by the Spirit that he will not die until he sees the Lord’s Christ, and what was promised to him by the Spirit of God came true. He saw the child Jesus. He saw and believed and then he said he was able to die in peace.
What greater gift to mankind than the gift of God Himself to men. Jesus, God in the flesh, took on our humanity, identifying with us in our weakness, yet showing us how man was designed to live when God first created mankind, with the Spirit of God living in him. He knew how fallen we were, how dead we were, through the sin of Adam, and how we are without hope, and He wanted to provide a solution to our predicament of death.
So He chose to come and redeem us, by dying in our place. For until our problem of sin that caused our death is taken away, He cannot offer us life. So when He died, He was then raised from the dead, so that same life, that was once in Adam before sin entered the world, and that raised Jesus from the dead, can also raise you and me from the dead. But it is new spiritual life placed in us while we are yet alive physically in our weakened state. So we live by faith in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. We have the Spirit of God living in our weak flesh. God’s life placed in us is when we come alive, so that when we do die physically, that spiritual life lives forever, and then we will be reunited with a new immortal body not plagued by sin and death.
So we celebrate Jesus, that He entered this world for our sake, that He died, was buried and rose again for our sake. We praise Him for all He has given us in His Son. There is no greater gift than this, that while we were yet sinners Christ came to die for us. He died for us then so He could live in us now. He came to give us eternal life. This is eternal life, to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Will you accept His life today?
In chapter 2 of Luke, we talked about how the different appearances of an angelic being, Gabriel, came and announced, first of all, to Zechariah, in regard to the birth of John the Baptist, and an angel appeared to Joseph, comforting him with the fact that the pregnancy of Mary was by the Holy Spirit of God. An angel also appeared to Mary, announcing the fact she was going to be with child, and that child was to be called Jesus, Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. We also had the appearance of angelic beings, one of Gabriel, and then a multitude of them that appeared to the shepherds in the field of Bethlehem, looking down on that city, and again, warning and telling them of the birth of the Christ child.
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Now, they are going to talk about the law that had to be performed after the birth of a child.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
Now that time of purification was 40 days from the birth. That was a requirement where a woman was in seclusion for 40 days after the birth of a child. During that period of time was a time they called a time of purification.
23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[Exodus 13:2,12]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[Leviticus 12:8]
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him
Look at the different areas of revelation. You had angelic pronouncements. You had dreams. Now you have the Holy Spirit who had revealed to Simeon all of this announcement of Christ Jesus. It said he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
In other words, I can die in peace. This is a promise to me that I would not die until I see the Lord’s Christ. I have seen so I can now die in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Folks, again, we have discussed, have we not, on numerous occasions, as to the fact as to how impossible it was for a Jew to believe that the Gentile would come to salvation the same way they would. This was an impossibility, in the mind of the Jew. The Gentile world was totally hedonistic in practice. It was totally hedonistic in their religious practice. They had temple prostitution. They had idol worship all over the place. They had no clue at all as to the one true God. The only testimony on the face of the earth, as they knew it then, as to the only true God, was through Israel and through Judaism. So we have to understand this pronouncement that was coming from Simeon, again quoting from a scripture that was probably just read quickly in the Old Testament teaching, that this is a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel. In other words, this revelation to this man, and in the quotation of the scripture that he saw being fulfilled, you saw this Jesus as a Savior, not just to the Jew, but to the entirety of all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike.
Now, I ask you a question. Was that understood? That was not understood at all. Like a lot of things that happen to us. We read words and they just go over our heads, and we do not stop, as Mary did, and ponder these things in our heart. What does this mean? How can this be? But the revelation and the old testament prophecy, as quoted here and revealed to Simeon, that this child Jesus was not only the Savior to Israel but was Savior to the Gentiles as well. All of that was predestined.
That is what predestination is. That is what election is. It is not you’s and me’s. It is that the Gentiles are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ the same way as the Jew was. Just as a Jew has been justified so also the Gentile is justified by faith. This whole subject of predestination and election and foreknowledge is not around, “I like Ray but I do not like Bill”. It is around Jew and Gentile. The Jew was preordained and so was the Gentile preordained for salvation.
That is what this passage is dealing with, letting people know that even though the gospel is going first to the Jew, it is also going to the Gentile. The Gentile will be saved exactly the same way the Jew is saved. To the Jew, they thought salvation was through their inheritance in being a Jew and in their obedience to the law. What did Jesus do at the cross? He took away the law so that no one can ever say, “I am going to heaven because of my obedience to the law”. Jesus said, “I nailed the law to the cross”. So it neutralized everyone. To the Jew, you are never going to be saved by going through the law and to the Gentile, you never had the law to begin with. Both of you are in the same category and both of you are going to heaven the same way, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. So to the self-righteous Jew, the self-righteous Christian, the self-righteous religionist, no matter how you explain it, or whatever you package it in or wrap it in, it is still self-righteousness. You can wrap it in Jewish paper. You can wrap it in Gentile paper. You can wrap it in anything you want to, but the fact of the matter is, it is self-righteousness and self-righteousness will never go into the kingdom of God. Until man sees his own depravity, why would he ever go to God for His total sufficiency.
I talked to a lady and she said, “Oh, I could never murder anyone”. I said, “Well, there is a thousand things I can mention. But let me put that in the category of the ten. So if the law says, ‘do not murder’ and you do not murder, then all you need is a 90% Jesus. Then you do not need a 100% Jesus. You are 10% okay. Then if you say you cannot murder and cannot commit adultery, then all you need is an 80% Jesus. You could keep going and say you only need a 10% Jesus. Then you could say a little dab will do you.”
Until we see that there is not one thing on the face of this earth we are not capable of doing, we do not see our need for Jesus. We have the propensity and capability to do about anything, do we not? For people to sit around feeling guilty because they have blown it is ridiculous. We have all blown it and we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That is why He says no one is righteous, no not one. Until we see our own unrighteousness, why would we turn to Him to get His righteousness? So we do not have any do we? So the Jews had to understand that and so did the Gentiles.
How do we turn to Christ? We do not need a 90% Jesus. In fact, a 90% Jesus does not exist. We do not need an 80% Jesus. We need a 100% Jesus. I have to see that there is nothing in me that is worthy of going into the presence of God. Not a little bit. Nothing. Until we see that, now I am ready to receive everything. I do not need a little bit. I need everything. When we have Christ we have been given everything we need for life and godliness. Which means you have nothing of life and godliness. You have nothing within yourself to produce life and godliness. That is why in Him I have everything I need.
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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
What is he talking about there? This child is going to draw a sword. He is going to draw a line across the floor, saying on this side, “saved” and this side, “lost”. In doing so, he is going to cause the falling of many people and the rising of many people. He is going to have people who are lost and people who are saved. In Christ Jesus, when you come to Christ, you have been separated from the thinking of the world. You are not like the world in your thinking. If you are, you have not learned much about His thinking. When you grab a hold of His wisdom, you find out your wisdom and the wisdom of the world are just two opposites of the spectrum. This son of yours is going to cause the rising of some and the falling of others. He is destined for that.
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.”
What was he talking about there? He is talking about the fact that her own son is going to be crucified.
This is something we have to understand, that Jesus said I did not come to bring peace, but to bring a sword. He is not talking about that there is no peace for those who possess the prince of peace, but there is a sword that divides lost from saved, sheep from goats. We have to understand that truth.
What religion tries to do is just get everybody together. Then you have your organization and you hear, “Let us all just get together”. If we are all going to get together so that we all have peace with each other, then you have to water down the message. If you want to get unity, you will have to water everything down in order to get unity. For when you believe something to be true, you are going to separate yourself from the rest of the world. That is just the way it is.
Therefore, you will have some people who will hate you because of your relationship with Christ Jesus. When you young people go to school and you represent Christ, you will have some people who will hate you for that. One of the things you will run into is that we have a tendency to want to be accepted, don’t we? But the issue is there is only one person who will accept you, who will meet that need for acceptance and that is Christ Jesus, not your peers. They will just drag you into trouble. But the acceptance of Christ will keep you on the right pathway.
So we have to understand what he is dealing with here. That is, that your hearts will be revealed. You can go to people and talk about God all day long, but you mention Jesus and you have got a division on your hands. Have you ever noticed that? How easy it is to talk about God, as the big man upstairs or the good Lord. We have all kinds of expressions for God, but say Jesus and see how many say that if you do not know Jesus. See how accepted that is to the people you are mentioning Jesus to.
So 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 isn’t God. If you do not think He is, then join the rest of the world. But if you believe that is who He is and that He is the Savior of the world and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt He has come to save you, by that very nature, you are going to be controversial and by that very nature, you are going to be separate from the rest of the world.
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.
What does the thought of God reveal to you and my heart? It reveals to you what you are thinking. Isn’t that fun? But that is what the Spirit of God living in you is for. He shows us when we have stinking thoughts. He points that out to us. That is where the Holy Spirit of God lives. He lives to renew your mind on truth and sets 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 that we can gauge whether this is proper thinking or improper thinking, the word of God. You cannot compromise that. So when the word of God is in you and you internalized this word, you have something, and someone inside of you that 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?
That is what Jesus said, “When I go away, I will send My Counselor to you.” What is a counselor? Someone 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 beating the daylights out of somebody.
It says “when disciplined by the Lord”, everyone shutters. Discipline is discipleship. That is where the word discipline comes from, discipling someone. So what is this word of God continually doing to you and me? Disciplining us, disciplining our minds by teaching us truth up against what we are trying to hold onto as truth, which is nothing but error. Do we understand that? It is not a bad word. Now is discipline something that comes on you? Discipline is something that remains upon you. You and I are continually, if the Spirit of God lives in us, are under the discipline of the Lord. He does not sleep. He is always there. He is always teaching you 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 go from there over to Matthew 2.
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, of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, only in the book of Matthew are the next events picked up. That is what took place in between the time Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the law. Jesus had been born, went back to Nazareth. We know that there is now a two year period we are going to deal with here. Approximately a two year period. It was customary to the Jews to return back to Jerusalem on a yearly basis. I am assuming that this would have been about a year later when Joseph and Mary would have gone back to Jerusalem, and probably stayed in Bethlehem, which is just outside Jerusalem. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are just neighbors. This is a possibility that this was a year later. Whenever it was, it was at a later period after the birth of Christ.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] 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 people in regard to where is this one who has been born king of the Jews? We also have to see 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 talking about how many Magi were there. It could have been three. It could have been thirteen. We have no clue how many were there. We just made it up. The fact is we do not know how many are there. But we do know Magi were there, but as far as how many, we do not know.
They called him Herod the Great but he was the most vicious man who ever lived. If you ever wanted to pick an antichrist, he was one. He was a horrible, mean, detestable, vicious human being. So he heard this and he 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 scriptures. They knew what it said. Did they believe the scriptures are reliable? Absolutely. They quoted it. They asked where the Messiah is going to be born. They did not go to Jerusalem magazine or Jerusalem digest. They went to where it told the Messiah was going to be born, and that was in the old testament. 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]”
Now was that good news to Herod? This egomaniac? “Some kind of king is going to replace me.” What is it that killed Jesus? Job security. “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.”
Number one, their position was as teachers of the law. “He is teaching grace. If He is teaching grace, who needs a law teacher? So if we let this grace teaching go on, then we are going to lose our jobs. I am not going to teach grace for I know nothing about it. Besides that if you teach grace, you have to humble yourself and to put aside your education. As Paul said, I have to consider everything as dung in comparison to Jesus Christ. I am not about to do that. I got my PHd from Jerusalem U, and I know the scriptures and I am going to act on those. Do not tell me that is dung. I am proud of those degrees.” We have to understand that job security is much stronger than you and I think. In these particular cases, these were religious rulers who were saying if we allow Jesus to continue, we are going to 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”.
Order the Bible Study; “A Closer Look at Faith, Hope and Love” book today!