Classic Christianity – New Years P3 (12-29-21)
Understanding the Significance of The Birth of Jesus
As you read the familiar story of the account in Luke of the birth and early life of Christ, what grabs your attention? The Spirit continually teaches us through His word, even from passages so familiar to us, as we stop and ponder His word, and ask the Lord to reveal to us what He wants us to see today. When you think of how the Spirit is at work to reveal truth to men, do you see how He works throughout the ages to reveal Himself to men? How has He revealed Himself to you? Today, He has revealed Himself to us by the Son He has given.
What do you think of the shepherds in the fields, who had angels visit them, and then Mary, through whom the angel Gabriel told her of the Spirit to be placed in her, to be called Immanuel, God with us? Then you have the Spirit speak to Simeon about a prophecy from the prophet Micah, that both the Israelites and the Gentiles will be saved the same way, through this small child Jesus, who will be the light to the Gentiles. This is predestination, that both the Israelites and the Gentiles, will be predestined to be conformed to the image of God, to be saved the same way, by faith and faith alone in what Christ came to do and did.
So there will be those who will be saved and others who will not, because not everyone will put their faith in Christ, in what he came to do and did. What do you think about what the Spirit said to Simeon, that this child will cause the falling and rising of many in Israel? Then you have the Spirit speak through an old widow, who also said this child will be the redemption of Israel. So Jesus came to bring salvation to the Israelites first, and then the Gentiles.
Do you not ponder these things in your heart, like Mary did? Now, you would think that everyone would want to embrace Jesus, to be saved from their sins and death. Yet, men’s hearts can be so proud. We were born in sin and death. Who will humble themselves before a perfectly holy God and recognize their depravity and consider all that they have but count it worthless. Is your job or position more valuable to you than knowing God, who is Christ Jesus in the flesh? Do you not know that this Jesus is God in the flesh, who created all that you see, the stars in the sky, the sun, moon and stars, and everything unseen, and the smallest microbe, subatomic particle, and the complexity of your human body? And here God dwells in flesh, and comes first as a baby, then a child, then a man who dies on a cross for you and me. Do you want to know Him? Do you know Christ wants to indwell you by His Spirit, whom He wants to place in you forever?
Sadly, not all men want to know him. Herod, a person of high position, a king, felt threatened that someone, even God, would be born into this world to take over his kingdom. Then you have the religious leaders, who felt threatened that they would no longer be teachers of the law. The leaders were saying, “For this man does not teach law. He teaches grace, and we know nothing of grace. Who is this man Jesus who overturns the laws of Moses.” Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote about me and yet you fail to come to me to have life”. And then you had a whole group of people that wanted Him crucified and got their wishes. ‘But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”’ Today, we still have the same things going on with many people. People don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus and have him be gone from their lives. The world doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus. And, the religious world wants to maintain their paying positions of power and influence and the people want to simply hear want their itching ears want to hear, instead of the Truth of God.
But the Holy Spirit is drawing everyone to himself. He is calling on everyone to come to repentance (a change of mind about Jesus). Come to Jesus to have new life, eternal life in Him, to know Him, a life of joy and peace, of love and gratitude, of knowing the unconditional mercy and grace of God. But if you do not see how depraved you are, then why would you come to Him for your sufficiency? We have all fallen short, as evidenced by not being able to obey the ten commandments perfectly. We have no righteousness of our own. We were all dead in our trespasses and sin. Yet God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were sinners, He sent His Son to die for us in order to give us new life. He died, was buried, and rose again, for you and me, individually and personally. Receive His righteousness as a gift, for we had none of our own. Allow Christ to be lived in you and through you. Place your trust in Him and Him alone.
Understanding Who Jesus Is, God With Us!
In chapter 2 of Luke, we talked about the different appearances of angelic beings. Gabriel came and announced, first of all, to Zecharias, in regard to the birth of John the Baptist. 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 that she was going to be with child, and that child was to be called Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. We also had the appearance of angelic beings, one of Gabriel, and then a multitude of them who appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, looking down on that city, warning them and telling them of the birth of the Christ child.
Now let us look at the events after the birth of Christ. Turn to verse 20 in chapter 2 of Luke.
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.
21 On the eighth day,
We are talking about the Jewish laws, as to what was to occur in accordance with their laws, at the birth of a child.
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,
That time of purification was forty days from the birth. That was a requirement where a woman was in seclusion for forty days after the birth of a child. During that period of time was the period they called purification.
Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 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 announcements. You had dreams, which we will see in a moment. Now, you have the Holy Spirit, who revealed to Simeon all this announcement of Christ Jesus.
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.
Simeon is saying, “I can now die in peace”. This was a promise given to him that he would not die until he has seen the Lord’s Christ. “I have seen him and now I can 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.”
Again, we have discussed, have we not, on numerous occasions, as to how impossible it was for a Jew to believe that the Gentile would come to salvation the same way the Israelite would. This was an impossibility in the mind of an Israelite. The Gentile world was totally heathenistic in practice, totally heathenistic in religious practice, with temple prostitution and idol worship, and they had no clue as to who is the one true God. The only testimony on the face of the earth in regard to the one true God was through Israel and through Judaism.
We have to understand this pronouncement coming from Simeon, quoting a scripture, that was probably just read quickly in Old Testament teaching, that this is a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel. In other words, in this revelation to this man, and through the quotation of the scripture, which he saw fulfilled, you saw Jesus as a savior not just for the Jew but for the entirety of all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. Was that understood? That was not understood at all.
It is just like a lot of things that happen to us. We read words but they just go over our heads, as Mary did, and ponder these things in your heart, and ask, “What does this mean? How can this be?” But the revelation, the Old Testament prophecy was quoted here, and revealed to Simeon. It was revealed to Simeon that this Jesus was not only the savior to Israel but the savior to the Gentile 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 were predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ the same way as the Jew was. Just as the Jew has been justified so also the Gentile is justified by faith. This whole subject of predestination and election and foreknowledge, it is not about, “I like Ray but I do not like Bill”. It is about the Jew and the Gentile. That 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 way the Jew is saved. To the Jew, they thought their salvation was through their inheritance being a Jew and their obedience to the law. What did Jesus do at the cross? Took away the law. So no man can say he is going to heaven because of his obedience to the law. Jesus said he nailed the law to the cross. It neutralized everyone. It says to the Jew that you are never going to heaven by obedience to the law, and to the Gentile, that you never had the law to begin with. You are lost as ever. Both of you are in the same category, and both of you are going to heaven identically the same way, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. To the Jew, the self righteous Jew, the self righteous Christian, the self righteous religionist, it makes no difference how you package it up, it is still self righteousness. You can wrap it in Jewish paper. You can wrap it in Gentile paper. You can wrap it up 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 a man comes to see his total depravity, why would he ever turn to Christ for his total sufficiency?
A lady I was talking to and she said, “Oh, I could never murder anyone?” So I say to her, “Well, let us put that in the category of the ten. If that command of you shall not commit murder, and you say you could never murder someone, then all you need is a 90% Jesus. You do not need a 100% Jesus. You are 10% okay. On top of that, if you could not murder and you could not commit adultery, then all you need is an 80% Jesus. You could keep going, then you probably might realize you only need a 10% Jesus. A little dab will do you. ”
Until you see, there is not one thing on the face of the earth we are not incapable of doing. We have the propensity and the capability to do almost anything. For people to sit around and feel guilty that they have blown it is ridiculous because we have all blown it, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That is why he says there is none righteous, no not one. So until we see our own unrighteousness, why would we turn to Him for His righteousness. So we do not have any of our own, do we? The Jew had to understand that, and so did the Gentile. So who do we turn to? Christ. We do not need a 90% Jesus. There is not a 90% Jesus. He does not exist. We do 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. Nothing. 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. That is why we are told that when we have Christ we have been given everything we need for life and godliness, which means you have nothing for life and godliness. You have nothing in yourself to produce life or godliness. That is why, in Him, I have everything I need for life and godliness.
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? This child will bear a sword? He is going to draw a line saying, over here is the saved, and over there is the lost. And by so doing, 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, you are on two opposite ends 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? He was talking about her own son going to be crucified. Jesus said “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Of course, he is not talking about there is no peace for those who possess the prince of peace, but there is a sword that divides the lost from the saved, the sheep from the goats. We have to understand that is a truth.
What religion tries to do is get everybody together. Then you have your organizations. “Let us all just get together.” Now, if we are going to get everybody together, to have unity and peace together, you have to water down what truth is. There is no other way to get that kind of unity. If you are out to get unity, you will have to water everything down to get unity. For when you believe something to be true, you are going to separate yourself from the rest of the world. So you are going to, therefore, 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 peers who will hate you because of that. But we have a tendency to want to be accepted, do we not? The issue is, there is only one person who will accept you, who will meet that need for acceptance, and that is Christ Jesus, and not your peers. They will just drag you into trouble. But the acceptance of Christ will keep you on the right pathway.
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.
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.
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 their 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! You can just see him saying that.
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