There are some things we cannot save up for the future, and there are some values which can’t be preserved or protected. They have to be gathered fresh every day.
- People seek protection against the future.
- Physical security doesn’t settle the main problems of life.
- The important things can’t be gathered in advance.
- God provides for us daily.
- “I believe God will give us all the power we need to resist in all the times of distress. But He never gives it in advance lest we should rely upon ourselves and not Him alone.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- This life we live in Christ is one of the most wonderful experiences a person can know. We can’t be safe but we can be saved. We can’t be secure but we can be unafraid. We can’t live cautiously but we can live adventurously.
- The discovery of God’s love for us is the greatest experience we will ever have. It means we can trust Him to care for us and give us what we need every day.
“This is the whole Gospel, the birth of the holy Jesus within us; His conquering life overcoming our inward death.”
“A Christ not in us is. . . .a Christ not ours.”
- Not all who profess and call themselves Christians are in this mystery/secret.
The heart of this mystery ---
- Near is not enough.
Then is not enough.
- The important thing isn’t what happens to us but what happens in us.
- God in Christ was able and willing to come right into the heart of His consenting servants and live there, teaching them to love like God, to think with God, and to will one will with God.
Now is not enough.
- Some Christian preaching and teaching has concerned itself exclusively with the future.
- To have “Christ in you” is to have it abundantly now, and eternally too.
- The Christian’s “hope of glory” is a sure and certain hope. It is a hope which has no shadow of doubt.
- Now is not enough. We must have “then” also. Both!
- God made us in such a way that we need Him.
- Sharing gives meaning to your life. Without God to be near us, with us, actually caring and involved in our lives, our lives become pointless.
- When our first parents, Adam and Eve fell into sin and broke the perfect relationship they had with God, God suddenly disappeared.
- People, like us, try to fill the void and loneliness for God with god-like substitutes that can keep us from feeling the ache to not be alone.
- The shepherds from the Christmas story felt that loneliness more acutely than we realize.
- If a holy God or even His holy angels show up to be with us in the brokenness of our sin, we feel a bit like bugs or rats that want to scurry out of view when you turn on the light.
- God realizes this. His solution to our plea, “Where are you, God?” is the good news the angels wanted to share with those lonely shepherds. “You aren’t alone!”
- God is with us. Not in an abstract way or empty way. He has become one of us.
- God with us is a big deal. He comes to walk in our shoes and take on our brokenness and sin. Jesus came to suffer for the whole world’s sin, to suffer total isolation from God the Father and through His death on the cross restore us to God, so that we can ultimately be with Him in heaven.
- “People are not meant to be alone.” God loved us enough to invite us with the shepherds to look in the manger and see, He is with us!
“The Lord works in strange ways His wonders to perform.”
- God’s actions in history are often strange.
- When God acts, the acts are wonderful.
- No event in Scripture better illustrates the truth of that phrase than the Incarnation.
The wonders of the Christmas story -- -
- Little did Caesar Augustus realize that his census should be the means whereby prophecy was fulfilled.
Little did the shepherds realize that they would form the reception committee for the Christ Child.
- The wonder of the Christmas story is that God actually came into recorded history, born of the Virgin Mary, in a stable outside the city of Bethlehem.
- God works His purposes among people that are willing and those that are unwilling.
Little did the world realize that the star that shone so brightly over Bethlehem was the star announcing the birth of the Christ Child.
- Here we see the inclusiveness of the Gospel. It is good news not to a few but for all.
- The angel’s words remind us that it is God that comes to men and women and not the opposite.
- When He comes, those who receive Him find themselves the beneficiaries of privilege and wonder.
- Our response to God, when He comes to us, must be one of obedience.
- So much of what goes on around us, much of which is very important, goes unnoticed by the majority of people.
Lessons about the blessings of Christ and the way in which He acts in our lives:
- Mary was blessed with the possibility to believe.
Mary was blessed with the power to be of service to God.
- The faith that Mary exercised was the result of believing that what God has said was so.
- There is a close relationship between the degree of our faith and our concept of God.
Mary was the recipient of the paradox of blessedness.
- When believers sense personally that the God of creation is working in and through them to do His will, there is joy!
- When we are in the service of the King there is an immortality that accompanies our work.
- To be chosen of God, to be elected as His instrument, there is no higher calling. There is no greater blessing!
- Joy would soon go unappreciated if there were no suffering with which to contrast it.
- If we claim to be Jesus’ disciples, then doing what He said is a serious part of that claim. It is a reflection of the genuineness of our words.
- We don’t seek to be disciples of Christ out of fear or envy. It is love received that motivates the believer to return love….to love Christ and others.
- John reminds us that true repentance is more than just words; it includes a change in behavior.
John reminds all of us to change our behavior where we are.
- John was a first-century contemporary of the ancient prophets and his call to repentance was as scathing as that of Isaiah or Jeremiah.
- John was a prophet speaking of something that went far beyond ritual. John’s message of repentance called for a change of behavior.
John reminds us that mission must be uppermost for every believer.
- “Fruit in keeping with repentance” is fruit that affects our relationship to other people.
- When Christ comes into our lives His love changes our relationships for the better. This is the wonderful truth of the Gospel -- - Jesus makes a difference in our lives!
- Christ doesn’t need to change our location in order to change us. His power effects change in whatever location we find ourselves.
- When we are in the service of the King there is a mission for each of us to perform. As He works in our lives He does so with purpose in mind.
- Great people can come from all different strata of society. The thing they all have in common is sensitivity to human need and the desire to do something about it.
- Greatness is also the result of the most complicated of events, woven together by God in time, so that the opportunity for greatness is literally thrust upon these individuals.
- John’s was a greatness called forth by a particular, God-ordained moment in history. It was a greatness thrust upon him.
The ministry of John the Baptist…..
- Pointed to the King whose coming would give greatness a new definition.
Pointed to the King whose coming would make great changes in “small places”.
- Jesus new measure of greatness is “…if any man would be great among you he must be the servant of all.”
Pointed to the King who would bring salvation with Him.
- The changes Jesus’ Kingdom brings are totally unexpected.
- The great changes Jesus brings about are regeneration and renewal. Men and women are put in touch with God on a personal level. The changes in “small places” refer to the hearts and spirits of men and women.
- God doesn’t act in history without a reason. God sent Jesus because we needed Him!
- The King has come once already, but He waits to come again. Right now, see Him, bow before Him, confess your faith in Him, and enter into your worship and service of Him.
How do you deal with yourself when you have been overtaken in a sin?
- Don’t minimize the sin.
Don’t dwell on the past.
- Three ways in which our guilty souls seek to avoid the admission of guilt:
- Don’t tamper with the labels.
- Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that sin is ever justified by circumstances.
- Don’t convince yourself that morality varies from age to age.
Don’t fail to claim a perfect cure.
- Two helps to forgiving yourself:
- Your unwillingness to forgive yourself is a form of spiritual pride.
- God can use sin.
- It is impossible to make people good!
- God doesn’t force us, and we can’t force others.
- So is it useless to spend our time and energy in work and prayer for a new order of things?
- By no means! There is a great and essential task we have to do. God depends on our doing it.
- We are to “remove the stones” by having a Christian concern for social reform.
We must “raise a banner for the nations”.
- We can’t force people to goodness, but we can construct an unobstructed way.
When people feel drawn to the way of Christian discipleship, attracted by the banner of your joy, there must be no cowardice or faltering on our part when they say they want what we have. We must be ready to point them to Jesus!
- How can we make the road to heaven inviting?
- We must make righteousness appealing and set goodness in a beautiful light.
- We do this best by letting our light shine before others.
- Joy is like the light in the church. It allows those outside the church to see the beauty that is there.
How can we be citizens of the Kingdom of God? Let me begin by sharing three ways by which you can’t become a citizen of heaven.
- There is no way you can work your way into the Kingdom of God.
Birth isn’t enough to make you a citizen of the Kingdom of God.You can’t become a citizen of heaven by honorary presentation; not even a religious one!
- Our “good works” will never get us into heaven. At our best we are, in the words of the Parable of the Talents, “worthless servants”.
How then can one become a citizen of heaven?
- You become a citizen of the Kingdom of God by redemption.
“redemption” = “you can buy your way in”
- This doesn’t mean you can reach the Holy City by some display of wealth or generosity.
- Paul says we are redeemed through Christ’s blood.
- So, be repentant and accept the sacrifice made on your behalf. Don’t let anything hinder you from claiming citizenship in that city whose builder and maker is God!