Sermon by Pastor Gene
CHRISTMAS ON THE ROAD
Good morning and welcome to Strait Gate Church. If this is your first time here we are happy to have you with us today. If you would like to follow along I am readng from the 2nd. book of Matthew:2-12 Kjv Our message today is "Christmas on the road."
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, v-2 Saying, Were is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. v-3 When Herod the King had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. v-4 And when he had gatherd all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. v-5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for this it is writen by the prophet. v-6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall my people of Israel. v-7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, in-quired of them diligently what time the star appeared. v-8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again. that I may come and worship him also v-9 When they had heard the king they departed, and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. v-10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. v-11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh v-12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own contry another way.
Our text today tells us about some wise men. They are called mag-i. These were men of science, students of astronomy, students of the body of knowledge of their day. They were seekers of the truth and they had come upon some very important knowledge. But that knowledge alone is not what made them wise. It is what they did with that knowledge. You see, these wise men knew how to apply the truth they had. And that is what made them wise. What can these magi teach us today? What example do they give us to live by? As we look at several characteristics of their wisdom, if we will be open to follow their example, we may find the ability to live above the level of ordinary mortals.
The first characteristic which typified these wise men was an attitude of expectancy. Expectancy motivated them to seek out the child. Certainly they had knowledge that the King of the Jews would be born. They told Herod they had seen His star while they were still in the east. But merely the having of the knowledge was not enough. I'm sure they could have made note of the sighting of His star in their journal. They could have recorded it for posterity, but they wanted to see for themselves. They were filled with anticipation of what they might discover. So, they became men on a mission. But it was a mission full of hope. They expected to find what they were looking for. In fact, they were so sure they would find Him that they brought the gifts with them. This was no academic endeavor. This had to do with life itself.
You find this characteristic in wise men, but also in little children. Children live on the tiptoe of anticipation. Christmas is coming! My birthday is coming! Boy, I can't wait till this weekend! When I grow up, I'm going to be a fireman, doctor, athlete, or scientist. Little children are always looking, with eager anticipation, toward the future. And Jesus said we must be just like that in order to enter the Kingdom.
You see, expectancy makes all the difference.
Expectancy can put one into the Kingdom, or the lack of it can keep one out. In order to come into the Kingdom, you must look to the Lord with hope. You must believe that He can do something in your life. Expectancy says that Christ can make a difference. On the other hand, if you look to life with a negative, cynical attitude, you never check out the possibilities. If that's you're attitude, then you're doomed to live life in the realm of the "what has been" instead of the "what can be."
Things are not always what they seem, and if we look at life through cynical eyes, we will never be privileged to see what might have been if we had only dared to hope against hope.
The next characteristic we find is a willingness to take the risk. Not only did they exhibit a certain expectancy, but they also were willing to risk that they were right. We've all heard the little cliche, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." There is truth to that statement. Jesus said it another way. He said, "Seek and ye shall find." In other words, we must step out on our expectation if we would find what we are seeking. The wise men were willing to put their faith to the test of action.And when you think about it, risk can be faith in action. Risk is what puts the works to faith. It is the wise men hitching up to the camels and starting out across the desert following the star. It is Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water. It is Moses being pursued by Pharaoh, stretching out his rod to part the Red Sea. It is Abraham lifting the knife to sacrifice his son Isaac, believing that God knew what He was doing. It is Joshua marching around the walled city of Jericho, trusting that God would bring the walls down, It is David going forth to face a mighty giant, armed only with a sling and some rocks. It is Nehemiah and his men with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It is Daniel walking into the lion's den, refusing to leave off his devotion to God. It is the three Hebrew children being willing to be thrown into the fiery furnace rather than disavow their faith in God. It is Paul putting his life on the line in city after city for the cause of Christ.
You see my friends, risk is precisely what we need. Risk is faith in action, and faith in action causes us to grow. Being willing to risk causes our faith to be stretched. It increases our capacity for being used of God. And ultimately, risk brings those things to pass which we seek. In the book of James it says that faith without works is dead. The kind of faith some people say they have is lifeless and dull. But the kind of faith that will venture forth and act becomes exciting and alive. Venture becomes adventure. To be willing to take the risk.
The wise men began in expectation and risk. Now, their expectation and risk became discovery. The Scripture says, "And they came into the house and saw the child." They had taken the risk and now they had arrived. They had pushed beyond their horizons. And now they were witnesses of the greatest event in history. They had discovered the child who was king. What they came upon was the God of the universe, who had left His throne in glory to be made a man. They discovered there in Bethlehem the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
What we behold here is the quality of their faith and wisdom. These wise men were wise indeed. They were able to discern the reality from the show. They knew of the kingdoms of this earth: Caesar's Rome, the mighty kingdoms of the East. They had passed Herod's palace, had heard the false claims of religion. But they knew life's meaning was not there. They saw it in the most unlikely place — in a little, out of the way town, where a baby had been born in a stable. He was not born in a palace or placed in a golden bed. Rather, He was born in the stench of a stable, and found His resting place in a feeding trough. This is not how the world would do it, but true wisdom looks past worldly ways to real truth. Of course, we find that this is the verdict of history as well. Caesar is gone; Rome is gone; Herod is gone. The palaces of the mighty have crumbled, their glory has long since faded. The religions and superstitions of men have proven to be empty. But this one man, born in obscurity, has changed the lives of countless millions. Each year, the wise men's search for the babe is relived in preaching and play and pageant and song, and it will be until Jesus comes again.
Just as the wise men found what they were looking for, so can you. If you are willing to take a step of faith, if you are willing to venture forth, based on the expectation that God will meet you there, then you will discover the God who can change your life. But the wise men didn't stop with discovery. The wise men were wise because they had a heart to worship Jesus. When they found Jesus, they bowed down and presented the gifts they had brought. This was the fulfillment of their journey and it reveals the wisdom of the wise. The Scripture says, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Far from being foolish, these wise men knew the truth, and I suspect that the truth set them free. They bowed before the King of Kings, who, at that time, was only a babe.
Herod was not so wise. Our text says that he was troubled. In other words, he was threatened. He wanted no part of Jesus. He was threatened because he had chosen the evil way. And sadly, many are in that place today, and they take the same course that Herod did, trying to destroy the source of the threat. Perhaps they do not try to literally destroy, like Herod did in having the infants slaughtered, but through mocking words many of them try to destroy the credibility of the Church or of Christians. But it is a futile endeavor. You cannot fight against God and win. You will find yourself beating the air. Herod's efforts were in vain, and he was swept off the face of history into hell, condemned, not by Jesus, but by his own evil choices. You see, it is not enough to know about Jesus. We must bow before Him in surrender of our very lives.
We see by the wise men's actions what worship truly means. They not only bowed before Him, but they gave out of their treasure to Him. They gave gold, which is the gift for a king; frankincense, which is the gift for a priest; and myrrh, which is the gift for one who was to die. They acknowledged Jesus for who He was, and they exhibited, by their actions, their allegiance to Him. True worship is giving — yourself — all you are and all you have.
Finally, the wise men were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod. It seems that as a result of their worship, God was with them. And here, He gives them immediate instruction. Being wise as they were, they obeyed God's instructions. This is also a key characteristic of true wisdom — a determination to obey. The choice of obedience is the natural result of coming into contact with God's truth. God's truth always presents us with a clear choice. The choice is whether to obey or to simply ignore it. There are really no other choices. Some today erroneously believe that intellectually agreeing with God's truth is enough. These people simply make note of God's truth. But when you look at their lives, they are unchanged by it. We've all been guilty of doing this, I'm sure. But to treat God's truth in that manner is to treat it with disrespect. Vance Havner said we are guilty of playing marbles with diamonds. The only choice which honors God, that we who would be wise have, is to obey. We must put God's truth into practice. We must apply it to our lives. The wise men did. We can infer this because of their actions. When God spoke to them, they obeyed. They risked incurring Herod's furor rather than incurring God's wrath. I think they made a good choice. They had seen a great light, and now they went forth to live in its glory and brightness.
This also is what we must do. We must put into practice the principle the wise men exhibited and live in the grace and glory of that babe in Bethlehem who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must never lose sight of the reason why we are here. We are here to glorify God and to do his bidding.
The wise men still preach to us the virtues by which they lived: Expectancy, Risk, Discovery, Worship and Obedience. They speak to us about the possibilities in God for all of us. They speak to us about what can happen when you put your faith into action. They speak to us about an encounter with Jesus that can change a life.
What is your need? What is your desire? How do you want to be used of God? What victories do you need to win? Jesus can do it all, in you and through you, as you come to Him in faith. But we must come in faith. We must come in openness and confession, expecting that God will work on our behalf. We must come in willingness and repentance. We must mean business with God, and He will do business with us.
What is God saying to you today? Perhaps He is speaking to you about a change in your attitude. Perhaps you have been growing more cynical toward life. David said to himself in the Psalms, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God." Perhaps you need to exhort your soul to hope in God. Sometimes life is rough and things are not going well. But don't lose hope. God is indeed working things out.
Perhaps God is speaking to you today about the need to venture forth in faith. Perhaps you need to take a few risks to see your faith put into action. That friend at work who needs to hear the Gospel may be the challenge which is before you. That unpopular stand which you really should take based on Christian principles may be a risk God is calling you to take. That uncharted territory into which you sense God calling you may be the adventure which will open greater doors of ministry to you. If we would discover God's best for us, we must take the risks necessary to venture forth at His command.
Perhaps God has spoken to you about both the quality and the quantity of your worship. Maybe you haven't been spending the kind of time you need to spend in Bible reading and prayer and devotion. Perhaps your attendance at the worship and Bible teaching services of the church has been poor. The weakness of most Christians can be traced to a lack of devotional life with God. To neglect this is to unplug yourself from the source of power for living.
And finally, God may have been speaking to you about the level of your obedience. It is simply not enough to hear God's word and understand it. True life and joy comes from obedience. Only as we walk in the light will the light serve to illuminate our path. Only as you obey the commands of Jesus will you receive the benefits and blessings which are yours in Christ.
Respond to Him in faith today. As you do, He will meet you in a special way. Expect Him to. Venture out in faith. Take the risk, and you will discover Him today. You will be able to worship and obey Him, to give Him the gifts of your life, and to receive more in return than you ever expected. Wise men still seek Him. They always will. May we be counted among their number this Christmas. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may God richly bless you.
You know nothing, until you've known the love of God