When you look up at the sky at night what are your initial thoughts? When you see the immense universe, does this cause you to think about how small and microscopic our world is in comparison to it? The past few nights have been very clear and when you looked up at the sky you could see thousands upon thousands of stars. What we see with the naked eye pales in comparison to what is in the universe. It is estimated that there are1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one septillion) or 10 to the 24th power stars in our observable universe and knows how many more are out there. Is that too mind numbing?
Let’s talk on on a smaller scale; when you travel to the countryside and see the beauty of the landscape or that waters that surrounds you, does it draw your attention to God? When traveling up north or to the west do you see the creativity of God in the hills and the mountains? Do you see his humor in creating both land and sea creatures? Do you see the thoughtfulness of God when you observe complexity of the human body and mind? I can answer these questions honestly, yes, I do!
Last week I talked about the absolute necessity of knowing and believing in faith that God is the foundation of all creation. We must establish in our hearts that God is the creator of all. Genesis does not try to explain whether God exists or not, it just starts with the truth, “In the beginning God…” Today we are continuing our series, “God’s Story from Beginning to End” as we start at the beginning with the creation account. So, let’s begin
Vs 1: Genesis not only establishes that God is the God of beginnings, but he is also the God who creates. Immediately the Bible establishes that God is the creator of everything and proceeds from verses 3 on how the process was done.
“Created” – The Hebrew word for create is bara’, and it is always used in the OT with God as the subject; while it is not always used to describe creation out of nothing, it does stress God’s sovereignty and power.” It is in this creation account we witness everything (The universe) being created.
Vs 2: In the beginning the earth was a created by God as an unorganized chaotic dark mass (deep or waters) and empty. The Spirit of God mysteriously hovered or moved above the earth. This implies the Spirit or wind (ruah) of God was actively present and preparing for the acts of creation that were to follow.
Vs. 3 - 24: There is power in God’s voice. For the next six segments (or days) we see the active spoken Word of God portrayed in the process of creation. Verses 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, begin with “Then God said…” with the end result “and it was so.” God spoke and whatever he said happened. Not only do we see the act of creation in God’s Word but also his pleasure with the outcome. Starting on the third day through the sixth we see God’s response to his creation, “And God saw that it was good.” At the conclusion on creation, I imagine God stepping back and looking at all he created and as verse 31 says, “and he saw, it was very good.” Everything God creates is good (this is an understatement) and it is important for us to know that we (humanity) are included in pleasure we bring to God.
Day 1 – “Let there be light” The first act of God’s creation is light. On this first act the darkness was consumed by light. Light establishes the first day. Note it is not the stars or the sun that are the source of light… they are not created until day four. For the first three days the light that shone was from another source other than the sun. Light in the Bible is often symbolic of salvation, joy, and life. One could read this as God creates light to bring life to the dark chaotic earth. The light is called day and the dark is called night. The NET Bible says the verb separate here explains how God used the light to dispel the darkness. It did not do away with the darkness completely, but made a separation. The light came alongside the darkness, but they are mutually exclusive.
Day 2: Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” This is the visible expanse that separates the water of the earth with the waters above. This is what we call the sky or atmosphere.
Day 3: Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. Land and vegetation were created on the third day. R. Kent Hughes describes this vividly, “There was no new creation here, but a final ordering. The world as we know it had been given a shape. The chaos had disappeared.” One can only imagine what was happening as the crystal blue waters of the earth recede as the ground below shakes and comes to the surface to create land that will be suitable for farming and vegetation. It is at this point the earth is now suitable for living organisms.
Day 4: “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night.” On the fourth day God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars. Once again, we see the power of God’s word as he speaks into existence the sun, moon and stars specifically for the purpose of giving light to the earth. The sun will rule the day and the moon will rule the night.
Day 5: “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind” On the fifth day sea creatures and birds were created. Did you know there are 700,000 to one million species that live in the oceans with 1/3 to 2/3’s of the species still undiscovered? There are about 10,000 bird species in the world. On this fifth day God was busy creating these species and giving them the direct command and blessing to be fruitful and multiply.
Day 6: Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. On the sixth day God created all creatures great and small… including humanity. God created ALL living things on the earth
Vs. 26: Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” The sixth day is the climax of the creation account. It is here that we find the origins of humanity, our purpose, and our calling. You and I are created in the image of God. Again, before we can move forward in Genesis, we must be good with this. Are you? Because if you are not then you are going to have a hard time with the words that follow. We are created in the image of God after his likeness. This is what sets us apart from all the other creation. We have intellect. This means we can think, we can reason, we can solve problems. We have a spirit or soul. We are relational. We can give love and we can receive love. And unlike any other species we have morals. We have a conscience. We can know the difference between right and wrong. Whether we choose to make the right moral decisions is another issue, yet we can know the difference to choose between right and wrong. We are created in the image of God; we are not gods; we are only created in his likeness. This means we bear his image, and we are his representatives.
Genesis 2:7: Let’s pause for a moment and move forward to this passage. This is a detailed account of the creation of humanity. The author begins with God forming man from the dust of the earth and breathes life into him. Through this traditional image Genesis implies that people are by nature more than material (we are more than an empty vessel); we have a spiritual, God-breathed, element. Man is more than a lump of clay or a pile of dust. He is a creature that was crafted by the hand of God with great care and has received life and breath from God himself. Genesis 2:7 says, “and the man became a living person.” Some Bibles translate the word “person” as “creature”. However, this word creature has been translated a “being” or even “soul”. If you note in God’s act of creation he merely speaks and things, come into existence; yet with man we are told that he created or crafted man from the dust or clay and made it into something new.
Vs. 2:18, 19: If we move forward even further to verses 18 and 19, we see for the first time God does not find pleasure in his creation. It is not because he is not satisfied with creation; he notices that man was not finding the companionship that he obvious craved. He notes that man is alone. He has no companion. There is no suitable or compatible helper to assist him. God did not want Adam to be alone. God in his tender care, grace and love creates woman for the man from the man.
God causes a deep sleep to fall over Adam and he takes a rib from his side and forms and fashions the woman. I love what Martin Luther’s wrote about the creation of woman, “God might have taken a bone from a toe and thus signified that Adam was to rule over her; or He might have taken a bone from his head to indicate her rule over him. But by taking a bone from his side, God implied equality and mutual respect.” The result, woman, was pleasing to Adam. He declares, “Finally! I have someone like me, and someone who is compatible with me and can be my companion!”
So here we see a more detailed overview of the creation of humanity. This is a significant account because it not only details our origins it also shows our worth as God’s creation. God has taken great care in creating humanity as he formed him and breathed life into him. We are not an accident, an afterthought, or an abomination. My friends we are truly God’s beloved creation, and we have a purpose.
Once humanity was made in the image and likeness of God man and woman were given purpose…
Genesis 1:29: Now God gives permission for humanity to eat of the plants of the earth that he has provided for them. He placed man in the Garden of Eden to tend it, enjoy it, and rule over it lovingly as God’s representative. The man and woman had the joy of caring for God’s creation and walking with Him in the cool of the day. It was glorious. It was created for humanities enjoyment and God’s glory. It was paradise. However, God did have rules. They were not permitted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One simple request… Enjoy everything in the garden but stay away from that tree. We will return to this tree next week.
Everything is great. The sixth day is complete. God steps back and looks at his creation… The world, the atmosphere, the universe, the land, the sea, the birds, the sea creatures, the beasts of the land and humanity… everything is VERY GOOD.
Day 7: God rested. On the seventh day God’s work was finished. It was complete. Everything He set out to do was finished and then He rested. There is no implication that God dropped everything and went into cruise mode. The word rested is translated as “ceased” in some versions and the Hebrew word is “shabbat” which is where we get the word Sabbath. It is interesting that the rest God took was not out exhaustion because he was tired, but it was because he ceased, finished, or completed his work of creation. On the seventh day God had Sabbath. This means not simply ceasing work to pick it up again but being satisfied with what He had done and considered these things complete.
In Romans 1:20 the Apostle Paul acknowledges, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” The glory and the splendor of the invisible God can be seen throughout creation. God has revealed himself to us through creation. When we look around, we don’t see creation as God, but we see God the Creator.
I am continually in awe when I consider God and his handiwork. When I think of these things, I can’t help but respond as David does at the beginning and the end of Psalm 8, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth.”
Take some time this week and go out in the evening and look up to the heavens or take in the view of God’s handiwork in his creation and consider how great our God is! Thank and praise Him because He has entrusted us with his wonderful creation, and He has crowned us with glory and honor.
Beginnings…. The central theme of Genesis is beginnings. In fact, the word Genesis means “beginning”. Everything about this first book of the Bible points to the beginning of all things. The beginning of creation, of humanity, of family, of sin/evil, faith, of religion (both true and false), of culture, of agriculture, of industry, of civilizations, and of a nation.
Read Genesis 1:1
The only beginning the Bible does not discus is the beginning of God himself. Why? Because God has no beginning, and he has no end. The only thing we are told about God is, “In the beginning God…” That’s it! There was nothing before him. There is nothing after him. He is eternal. He has always been. Some people have a problem with this and many more have difficulty grasping this truth. I admit freely, the idea that God is eternal… That he has no beginning, and he has no end is beyond my grasp, comprehension, and intellect. Since I can’t fully grasp and comprehend the eternal nature and essence of God does this mean that God is not eternal or that he does not exist? Absolutely not! Just because my small finite mind can’t grasp this idea does not change the reality that God is God, and he is eternal. Unfortunately, this “logic” of “If I can’t grasp it then it must not be” is a “logic” that many people hold today. This “logic” says, “If it can’t be explained by science, reason or intellect then it must not be true.” The idea of the eternal existence of God is so far from their understanding, intellect, and belief that the only conclusion they can come to is God is a myth, a made-up character, or a concept that humanity created.
The eternal truth of God is where the origin of faith comes in. Question, “were you present at the beginning of all things?” I was not. Was anyone? Are there any documents that show someone other than God (or the Trinity for that matter) was present at the beginning of creation? No. We simply cannot go to YouTube, social media, or museums to see original, genuine, and authentic footage of the creation account. So, the only reasonable conclusion Christians can come to is “In the beginning God…” We can either believe God was or was not present in the beginning and he did or did not create it all.
This is what is attractive to me about Genesis. It doesn’t need to go into the process of explaining or proving the existence of God; it just declares from the get-go that God was, is, and always has been. I believe, in faith, the Bible is God’s inspired Word. I believe, in faith, that the words contained in this book are true and given for the glory of God and for the benefit of all humanity. This does not mean that I blindly believe what I believe. I have done the research and reading about the topics of science, origins and faith and I will continue to read about them, but the only conclusion I can come to is God is eternal and He is who He is.
It is important to establish first, Genesis is not a science book, but this does not imply that science and faith cannot intermix, because they can, and they do. Second, Genesis is not intended to prove or disprove scientific theories, no more than science is intended to prove, or disprove the Bible. Genesis is intended to teach or inform us about the origin or beginning of all things and it point us to the originator and creator of all things, God. This is important for us because Genesis documents the origins of humanity as created individuals in the image of God.
The central theme of Genesis is origins, so the central figure of Genesis is God. He is the God of origins. In Genesis we see God’s involvement in creation, in humanity and in the nation of Israel. When we read Genesis, we should see the fingerprint of God on every page. According to the New Bible Commentary: 21st Edition, “Genesis is primarily theological, i.e. it is concerned with describing who God is, how and why he acts and how he deals with mankind. Often the activity of God in human affairs is not obvious, either in our everyday life or even in some parts of the Bible (e.g. the book of Esther). But in Genesis, especially in the early chapters, God is the central actor.”
In Genesis we also see the attributes or characteristics about God. We see the heart of God revealed in his care for creation and involvement with humanity from the beginning to end. My heart and purpose for this year long series of the Bible is for you and me to see the glory (magnificence) of God revealed throughout the book of Genesis and the rest of God’s Word; to see his fingerprint on every page. My hope, and prayer is for us is to draw closer to the originator of all things; the One True God of all.
We do not have a specific date for the origins of the writings of Genesis. Traditionally, it is commonly believed that Moses is the author. There are differing views of authorship, but we are better off if we do not focus so much on the human author and instead focus on the content of what the divine author reveals.
Genesis is split into two parts…
As a way of introduction, I want to spend the remainder of our time looking at the overall scope of Genesis as we see God throughout this account.
In Genesis we see…
Throughout Genesis we see so many events where God is present. It is not interested in events for their own sake but for what they disclose about the nature of God and his purposes. These stories are not told willy nilly, they serve a purpose, and that purpose is to show us God, his nature, and his glory. Most of these stories (chapters 1 – 11) deal with periods long before writing was invented, so they cannot be ‘history’ in the strict sense of the term or be verified by evidence from outside the Bible. However, Genesis does try to arrange the stories chronologically and explain things in terms of cause and effect. 
As we conclude there is a lot to think on and let sink in for the next week or so. I would encourage you to read over the first two chapters of Genesis this week and reflect on what they mean to you. We will be spending a little bit of time in this first chapter in the weeks to come. I challenge you to allow this to be a time of allowing God to search your heart and make himself known to you. Reflect on God, his word, his acts of creation, and his glory.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
I attended Bible College in the San Bernardino Mountains from 1991 –1993. My college was in a small town named Twin Peaks. It was a quaint little town surrounded by massive the pine forests of the San Bernardino Mountains. It was quiet. It was peaceful. It was the perfect place to meet with Jesus. I was shielded from the busyness of life down in the San Bernardino Valley. On the weekends we would want to get away from the quiet mountain town and we would cram into my friend Dan’s Toyota Corolla and would venture down the mountain to enjoy the coastal cities located on the Pacific Ocean.
When I finished college in 1993, I asked a friend to drive me to the airport so I could fly back home. This was pre-9/11 so there was no need to arrive early. You simply showed up, checked in and got on the plane. We started down the mountains about 3 hours before the plane was scheduled to takeoff. I figured this was plenty of time since the airport was only an hour and a half drive. I forgot to factor in the traffic. We were cruising along at a comfortable 70mph and as we were nearing the airport the 10-lane expressway came to a screeching halt. Suddenly it was bumper to bumper traffic. At first, I wasn’t too concern because the airport was within a few miles, and this was, so I thought, a minor hindrance. As clock moved forward our car did not. For nearly an hour we barely moved a half mile. I began to sweat a bit. It was getting really close to my departure time. Fortunately, at the nick of time, the traffic broke, and we began moving along just fast enough for us to exit. I made it to John Wayne International with only a few minutes to spare.
Hindrances can be so frustrating! The story I just told was an example of a minor instance of how a hindrance can be so frustrating and stressful. It is safe to assume that none of us like it when our plans are thwarted, and we can’t do what we want to do.
The Apostle Paul understood roadblocks. He understood hindrance. He knew about frustration. However, he did not allow these hindrances to stop him from doing what God called him to do.
1 Thessalonians 2:17 - 3:5
Hindered by Satan
Vs 17- 20: The Apostle Paul wrote about the persecution he and his companions faced in Thessalonica when they brought the Gospel to this Gentile city. He mentions that they were “separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you)” Paul was in the city of Thessalonica for three weeks and eventually the Jews became angry with him and started stirring up the people against him. A riot ensued forcing Paul and his companions to flee for their lives. He had to physically remove himself from the city leaving his beloved Thessalonians behind; but he kept them close in his heart. Paul resumed his missionary journeys, and he continually thought about the Thessalonians. He was only with them for three weeks, but he became very attached to this group of people and he missed them dearly. The separation that was forced upon them had created a deep longing in Paul’s heart to go back and be with the Thessalonians.
Vs 18: “We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.” Apparently, Paul tried multiple times to go back to Thessalonica, but Satan put up some roadblocks that did not allow him to go back. I imagine this was discouraging for him. His heart was set on going back and encouraging the Thessalonians because they were the fruits of his labor and the working of the Holy Spirit. They were young Christians. Most of them were Gentiles and they had little instruction in what it meant to walk with Jesus. The Thessalonians were like his children that he had not seen in a long time, and he desired to go and be with them; BUT Satan would have none of that. Paul doesn’t give details as to how or why he was hindered. We can only assume that whatever it was it was not good.
“One possibility is that in view of the trouble there had been with the city rulers Paul himself was forbidden to return to the town, and nothing had happened to change that position. It seems that some unjustifiable criticism of Paul was abroad, and so he emphasizes the strength of his longing to revisit them and encourage them.”
He wanted to encourage the young believers and Satan did whatever he could to stop Paul from doing this. Paul knew all too well, as we should also, that Satan hates when believers unite or join together… Why is this? Because he knows there is power in unity in Christ. Beth Moore writes, “Satan throws his head back and howls when he can use small things to keep believers from uniting in great things for the (glory) of Jesus.” This is true. the Devil wants to keep believers isolated and alone because when we are alone, we are weaker and can be more susceptible to temptation. Therefore, Christian fellowship is important. I have spoken with people who say that they don’t need to go to church because it’s not church that saves them. I agree. Some have said they don’t need other Christians because their faith is a private matter. Others just don’t like being around other believers. When we gather as a body of Christ to worship our Lord, Creator and Savior we are given great power especially in the Spiritual realm. This unity gives us power to overcome the oppression of Satan in our lives. It gives us power to be the people God created us to be. There is power in the body of Christ and Satan hates it when gather together and he will do whatever it takes to hinder God’s saints from gathering together in the name of Jesus.
Vs 3:1 – 5: “and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ.” Paul was not going to allow Satan to destroy the works God did through him. He was not going to let Satan discourage these new believers. Paul may have been hindered but Timothy was not; so instead of complaining that Satan had put up roadblocks he sought another way to get to the Thessalonians. Paul would visit them via Timothy. He entrusted this journey to the young pastor. Paul calls him a brother and a co-worker in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was Timothy’s mentor. He was his Pastor. He was his co-laborer in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Paul couldn’t come to encourage then he would send the person he trusted most.
I can imagine Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians when he left them in haste in the company of wolves. If these people were willing to go to the extremes with Paul, then there is no reason they wouldn’t with the new believers in Thessalonica. This worried him because he was mature in his faith. He had determined and believed that there was nothing that could separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. He wasn’t so sure the Thessalonians would be able to hold up under the extreme pressure and persecution they were facing. Paul told them that they would face persecution. He knew what they were up against, and he could no longer bear not knowing how they were doing. His concern was since Satan hindered him then he was certainly at work in trying to destroy the work of God in Thessalonica. For this reason alone, he sent Timothy to them in hopes to encourage and exhort. Ultimately God wins in this battle. Satan may have hindered but God got his way.
In this passage we see the heart of a man who loves people with a supernatural love. Having spent only a few weeks with the Thessalonians he bonded with them and had great love and concern for them. In this love he faces the discouragement of being hindered from encouraging the believers. For us today many of us face obstacles in life that hinder us from moving forward in our walk with him. I have come to find that there are three kinds of hindrances we face.
You may be thinking, “How can I tell if a hindrance (roadblock, shut door, the answer “No”) is from Satan, God or yourself?” I wish there was a nice an easy answer to this question or a simple four step process that is a fool-proof way of knowing. But there isn’t. But there are some tools and resources God has given us to help us decipher what is going on. I would begin with prayer and reading God’s Word. When we pray we are in direct communication with God. He is the one who knows what is best for you. Sometimes the answer is glaringly obvious that Satan is involved, other times it is apparent God is, and even more so evident when it is us, but it is important to approach all things in life with prayer and communication with God.
So, I wonder what things in my life are hindering me from following God wholeheartedly. What are yours? I think a good question to ask yourself is “What things in your life are hindering what God is calling you to do, or a risk God is directing you to take?” The answer to this question could be the things Satan is using in your life to hinder you from true intimacy with God.
The story of the Nativity is not the tale of the journeys of a young man and pregnant girl traveling to the town of Bethlehem. It is not an account of the hardships they faced when they could not find suitable housing, nor a sterile hospital to give birth. It is not the story of the shepherds and their encounter with angels, nor is it about the voyage of the Magi and the gifts they brought to the newborn King. It is not about lawn ornaments in our front yards or how we arrange our decorative statues inside our homes that depict the Nativity.
When all is said and done none of these are the reason for Christmas and the story of the Nativity. Does this mean that Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi are not important to the story? Does this mean that it is wrong to put up our displays for all to see? Absolutely not! The characters are imperative to the story (it could not have happened without them) and believe it or not our lawn ornaments and decorations can help us share the Good News of Jesus Christ to our unbelieving neighbors and friends. But they are not the main point.
The main points of the Nativity are God’s act of humility and His faithfulness in keeping promises. Today we will see these two realities of the Nativity evident in our New Testament and Old Testament passages as we continue in our series titled Christmas Prophecy.
The Nativity: God’s Acts of Humility and Promise Keeping
Today we will begin in the New Testament passage found in Matthew 2:1 – 8
Matthew 2:1 – 8
In this passage we meet a group of men known as the Magi, or commonly known as the wise men, who came to Jerusalem. These New Testament Magi were non-Jewish religious astrologers who, from astronomical observations, concluded that the birth of a great Jewish king was at hand. After inquiring of Jewish authorities, they came to Bethlehem to pay homage.
The Magi originally came to Jerusalem to seek out this king who was to be born. They were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah because it is believed the prophet Daniel was a prince and chief among this very class of wise men or Magi. His prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when the Messiah should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.
The Magi came to Jerusalem as they followed the “Christmas star.” They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. Herod was unaware of this newborn King and honestly, he was quite threatened by the idea that a new king was born. Thus, he inquired of the Chief Priests, and they concluded that the King they sought was to be born in Bethlehem since it was prophesied in Micah 5:2.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.
Bethlehem is a small town in the hill country of Judah, and it is most noted as the burial site of the matriarch Rachel(Jacob’s wife) and the birthplace of King David. Bethlehem was a small and insignificant village. Its biblical significance derives mainly from its status as David’s hometown. As the “city of David,” it was also prophesied as the birthplace of the future messianic ruler who would come as a new David.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.”
I am amazed when I consider the creator of all things coming to earth in human flesh. One would think everything about his entrance would be a spectacle and his birth would be heralded among all the nations. The truth is, everything about our savior, his birth, life, and death point to humility and serving others. Isn’t this really what Christmas is about? We are called to serving one another in humility and share the message of hope and joy to the world through Jesus Christ? Wesley Hill writes, “The mighty Son of God, who together with his Father, brought creation into being, subsequently designed to become a lowly human being-the equivalent of a powerful monarch being reduced to a scuttling beetle.”
Jesus’ life began and ended in humility. One would think when God himself came to this earth it would have been to straighten humanity out and set things on the right course, but it was much more than that. We do know that Jesus had a destiny. If you look back in Luke 1:29 - 33 you can see his destiny. The angel proclaims that Jesus will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, He will received the throne of David and reign over all of Israel and there shall be no end to His kingdom. Before we can recognize Him as the King of Kings and Prince of peace, we need to grasp the humility of God in the flesh. While on this earth, He was God in the flesh living a life of humility showing others the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is nothing spectacular about Jesus’ entrance into this world. Christmas begins with our Great and Mighty God coming in the flesh as a baby… a weak, helpless, and needy infant. Not a strong warrior, but a baby. He was born in this little town called Bethlehem and it was an insignificant town as Micah 5:2 prophesies, it is so insignificant that it is not even listed in the list of Judah’s towns in Joshua 15. Not only was he born a little weak baby in an insignificant town, he was born to a simple carpenter and a young teenage mother in a smelly, unsanitary cave. Then to top it off the angels did not proclaim the birth of the savior of the world. Instead, the proclaimed Savior’s entrance into this world is announced to a group of Shepherds. Yes, smelly, stinky, and insignificant shepherds! Don’t you think Jesus could have had better PR than that? Wouldn’t it have been better announcing the birth to the city of Jerusalem? No, God chose shepherds.
Ok, so he had a rather humble beginning to life, certainly things will get better as he gets older right? Take a quick glance at Jesus’ life and you will see the opposite is true. First, Jesus was tempted by Satan as an average ordinary man. You can read the account in Matthew 4. Why was he tempted? Isn’t He God? Couldn’t He have just told Satan to take a hike and got on with his life? Hebrews 4 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." He was tempted so he could sympathize in our weaknesses and yet show us that we do not need to give in to temptation. Why would a king allow this to happen if He didn’t truly love and care for his people? Secondly, Jesus was a carpenter from an average family. Mark 6:3 says the people questioned Jesus’ wisdom by asking, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. The leader’s question implied, “He is a common laborer like the rest of us.” All His immediate family—mother, brothers, and sisters—were known to the townspeople, and they were ordinary people. Thirdly, we see Jesus’ humility in the fact that He didn’t even have a home. Look at Matthew 8:20 when a Scribe told Jesus He would do whatever it takes to follow Jesus he responded, "And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”" He could have lived in mansions created for glory or even a semi decent house, but the Bible tells us that He had no home. Fourthly, there was a moment when Jesus accepted worship as a King however, it wasn’t as a valiant knight riding on a white steed parading into town as a victorious warrior. No, He came into town on a colt, a simple work colt. Fifth, he referred to himself as a servant and a servant King is what He was. In Philippians 2:5 – 7 it says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." This tells us a lot about Jesus Christ. He made himself nothing and became a servant. How many leaders or kings do you know who practice this type of humility or even believe it’s their calling in life? Lastly, we see the humility of Christ in the way He died. He did not die of old age or die during battle as a warrior. No, He was crucified and died an excruciating, painful and dishonorable death. The fact that He gave himself over to death is an act of humility. He has the power to defeat death and yet, he became subservient to it. Yet He did this because this was the plan from the beginning.
God’s Promise Kept
“…Yet a ruler of Israel whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”
Our God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. I love what Matthew D. Kim writes in his devotional, THE BABY KING, “God is a covenant -keeping God. And nothing will stand in the way of his promised miracle… God is zealous to keep his covenant.” We are told time and again that God is trustworthy. This should be comforting and assuring to all of us since the Bible is filled with the promises by God to His people. Among all the promises of the God our hope of salvation is based on the promises made by God. The prophet Joel writes regarding the last days that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) Jesus tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We know these promises are true because God is faithful to keep them. We are also told in Numbers 23:9 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” I take great comfort in these verses.
Jesus was born in humility and lived a life as a carpenter, a servant, who was tempted to sin yet not yield to it. He had no home. He was eventually hailed as the Messiah but on the back of a donkey. He was killed a week later as He hung on a cross. I think we can see and understand that our Lord lived a life of humility on this earth.
Today Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and will someday return as a triumphant King. He is the fulfillment of the great promise of God. He will come and save his people fro0m destruction and show everyone the way to life. Jesus shows that all who confess and repent of their sins and believe in faith that Jesus is Lord will not receive death, but life everlasting.
What does this show us today? As we enter the Christmas season, let us rejoice in the promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ and humbly serve one another in the name of Jesus Christ. Truly seek out ways that you can serve someone in His name. I am not sure how you will do it, but it could be as simple as assisting someone who is less fortunate or buying a gift for a child whose parent(s) are incarcerated or dropping off some cookies to a neighbor. Be creative and serve others in humility in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Joy to the world the Lord has come. Let us rejoice and worship our King.
Today we are continuing our Advent series titled Christmas Prophecies. For the past couple of weeks, we have looked at various O.T. prophecies that point us to the coming Messiah. When I began the series, I mentioned that Jesus is evident throughout the Old Testament. It is chock full of prophecies regarding Him and His future redemption. We see, as far back as the opening chapters of the Bible, God’s prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. I talked about how that throughout Genesis God’s plans revolve around a collective offspring that comes from the line of Abraham: Jesus Christ. Throughout the O.T. we see the hardships, disappointments and challenges the patriarchs faced in barrenness (they could not have children) but through this barrenness God’s divine plan was not thwarted. He helps throughout, “it is God himself . . . who is responsible for the birth of the promised ‘seed.’” This simply means that the problem of making things right was on God’s shoulders, not mans. This Includes the birth of a nation, Israel, but more specifically the birth Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Give Peace a Chance
In 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a one week “Bed In” protest in Montreal Canada to protest war and promote peace. When asked by reporters why they were doing this John Lennon spontaneously answered, “Just give peace a chance.” He was essentially saying, “Hey war is not fixing anything, so let’s try peace instead.”
Whether you are a supporter or fan of John Lennon’s message during his “Bed in” I think it is safe to say that true peace is generally preferable to wars and fighting. We want peace and we want to see all wars ended. I personally believe this cannot happen without God as the initiator.
But what do we mean by peace? So many of us view peace as the absence of conflict and fights but the peace we as Christians desire is one that is more than that, it is one that only Jesus Christ can bring and we will look at what true peace is and how Jesus Christ is the one who gives and brings true peace.
The Prophet Isaiah
Before we talk about peace let’s go back to the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the birth of the Messiah. Isaiah was an 8thcentury B.C. prophet whose writings and prophecies often denounced idolatry, disingenuous religious observances, and ceremonies in Judah. He was the one who witnessed the hem of the robe of God as it filled the Temple, and the angels proclaimed Holy, holy, holy…” He responds to the vision by crying out in repentance because he is a man of unclean lips, and one who lives among sinners. In this vision God asks Isaiah who would go forth and proclaim God’s message to Israel and he responds, “Here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 1:13). Isaiah is commissioned to go out and share the prophecies of God’s impending judgment to those who were in idolatrous practices in Judah and how only the faithful to Yahweh would remain. Isaiah also foretold the coming Messiah who would come and save all and is known as the Prince of peace and the Sovereign of God’s Kingdom (Isaiah 9:2 – 7). He prophesies about this ruling Messiah and how He would suffer under the hands of evil men, and He would be known as the suffering servant (Isaiah 53).
Isaiah 9:1 - 7
In today’s passage I would like to focus on verses 6 & 7. It was at this time God was not pleased with Judah as they had embraced idolatry. He speaks of judgments and amid these judgments he speaks about a future hope for the nation and for all.
Vs. 6: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…” Verse 6 tells us who this coming child/king is. Isaiah tells us He is a future son who would one day be born, and this child would be the son of God. Isaiah tells us that the government shall rest on his shoulders that will be a just and peaceful ruler.
Some theologians believe this future royal child would be a human king born the line of David and he will be proclaimed the king of Israel and he will eventually lead Israel to a new level of freedom and prosperity. However, the designations given to this child and the description of his kingdom far surpass anything applicable or could be accomplished by a human king. Thus, we can safely conclude that the interpretation of this passage is messianic. We see this simply in his name titles. This child will have titles that denote his character. He will be a wise ruler characterized by wisdom (Wonderful Counselor). He is immortal as he has no beginning or end (Eternal Father). He will be a peaceful ruler (Prince of Peace). He is all powerful ( Almighty God.)
Vs 7: “His government and its peace will never end…” Verse 6 tells us who this coming child/king is and Verse 7 tells us how this coming child/king will govern and rule. He will be a ruler who promotes peace, and it is a never-ending peace. He will be a just and fair king and he will rule for all eternity. There will be no injustices, no corruption, and no inequality. He will rule in fairness and with justice.
“of his ancestor David for all eternity.” The divine King/Messiah will come from the lineage of David.
If you would indulge me and turn to Matthew 1 and note with me the lineage of the Messiah. In this we see the direct relation of Jesus to the throne of David. Thus, the prophecy spoken in Isaiah 9:7 is fulfilled in Matthew 1. Matthew 1:1-16:
Vs 7b: The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” In this context the Lord’s “zeal” or “commitment” refers to his intense devotion to and love for his people which prompts him to vindicate them and to fulfill his promises to David and the nation.
The Prince of Peace
We have looked at the prophecy of the birth of this coming child/king and we have noted the various titles given to the Messiah, we have seen the kind of ruler/King He will be, and we have observed the lineage from where he descended. Now I want to focus on the one title that gives us hope not only during our Advent season but in our lives in general and that is the title“The Prince of peace.”
Verse 27: Peace (shalom) – The peace Jesus speaks of has a deeper meaning than what we have come to know about peace in modern history. As I stated earlier, we generally think of peace as the absence of conflict, but this is a fragile and temporary peace the world has to offer. Again, those of you who lived in the 60s and early 70s are aware of the temporal and faux peace the world spoke about. The hippy movement spoke of peace, love, and happiness but everything about the peace (and love and happiness for that matter) rallied for was temporary, selfish, and disingenuous.
The shalom/peace spoken of by Jesus is a peace that surpasses all understanding and is rooted in redemption and salvation. This shalom is an inward peace, a peace of mind, and a peace in the security in knowing your future destiny. It’s a peace that comes when you know you have been forgiven of your sins, where you can lean on the promise of the indwelling of the Spirit, you can have security in knowing you are redeemed, you can fully trust that with faith in Jesus you will be restored, and you can have a sense of assurance in knowing whether things are going good or bad, in danger or safety, or in chaos or contentment you are safe in the arms of the Father.
Jesus not only leaves us peace, but he gives us this peace. He tells his disciples (and us) that we are to take comfort in this. He tells the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled or afraid. Yes, tumultuous times were ahead for them and after his death their persecution is going to intensify. So, Jesus says take hold of that peace (that is beyond our comprehension) and let it reign in your hearts.
We have this same promise given to us today. Jesus has left us with and given us his peace that is far greater than the artificial peace of the world. We are still living in tumultuous and uncertain times… With inflation on the rise, the tense political divides before us, and fear of not knowing what the future has in store and this is a reminder of our vulnerability. We are reminded that we do not have complete control over all things… In fact, we have very little control in our lives… Yet we should not allow our hearts to be troubled or afraid. We are to rest in the shalom/peace that Jesus has left and given us. As followers of Jesus, we can know true (shalom) even amid uncertainty, persecution, and turmoil.
Philippians 4:6 – 7: The kind of peace we desire only comes from Jesus and through prayer. The Apostle Paul tells us that Instead of worrying and being anxious about the things that are overwhelming or looming, go to God in prayer. Paul says, “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” This is another way of saying take your concerns to the foot of the cross and leave them there. Do not let your anxiety and worry consume you. Give it to Jesus and once you do, you will experience peace. Now, I realize it is not a logical peace. It doesn’t make any human sense because the issues that are causing distress are still in front of you, but when you give your worry and anxiety over to the Lord you gain a true and genuine sense of peace that is rooted in Jesus. When we experience this peace, it will guard our hearts and minds. This means that in those times when worry or anxiety pop back into our heads or our hearts we can be protected from worry because we are in Christ Jesus.
As we enter the third week of Advent let us focus our hearts and our minds on the peace that Jesus brings. When we look back at Isaiah, we are reminded that he was speaking to a nation who had turned its back on God, and all seemed hopeless. However, God is not a God of hopelessness, He is a God of hope. We live in a time of seeming hopelessness but let us not forget that all is not lost. We have a savior who is a Wonderful Counselor, Eternal Father, Prince of peace, and Almighty God who leaves peace and gives peace. We have a Savior who gives life. We have a Savior who "though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6 – 11)
The Lord’s Supper
 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
Introduction to Advent
Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. For those who are unaware Advent is a time dedicated to waiting. Contrary to popular thought, Advent is not a countdown to Christmas. It is, as author and Pastor Timothy Paul Jones writes, “The proclamation of the sufficiency of Christ through the discipline of waiting.” This simply means that Advent is a time where we find satisfaction in Jesus Christ through the practice of waiting. Waiting? Yeah, waiting is a discipline for me. I, like many of you, have fallen into the trap of busyness and instant gratification. I don’t like the words “persevere,” “patience,” and “wait.” But this is what Advent is all about. It’s about waiting, preparing, and anticipating.
Originally, Advent was not a celebration of the first coming of the Christ-child, but rather, it was a time of anticipation and preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. However, by the 8th Century, the church (universal) adopted what western Christianity today observes as Advent. Since the 8th century, Advent has become the celebration and observation of the Messiah’s coming to the earth through his birth in Bethlehem (first advent), the anticipation of his future appearance at the end of time (second advent), and the remembrance of his presence among us through the Holy Spirit.
Since Advent is about waiting and anticipating it is appropriate for us in the next four weeks to look back to the expectations and anticipations of the people of Israel as they waited and longed for the coming Messiah. Today we are starting a new series titled “Christmas Prophecies” where we will look back and focus on the Old Testament prophecies that point and speak to the first advent of Jesus Christ.
Some may ask the question, “Why look back in an age of progress?” Because when we look back we see God’s intended plan of redemption from the beginning of time and how God works through His people (Israel), and prophets to bring the act and message of salvation to the nations.
Significance of Messianic Prophecy in O.T.
Let’s begin our look at the significance of the O.T. prophecies by going to the end of the ministry of the earthly ministry of the Messiah.
The Road to Emmaus
One day, post resurrection, two followers of Jesus were walking on the road to Emmaus (about 7 miles from Jerusalem). They were talking about the events that just happened (the crucifixion of Jesus) and suddenly Jesus appears to them on this road. We are told that God/the Holy Spirit kept Jesus’ identity from them. Jesus begins to engage them in conversation about the events of the crucifixion. They clearly were upset because they thought that everything, they believed in was squelched at Calvary. He gently rebukes the men and proceeds to share with about how the O.T. writings were, in fact, about Him… The Messiah.
Luke 24:27 - Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Did you catch that? Jesus explains how all scriptures from Moses and the prophets pointed to Him.
I don’t know how many times I have had people say to me, “Why are you preaching out of the O.T.? As Christians we should be focusing on the N.T.! The Old Testament is no longer valid because Jesus did away with it. Sure, when you look at it from that perspective, I understand people’s concern. However, when you consider the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 -17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” you understand why. ALL SCRIPTURE… Including the O.T.
Genesis to Malachi
The Old Testament points us to the coming Messiah. You may not know this, but Jesus is evident throughout the Old Testament. It is chock full of prophecies regarding Him and His future redemption. Now, we do not have nearly enough time to go through every prophecy concerning the Messiah, but we will look at a few in the coming weeks. Plus, in 2022 we are planning on going through an overview of the whole bible and we will see more connections to Christ in the O.T. in that series.
So, let’s go back to the beginning… the Genesis. In the opening chapters of the Bible, we witness the beautiful act of creation. In God’s creation He creates paradise and gives humans dominion over his creation. Unfortunately, only three chapters in we see how God’s paradise is corrupted and his communion with his creation is severed due to the acts of sin and disobedience… Eating the fruit from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this act of sin and deception God places judgment on the guilty parties… the man, the woman, and the serpent. This judgment is the beginning of a longtime battle between good and evil. However, tucked in this judgment (Genesis 3:15) we see something hopeful, something promising, and something for all humanity to anticipate in the future.
“Protoevangelium” or the first gospel account of the Bible. The Offspring refers to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This offspring of the woman is foretold as being at war with Satan and his “offspring” (his followers the demons and evil powers). It will be a war for the soul that Satan cannot win. A prophecy is spoken and proclaimed over the serpent.
He will strike your head – Death, resurrection & redemption. Jesus delivers a fatal blow to Satan and his demonic kingdom because will is the perfect sacrifice for humanity. All who believe will be redeemed and made right with the father; thus destroying the work of the devil.
You will strike his heal – Satan will seemingly celebrate a short and temporary victory as the crucifixion unfolds. The death and rejection of Jesus will be painful and harsh and temporary… non-lethal (bruise his heal). From the offset it will appear Satan has won but in the end Jesus will be victorious.
Thus, we see in this one small portion of scripture and continuing throughout Genesis God’s plans revolve around a collective the offspring that comes from the line of Abraham: the nation of Israel. Throughout we see the hardships, disappointments and challenges the patriarchs face, especially in barrenness (no children) we see this barrenness is overcome by God’s help throughout, “it is God himself . . . who is responsible for the birth of the promised ‘seed.’” Including Israel, but more specifically Jesus himself.
Matthew 2:13 – 15
Now, let’s go to today’s text found in Matthew 2:13 – 15. This short passage contains a prophecy fulfillment found in the short Minor Prophet Hosea.
Vs 13: “After the wise men had gone…” The Nativity story contains many parts and includes many people. In this passage it talks about the Magi. We have talked about the Magi in previous years, but it is the Magi who come and visit the young Jesus and lavish him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and Myrrh. Originally, they were going back to Herod to tell him the location of the newborn king, but an angel of the Lord tells them not to go back. In this God takes sovereign action to protect his Messiah. God is beginning to work behind the scenes. He takes proactive measures to protect his chosen Messiah.
Vs 14: “That night…” When the angel appears to Joseph, he is told to get up (right away) and go to Egypt. This shows the urgency of the angel’s directions. That night the angel spoke about Herod, and that night Mary, Joseph and Jesus left for Egypt. Traveling at night was not ideal and very dangerous. This tells us there is a sense of urgency. Then we are told Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’ calling out of Egypt was a fulfillment of a prophecy found in Hosea 11:1.
This is an unusual prophecy to cite because when reading the full prophecy of Hosea 11 we get the impression the prophet is talking about another King David. Biblical scholar James E. Smith writes, “Just as Hosea expected another David, so here he expects another Israel, one who would be called as a child by God. Matthew sees in this verse a reference to Christ” (Matt 2:15).
Throughout the Bible Egypt is place of refuge to those fleeing Israel when things went bad.
Background of Hosea (the Book)
The book of Hosea is interesting to say the least. The prophet, Hosea, is commanded to marry a prostitute as a symbol of how Israel has become unfaithful to God. There is so much to this minor prophet book, and I would encourage you to read it today or this week. In the book GOD’S MESSIAH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT the author writes, “the heart of the prophecy is a story of love gone wrong. The turbulent marriage of Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1 and 3) reflects the history of the covenant relationship between God and Israel from the exodus to the exile and to the return (chap. 2). Gomer’s sin, punishment, and restoration become a symbol of God’s dealings with Israel. After the merited punishment of the exile, there will be a new exodus, a new wilderness journey, a new entry into the land, and a renewing of the covenant that involves the restoration of monarchic rule in Israel.” It is even in this prophecy as a collection we see that it all points to the restoration of the monarchy, but this monarchy is not of a human ruler, but the divine Messiah who is yet to come.
So, as I conclude the message for today, we can ask the question, “What does any of this have to do with anything?” Glad you asked…
In lieu of the temptation to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of Christmas this year, let’s re-focus and commit to the discipline of finding sufficiency in Jesus Christ. Let’s take comfort in knowing…
 Smith, J. E. (1994). The Minor Prophets (p. 264). Joplin, MO: College Press.
 Abernethy, Andrew T.; Goswell, Gregory. God's Messiah in the Old Testament (p. 124). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
There are an abundance of teachings, beliefs, and religions all claiming to possess or know “the way” to God. They claim to have the keys to eternal life, nirvana, paradise, happiness, or etc. Some mix and match different theological and philosophical thoughts and beliefs to customize their own personal religion; it is personally designed individually just for you. Since time began humans have loved the idea of custom-made spirituality. The world loves the pluralistic religious culture it has created, resulting in society no longer holding to or knowing absolute truth. Truth has become relative.
I was in a conversation with someone years ago and I remember him saying, with slight tongue in cheek, “When I was young 2+2 = 4, today though 2+2 = whatever you want it to be.” Unfortunately, there is some truth to his statement. Sadly, truth in religion has become taboo because people who believe in one way to God or “The way” to Jesus are deemed as narrow-minded bigots. Religious and social tolerance is preached across the globe and if someone speaks up about certain teachings or beliefs being false; then you are immediately deemed a hateful, judgmental, and phobic person. Sometimes Christians are believed to be irrelevant and stuck in the dark ages, simply because we commit to living in obedience to God and holding to the conviction that the Word of God is inspired, it is absolute truth, and teaches that Jesus is the only way to God the Father.
We live in a consumer age where choice is king. We have the right to choose to shop wherever we want for whatever we want, eat at any restaurant we want, and they will make your meal the way you want, and if they don’t, we will go someplace else. We even have this mindset for the churches we attend.
Many years ago, the queen of talk, Oprah was confronted by a member of her television studio audience questioning her views about God. The woman speaking mentioned the words of Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life. Oprah responded, “There couldn’t possibly be only one way… there are millions of ways that lead a person to the Light or what others call god!” In her mind there are millions of ways to finding your way to what one thinks is God.
With the millions of philosophical thoughts, ideas, teachings, religions, and theories out there today (and many more new thoughts coming to light every day), how is one able to know, discern, or embrace truth? How can you and I find truth amidst the plethora of religious thought and belief’s that the world so lovingly embraces?
The Truth Is in Here
“What is truth?” This was a question asked over 2,000 years ago by Pilate to Jesus. This question was asked in response to the statement Jesus made, “For this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are a person of truth. We are a church of the truth. We bear witness to the truth.
I Thessalonians 2: 13 – 15
Vs 13a: “We never stopped thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human. You accepted what we said as the very word of God- which of course it is.” The Church of Thessalonica was a Church of truth. According to the Apostle Paul they were a Bible believing and Bible teaching Church. How do we know this? because this verse tells us they accepted the Word of God. They loved the Word of God. They received the Word of God. Paul thanked God continually for their love of the truth. In the Bible the Word of God is equal to the truth. This is displayed throughout the Bible. Jesus prayed in John 17:17, Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is the truth.” The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 33:4, “For the Word of the LORD holds true, and we can trust everything he does.” Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to all who come to him for protection.”
When Paul and his companions came to Thessalonica years before he came proclaiming the Word of God.
Acts 17 shows us what happened prior to the Thessalonians embracing the Word of truth. Paul went to the synagogue in Thessalonica for three weeks, which was his custom, and he began sharing the Gospel with anyone who would here. Paul verbally spoke the Word of God. He proclaimed verbally the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ unashamedly. Why? Because the Gospel had impacted his life so much. The transformation in the Apostles life is nothing short of a miracle. He was once a murderous Christian killer who is now a redeemed follower of Jesus himself. Paul knew the reality of the transforming power of Jesus. He knew the power of the Word of God. It was his life; his passion and purpose and he was going to share it with whoever would here.
While he was preaching the Gospel, he annoyed some prominent men, and he persuaded a group of others. The prominent were the religious Jews and the ones he persuaded were mostly Gentiles. The Gentiles heard, responded to, and embraced the truth amidst all the turmoil that was going on around them. The Jews stirred up a riot and Paul and his companions fled for their lives to the town of Berea. One of the Gentile believers, Jason’s, home was attacked, and he was dragged out with some other men and brought before the authorities and persecuted. The authorities took money from them and eventually let them go free. Paul and his companions had only spent three weeks with the Thessalonian Gentiles, and they were so convinced of the transforming Word of God that they willingly endured persecution and financial loss. These Gentiles were sold out followers of Jesus who lovingly accepted and embraced the Word of God, the truth.
Note, this was not a casual belief or a response to the fad of the time. The people of Thessalonica accepted the words Paul proclaimed (the truth) as words spoken by God. These men were convinced that Paul was not preaching a man-made Gospel. He was preaching a divine, Holy Spirit inspired message from God himself. They were so convinced this was God’s Word that they were willing to endure persecution and potential death.
Vs 13b: “And this word continues to work in you who believe.” This Church didn’t just listen to the Word of God… They were changed/transformed by it. It was at work in them as followers of Christ. The message they heard and embraced changed them; as it always should. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful, it is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” What are some words that may stand out to you to show the Word of God is at work? It is ALIVE – meaning that it has and contains life. God’s Word still speaks to the hearts of individuals today. It is POWERFUL. The Word of God has the power to transform and change individuals for the glory of God. It is CUTTING which means it has the power to convict and correct.
Vs 14 - 15: Because the Thessalonians embraced the Word of God, they also experienced the same trials, tribulations, and persecutions that the Church of Jesus Christ was facing all over the world. The same people who had it out for Jesus had it out for his Church These same men had Jesus killed. These same men had prophets killed. These same men inevitably opposed all humanity by hindering Paul, his companions, and the churches by hindering them from sharing the Gospel on a grand scale. Because of this some were not able to receive salvation… But God will and does always have the last Word.
When we look at these three short verses today, we can ask, “How can these passages be applied to me/us today?” As followers of Jesus Christ everything we hold true must be rooted in the Word of God and in the person of Jesus Christ. We live in a world where the lines of truth are clouded and even vanishing. Truth is now becoming about majority rule. If the majority agrees something is right or wrong, then it is. So how does this affect us as believers in Jesus Christ? How do we ensure that we remain in the truth?
Have you ever been betrayed by someone? Has someone ever betrayed your trust or hurt you so badly you thought you could never forgive or trust this person again? Maybe this betrayal was done by a close friend, a trusted confidant, or a relative and this made it more difficult to endure. This deception may have shaken you to the core or to a place where you still have difficulty trusting people today. The act of betrayal is defined as a violation of a person's trust or confidence, of a moral standard. It is the act of hurting someone who trusts you, such as a friend or relative by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong against them. I can think of multiple times where I have been betrayed and even an instance or two in my younger days where I had betrayed someone’s trust or confidence. I know for certain; betrayal hurts and it’s often hard to bounce back.
We are continuing our series “Ordinary Rebels” and today we are going to look at an individual from the New Testament who is notorious for his act of betrayal. We see the ugliness of betrayal throughout the Bible with stories like Joseph and his brothers, David and Bathsheba’s husband, and a few others but none so much as in the disciple Judas Iscariot’s act of betraying the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in this betrayal the darkness of the human heart and the way Satan uses people to commit some of the most heinous acts of evil against one another.
Judas Iscariot is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. He is listed in all four Gospels as a disciple of Jesus Christ. He is always listed with a dishonorable depiction of who he was such as Judas, the one who betrayed him (Jesus) or Judas, the one who became a traitor. His dishonorable acts are most likely, why he is always placed last or least among the twelve. We don’t a lot about Judas, but what do know he is not painted in a positive light. The major role he plays in the Gospel account does not come until later in Jesus’ ministry and predominantly at the conclusion of his earthly ministry by handing him over to the authorities to be crucified.
Judas was appointed as the treasurer of the band of disciples who followed Jesus (John 13:29). In the Gospel of John, he is also described as a thief because he stole money from the group’s money box (John 12:6). This thievery may have been something they discovered after he left the group or after he had died. He is also the disciple who criticizes Mary for pouring her expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet and washing them with her hair. He approaches Jesus and asks why she would waste such expensive perfume by pouring it over his feet when they could have taken it, sold it, and given the money to the poor (John 12:3 – 5). Some could say, “that’s a good point!” but we know that charity was not his motivation. In fact, his motivation is in question among scholars as most believe he had no intention of selling the expensive perfume and giving it to the poor, but instead would have kept the money for the disciples and most likely using the money to line his pockets. Thus, many conclude that his suggestions were impure and motivated by his greed and deception.
This morning we are going to look at the remainder of what we know about Judas which are found in the Gospel accounts.
Matthew 26:14 – 16
After Judas criticizes Mary for her wasteful act Judas meets with the leading priests od Israel. It is in this meeting he conspires to betray Jesus for an agreed upon price. We see that he would be paid 30 pieces of silver by the priests to betray him. We read that once the price was agreed upon Judas began to plot his betrayal.
Matthew 26:17 - 25
Following the meeting with the priests Judas joins with the rest of the disciples as they prepare for and observe Passover. During the dinner Jesus tells the disciples that one of the twelve will betray him. One by one they began to wonder and ask if it was them. In verse 25 it would seem Jesus publicly identifies Judas as the one, but in John 13:26 – 30 we see Jesus identify him secretly as the betrayer, because the rest of the disciples did not know that it was him. John 13: 28 - 30 says, “None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So, Judas left at once, going out into the night.” Interestingly, we are told in both John and Luke that when he ate the bread that Satan entered Judas. This indicates to us that this was a spiritual matter and Judas’ act was motivated by spiritual darkness. Satan uses Judas to be the instrument to supposedly bring down the Savior of the world. However, we know that what Satan did was not something that brings victory to his evil empire, instead it is the beginning of the plan to destroy it.
Matthew 26:47 – 50
Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It is in this prayer Jesus has an intimate moment with the Father and asks, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Shortly thereafter, Judas approaches Jesus and kisses him, thus identifying him to the authorities. Immediately he is arrested.
John 18:1 – 7
John’s account is a bit different and more dramatic. We are told that after Jesus had finished his prayer and concluded his farewell discourse, he went to a garden that he went to often with his disciples (Luke 22:39). Judas knew Jesus would be there at this time. He brought with him Roman soldiers (possibly up to 200) and the temple police to the garden to have Jesus arrested. Judas kisses Jesus, but John does not record it. Jesus meets the group and asks who they are seeking? They (we are not sure who “they” are) responds, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replies, “I am he.” The literal translation is “I am.” John tells us the soldiers drew back or as the NET Bible says, “they retreated” or moved back and fell to the ground. What happened at this moment? Why did the soldiers fall? More conservative biblical scholars believe that the soldiers in the front may have jumped back when Jesus unexpectedly advanced forward causing those in the front to start a domino effect of soldiers falling to the ground. Others believe the falling was a result of a Theophany (an appearance of God to humans) causing his enemies to fall back and fall prostrate before him. Both are plausible, but I hold more to the second view. Either way we know Jesus is in control of the situation. In this moment they are hit by a power such as that which struck the Apostle Paul and his companions in Acts 26:14. It was the magnificent radiance of the majesty of Jesus Christ which overwhelmed them. This show of power before he submitted to authorities would show His authority over evil, and the freedom with which He submitted Himself to them. I think it’s important for us (whether a believer or not) to know and understand as Pastor Tim Keller says in his sermon, I AM HE “Nobody can stand on their feet in the presence of God.” The power of God is awesome in all senses of the word. Not only is it awesome, but awe inspiring. I believe in Jesus we see the power of God manifested in His name (I AM, Yahweh). If the mere mention of the name of God can bring a squad of soldiers to their knees, and cause demons to tremble, then we should acknowledge, recognize and respect the power of God and his name altogether.
After this happened Jesus asks them again whom they seek and informs them he is the one they seek. He tells them to let the men with him go unharmed. Then Peter decides he wants to seize the opportunity and attacks the High Priest’s servant cutting off his ear. Peter’s knee jerk reaction spurs Jesus to let everyone know he is not seeking violence but will go peacefully. In fact, he rebukes Peter by asking him, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” This is his way of saying to Peter, “This all has to happen. This has been set since the beginning of time. I must do as the Father says in order to accomplish the plan from the start.” As we can see Jesus has accepted the mission the Father has given to Him. His death on the cross was not a hiccup in the plan of God, it was THE plan from the beginning.
Matthew 27:3 – 10
When Judas realized that his betrayal was the death sentence of Jesus Christ, he could not live with himself. Interestingly, we are told that he was filled with remorse. Was this repentance? Was this guilt? Was this a man who came to, once the devil left him? We do not know. We do know that once he realized he had sold out his friend, mentor, and savior for thirty shekels of silver he took the silver and threw it down on the temple floor and then took his life. It is a sad testimony to the end of his life. He was not martyred for his faith in Christ, he took his life because he his friend, mentor, and the God of the universe in the flesh.
In these passages we see the curtain rising to the final “act” in the Gospel account. The irony to the Good News of this story is that tragedy must strike in order for the news to be good. Since the time of creation this has been the plan of God. Jesus must take this cup and he must drink it in order for those who believe to be redeemed. What I find most beautiful is our perfect Savior lovingly, willingly, and obediently going to the cross of Calvary to give life for us the flawed followers of Jesus. Rejoice in this today. Know you have a Savior who has all the power of God available to him (even so much that at the mere mention of the name of God his enemies fall over) and yet he humbles himself to the point of death so that we who believe may have life and have it abundantly.
In this betrayal we certainly see the ugly side of sinful humanity. We see a man who some may have debated as to his purpose in the Gospel account and others question whether he was truly a follower of Jesus Christ. But what we do see is that God uses people, even in their sinful state, to accomplish his purpose. Was Judas a true Christian? Was he faking it all along? Was he pulling a fast one on God? Was Satan using him? These are all questions that can be answered in one way or another, but my purpose is not to go there this morning. What I see in this passage is the true core of the sinful human heart. Below are some observations…
One day in a classroom a teacher was teaching a lesson and she had a conversation with one of her students and it went like this…
TEACHER: Do you see the trees outside?
TEACHER: Do you see the grass outside?
As a class they went outside
TEACHER: Look up and see if you can see the sky.
STUDENT: Yes, I see the sky.
TEACHER: Do you see God?
TEACHER: So if we can't see God then he must not be there. He simply doesn't exist.
A little girl then speaks up and wants to ask the boy some questions. The teacher agreed and the little girl questioned the boy.
LITTLE GIRL: Do you see the trees outside?
LITTLE GIRL: Do you see the grass outside?
STUDENT: Yessssss (getting tired of the questions this time).
LITTLE GIRL: Do you see the sky?
LITTLE GIRL: Do you see the teacher?
LITTLE GIRL: Do you see the teacher's brain?
LITTLE GIRL: Then according to our teacher’s logic she must not have one!
This joke may make you laugh, but the logic behind it is not so humorous. There are certainly people who think this way when it comes to belief in God. They believe since God is not tangible or visible then he cannot exist. As the story the story suggests this is not very good reasoning.
Now, my point for today is not to “prove” the existence of God. Instead, we will go a different route as we will look at faith and specifically at a man who had a very close relationship with Jesus; he was one of the twelve Disciples and his faith was shaken as he encountered the risen Christ and this forever changed his understanding of what faith is and who Jesus is..
Thomas was one of the twelve disciples. He is listed in the names of the twelve disciples in all three synoptic Gospels and there are three accounts where he is mentioned in the Gospel of John. He is mentioned as Thomas the twin or Didymus which means twin in Greek.
Thomas is known for various characteristics in the Gospel of John.
Can you imagine how Thomas felt after this encounter? His response says it all. I am sure you have (or maybe are currently) had a time in life where you doubted God. Maybe you doubted his existence, maybe you doubted that he was going to come through for you in a certain situation or maybe you just wondered, “Why me Lord? Don’t you care about me?” Here are three observations when we encounter Jesus that may strengthen our faith in times of doubt.
So, what can we learn from this ordinary rebel named Thomas?
You may be thinking, “Well, it’s so much easier to trust something that you can see. I can’t see God, so how can I know beyond a shadow of doubt that He is actually there?” Answer, you can’t. That’s why it’s called faith. Can you see air or oxygen you breathe with the naked eye? I can’t, but I know it’s there, I feel the effects of it. We all had faith that when we walked into this building that there would be oxygen to breathe, correct? This is faith! I can’t see God, but I know He is there because I feel the effects of Him in my life and I see the wonder of His creation around me and then I KNOW He is real. Faith is something that cannot be proven otherwise it couldn’t be called faith. In this closing remark to Thomas Jesus is speaking of you and me. We are truly blessed.
[i] Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel of John p. 659 Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans Publishing Company
1 Corinthians 1:20 – 30 says. “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
Vs 21: Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.
This passage is a great reminder of how God uses whomever he pleases, regardless of education, financial status, social status, or intellect to accomplish his will and purposes. We have seen this time and again in our current series titled “Ordinary Rebels”. We have seen how God used an ordinary virgin teenage girl to be the mother of the Savior, some fishermen, a tax collector, and zealots to turn the world upside down for his kingdom. Today we will look briefly at two men that we know literally nothing about but in the few verses we do have about them we can God’s bigger picture his plan for his people.
James, the Son of Alphaeus
Why would anyone consider preaching part of a message about a man who is mentioned in the Bible four-times and every time he is mentioned it is in the list of the names of the Apostles? Funny, I asked myself that same question. So, here it goes…
James was a very common name. In the N.T. alone there are several men named James who are associated with Jesus. There is James, the son of Zebedee (more about him in later messages). James, Jesus’ half-brother and author of the Epistle James and eventual leader in the church of Jerusalem. The James we will talk briefly about today is known as James the son of Alphaeus and that is pretty much all we know about him. However, this title does tell us one interesting fact, James was most likely the brother of Levi/Matthew the tax collector (Mark 2:14). There is also speculation that James was also a member of the zealot group (who we learned about last week) and that would be interesting then if Matthew (the tax collector) was his brother. This would have certainly been a problem for the brothers since zealots considered tax collectors traitors and would have been natural enemies. I am just throwing it out there for informational purposes.
That’s pretty much all we know about James the son of Alphaeus.
Thaddeus is known by early church fathers as Thaddeus Trinomius, which means “Man with three names”. In Mark he is called Thaddeus (Mark 3:18), in Matthew he is called Labbaeus (Matthew 10:30) and Judas the brother of James (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13). This last name is significant because it most likely identifies him as the Apostle who asks Jesus in John 14:22, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” And I would like to spend the remainder of our time looking at this passage and what it means for us today.
John 14:22 - 31
Verse 22: Judas (Thaddeus) is perplexed by Jesus’ talk about the Helper and how he is manifesting himself to the disciples (Jesus introduces the “Helper” Holy Spirit in the first part of John 14). Thaddeus wonders how Jesus will be able to make himself known and seen only to his disciples and not to the world? He may have thought that Jesus was referring to him returning as the victorious conquering Messiah to Israel which they knew would be a very public display.
Scripture tells us that Jesus will indeed return and manifest himself to the whole world as the victorious Messiah at his Second Coming. We are told everyone will bend the knee before him as Lord and Savior. However, this is not the manifestation Jesus is speaking about. He tells his disciples that he will come back to them after his death, and he will manifest himself to them. He will physically return to the disciples after his death in his resurrected body. We see this in many accounts in both the Gospels and Acts.
Verse 23: Jesus says love and obedience go hand in hand. He says, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Here we see that obedience is the outward expression of true love for Jesus. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will…
Verse 24: Disobedience, on the other hand, is the evidence of unbelief and rebellion towards God. A person who has rejected Jesus is obviously not in love with Him. One who is disobedient will…
Verse 25 - 26: These are important words Jesus wants his followers to hear. He speaks to them while he is still here on earth.
However, the time is drawing near for his departure, and he will not be around much longer to teach and remind his followers of the words he has spoken. Thus, the Father will send The Helper, the Holy Spirit, to teach them all they need to know and remind them of his words. When Jesus and the Father dwell in the believer through the Holy Spirit the believer will then be guided by the Spirit. He will become the teacher, He will be the one to bring to remembrance the words Jesus Spoke, and He will guide them in all truth.
Jesus gives these words of comfort to the disciples because when he leaves this world the disciples will be left on earth to be Christ’s representatives. The world is usually depicted as hostile towards God. The world represents the created order and the people who live in it and many of whom have rebelled against God and have no cares or concerns about God and His Kingdom. While still on earth the disciples (and believers throughout history for that matter) will depend on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit will be in the believer to help, comfort, exhort, encourage, and empower him as they (we) dwell here on earth to be true representatives for Jesus Christ. The Spirit is given for our benefit and God’s glory.
Verse 27: The next promise given is peace. Peace (shalom) – The peace Jesus speaks of has a deeper meaning than what we have come to know peace in modern history. We generally think of peace as the absence of conflict, but this is the unstable peace the world has to offer. Those of you who lived in the 60s and early 70s are aware of the temporal and faux peace the world promoted. There was a movement of peace, love, and happiness but everything about the peace (and love and happiness for that matter) was temporary, selfish, and disingenuous.
The shalom Jesus speaks of is a peace that surpasses all understanding and is rooted in salvation. It is an inward peace; a peace of mind and a security in knowing your future destiny. It’s a peace that comes when you know you have been forgiven of your sins, where you can lean on the promise of the indwelling of the Spirit, in knowing you are redeemed and will be restored, and in having security in knowing whether in danger or safety you are in the arms of the Father.
Jesus not only leaves us peace, but he gives us His peace. He tells his us that we are to take comfort in this. To the disciples he tells them not to let their hearts be troubled or afraid. There will be tumultuous times ahead because after his death their persecution will increase. So he tells them to take hold of that peace and let it reign in your hearts.
Today we have this same promise given to us. Jesus has left us with and given us his peace that is far greater than the artificial peace of the world. We are still living in tumultuous times… The future is uncertain. We are reminded that we do not have complete control over all things… In fact, we have very little control in our lives… Yet we should not allow our hearts to be troubled, nor be afraid. We are to rest in the peace that Jesus has left and given us. As followers of Jesus, we can know true (shalom) even amid uncertainty, persecution, and turmoil.
Verse 28: Jesus re-assures and reminds his disciples that he is leaving. If the disciples truly understood what this meant, then they would be rejoicing with him. If they knew the reality of what Jesus was going to accomplish, then they would be behind him 100%. In his death and resurrection Jesus is beginning the restoration process and He is going back to the Father, and this is cause for celebration, not sadness.
Verse 29: He tells the disciples this beforehand so when the time of his crucifixion comes and when he is raised from the dead their faith would remain strong. I am sure there were times of doubt among the disciples as Jesus hung on the cross and now, he tells them, “Remember what I am doing and why I am doing it and let this strengthen your faith.”
Verse 30, 31: The ruler of this world could refer to Caesar but also refers to the one who is behind all acts of evil... Satan. Jesus assures this ruler has no claim on him. Satan is the accuser, and he has nothing on Jesus. His plan is to try and destroy the works of God but cannot succeed.
Just as the believer shows love to Jesus through faithful obedience, Jesus shows love to the Father through faithful obedience. God has called Jesus to the cross of Calvary, and He goes voluntarily and obediently because he loves the Father. His obedience (even obedience to the cross) will speak volumes of his love for the Father.
As we conclude today, we have a lot to be reminded of and promises to hold on to.
Preview or buy my books
I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.