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  It is our pleasure to now introduce Mr. Brent Timmons from Family Ministries in Bridgeville, DE. From time to time Brent will share some Christ-centered devotional thoughts from choice texts. Enjoy!

 

Preparing the Way of The Lord

  Introduction

One Sunday, someone mentioned the phrase "Prepare the Way of The Lord". We had been singing a song with that phrase. I thought to myself, "Do I really know what that means". How do we prepare the way of The Lord? What does The Word say about "preparing the way of The Lord?"

A few obvious things come to mind, like simply telling people about the gospel. But I thought "is that all there is to it? There's got to be more to it than that."So I started studying, and looked primarily at Isaiah chapter 40 and the four gospel accounts of John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer as some prefer to refer to him.

We are going to look at the ministry of John, but we're not just studying to learn about John the Baptizer. When we study, we want to see Christ. We want to see what He will look like as He lives His life out in us. So we are not just studying to see how John prepared the way of Christ... we want to see how we prepare the way of Christ .

What I would like to suggest today is that there are some principles of "Preparing the Way of The Lord"illustrated by the ministry of John. That is what I want to look at.

Let's start with looking at the prophecy concerning John. In Isaiah 40, the scripture reads:

Isaiah 40

3 ¶ A voice is calling , "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

4 "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley;

5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see [it] together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

The voice may apply to others, but it seems to specifically apply to John the Baptist. And the prophecy says John is calling for other people to " clear the way for The Lord ".

Matthew also refers to John as "The voice of one crying in the wilderness".

Matthew 3:

3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'"

  And the cry is for the path to be made straight .

Mark refers to John as the one preparing the way. But John also calls for others to prepare the way.

Mark 1:

2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;

3 THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'"

Luke words it like this:

Luke 3:

4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.

5 'EVERY RAVINE SHALL BE FILLED UP, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL SHALL BE BROUGHT LOW; AND THE CROOKED SHALL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH;

6 AND ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.'"

In the Gospel of John, someone asks John the Baptizer himself who he is. John replies:

John 1:

23 ... "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said."

The point is that John had a twofold purpose. John was to "prepare the way of The Lord". But he also was giving a rallying cry to others to "make ready the way". Those "others", of course, are us.

There is still a way to be prepared for The Lord. He still needs someone to prepare His way.

Where is He trying to go? He is trying to make His way into the hearts of man . He is trying to make His way into some hearts for the first time. He is trying to make His way deeper into the hearts of all of us.

We are all used to prepare the way of The Lord as He makes His way into the hearts of others. And others will be used to prepare the way for Him to make it into our own hearts.

If we look at John, we can see some principles of how we will be used to prepare the way of The Lord as He makes His way towards the hearts of those around us. We can take those same principles, and understand what it will look like as The Lord makes His way towards our own hearts.

Principle 1: I will be used to lower the Mountains and raise the valleys

Let's look at the first principle. This is not hard. It is right here in the scripture.

Isaiah 40:3 "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

4 "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley;

Luke 3: 4,5 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. 'EVERY RAVINE SHALL BE FILLED UP, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL SHALL BE BROUGHT LOW; AND THE CROOKED SHALL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH;

  The best I can tell, these phrases may be a reference to an ancient tradition of preparing the way for a dignitary to come into a country. It seems that people would go ahead of that person and actually make the path easier to travel.

It is a very appropriate analogy. Christ the King is coming into the country, so to speak, and someone needs to prepare the way.

As we have said, The Lord is on a path towards the heart of men and women. And between Him and those hearts, there are mountains and valleys. What are those mountains and valleys? I think they are anything that is making it difficult for The Lord to beat a path to the hearts of those He seeks. They are whatever it is that is standing between me and God, making it difficult for us to have fellowship. Perhaps it is a misconception I have of The Lord. Maybe it is a difficult situation where the person says to himself "this can't be God. God would not allow this".

The mountains and valleys will be different for every individual. And for that reason, there will be someone tailor made who will prepare the path. There will be someone for me who will prepare the way. I will be used to prepare the way for someone else , maybe one person. The thing is, we don't know who will prepare our way, and we don't know whose way we will prepare. But what we may find is that The Lord has seen us through some situation that gives me a testimony of what He can do. And then, I am in a unique position to share that work of The Lord with someone who may need to hear just that.

This is our ministry, and the first principle ... we will be used to make the path straight for The Lord to make His way to the heart of someone around us. I don't know necessarily know who that person will be. I just know it is part of what The Lord wants to do.

I need to be careful that I am actually lowering the mountains and raising the valleys, and not the other way around. I could make the path more difficult. In the flesh, I can easily make it more difficult for The Lord to make His way to the heart of someone. In my flesh, I can easily erect a wall that will make it difficult for someone to see The Lord.

So how do I know what the mountains and valleys are in a person's life? How do I know how to make the path straight? I may never know. It is a work of The Spirit that allows a person to see The Lord. I just need to be open to being used.

We just trust The Lord and rest in the fact that the way will be prepared. It was prophesied in Isaiah 40. Isaiah 40:5 says Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed , And all flesh will see [it] together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Of course we understand that we aren't doing the work of preparation. The Lord is the One doing the preparation. We are just the tools.

Principles 2, 3, 4: John gives specific instructions as to how I will prepare the way

  One question we may have is "where do we do this? How do we know where to prepare the way". Well, let's look at John. Every one of the accounts refers to John as "One crying in the wilderness". There's our answer. We go to the wilderness , and we prepare the way.

Where exactly is the wilderness? A wilderness is an area that is less settled than other areas. It doesn't necessarily mean it is completely unsettled, but that it is largely unsettled. I have plenty of those in my heart. Some of you probably have some unsettled areas in your hearts. Any wilderness needs to be prepared for The Lord to come in and settle that area. There are plenty of wilderness areas for The Lord to settle. We are surrounded by them.

Another question I may have is "How will I know who specifically needs to see The Lord.""How will I know who it is that The Lord is trying to reach through my life?"That's easy too, if we consider how John determined who it was the Lord wanted to reach. Look in:

Matthew 3

5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him , and all Judea , and all the district around the Jordan ;

6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River , as they confessed their sins.

Mark 1

5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him , and all the people of Jerusalem ; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River , confessing their sins.

Luke 3

7 He therefore [began] saying to the multitudes who were going out to be baptized by him...

This isn't complicated. The people will come to you . You don't have to worry yourself with who it is that the Lord wants to reach through your life. The Lord will bring those people to you. Now I don't mean we sit in front of our TVs and wait for someone to knock on the door and ask if we will prepare the way of The Lord for them. I just mean

that The Lord will cause our paths to cross. I don't need to worry myself with who it is The Lord wants to reach. Our paths may cross on the job, on the street where I live, or in Russia .

A third question that John specifically addresses is when the people ask "what shall we do". We find this in Matthew 3.

Matthew 3

1 ¶ Now in those days John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea , saying,

2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD , MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'"

Then John addresses a group of Pharisees and Sadducees who came to be baptized, but apparently came with the wrong heart. If you read this in Luke's account, it doesn't specify who the audience is, but from Matthew's account, John seems to be specifically speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees:

7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance;

9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

10 "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

  I don't want to get into what that is all about. What I want to look at is the question posed by the multitudes. For this, we need to jump over to Luke's account. It is the same context.

Luke 3:10 And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, " Then what shall we do ?"

One commentator views their question as "what must we do to bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance". (Keep to myself?) And he defines repentance like this: " That repentance which is unto life, leads men to desire a knowledge of their duty for the purpose of performing it, to break off their sins, and to engage in doing good, as they have opportunity, to the bodies and souls of men."I have a little trouble with that. It sounds to me like he is saying "true repentance creates a desire in me to find out what I am supposed to do, and once I see that, then I can go out and do good". Where is the work of Christ in that?

But I am not so sure that they were asking "what must we do to bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance". I would like to suggest that John's address to the Pharisees and Sadducees was an aside. He turned to them and addressed a problem they were having, the problem of coming with the wrong heart. The "bringing forth fruits"was directed towards them , not the multitudes. We will get into the Pharisees and Sadducees more later.

What was it that the multitudes were really asking? John had just told them to "MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT."I think they were asking what it was they were to do to " make ready the way of The Lord ". So what we read is John's answer to the question "how do we, the average person, prepare the way of The Lord "

Luke 3:

11 And he would answer and say to them, "Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."

12 And [some] tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do ?"

13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to."

14 And [some] soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And [what about] us, what shall we do ?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse [anyone] falsely, and be content with your wages."

 

So what was John really saying? He simply said that they should go out and do basically what they had been doing before, only do it a little differently, which he gets into a few verses later.

  Then John speaks about himself. He says to them "as for what I do to prepare the way of The Lord..."

15 ¶ Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ,

16 John answered and said to them all, " As for me , I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

John says "I am preparing the way of The Lord by baptizing in water. But when CHRIST comes, He will put His Spirit in you. THEN, He will prepare the way Himself THROUGH you. And He will do it through you in the things you have already been doing. So just go out and LIVE, and let Christ LIVE through you. And it doing that, you will be preparing the way for Christ to come to those around you.

  It is critical that we understand that the life of Christ is indispensable here. We can't live that life on our own effort. It has to be Christ. To think otherwise is presumptuous, and an attack against the work of Christ.

Principle 5: I will differentiate for others between the flesh and the spirit.

The heart of John's message

The last principle we want to look at is really the heart of John's message. And it revolves around what many of us typically think of when we think of what John was doing. Let me read it out of Mark.

Mark 1

4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem ; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River , confessing their sins .

This is what first occurred to me when I thought of "preparing the way of The Lord". To prepare the way, we preach repentance of sins. But I don't think it is that straightforward or simple. There has to be more to it than that. To understand it, I think we have to look at all that John said. Let's look at Matthew.

Matthew 3

5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea , and all the district around the Jordan ;

6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River , as they confessed their sins.

7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance;

9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

10 "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were doing what seemed to be required, at least on the surface. They were coming to confess their sins and be baptized. But something was wrong with the way they did that. And I take that as a lesson for us that John's message is not as simple as "preach repentance, and you will be preparing the way of The Lord".

I think the problem the Pharisees and Sadducees had was a matter of their heart. They took this as just another thing they were supposed to do to save themselves from the wrath of God. They were going through another motion. John recognized this, and used them to point out the heart of his message.

His message was this:

Matt. 3:11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

John knew that his baptism was in fact just a symbol. It would not save anyone or change anyone's heart. John's baptism was just a sign on the part of the person being baptized that they were looking forward to (in the direction of) the work of Christ. What a person who was baptized by John was saying was this: I am looking towards the work of Christ, and once that work is done, then it is THAT work that will make a way for the Holy Spirit to do the work of change. It is THAT work that will save me, not my own effort to "bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance".

John was saying "Don't mistake being dunked in this water as the real thing! I am only performing something tangible. I am only dealing with the physical. I am only pointing the way. What you really need is a work of The Spirit".

John understood that people were coming to repent and be baptized, but they had no ability in their own strength to make that a permanent work. They could only step in that direction. Given a little time, they would fall again. John KNEW that. That is why he tries to make clear that the One coming after Him was so much greater.

John uses the Pharisees and Sadducees to make his point. They didn't understand about their own inabilities. They were coming with the impression that the work would be accomplished by their own effort at repentance. They were not interested in the greater work of Christ that they MUST look towards.

  And that is the essence of the principle. As a preparer of the way of Christ, we will differentiate between the flesh and the Spirit. We will make clear for people the difference between what they can do by their own strength, their own flesh, and what the Spirit must do FOR them.

John was making another point about repentance. By pointing out the problem of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he was saying that it is The Lord who moves on your heart and causes repentance. If it isn't The Lord who brings it about, then you come to him with that "viper"heart, and come only to flee from the wrath of God. You can't bring forth any fruits of repentance because it wasn't The Lord who brought it about in the first place.

 

Final Thoughts:

What is it we can glean from the life of John the Baptizer? Let's consider it all at once.

John called us to prepare the way of The Lord. Where is the Lord going? He is trying to make His way to the hearts of those He created. He is making His way to the hearts of the lost, but also to our own hearts. We are all lost in some way.

By his life, John spelled out for us how we would prepare the way.

What will we be doing? We will be lowering mountains and raising valleys to straighten the path between The Lord and those He is seeking.

Where is it that the way needs preparing? Anywhere there is a wilderness, an unsettled area in someone's heart.

How do I know who The Lord is trying to reach through me? They will come to me.

How will I prepare the way? I go out and let Christ live through me.

What is the heart of the message of preparing the way? I will help others see the difference between the flesh and The Spirit.

How will I know if I'm doing it right?

Look at Luke 3:15

15 ¶ Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ ,

And John 1:19

19 ¶ And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, " Who are you ?"

20 And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, " I am not the Christ ."

21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he *said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."

22 They said then to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"

The people were wondering if John was Christ. Why was this happening? We can understand if we look at the prophesy concerning him in Luke 1:

Luke 1:

15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb.

John was filled with the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit we are filled with. So when we are preparing the way, I think the same will happen to us as happened to John. People will watch us living our lives and mistake us for Christ. Not literally of course. I mean they will watch us and see a Christ-like life, because what they are seeing actually is Christ living through us.

And what is our response to that? Look at John 1:20 again:

20 And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, " I am not the Christ ."

And then John 1:29

29 ¶ The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him, and *said, " Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

  We must be quick to point to Christ. If others see something in us that looks like Christ, it's not us . We can't take any credit for that . We're not like that naturally. And we say to those people "go out and follow HIM , not me"!

And one final word. We are like John the Baptizer, in that we not only prepare the way of The Lord, but we send out a rallying cry to those around us. We teach others to prepare the way. When we go to Russia, or China, or any other country, when we gather right here, or when we live during the week together, a big part of what we do is to teach each other how to prepare the way of The Lord to come into the lives of the people where that local believer resides. Because the local believers are in the best position to do it. It is their lives which the locals see every day of the year. It is the local believers who Christ wants to live through to touch the lives of those around him.

 

 

These are not original thoughts. Most of it came from things I have heard people say right here. One of my gifts is organization (although some who live close to me might call it a curse). I have just organized what I have heard and put it all together. So if you don't like what I say, come to me afterwards, I'll tell you where I got that thought, and you can go to that person.

It is encouraging to me to actually see for myself things that others claim to see in The Word. I don't mean understanding a passage someone else is teaching, I mean seeing those same truths in other parts of The Word. I trust this will be encouraging to you as well. You already know these things. I just want to point them out in the story of Christ's birth.

Ever watch "Charlie Brown's Christmas"? I like the fact that right in the middle of the cartoon, the gospel message is clearly presented through the written word of God spoken by Linus.

What I want to look at is that same passage Linus recites, The Christmas Story recorded in Luke chapter 2. I would like to suggest that the way in which The Lord reveals Himself to the shepherds in this story is the same way that The Lord reveals Himself us , whether it be for the first time, or any time after that in our life with Him.

When Christ was born into this world, it was actually a revelation of Christ. It was God revealing Christ here on earth as a human being. The way God revealed Christ to the shepherds is instructive for us right now . If we can understand how God revealed Christ to the shepherds, then we have an understanding of how He will reveal Christ to US. We will have what I'll call principles that show us how God will reveal Christ to us today.

Christ is our avenue for knowing God. The Father reveals Christ, and therefore I see God. If I have seen the Son, I have seen the Father.

We are not focusing here on the birth of Christ as a one-time event 2000 years ago. We are focusing on the continuous revelation of Christ throughout our lives. If we look at this passage as a one-time event, we will miss the complete point. We do not see the full Christ in one revelation. The Holy Spirit must reveal Christ to us a little at a time. We can't see Him all at once. The way He first revealed His Son to the world is the same way He continuously reveals Himself to us now. These principles just help us understand how He does that.

Before we get started I want to make a one point just so we are all on the same page. I have heard the phrase used "If we see Him, we will be changed". I have had trouble putting that together. WHY will we be changed if we see Him? I think I am beginning to see some of it now. Let me put it into other words.

We need to start with what we mean by God "revealing Christ". Simply put, it is the process of God opening my eyes as to who He is. When The Lord reveals Christ to me, when I " see Him ", then I have a better understanding of His character, of how He works, of what He is trying to do in me, around me, through me, in the kingdom, in others, and on and on.

And when I SEE that (when I see Him) then I can't help but to allow Him to live through me. I see that my ways do not compare to His ways. My ways look hopeless, worthless, feeble, frustrating, of the flesh.

I heard a friend say one day "it went the way of all flesh". When I pressed him for an explanation, he said... "rot, decay, and death". THAT describes the ultimate result of my own efforts, of walking in my own ways, of walking in the flesh.

Once I see that, once He shows me MY ways next to HIS ways, then I willingly walk in His ways and allow Him to live His life out in me. It is not quite a matter of me changing , but a matter of me falling away , of my fleshly character falling away, and His character, His life coming through. THAT IS WHY WE WANT TO SEE CHRIST. THAT IS WHY WE WILL BE CHANGED .

It isn't just a catchy thing to say. We don't just desire to see Christ to know ABOUT Him. We desire to see Christ because He is the source of all life, and the fruit of seeing Him is a new life.

I have 11 points or principles I want to share that are based on this passage. Believe me, I was tempted to manipulate it into 12 principles, but I just left it alone.

Outline

If HE doesn't reveal Christ, we will not see Him

Luke 2:7

The Lord will use special circumstances to reveal Himself to you.

Luke 2:7

God will reveal His Son in the midst of everyday life to ordinary people.

Luke 2:8

When we are in the dark, we are in a good place to receive light.

Luke 2:8 Is. 9:2

They had no need to be frightened

Luke 2:9 Ex. 20:19

There will be a sign for us to know it is Christ.

Luke 2:12

There is Someone God is pleased with.

Luke 2:14

There is a searching that must take place to find Christ.

Luke 2:15

There will be no doubt it is Him

Luke 2:12, 16

When we see Him, others will be encouraged, and see a fuller Christ

Luke 2: 18

We will be compelled to go out and share what we have seen

Luke 2:20

Let's go ahead and read the whole passage. I'll be using the New American Standard version.

Luke 2:

8 ¶ And in the same region there were [some] shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 "And this [will be] a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger."

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

15 And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds [began] saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."

16 And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them

If HE doesn't reveal Christ, we will not see Him

Luke 2:7

As far as I can see, there is no record of the innkeeper ever knowing that The Savior had been born in his stable (or wherever it was near the inn). He may have known that a child was born, but as far as I know it was not revealed to him that it The Messiah was born there. I wonder why that was? Perhaps the innkeeper would have gotten in the way of the birth... perhaps he would have offered Mary and Joseph HIS room. But that wasn't God's intent. It wasn't revealed to him who this child was.

That brings us to the first principle...if The Holy Spirit doesn't reveal Christ, we will not see Him.

Like the innkeeper, if The Lord doesn't reveal Himself to us, WE WILL NOT SEE HIM! He may be right under our noses, but we miss Him. We can't see Him with our own eyes, with our minds, with rational reasoning, with lots of study of the Bible, with lots of prayer....unless He opens our eyes. Certainly He uses these things, but without Him opening our eyes, we see nothing.

And like the innkeeper, there may be a reason that God chooses not to reveal Christ to us at a particular moment. Certainly His desire is to show us The Son, but there may be a brief time when we don't see Him in a situation...a time when we don't understand what's going on. Maybe it is to bring us to an end of our own flesh. Maybe He allows us to experience frustration with our own efforts. But at some point, at just the right moment, He will show us Christ. And once we see Him, we can rest in the situation. In the meantime, He puts us in a position where we must trust Him. And that is how He builds our faith in Him.

Having said that, it is our prayer that The Lord will allow us to see His heart in the Luke account.

The Lord will use special circumstances to reveal Himself to you.

Luke 2:7

Christ wasn't born in the stable because He was a victim of the circumstances. He CHOSE to be born there. There was a PURPOSE in His being laid in a manger. If Mary and Joseph had found room in the inn, the revelation to the shepherds may never have taken place! I may not be standing here right now sharing about the shepherds.

Would the shepherds have had the nerve to knock on the doors of inns looking for the child if they had been told the child would be in an inn? Would they have even been allowed into an inn to see the Christ Child? Ever heard stories that shepherds stunk of sheep? Many of the principles I want to point out would not have been illustrated at all if Christ had not been born exactly in the way He was.

The Lord did a special thing for the shepherds. He created a set of circumstances to allow them to see the Christ Child. He created a set of circumstances specifically for them . It required a little effort on their part (to go to Bethlehem and find the manger), but it was realistic for them to do. To an outsider, it may appear that Christ was a victim, that he got the short end of the stick. But apparently, The Lord wanted the shepherds to see the child, and perhaps even more specifically the shepherds needed to see the child in the manger.

And this is the second principle. The Lord will use special circumstances to reveal Himself to you.

The difficult circumstances of His birth were designed with a purpose in mind. They were circumstances that allowed the shepherds to see Christ. What makes you think He will not do the same for YOU?! He will create a set of circumstances specifically designed to allow you to see Christ! They may be difficult circumstances, but they are designed with a purpose.

Did Joseph and Mary feel like a victim of the circumstances, or did they recognize the hand of The Lord in Jesus being born in the stable? Imagine the state Mary and Joseph could have been in if they were short sighted... "we know the child is prophesied to be born in Bethlehem . But we live in Nazareth . How will this happen? Should we just go there?"Then, God orchestrates a set of circumstances for it all to fall into place.

We don't know what method He will use to bring about his will. But we don't have to worry. Mary and Joseph were just being obedient to the law of the land, they just looked for a place to stay, they just looked for something to wrap their child in, they were just living, and at the same time were walking in His perfect will !

See v.19...Mary treasured these things in her heart. She must have recognized His hand. (Born in Bethlehem , wrapped in cloths, born to a virgin). I don't think they felt like victims of circumstances. They faced some difficult circumstances, but because they trusted in the hand of The Lord in this situation, I expect they were filled with joy in the midst of it all.

If we can see the circumstances, as difficult as they may be, as His hand, then we too could treasure the difficult times!!! If we don't see the circumstances as from His hand, then we will always feel like a victim...a victim of circumstances. Just my dumb luck for this to happen to me. Etc., etc.

Christ CHOSE to be born in Bethlehem , the city of David , in a manger. Not just to fulfill prophesy, but because this was the way God wanted His birth to happen. There was a purpose in His being born there. I don't claim to know all the reasons. I think it was partly because He was a king in the line of David, and partly so that we could see some things in His birth that would be instructive to us. Prophecy simply foretold of the event. The event didn't follow so that this prophesy might come true!!! They didn't go there because Caesar Augustus sent out a decree. Caesar was simply used by God to facilitate His will.

I used to get frustrated thinking that if someone knew what was prophesied, they could choose to walk that way, and it would appear that the prophesy was fulfilled...no big deal. No miracle there. But that isn't what happened here. The Lord orchestrated the birth exactly the way HE wanted, and then beforehand gave the prophesy to Isaiah years before.

God will reveal His Son in the midst of everyday life to ordinary people

Luke 2:8

What was it about being shepherds that was so important to The Lord that He chose to reveal the coming of the Christ child to them ? Look at what the shepherds were doing... 'staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night."They were in the midst of everyday life. Just working. They were just lowly shepherds. They must have wondered why the angels came to them, and not a priest or some religious leader.

The fact God chose THEM was not chance, it was on purpose. I think it was partly to illustrate the way God has always wanted to reveal Himself to the world . I think it puts an emphasis on the fact that hearing from God, relationship with God, comes through Grace, it is a gift. Hearing from God is not based on how much I know ABOUT Him, how well trained I am, how may scriptures I know. Hearing from God is based on grace. That's why God revealed Himself to ordinary shepherds. He wanted to emphasize that point.

We will talk more about why He revealed Himself specifically to shepherds later.

This is the next principle I think is illustrated here...God will reveal His Son in the midst of everyday life to ordinary people.

Just as He revealed Himself to the shepherds, The Lord reveals himself to us in the midst of everyday life. In the midst of our work, in the midst of going to school, in the midst of being someplace I don't want to be. And He reveals Himself to the average person....nobody great. There are no special qualifications or training or degrees necessary .

We all know what " everyday life "entails. For most of us, it involves suffering, hardship, dealing with difficult people, difficult circumstances. It is in the midst of these very situations that He reveals Himself . It is His way to use hardship to reveal Himself to us. It's what gets through to us.

This isn't His second best, though. It isn't that He takes a difficult situation and thinks "O.K., now how can I use this for good...How can I patch this situation up?"These situations are by His design.

I don't want to get myself in trouble by implying that God causes bad things to happen to us to reveal Christ to us. I don't think that would be accurate. What I think is that there is nothing that happens that isn't allowed by God. We can agree on that can't we? The enemy's power in a situation is NEVER stronger than God's power. If He allows a hardship to come about, it is only because He knows He can use it for His purpose. So ultimately, He is actually in control of all things, all situations. If that doesn't bear witness to you, then just toss it out.

But consider this. Speaking of God allowing bad things to happen...

God willingly sent His one and only Son into the world as a man, knowing that in 33 years this son would have to die on a cross. But not just that...God knew that as Christ, His son, hung there on the cross, He would have to say to that son "you are no longer acceptable to me son, you will have to be separated from me because of the sin you now carry."It was that way by design. God knew all along it was to happen. As a matter of fact, in was because of His own requirement that it must happen. So why did He do it? Because He wanted to be with you and I, and there was NO OTHER WAY. So you see, God knows what it is like to use difficult circumstances for His purposes. He invented the idea.

I've gotten away from the "ordinary'shepherds, so let's get back to them. I want to say one more thing about God revealing Himself to ordinary shepherds. Maybe you view yourself as a stinky old shepherd. And you're thinking "The Lord would NEVER reveal Himself to me in this condition ."I need to clean up first. NONSENSE! He will meet you where you are if your heart is toward Him. It is HIS WAY, HIS PASSION. It is illustrated by the fact that some of the first people who saw Him were plain old shepherds, right out of the fields.

When we are in the dark, we are in a good place to receive light.

Luke 2:8, Is. 9:2

The shepherds were in the dark of night when the angels visited them to tell them of the coming of Christ. The "glory of the Lord'shone around them. I assume what they saw was light. But whether they saw light or not really isn't that important. The fact they saw His Glory, and in the midst of that, He tells them that they are about to see Christ...that is the issue.

This is not complicated...The question for us is: Where is a good place to be to receive a word about the coming of Christ into our lives... to receive a word that Christ has come, and wants to reveal Himself to us? It may be the first time He reveals Himself to us, but probably for most of us, it is the need to see Him revealed into a particular area of our lives.

  The answer to that question is the next principle. This is pretty straightforward...you're in a good place to receive a word, to receive light, when you're in the dark. That's when you need to see Christ .

Look at Is 8:21 . This is a prophesy immediately preceding a prophesy of the birth of Christ. It describes the condition of Israel before Christ:

Is 8:21- And they will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish ; and they will be driven away into darkness.

Now lets look at Is. 9:4 (This is speaking of the coming of Christ) For Thou shalt break the yolk of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.

Let's look a moment at the battle of Midian (Judges 6:1)

Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. And the power of Midian prevailed against Israel . Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza , and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey . For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.

I think this passage also describes US when we are walking in darkness, before Christ comes into a situation in my life. Don't get tripped up by that statement "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord". I think for us it means we come up short of God's ways. That pretty much happens all the time huh? And if we are coming up short, we are walking in darkness. When we are walking in darkness, whether it be before we ever come to Christ, or that we are just walking in darkness in some area of our lives, I think this passage describes our condition too. The enemy is coming in like locusts and devastating my land. We all walk in darkness to some degree. Some have never seen any light at all. They have never trusted in Jesus. But then as believers, there are always areas of darkness in our lives...areas that remain unchanged...areas where we have no "light". And we feel powerless over our enemy.

Now look at the prophesy of Christ immediately following that in Is. 9:1- It is a prophesy of what the Messiah will do for Israel .

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish;...The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness ; they will be glad in Thy presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.

This isn't just what God wanted to do for Israel through the Messiah...it is a prophesy of what Christ will do for us as well. It is a description of what light does for us...what

seeing Christ does for us. The Lord defeated Midian for Israel . He will defeat Midian for us too.

The shepherds were in darkness and received light. That wasn't just by chance. It was instructive. We are in darkness and we receive light...continuously...there are always areas of darkness in our lives...always areas that need light. The coming of Christ meant a light in darkness for the shepherds. The coming of Christ for us means Christ's light in the dark areas of our lives as well.

If you are in the dark, you are in the perfect place to receive light, to receive a revelation of Christ. There is no need to despair if you find yourself in the dark. We just say "Lord, I'm in the dark here! I need some light. I need you to bring light into this darkness!!!"

While we are looking at prophesy, let's look at one more thing in Is. 9:7... "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace..."

I think we can apply that directly to us. The will be no end to the increase of His government (in my own heart) or of peace (in my own heart). In other words, He will forever increasingly rule in my own heart, in the sense that He will forever increase my willingness to let Him have His way in my life. And He will forever increase the peace in my own heart. I think one follows the other...as I allow Him to rule, the byproduct of that is peace in my own heart. That's what I have to look forward to in the Birth of Christ.!!! That is what Isaiah prophesied concerning the Christ child.

They had no need to be frightened any longer.

Luke 2:9

The shepherds were terribly frightened. Remind you of anything? When Moses went up to the mountain, the people were frightened. God revealed Himself through the Law. They should have been frightened. God was frightening in Ex 19. And that is the beginning of the next principle: It was no longer necessary to be frightened.

Let's look at how God gave the Law.

Ex 19 : 10 The Lord also said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments;

•  and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

•  "And you shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, "Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.

•  "No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live'. When the ram's horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain."

•  So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled .

•  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

•  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.

•  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.

•  And the Lord came down on Mount Sinai , to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

•  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, " go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish.

•  "And also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them."

•  And Moses said to the Lord, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai , for Thou didst warn us, saying, "Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.'"

•  Then the Lord said to him, "Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest He break forth upon them."

•  So Moses went down to the people and told them.

  The next portion of scripture is God delivering the Law to Moses. We will pick it up in Chapter 20:

Chapter 20:18 And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.

•  Then they said to Moses , " Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."

  Then Moses offers these words of "comfort":

•  And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you , so that you may not sin."

•  So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

After this, we see pages and pages of God listing rules for the people to follow. It is referred to as the "Mosaic Covenant". Then God formally ratified the covenant:

  Ex. 24:12 Now the Lord said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction."

•  So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God .

•  But to the elders he said, "Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them."

•  Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.

•  And the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai , and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.

•  And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.

•  And Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

  Now don't misunderstand what I'm about to say here. There was a purpose for God revealing The Commandments. It was a revelation of His Character, His Heart, and the requirements to know Him, to be acceptable to Him.

But God knew that no one could fulfill those commandments until Christ came. And He delivered the Commandments in an almost frightening setting...and I think the point of it may have been to bring attention to the impossibility of doing all He was requiring. One wrong move and you die.

Now we jump up to Luke. Perhaps the shepherds thought of this when they saw the " Glory of the Lord". Perhaps their recollection of the "Glory of the Lord" reminded them of the delivery of the Law. They had every right to be frightened .

But here, at this moment in history, God is about to reveal Himself as a child. This is not the same way he spoke on the mountain. Look at the contrast! The angels were saying "there's no need to be afraid. God is about to speak as He did in Exodus, but this time he is about to speak in coos, in baby language!"This child is a picture of GRACE! This revelation is of God's Grace.

How is this a picture of Grace? Because this child will fulfill the law FOR US. To prove it to the shepherds, the angel says "go and see...it's just a little child."Yet this is God! There is no longer a need to be frightened! The angel said to them: Fear not, shepherds, because I bring you good news... THE ONE PERSON WHO CAN FULFILL THE LAW HAS ARRIVED!!!!! Talk about a reason for great joy!!!

That is the essence of the next principle. We too need to see God as Christ the child, gentle, and not frightening . The reason He is not frightening is because He is the fulfillment of the Law. He lived the law to perfection, but then, in dying, also took our

punishment for not following the law. If we fail to see Christ as the fulfillment of the Law, then, like the shepherds, we will be frightened in the presence of the Lord. But just as the fear of the shepherds must have dissipated once they realized that they were going to see God as a child, in the same way all fright of God will dissipate once Christ is revealed to us. Certainly we still walk in the "fear of the Lord", but not in fright of being punished to death for disobeying the law.

Just as the Angel spoke to the shepherds, He spoke once for all of us . Those words are for you and I...Fear not, because at last THE person who can fulfill the Law has arrived . There is no need to fear because this Christ will fulfill the law IN YOUR PLACE!!! That is the basis of our faith .

 

There will be a sign for us to know it is Christ.

Luke 2:12

What was the purpose of the sign the shepherds were given? So they would know that the prophecy was real? That what they were witnessing was real? Or was it so they would know which child was Christ? I think it may have been the latter.

The shepherds were given a word... "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger."So they went into town " and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger."

The shepherds were given two signs to assure them that the baby they found was the Christ Child. Wuest translates it "this will be an unusual and distinguishing token of identification for you."He would be wrapped in cloths. He would be in a manger.

And that leads to the next principle. I want to suggest that for us, He gives us signs that we might know that who we have found is indeed Christ.

First, He will be wrapped in cloths. The shepherds were told He would be wrapped up like any other poor baby. True, it was distinguishing, yet if they went into Bethlehem with their own expectations of what the child would look like, they would miss Him. They had to rely on the Word from The Lord, spoken by the angel. Relying on their own expectations would cause them to miss seeing Christ. In short, the sign they were given was that Christ would not necessarily look like they expected Him to look .

The sign for us is the same. To the average person looking through the eyes of flesh, Christ will just look like a poor little baby, born to poor parents. He will look "ordinary". His ways will look like ordinary circumstances, an ordinary day, an ordinary encounter with someone, an ordinary crisis...But through eyes of the Spirit, what we "find"will be The Lord working in the midst of those same "ordinary"circumstances, those same ordinary days, those same ordinary encounters with people, those same ordinary crisises. Through eyes of The Spirit, I see that His ways are different from my ways. He will be working in all circumstances of my life, in areas of my life I did not expect Him to be in .

His character will always be the same, but how we come to see it, to experience it, may not be in the way we expect. He may not be wrapped up the way we expect. Our fleshly expectations and preconceived ideas will get in the way of seeing Christ...they will limit us to seeing Him only in a way we expect to see Him. He may not be revealed according to our expectations, our earthly vision.

I would like to suggest that we often assume that what is on the surface is Christ, but in all actuality we have just settled for seeing a baby in a manger. Eyes of flesh see a baby in a manger...eyes of The Spirit see a Savior, a King, the perfect sacrifice, and on and on. We can only see Christ through eyes of The Spirit. And when we are seeing Him in the Spirit as the shepherds did, we will know that we are looking at more than a poor baby, we are looking at God Himself.

And the second sign ...He will be in a manger. The manger was a feeding trough. When we see Him, we will be fed. Our spirits will be fed. We will sense our hearts being satisfied if we truly see Christ. We will sense a satisfaction of that longing for relationship with God that we all feel.

Our kids just set up an ant farm that they got from their Aunt Marla and Uncle Jeff. As I sat watching them the other day, I thought about their instinct to tunnel (not our kids, the ants.) How did they know to do that? How did they know which ants were to dig, which were to stand guard on the top of the mound, which were to take care of the few who had died in transit, etc.? They were given instinct to do all that.

And I thought: were we given any instinct? I think one of our instincts is to search for relationship with our God. We are not satisfied with life if we lack that. And when we sense that instinct being fulfilled, that's what I mean by feeling fed. That's how we feel when we see Christ in the manger.

What is the sign for US? Let me put it the way Wuest did.. There will be an unusual and distinguishing token of identification for you to know that what you are seeing is Christ. He will show us what is Christ and what is not Christ if we just ask the Spirit to lead through His Word. The shepherds were given a Word about how to find Christ. We are given a Word also about how to find Christ. We'll get to that in a moment.

I want to try to illustrate this in one more way. If the shepherds had gone looking for a king, a baby dressed as a king, a baby hailed as a king...a king to lead Israel into greatness...they would have missed Christ. Throughout the time Christ was on earth, there were those who looked for this kind of Christ. It was a personal desire on their part. And they missed seeing Him. They may have been aware of this man called Jesus, but they did not recognize Him as Christ. Their preconceived ideas of the Messiah got in the way. We are very hard on the Jews who did not recognize who Christ was. We say to ourselves...how could they not see? They witnessed His life first hand! Part of the answer to that is that they were expecting someone else!

The question for us is "What are you expecting Christ to look like? If you are looking for someone other than who He is, you will miss seeing Him. The people of the New Testament had the Old Testament prophecy to go by. We have that plus the New Testament. We need to make sure that the Christ we are seeking is actually the Christ revealed in The Word. If we are looking for a Christ based on our own ideas about who He is, then we, JUST LIKE THE JEWS OF HIS DAY, will miss seeing Him today.

Do you want great power to live victorious, with no problems...a life of ease? Are you looking for a Christ to solve all of your problems? Are you looking for a Christ to solve all of your financial problems? Are you looking for a Christ to heal all your sickness? Are you looking for a Christ to make you FEEL good? Are you looking for a Christ who will just generally make your life go well? Are you looking for a Christ who will always tell you exactly what He is doing in your life? He may indeed deal with all these areas of your life, but not necessarily in the way you expect. And if this is the Christ you are looking for, you may miss Him altogether even though He is right there.

Did the shepherds see Christ for who He really was? I think YES! They didn't start talking about Israel returning as a great world power. Do YOU see Him for who He really is? Are you at peace with the work of God in your life, or are you still waiting for Him to come into your life with great power, immediately defeating all of your enemies, solving all of your problems, giving you a life of comfort. The Lord has a plan to deal with all of that in your life, but we need to remember... His ways are not our ways. The baby may not be wrapped up as you expect.

If He doesn't deal with you the way you expect, what are you going to do? Live in frustration, constantly waiting for the day He will, or will you Rest in the fact that He knows all things? He knows what's best, and His best may not be what I WANT or what I am anticipating from Him.

  There is another aspect of what we can expect to see in Christ, based on the shepherds' experience, and we touched on this before...you will see someone totally NOT frightening. Someone you can relate to, who can relate to YOU. Not the voice on the mountain that Moses had to go to. So, if what I am seeing is a Savior I can't relate to, a savior that is frightening, it may not actually be Christ. Our Savior is a God who knows first hand what it is like to be a man.

But there is yet a third sign , and I've left it until now because this is the order in which I saw it myself. It is an example of something being right under your nose but you don't see it.

"You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger."Do you see it? Do you see the third sign...well actually, it is the first sign. The shepherds were told they would find a baby...they would find a new child...they would find NEW LIFE !!! That is the first sign that what THEY were seeing was Christ. It is the first sign that what WE are seeing is Christ. When Christ is revealed to you, it will appear as NEW LIFE. It will be fresh...it will be the difference between something dead and something alive.

Look at what Jeremiah 31:31 says about the New Covenant:

Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, (although I was a husband to them), declares the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord, " I will put my law within them , and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

We are in the days of the New Covenant. This is our position NOW. I would suggest that the " put my law within them "means this...they will become dwellings for Christ. Christ fulfilled the law. Therefore, since Christ will dwell in them, the law with be within them. The law will be written on their hearts. But it will be due to the Christ dwelling within. That is new life . It means I live in a new way because of the work of Christ

If you sense NEW LIFE while you are seeking Christ, then I am saying it is a sign for you that you have seen Him. Christ has been revealed to you. If new life has been brought into an area of your life where there was once death, then the only possible answer is that you have seen Christ.

There will be no doubt it is Him

Luke 2:12, 16

Could there have been any doubt in the minds of the shepherds that this was the fulfillment of the word they had been given? Of course not. How many times do you see a baby lying in a manger?

  So here's the next point: When He reveals Himself to us, there will be no doubt that He has done so.

There was no question in the minds of the shepherds that this was Christ. They received a Word from The Lord, and then found Christ exactly as they were told they would find Him. When we receive a Word and find Christ, there will be no doubt in our hearts that Christ has been revealed to us when indeed He has been revealed.

Another way to see this is through Mary. When Christ has been revealed to us, and then comes forth in our lives, it is like Mary being visited by the Holy Spirit and then giving birth to Christ. We give birth in the same way. We bring Him forth into the world around us. There was no doubt in the mind of Mary about where this child came from. It was not of Joseph's flesh, it was of the Spirit. In the same way there will be no doubt in our hearts when Christ has revealed Himself to us and then comes forth from us. We will know it did not come from us, but from the life of Christ within us.

There is Someone God is pleased with

Luke 2:14

"Peace among men with whom He is pleased."I am no scholar, so I don't understand the original language. But something clicked in reading the New American Standard version of this verse. Even if the interpretation is off, we all know this to be true anyway.

Is this saying "peace among those particular men with whom God is pleased"? If that is so, then which men are He pleased with?

The first man He was pleased with was Adam. Look at Gen 1:31..."And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good."Here's my summation of the fall of man. By eating of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam chose a life of wanting to know what was good and what was evil, of wanting to know what was expected of him as a man, of trying to perform according to those expectations, and then trusting in his own strength to be able to do that. At that point, he was no longer pleasing, because that is basically the definition of life in the flesh. And that is the nature we are born with. We think we will live according to God's expectations on our own .
Now here's the principle: There IS Someone God is pleased with.

Here in Luke, Christ arrives. He is referred to as the last Adam. Finally God has a new man on the earth whom He can be pleased with. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean He was necessarily " displeased "with everyone in between. I am talking about the very core of these two types of men. At Adams core was a life after the flesh. At Christ's core was a life after the Spirit. And through that life after the Spirit, Christ lived the Law to perfection. And that made Him pleasing to The Father.

So here were are in Bethlehem , and The Multitude of the Heavenly Host says "Peace among men with whom He is pleased". I think they are referring first and foremost to this Christ Child, this last Adam. But the beauty of it all is that He is also pleased with those who put their lives in the hands of THIS CHILD, CHRIST HIMSELF. He is pleased with those who put their faith in the work of Christ. He is pleased with those who accept Him as their substitute. He is my substitute for perfect obedience to the Law, He is my substitute for paying the penalty for disobedience to the Law. And when The Father looks at us now, who He sees is Christ.

And there is another aspect to this. God is pleased with men who come as Christ did...men who come as a child. Christ came totally dependent on His heavenly Father. The Lord wants us to come to Him as children, totally dependent on Him. A child is totally dependent on his parents. He receives everything from them . Coming as a child pleases God. THOSE are the men with whom He is pleased.

There is another aspect of the fall of man and coming as children that are tied together. I think that one of the desires Adam had when he ate the apple was to know as God knows. I have given testimony before about how the Lord ministered to me by allowing me to see a situation at least partly the way He saw it. I talked about how I asked the Lord to open my eyes about a circumstance that was going on. But I need to be careful about how I say that, because with just a subtle twist, I can move from a desire to see because I know I am seeing incorrectly, to getting into a state where I will be at unrest UNLESS I SEE AS HE SEES. Somewhere in there is a stepping over the line. At some point I put a demand on The Lord to know what He knows. I become driven by a desire to know.

And I think that may have its root in the fall of man. Certainly it is a good thing to ask The Lord to shed light into a situation. But He knows exactly WHEN to shed the light. He knows exactly how much light to shed. And He is under no obligation to tell me everything He knows. By not telling me everything, He forces me to trust Him. He puts me in a position of coming as a child to Him, totally dependent on Him, totally trusting in His hand. THAT PLEASES HIM . And the only way I can do that is by the fact that CHRIST DID IT FIRST, AND NOW I CAN DO IT BECAUSE HE LIVES THROUGH ME. I don't follow His example, I ALLOW HIM TO LIVE. Practically speaking, it looks like this: I trust The Lord and do not have to know what's going on.

On Christmas Eve, my mother had to go to the E.R. to get fluids for being dehydrated. I was trying to get the kids together to go see her. I ask a simple thing of Elias... "Elias, go get your shoes on". The response I got was this... "WHY"? Anybody who has ever had any kids knows how IRRITATING that is. Need I say more? My Elias was not in a position of total dependence on his daddy. He was asking why, when "why"was not what I wanted to hear. Do you see my point???!!! It was not necessary for him to know why. And I don't know if this pertains to the story or not, but I ended up going to see my mother without Elias. It just seemed like the better thing to do.

"With whom He is pleased"points only to Christ, not to any man. God is saying "look to this Child, this Christ, this Messiah...and you will discover what pleases Me". Now look back at the first part of v.14...peace among men. Once you understand that only Christ pleases God, and that the only men who please God are those who put their faith and trust in Christ to PLEASE GOD FOR THEM, then IN THOSE MEN WILL RESIDE PEACE. ALL OTHER MEN WILL NOT BE AT PEACE WITH GOD .

  Verse 10 speaks of "great joy"... men were not the only ones who experienced great joy at this time. Look at this from the perspective of The Father. The Father was experiencing GREAT JOY. There is no greater joy for the Father than to have someone who trusts Him unconditionally...someone who says I believe that You ALWAYS have my best interest in mind...I can completely trust my life in Your hands...You tell me what YOU want to tell me on an "AS NEEDED"basis. You want to know how to please The Lord? THAT IS A MAN WHO PLEASES GOD. And that is what Christ did in coming to earth as a child. And when and only when I come to God IN Christ, I do the same.


There is a searching that must take place to find Christ.

Luke 2:15

How did the shepherds find the Christ child? My guess is that they went to Bethlehem and SEARCHED the town. They went from stable to stable until they found the right one. They were seekers. Wuest translates it: "And they came, having hastened, and after searching they located not only Mary and Joseph, but also the new-born infant lying in the feeding trough."

  The next principle is simply this: There is a searching that must take place to find Christ.

We have to be seekers of Christ like the shepherds were. We have been promised that Christ has come. The Good News spoken to the shepherds applies to us too . But we must go to Bethlehem and seek Him. Our seeking will be rewarded by finding Christ.

So where is our Bethlehem ? Bethlehem means "house of Bread". Christ is referred to as bread. We remember that every Sunday as we take communion. So we could say Bethlehem means "house of Christ". But Christ is also referred to as the Word. He is the embodiment of the written word. So, in essence, Bethlehem could be called "House of the Word". So we could say that Bethlehem for us is the written Word .

We search for Christ in the Word, and He will reward our search by allowing us to SEE HIM!!! It may be through our own personal search. It may be through someone else who has searched the Word and is teaching us. It may be through a set of circumstances in our lives that He uses to bring the written Word to life for us. In all cases, there will be somewhere in the Word that will explain the Christ we have seen. If not, we have not seen Christ.

And just one more point related to this. Why did the Shepherds have to go out and search? Why didn't the angel just say where to go? I think it points to the fact that The Lord loves a heart that desires to find Him. If the Word is given that Christ is there for the finding, but there is no heart to go and search for Him, then there is no reward of finding Christ.

 

When we see Him, others will be encouraged, and will see a fuller Christ

Luke 2: 17-18

The shepherds "made known the statement which had been told them about this Child."

The shepherds sharing what they had seen themselves must have been encouraging to Mary and Joseph.

At this point, there was probably no doubt in Joseph's mind about who the father of this child was. But, do you ever have second thoughts about something that was once crystal clear to you? Even if Joseph had no doubt, certainly this must have made the Word more sure . Certainly he would have known more confidently that this was God's Son!

For Mary, there was never any doubt about who this child was. So what impact would the words the shepherds shared have on her? Wuest translates the text this way... "And all those who heard marveled concerning the things which were spoken by the shepherds to them. But Mary kept on continually guarding all these words in her heart and bringing them together for the purpose of considering them in their total import."NAS translates... " But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."I think the words of the shepherds gave her a larger picture of who this child was. What she heard from them gave her more to "ponder on", as the scripture says.

And that brings us to the principle: When we see Christ, others will be encouraged, and will see a fuller Christ.

I think the point for us may be this...we need to take the time to treasure all that is going on around us, just as Mary did. We need to consider the Word spoken to us personally, the Word spoken to us through others, and the circumstances going on around us. IF SOMEONE HAS HEARD FROM THE LORD, AND FAILS TO SHARE THAT WITH US, WE WILL HAVE LESS TO WORK WITH. We will have less to "ponder"on concerning The Lord. I don't know if this will hinder us from seeing a complete Christ, but at the very least, hearing what someone else has seen of The Lord allows me to see a fuller Christ at that moment.

And just as Joseph must have been encouraged by the shepherds, sometimes we may need just one more word of encouragement from someone who has seen The Lord. One day, while trying to decide whether or not to do a certain thing, I almost didn't do what I felt I needed to do. Just about then, a country song came on the radio about a fellow who says "If I could do it over again, I'd do a lot of things different". Well, I didn't want to regret not doing this thing I was pondering on, so I did it. I think The Lord knew I needed just a little encouragement, just like Joseph did. Of course, this doesn't really illustrate my point at all. It wasn't a person who had seen Christ who encouraged me. It was some DJ who knew nothing about me who did it. But it is a good story isn't it? And it actually happened. But maybe it illustrates this...The Lord will use whatever is necessary to encourage me. He knows what that might be.

  We will be compelled to go out and share what we have seen

Luke 2:20

After this, the shepherds "went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them."Could they not help but tell others? It would have been no effort. Could you imagine trying to hold that story in? There would have been no way to keep them quiet!!! They simply told others what they saw and experienced.

The last principle is this: We will be compelled to go out and share what we have seen of Christ.

When Christ reveals Himself to us, we can't help but share with others what we see. We can't hold it back. It isn't a matter of "I should", but a matter of " I can't help but share what I have seen ..."If we are having trouble sharing with each other, perhaps the problem is that we aren't seeing Christ the way He intends us to. Sharing Christ will flow out of seeing Him, naturally...well, not naturally, but super -naturally.

And that leads to another reason why God picked shepherds to reveal Himself to. Because those who see Christ will one day shepherd others, ie will care for and feed the sheep. It was perfect for Him to reveal Himself to the shepherds. They shepherded in the flesh first, then saw Christ, then shepherded in The Spirit. They were just shepherds, and the text says they "went back"to shepherding their sheep. But they didn't go back as the same shepherds did they? Their lives must have been changed permanently. I wonder how many times they related their story? I'll bet they told almost everyone they knew, for the rest of their lives.

If you want to know about missions, about evangelism, take a lesson from the shepherds. Go to Bethlehem , see Christ, then go back to where you were...your ordinary life...and share what you have seen. Now I know the Lord commanded us to go out into the world and tell others about Him. But YOU HAVE TO GET THE ORDER RIGHT! If you aren't seeing Christ in Bethlehem first, if you aren't seeing Christ in The Word, you have nothing to tell about! Your first job is to see Him. He will lead you after that.

While working on this message, I would think about different people I know and would wonder if there was some word of encouragement for them in this message. I didn't come up with much, so I have to leave that in HIS hands. But The Lord did speak to me concerning this point I just shared.

Do you know someone who had something spectacular happen to them in the Lord...some experience in Christ? And they want to share it often? Sometimes in my flesh I have heard things like this and have grown perhaps a little tired of hearing it, as terrible as that may sound. But consider this. That person may have had an experience like the shepherds. People who knew those shepherds probably got tired of them telling their story. But it was so awesome they HAD TO TELL IT! What The Lord said to me was to let those people share what they have seen of Christ. Let them tell it over and over and over. Don't ever grow tired of hearing about a work Christ did in that person's life. And don't expect that just because they have seen Christ that every problem with their lives will be completely changed from that experience. The Lord doesn't reveal Himself to us all at once...He doesn't change us all at once. The Lord doesn't reveal Himself that way in your own life...don't expect it to happen that way in someone else's life.

A final thought on this...in sharing what they had seen, the shepherds gave a voice to this baby. Without the words of the shepherds, the Christ Child would have had no physical voice. As a baby, He could not proclaim Who He was. He is in a similar situation today. Without us speaking out what we have seen of Christ, He has no voice NOW. We are His Voice. WE are the ones who must proclaim WHO HE IS. And the only way we can do that is to see Him first.

Summary

Let me just briefly sum up what we have seen in this passage:

We looked at the innkeeper, and talked about how he apparently did not know Christ was born out back. If The Spirit doesn't reveal Christ, we will not see Him.

Just as God chose for Christ to be born the way He did to reveal Himself to the shepherds, He uses special circumstances to reveal Himself to us.

God will reveal His Son in the midst of everyday life to ordinary people.

When we are in the dark, we are in a good place to receive light.

The shepherds had no need to be frightened of this revelation of God's Son. If we have trusted in Christ, we have no reason to be frightened of God either.

There was a sign for the shepherds for them to know they had found Christ. There will be a sign for us to know that who we have found is Christ.

There is Someone God is pleased with. That Someone is Christ, and those who come as children and put their faith in Him.

The shepherds had to search for Christ in Bethlehem . We have to search for Christ in The Word of God.

There was no doubt in the mind of the shepherds that they had found Christ. When we see Christ here will be no doubt it is Him.

The shepherds' story was encouraging to Mary and Joseph. When we see Him and share what we have seen, others will be encouraged, and see a fuller Christ.

The shepherds couldn't contain what they had seen. When we see Christ we will be compelled to go out and share what we have seen of Him.

Final Thoughts

After a message like this, I always end up asking myself..."where am I in this scripture?"Well, if you aren't asking yourself that, I'm asking you. I've painted 4 different scenarios of where you might be in this. They certainly aren't the only four. They are just four that came to mind.

First scenario: Perhaps you are saying "I don't really see the need to "SEE CHRIST"or even have a desire to "SEE CHRIST"like you are talking about. I'm a shepherd out in the field, but no angel has visited me. I have not seen the "Glory of the Lord". I'm just out here working, doing my job. Making ends meet. Doing my best to walk the walk.

Then my advice to you is this...if you sense any desire at all to see more, then start with this prayer... "Lord, I'm out here in the dark. I don't see any glory. I'm just living. If you want me to see more, I need some help here. I need a Word to go to Bethlehem ."

 
Running story

Phil 3:14

I have a story to illustrate this point. In case you're not clear about what I mean about The Lord using circumstances to reveal Christ to us, this an example that just happened in my own life. This occurred to me this past Monday and Tuesday while out running.

I once listed 6 reasons why I run. I even have it written down. You could call this my vision for running. It is what is before my mind when I go out and run.

This past year, my vision was expanded due to Grant's death. I got the idea to run a marathon in honor of Grant and to raise money for the soccer fund set up after he died.

Training for the marathon took a lot of work. I brought the schedule for those of you who are interested. Do you know what goes through your mind as you start a 10 mile training run...a 15 mile training run...a 20 mile training run? Do you know what goes through your mind at the beginning of a 26.2 mile race? Do you know what goes through your mind at mile 20 of a 26 mile race?

Perhaps not what you imagine . You see, the marathon was actually just an enlargement of my vision of running. You could say my vision became larger. And once that happened, the vision sort of whisked me along with it. Having the vision before me made the training a pleasure, if you can believe that. And running the marathon was the ultimate fulfillment of that vision. It was a joy for me.

Do you know that it is a great effort for me right now to do a 2 mile run 3 times a week? Do you know why? Because I lack vision. I have just enough vision of why I run to keep at it, to not stop.

I think that running the marathon had a purpose. I think that my difficulty in keeping a running schedule going right now has a purpose. And maybe, a big part of the purpose was just so I could give this illustration. It was a circumstance that I really didn't understand the full impact of, until now.

You see, if we lack vision in our walk with The Lord...if we lack a vision of Christ ...IF WE ARE NOT SEEING CHRIST, then our walk will be a great effort. We will struggle just to do 2 mile runs 3 times a week. But if we have a vision , a vision of Christ , then THAT VISION will whisk us along. Our everyday life will be overshadowed by THE PERSON WE SEE IN CHRIST.

If you don't sense a desire or a need to see Christ, then let me describe for you what your life will be like. Everything you know you are 'supposed"to do will be a great effort. You will struggle just to run the 2 miles, and you won't even enjoy it that much.

BUT, THERE IS HOPE. BECAUSE THE GREATER YOUR VISION, THE EASIER THE WALK BECOMES. The more you see of Christ, the more you see the reason for the everyday things, the everyday training. And the everyday training becomes a joy for you. Because you have vision, you live in peace in the midst of your circumstances.

Second Scenario: Perhaps you are thinking that you have a story to tell, but others are looking at you like you were a shepherd...a person low on the social scale. And you feel like they aren't going to want to hear what you have to say about what you have seen of Christ.

Well, let me encourage you with this...if Christ has indeed revealed Himself to you, then it doesn't matter WHAT people think of you. Maybe they think you stink like a shepherd. IGNORE THAT!!! Share the Christ you have seen.

Third Scenario: You might be thinking "I've been to Bethlehem . I've searched all over Bethlehem for Christ. I've searched the Word for Christ. All I've been able to find are babies, but no Christ. I know I'm supposed to see Christ in the Word, and the Word is supposed to come alive for me. But it just doesn't work that way for me!!!

Then my advice to you is this. Go find a shepherd. It might be a pastor, a Bible teacher, or and elder, but it may just as likely be an ordinary shepherd , an ordinary believer. But it will be someone who has seen Christ themselves, and is " glorifying and praising God for all they have seen and heard". Get them to share with you the Christ they have seen. And then get the shepherd to tell you how they found Christ in Bethlehem , in The Word. Get them to show you how to find Christ for yourself in Bethlehem , first hand. You might have to go back to that shepherd again and again. Someone may shepherd you for a lifetime.

You may have dozens of shepherds in your life. That only means you will have a fuller picture of Christ. And a shepherd may not be right on 100% of the time. Fine, give him some leeway.

Last Scenario: We don't have a "Pastor"here at Family Ministries. But that had better not mean we don't have any pastors, any shepherds. That would mean that no one is going to Bethlehem and seeing Christ. But I believe we do have shepherds here. Look

around...you are surrounded by shepherds. Not sure what a shepherd looks like? They are the people who go to Bethlehem , see Christ in The Word, they come back and tell others about the Christ they have seen, and then they point you in that direction.

And that's life in Christ... the Christian life... church life...in a nutshell.

Do you have a story that HAS TO BE TOLD like the shepherds did? If not, just ask The Lord to reveal His Son to you. He longs to do that. He has waited since eternity past to do that. I've heard that some teachers say that everything is in place for the Second Coming of Christ. I don't know about end times prophecy and all that. But one thing I DO KNOW... Everything is in place for The Lord to reveal Christ to you right now . It's there for the asking. Just ask.

 

The Final, Final Thought

When I first started looking at this passage, I had in my mind that it would be a good way for The Lord to speak to my own heart. It would force me to really focus on Him, especially during Christmas. Then, I began to consider that I might bring the message to the fellowship. You see, I thought I knew what The Lord was doing. Then, out of the clear blue, I got the opportunity to share the first part of the message with some of the young people before I started it here. During that Sunday, something really good happened between Bill K. and I that I was expecting at all. At that moment, I said to myself "now THIS is the reason The Lord got me into this whole thing. If for nothing else, it was worth all the effort just so that this thing between Bill and I could occur. Then something happened when I was considering inviting someone I know to come last Sunday to hear this message. At that point I said to myself "now THIS is the reason The Lord got me into this whole thing. If for nothing else, it was worth all the effort just so that this thing could happen. Then one day last week, I wrote an e-mail to Jeff S. In his response, I saw something of The Lord I hadn't seen before. In a nutshell, I saw how much The Lord longs to bring The Word on Sunday Morning. I said to myself "now THIS is the reason The Lord got me into this whole thing..."Then later that morning. I saw something more. It all boiled down to THIS...It's not just that The Lord desires to bring the Word on Sunday Morning. It is that The Lord desires to bring the Word to us everyday. It boils down to the fact that The Lord desires to reveal Christ to us. He longs to do that. And He brought me through a set of circumstances so that I might know just a tiny bit what that longing must feel like. You see, I finally reached a point where I was longing to deliver this message. I couldn't wait to unload it. I knew it would bring me great pleasure to finally get the opportunity to speak it. Is that anything like how The Lord feels about revealing Christ to us? As our old friend says... "I speak as a fool"...but with my limited ability to understand, I think it is similar. The funny thing is, it is the same thing He spoke to me earlier this year. So, do I now have the complete picture of what The Lord wanted to do through all of this? OF COURSE NOT! I don't have to know. I just need to trust HIM.

 

But The Lord was writing a Bible, and in His wisdom, He used a shortage of wine to illustrate some principles. He used a wine shortage to reveal something about Christ to us. That is what we desire to see now. Let's start by reading the text.

John 2

1 ¶ And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee , and the mother of Jesus was there;

2 and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding.

3 And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus *said to Him, "They have no wine."

4 And Jesus *said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."

5 His mother *said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

7 Jesus *said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And He *said to them, "Draw [some] out now, and take it to the headwaiter." And they took it [to him.]

9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter *called the bridegroom,

10 and *said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when [men] have drunk freely, [then] that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now."

11 This beginning of [His] signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee , and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

(NASV)

There are a couple of issues here that intrigue me. The first is this discussion that occurs between Jesus and his mother. In verse 3, Mary says to Jesus "They have no wine". Jesus responds "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."And then He turns around and performs this miracle. Why did He go ahead and intervene after making such a big deal about not intervening with His mother? And what exactly did He mean by "His hour"?

Another thing that intrigues me is the method Jesus uses to turn the water into wine. Why did He choose water pots to do the miracle? Why didn't He tell the servants to fill up the empty wine containers, whatever they may have been?

I also wondered how many of those at the wedding actually realized what had happened. Did everyone, or just a few?

These are some of the questions I wanted to answer in my own heart. I don't know that I have the right answers, but I have some thoughts I'll share with you.

Some initial Observations

The Principle of First Mention

The first thing we may want to consider here is a principle of Bible study we are all familiar with... "The first mention". This is the first mention of a miracle performed by Christ. That may be instructive for us. Are there things about this first miracle that are common to subsequent miracles? Does this miracle create a pattern for subsequent miracles?

To be honest, I cannot answer those questions. I don't know about the rest of the miracles. But as we look at this one, I think we will recognize that there are themes in it that we see throughout The Word. Perhaps there are themes that are common to the other miracles.

Three Other Observations Leading to a General Theme

There are three other observations we can make that I think give us a general theme of this miracle.

I mentioned the first a minute ago. Look again at verses 6 and 7:

6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

7 Jesus *said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

Why did Christ choose to use water pots in the miracle? He could just as easily have told the servants to fetch the containers the depleted wine had been in.

But He chose these water pots. The Lord doesn't do anything by chance. It wasn't just that they were available. I think it had to do with their original purpose. They were there " for the Jewish custom of purification". The water's use was for purification.

What wine do we know that has a purifying purpose? Wine is representative of The Blood of Christ. We celebrate the purifying effect of the Blood of Christ every week here. His blood was poured out, and we are purified. The partaking of the wine represents a belief in the work of Christ. Acceptance of that work is the first step of our new life.

It would be inaccurate to suggest that the wine that came forth from these water pots had the purifying effect that the blood of Christ does. But as I read the text, the fact that the pots held water for purification, and out of those same pots would come wine, pointed me towards considering the purifying blood of Christ. I think perhaps the Lord knew our minds would move towards thoughts of the purifying work of His blood.

The second observation we can make comes out of verse 10:

10 and *said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when [men] have drunk freely, [then] that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now."

This wine that Jesus made is the better wine. It doesn't say the other wine was bad, but this wine is better. I would suggest that this "good"wine is picturing the New Covenant. It is better than the Old Covenant because man was never able to keep his end of the covenant. In the New Covenant, Christ keeps man's end of the covenant for him . So just as the wine that Christ produces in this miracle is better, the New Wine of His life is better.

And the third observation is actually the first one we read in this record. It is in verse 1:

1 ¶ And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee , and the mother of Jesus was there;

I can't help but notice that phrase "the third day". Apparently, in this context, this is referring to the third day Jesus was in Galilee , or the third day after his conversation with Nathaniel in the previous chapter, or the third day of the wedding feast. The commentators disagree. I am not concerned about which third day it was.

I think the Lord knew that when we read "the third day", we would immediately think of the third day after the crucifixion. We would think of the resurrection. So we could draw the conclusion that this miracle may picture something concerning the resurrection.

If we take these three observations together: purification, the good wine, and the third day, I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to suggest that this miracle has to do with Resurrection Life. By Resurrection Life , I simply mean the life we experience due to the fact Christ shed His blood, was resurrected, and now, due to the fact we have been purified by that blood, He lives His life through us in the Spirit.

If that is so, then we should be able to look at this miracle and see principles of what Resurrection Life looks like. We won't get a complete picture of Resurrection Life of course. But these principles may very significant because this is the first mention of a miracle. Resurrection Life is nothing less than a full blown miracle itself. It is perhaps one of the greatest of all miracles... God living in man through the work of Christ.

It is very important that we understand the nature of this miracle, because it is probably typical of all subsequent miracles. This particular miracle literally involved a pouring out of wine. Every other miracle involves a pouring out of wine, a pouring out the life of Christ.

When we are living in Resurrection Life, we are living by Christ pouring out His life into us. It is Christ pouring His life out into "ordinary"circumstances of our daily lives. We don't need to look for a changing-of-water-into-wine form of miracle. It is no less of a miracle when we allow Christ to pour His life into us, and we pour that life into others. That is a miracle. That is Resurrection Life.

Principles of Resurrection Life Illustrated in the Miracle of
Changing the Water into Wine

  I have five principles of Resurrection Life that I would like to suggest are illustrated in this miracle. What we want to do is to look at how Jesus performed the miracle of turning the water into wine, and in that, find principles that illustrate for us how Jesus will turn water into wine for us. Only for us, instead of wine pouring out of water pots, the miracle is the act of Christ pouring out His life into our lives.

These aren't in any particular order. I am not suggesting any type of progression here by the order I talk about them.

Principle 1

Let's go back to the text and look at v. 3.

3 And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus *said to Him, "They have no wine."

The first prerequisite for Christ to perform the miracle in the Bible is that the old wine had to run out. Jesus would not have acted if there was wine left. No one would have come to Him and requested He do something about the lack of wine.

This is very simple. For Christ to perform the miracle in our lives, the old wine has to run out. What is the old wine? We mentioned this earlier. I would suggest that the old wine may picture living under the old covenant. It is everything I do short of abandoning myself to the work of Christ. I exhaust myself looking for life in the old wine. I exhaust myself trying to abide by the old covenant. I exhaust myself trying to live the Christian life.

And then, when I realized I have used up all the old wine, and have no more old wine to draw, I come to Christ and ask Him to provide the wine. Perhaps I have never trusted in the work of Christ. In that case, I come to Him for the first time, and I embrace for myself the pouring out His life and blood for the cleansing from my sin. Perhaps I have been a believer for years and years. In that case, I say to Him "I've tried and tried to walk the walk. I just can't do it. The only way this is going to work is if You pour out Your life into mine."

As long as I operate in my strength, then in the words of Christ, " His hour has not yet come ."He will wait until I ask for the miracle. He will wait until I am at the end of my supply, and see the need for His supply of wine.

That's the first principle. I need to see that I'm out of wine, and then look to Christ to provide His wine.

Principle 2

For the second principle, look at v. 9:

9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter *called the bridegroom,

At least initially, this was somewhat of a hidden miracle. At this point, the headwaiter doesn't know where the wine came from. When he speaks to the bridegroom, the bridegroom did not know where the wine came from.

Who actually became aware of where the wine came from? We don't really know for certain, except in v.11 we read:

11 This beginning of [His] signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee , and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

So we know the disciples knew. But we can speculate that those who eventually questioned would have become aware from the servants that Christ had performed this miracle. And perhaps word would have spread throughout the wedding about what had happened. But we don't know that from the record.

But despite all that speculation, I trust we can safely get a principle here. The principle is that a person who seeks will find out where the good wine is coming from. A person who tastes this good wine simply needs to go find the servant, in our case a servant of the

Lord. We just say to that servant "where did you get this wine? Where did you get this life?"

That is the second principle. The seeker will find the source of the wine, the life .

Principle 3

To see the third principle, let's look at v.10:

10 and *said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when [men] have drunk freely, [then] that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now."

This good wine made quite an impression on the headwaiter. It must have been obviously better than the previous wine. And we can assume that the guests would recognize that as well. So everyone at the wedding benefited from this miracle. They didn't just benefit by having more wine to drink. They benefited by getting to enjoy a better wine.

The principle for us is this: when we allow Christ to perform the miracle of pouring His life into us, then those around us gain . Those around us enjoy the richness of the "good"wine. Maybe they will even recognize it as a "miraculous"wine, a "miraculous"life. And they recognize that the wine they were consuming before was poorer.

 

Principle 4

The Fourth principle involves this question of the discussion between Mary and Jesus. What is it that really took place between the time Mary brings up the fact the wine has run out, and when Jesus tells the servants to fill the pots with water?

Let's look at the text again:

4 And Jesus *said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."

One thing the commentators I read all agreed upon was that this comment " Woman, what do I have to do with you?"was in no way disrespectful to his mother. Without knowing anything about the original language, I would have concluded that anyway because it would have been out of His god-character for Jesus to be disrespectful to His mother.

Apparently what Jesus was saying was something like "this isn't our business. We don't need to barge in and take control of this situation".

And then He adds " My hour has not yet come." Was He speaking of His hour to perform miracles and begin to reveal His glory? I would have said previously that that is the gist of what He is saying. So why does He go ahead and perform a miracle and begin to reveal His glory?

I think the answer is in what takes place immediately following this. Look at v.5:

5 His mother *said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

I used to read this as if Mary just ignored Jesus' comment about His hour not yet coming. I read it as if she is saying "Son, I know what's best. You just trust your mother."

But I don't think that was Mary's heart. Instead, I think Mary was aware of Jesus' reluctance to impose His power on the situation. He had just said to her "this isn't our business, we can't just barge in".

So what does Mary do? She gives Christ the freedom to make it His business . She releases Him to do as He pleases. She gives him the go-ahead to do what He so desires to do, but is waiting for the invitation.

And then she takes her hands off of it, and says to the servants "Whatever He says to you, do it." If He chose to say nothing, I think she would have rested in that.

But in fact, Christ pounced on the opportunity. The door had been opened. He was given the freedom to do what was within Him to do from the beginning. We talk about being set free. Well this is a Man who says to Himself "I'm Free, I'm Free at Last!"I can only imagine the joy that must have welled up in His heart.

So what does He do? He produces an abundance of wine. I don't know how big this wedding was, but by any measure, it was a huge amount of wine. One commentator said that perhaps only the water the servants drew from the pots was turned to wine. It doesn't matter; the fact is, at the least there was the potential for 120 to 180 gallons of wine. That is a lot of wine.

Keep in mind the nature of this miracle. As we previously said, this miracle literally involved a pouring out of wine. Every other miracle involves a pouring out of wine, a pouring out of the life of Christ. The pouring out of Christ is what we experience today .

So the principle for us is this : We must come to a place where we give Christ the freedom to work a miracle. He will not make something His business until we give Him the freedom to make it His business.

Like Mary, we give Him the freedom to work a miracle. We don't demand. We don't beg. We just open the door for Him to work. And then we rest in His choice.

And then, He pours out abundant amounts of wine, abundant amounts of His life. That doesn't necessarily mean that the miracle will take the form we would desire. He only promises to pour out His life into ours. The form that takes is up to Him.

 

Principle 5

The last principle we want to look at is found in v. 11:

11 This beginning of [His] signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee , and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him .

The fruit of the miracle of the wine was that when He manifested His glory, His disciples believed in Him". I don't think this means they didn't believe anything about Christ before. I think it means they saw a fuller Christ. They saw more of Christ to believe in.

This is the same fruit we experience today. When Christ pours out His wine today, when He pours out His life into us, others see His glory, they see a fuller Christ. And they have a fuller Christ to believe in.

I think it is important to note that it is those seeking (the disciples) are encouraged in their faith. The record does not mention anything about the effect of Christ's glory on those who were not disciples. Perhaps this means they were not even aware of His glory. We could assume the glory of Christ was for the benefit of the disciples.

It should also be noted that it was the obedience of Mary which resulted in not only she personally experiencing the glory of Christ, but in others seeing the glory of Christ. And what was the nature of her obedience? She set Christ free . She set Him free as a mother sets a son free, but more importantly, she set Him free as any believer sets Him free to do the work He wants to do.

Conclusion/Illustration

We will wrap this up with just a few comments and an illustration. This was not just a simple miracle. It is a picture of perhaps the greatest miracle of all... Christ pouring His life out into us.

We have considered five principles of Resurrection Life that the miracle of Christ changing the water into wine illustrates:

1) I need to see that I'm out of wine, and then look to Christ to provide His wine .

2) The seeker will find the source of the wine, the source of the life .

3) When we allow Christ to perform the miracle of pouring His life into us, then those around us gain .

4) We must come to a place where we give Christ the freedom to work a miracle.

5) When Christ pours out His wine today, when He pours out His life into us, others see His glory, they see a fuller Christ. And they have a fuller Christ to believe in.

I have an illustration that our mothers will understand. Our fathers will probably understand too.

My oldest is only ten, so I can't speak much from experience. I can only imagine how difficult this must be to do. But at some point, mothers have to set their children free to be themselves. Of course this isn't done all at once. But the picture applies every time we set them free in some way. The children will either blossom or fall on their faces.

If the mother refuses to set her child free, the child will be hindered from becoming the person he needs to become. He will be thwarted in his growth. He will never fulfill his potential. He will never become his own man, and eventually be able to take care of his mother when she can no longer care for herself.

If the mother gets a case of the "what ifs"... what if he fails, what if he gets hurt, what if he makes a bad decision, what if he embarrasses me, what if he isn't ready for the world yet... she will hold him back.

Or perhaps the mother doesn't want to relinquish control. As long as she holds on to the child, she can be sure he won't do something foolish. It is safer to keep the child under her wing.

Mothers know what it is like to set their sons and daughters free. So mothers have a special knowledge of what it is like to set Christ free.

Mary was in a unique position as a mother and a believer both at once. She had to set her son free as a mother. And as a believer, she had to set Christ free.

Like our own child, we set Christ free to blossom, to flourish, to do the work He desires to do. We release control to Him. We allow Him to make decisions about our lives.

But the illustration breaks down at one point. Christ will never fall on his face. He will always blossom when we set Him free. He will never embarrass us. He will never do something foolish. And we can always trust Him to do the right thing.

 

Fruit by the Mercy of God

7/16/06

 

There is a very familiar passage in The Gospel of Luke, the story of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. There are some interesting questions about the story, which we will get to in a moment. Let's start by reading the passage. This is Luke chapter 1, verse 5:

 

5 ¶ In the days of Herod, king of Judea , there was a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth .

6 And they were both righteous in the sight of God , walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

7 And they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

8 Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the [appointed] order of his division,

9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

12 And Zacharias was troubled when he saw [him,] and fear gripped him.

13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

14 "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb.

16 "And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.

17 "And it is he who will go [as a forerunner] before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

18 And Zacharias said to the angel, " How shall I know this [for certain]? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."

19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.

20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time."

21 And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple.

22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

23 And it came about, when the days of his priestly service were ended, that he went back home.

24 And after these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant; and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying,

25 "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked [with favor] upon [me,] to take away my disgrace among men."

 

 

57 ¶ Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son.

58 And her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

59 And it came about that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.

60 And his mother answered and said , "No indeed; but he shall be called John."

61 And they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name."

62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.

63 And he asked for a tablet, and wrote as follows, "His name is John." And they were all astonished.

64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue [loosed,] and he [began] to speak in praise of God.

65 And fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea .

66 And all who heard them kept them in mind, saying, "What then will this child [turn out to] be?" For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

67 ¶ And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 "Blessed [be] the Lord God of Israel , For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,

69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant--

70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old--

71 Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;

72 To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant,

73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,

74 To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

76 "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;

77 To give to His people [the] knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,

78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,

79 TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace."

80 And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel . (NAS)

The first questions that came to mind were these:

 

What was the cry of Zacharias's heart... what had been his prayer?

Was there more to Zacharias loosing his voice than just chastisement for his

unbelief?

What issue was it that Gabriel was really addressing in that "chastisement"?

Did The Lord speak to his heart during that period when he couldn't speak?

What did He say?

What did Zacharias learn? How can we tell what he learned?

What can we learn from Zacharias?

 

I have never been happy with the typical explanation of Zacharias's silence... he did not believe, so he lost his voice, the child came, he got his voice back, end of story. Is that all there is?! I hope not.

 

Certainly Zacharias had a problem of unbelief. However, this seems especially odd since in verse 6 it says " And they were both righteous in the sight of God , walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord."Wouldn't you say that "unbelief"is a strange response for such a man? So that makes me wonder what exactly " righteous "and " walking blamelessly "mean in this context. Why would Zacharias have any reason not to believe Gabriel? He is in the midst of performing his priestly service in the temple. Would you doubt the words of Gabriel under these circumstances? I certainly wouldn't.

 

Let's just assume that The Lord saw the life of Zacharias as an opportunity to speak to our lives today. What could The Lord possibly be saying to us though his life? To see that, we need to understand what was going on in Zacharias's heart. And that is the difficult thing to do. We can't see into his heart. We only have the words he uses.

 

But we can get an overall picture of what The Lord might be saying if we consider the prayer of Zacharias and Elizabeth. Verse 13 says: But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John."One commentator I read said that not only had they been praying for a child, but they had been praying for a deliverer for Israel . Perhaps, but at least they had prayed for a child.

 

What was it they were really asking for? They were physically asking for offspring, for fruit . They were fruitless. And that was painful for them. Elizabeth says in verse 25: "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked [with favor] upon [me,] to take away my disgrace among men."

 

In verse 18 we read: And Zacharias said to the angel, " How shall I know this [for certain]? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." On the surface, they were asking for a child, but I think the cry of their hearts was "Lord, we have been serving You our whole lives, and we have no fruit to show for it. We have been trying our whole lives to produce fruit, with no success! And now you tell us we are going to produce fruit? We've already tried! We can't do it."That is the context of Zacharias's unbelief. There is a big dose of frustration mixed in with his unbelief. Have you ever found yourself in a similar position?

 

That cry is the key to this passage for us, because that is where it applies to our lives. We may find ourselves in Zacharias's shoes. We have been serving The Lord our whole lives. We have been doing all we know to do. We are " righteous "and are " walking blamelessly "according to what we understand of The Word, and still, we have no fruit. Why? Are we doing something wrong?

 

That is why we want to study this passage. Those are the questions we want answered. And out of that study, the hope is to gather a few principles to live our lives by.

 

Principle 1: Where the Fruit Doesn't Come From

The first thing we are going to look at in Zacharias's life is where the fruit doesn't come from. Up to this point, Zacharias and Elizabeth have produced no fruit. Why is that? How have they been attempting to produce fruit?

Verse 6 says: And they were both righteous in the sight of God , walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. Well, that sounds like a good start to produce fruit doesn't it? Surely The Lord would bless them with fruit under these circumstances. In their minds, they were doing everything that they thought they were supposed to be doing... keeping " all the commandments and requirements of The Lord."Even The Lord Himself viewed them as " righteous ". They were going through the correct motions, physically and mentally, with no effect.

When we look at Zacharias's actions, we see a problem. Zacharias responded to Gabriel with " fear and unbelief ". So it would appear that the fruit of simply " walking blamelessly "is " fear and unbelief ", at least in this case. Something had to be wrong here; otherwise I suspect his response would have been different.

I would suggest that Zacharias's problem was that he was missing the heart of God in how he was to live. We have a term for it... he was living by the letter of the law. He walked "righteously"and "blamelessly"according to The Law , yet he was missing the heart of God.

I suspect that Zacharias expected to be blessed with fruit as a result of serving, and of keeping God's commandments and requirements. But it never happened. So when was he actually blessed with fruit? Look at verse 23:

23 And it came about, when the days of his priestly service were ended , that he went back home.

24 And after these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant ; ...

Zacharias and Elizabeth were blessed with fruit after they stopped serving. Now I'm not suggesting we all stop serving The Lord thinking that then He will produce fruit from our lives. But I am suggesting that there may be problem with our heart attitude regarding service that The Lord may need to deal with before He produces any fruit in our lives.

 

Principle 2: The Source of the Fruit

That brings us to a second principle. We see that living by the letter of the law isn't the source, so what is the source of the fruit? Let's look at Zacharias. This is not mysterious or difficult at all.

We just read this. Look again at verses 23 and 24. " And it came about, when the days of his priestly service were ended, that he went back home.

24 And after these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant; ..."

Zacharias only had to do one thing with the right heart attitude to produce fruit. He went home and united with his wife. His fruit did not come in the midst of his "priestly service". It came when he had union with his wife. Certainly this wasn't the first union Zacharias had with his wife. But this particular union had a whole new significance. I don't know when he fully came to understand what was going on, but gradually The Lord did a work in Zacharias's heart. He took his eyes off of service and righteousness and walking blamelessly as the source of fruit. And he put his focus on being one with his wife. But not just on being one with his wife , but on being one with The Lord . His focus became union with The Lord, and it is pictured by the act of union with his wife. His union with Elizabeth now was much more than just a physical act. It now pictured a spiritual aspect of his relationship with The Lord that was not there before.

I am suggesting that Zacharias had been living by the letter, but not in union with The Lord. The Lord desires more than someone who walks blamelessly, who keeps all His requirements and commandments. He wants someone who will walk with Him in union . He wants someone who will be intimate with Him. And He uses Zacharias to demonstrate that for us. We speak of this union in another context. We take our wedding vows, speaking of how marriage pictures the union of Christ and His church. We begin our marriages with the knowledge, at least in our heads, that we are to live in union with Christ.

This picture of union between a man and his wife is a beautiful one. Men especially know what the desire for union with their wives is all about. At least early on in marriage, in most cases, physical union with their wives is of utmost importance. And the longer we are married, the more we move from desiring the physical union with our wives to desiring the actual "becoming one"that we are intended to do. And as we mature in our marriages, they more and more accurately picture the union between us and Christ that they are meant to. Now I don't want to distort the use of the word union . Certainly there are many acts between men and women that do not qualify as union . But I believe God placed that desire in men to give them an understanding of how He longs for us to desire union with Him . It is the one thing from which everything else will flow.

Here is something interesting about all this. Forget the age of Zacharias and Elizabeth for a moment. The Lord only gave them ONE thing to do to produce fruit. And it was something they probably desired to do naturally. When we make our focus union with The Lord, then the process of producing fruit will be that simple, that effortless, and that natural.

 

Principle 3: The Lesson of the Silence

That brings us to another principle, the lesson learned from the silence. While Zacharias may have had some revelation about The Lord's heart when he first went home to be with Elizabeth, that revelation must have grown and developed during that period of not being able to speak.

Look again at verse 18: And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this [for certain]? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."

Zacharias's question reveals his heart. And his question prompts the quick response from Gabriel in verses 19 and 20:

19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.

20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time."

The reason Zacharias is having trouble believing is because he is expecting the fruit to come from his effort, his life, and he knows from his experience that that has never worked. He is now old and tired. But the fruit was never supposed to come from his effort, his service, or his dedication. Perhaps his voice is a picture of all of that. Perhaps his voice pictures his flesh, his effort, his service, his work... the things on the surface, in the natural. And when he looses his voice, it serves as a nine month reminder that the fruit was not coming from those things. The fruit would come out of union with his wife, union with The Lord. And at their age, it would be miracle. Fruit is always a miracle. Once Elizabeth became pregnant, Zacharias could only watch as the fruit grew. He had nine months to witness God producing fruit without his voice, his effort, his service, and his work.

So did Zacharias learn anything else? Sure he did. And it is evidenced by his prophesy. I won't take the time to read it all again, but remember that this is a prophesy about things to come concerning John and Christ. Zacharias is speaking confidently about things yet to come. Zacharias spoke these words in faith . This faith must be a fruit of that union he has been experiencing with The Lord during his silence. While initially he doubted very similar words spoken by Gabriel, now he himself speaks these words from his heart.

Consider how kind it was of The Lord to reveal this to Zacharias. Not only has he produced fruit, but he has been given a vision of the effects of that fruit. He has moved from unbelief to belief that The Lord would accomplish His work.

The principle for us is this... just as He did for Zacharias, The Lord can work faith into our hearts in such a way that we can rest in the fact that our fruit will be used for His purposes, even though we haven't seen it yet. Maybe we will never see the effect of the fruit in our lives. It doesn't matter if we see it or not. He works belief into our hearts where once there was unbelief.

 

Principle 4: How The Lord Deals With Us While We Struggle Trying to Produce Fruit

Perhaps the thing that really attracts me to Zacharias is the way The Lord deals with him in the midst of his imperfection, because that is where I live... in imperfection. So I am encouraged when I look at how The Lord deals with Zacharias.

Look at verses 77 and 78 at the end of the prophesy he delivered:

77 To give to His people [the] knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,

78 Because of the tender mercy of our God , With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,

Zacharias can only speak of "the tender mercy of God" because he has been dealt with tenderly and mercifully by his God. He is speaking from his own experience. God was merciful to him and Elizabeth to give them a child. And how merciful God was to allow him to speak such a prophesy. Look at the vessel The Lord used. This was a man who was silenced for months because of he did not believe the words spoken by the angel Gabriel.

This is the same way The Lord deals with us. We are that imperfect vessel. He is tender and merciful in the midst of our unbelief. He brings about circumstances to bring us from unbelief to belief. And then we can, through that experience, testify of the tender mercy of God. We prophesy of the coming of Christ. We speak of the coming of Christ into our own lives, and how Christ desires to come into the lives of those around us. We can speak because we have experienced the mercy of God.

Principle 5: The Nature of the Fruit

That brings us to the last principle we will look at. What is the nature of the fruit that Zacharias and Elizabeth produced?

Look at verse 59:

59 And it came about that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.

60 And his mother answered and said, "No indeed; but he shall be called John."

61 And they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name."

62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.

63 And he asked for a tablet, and wrote as follows, "His name is John." And they were all astonished

Zacharias had learned much by this point. He does not refuse to name the child Zacharias simply because he has been told to name him John. He has learned that the fruit he and Elizabeth have produced is not in the image of Zacharias, it is in the image of God. "The Lord is Merciful"was the child's name. This child is fruit is by the mercy of God. It does not resemble Zacharias, it resembles God. And only God could have produced it.

This goes back to Zacharias's original heart problem. Perhaps Zacharias's problem was that he had been attempting to produce fruit in his own image. Apple trees produce apples. But men and women of God are not meant to produce little men and women. Look at Zacharias's fruit...the life of John. John only glorified Christ. The fruit is meant to glorify Christ, and to make the path ready for Him. Men and women of God are meant to produce fruit that glorifies Christ. If we attempt to produce fruit that brings glory to ourselves, The Lord will not allow it.

 

Final Thoughts

Here is a couple who, according to verse 6:

6 ... were both righteous in the sight of God , walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

This same man, in verse 12:

12 ... was troubled when he saw [him,] and fear gripped him.

By the end of The Lord dealing with his heart, Zacharias prophesys:

74 To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

That is quite a transformation. Zacharias has become a man living in union with God. He now knows God in a way he did not know Him before. Look at all that came out of Zacharias's union with The Lord. Out of that union came belief. Out of that union came a vision of what God would do through the fruit he and Elizabeth had produced. And out of that union came a new voice that spoke of the tender mercy of God.

 

 

Revisiting Acts 2:42

Characteristics of Acts 2:42 (Teaching, prayer, bread, fellowship)

September 17, 2006

 

Introduction

 

In the midst of preparing for Hashawha, we had been studying Acts chapter Two. As we looked at this passage with the outline for the weekend in mind, I began to look at verse 42 in a different light. I began to look at it in light of the previous 41 verses of chapter 2.

If we look at the chapter as a whole, then there are 41 verses that lead up to verse 42. So what do those 41 verses tell us about verse 42? I would like to suggest that those 41 verses define the context of verse 42. Those 41 verses tell us the characteristics of what was going on in verse 42 and the following verses.

Those 41 verses tell us something about the characteristics of the apostle's teaching. They tell us something about the fellowship they experienced. They tell us something about how they broke bread together. And they tell us something about how they prayed.

So if we study these 41 verses, we can see what our teaching should look like. We can see what our fellowship should look like. We can see what our breaking bread should look like. And we can see what our prayer should look like.

We are going to look at general principles. We won't be looking at each of these four things individually so much as we will be looking at the general characteristics of all of these things.

We will not be looking at these verses to determine the "form"of the practices we find there. I am not interested in the form; I am interested in the heart of what The Lord is saying, especially in verse 42.

The "form"may vary from place to place, but the heart attitude will be consistent. The "form"is not really spelled out, but when we look at the whole chapter, the heart of what The Lord is after seems to be pretty clear.

Let's pray, and then we will read the passage.

Acts 2:

1 ¶ And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

5 ¶ Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem , devout men, from every nation under heaven.

6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.

7 And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

8 "And how is it that we each hear [them] in our own language to which we were born?

9 "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia , Judea and Cappadocia , Pontus and Asia ,

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia , Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene , and visitors from Rome , both Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our [own] tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God."

12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"

13 But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."

  14 ¶ But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea , and all you who live in Jerusalem , let this be known to you, and give heed to my words.

15 "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is [only] the third hour of the day;

16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND ; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;

18 EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy.

19 'AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE, AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BENEATH, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE.

20 'THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME.

21 'AND IT SHALL BE, THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.'

22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene , a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--

23 this [Man], delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put [Him] to death.

24 " And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power .

25 "For David says of Him, 'I WAS ALWAYS BEHOLDING THE LORD IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, THAT I MAY NOT BE SHAKEN.

26 'THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL ABIDE IN HOPE;

27 BECAUSE THOU WILT NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW THY HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.

28 'THOU HAST MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE ; THOU WILT MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH THY PRESENCE.'

29 "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

30 "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT [one] OF HIS DESCENDANTS UPON HIS THRONE,

31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

32 " This Jesus God raised up again , to which we are all witnesses.

33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear .

34 "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

35 UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR THY FEET."'

36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."

37 ¶ Now when they heard [this], they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do ?"

38 And Peter [said] to them, " Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."

40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

  42 ¶ And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;

45 and they [began] selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(NASB)

If we look at these verses to find a "form"of what we commonly think of as those things the church does, then we run into problems. You see, if we want to follow a form, where do we stop in following this form? If Acts 2:42 is a pattern for all churches to follow, then let me ask a few questions:

What does "continually"mean? Should we be meeting every day?

Who are the present day apostles? Are they the only ones allowed to teach?

Does that mean we shouldn't allow anyone to teach who isn't an apostle?

If this early church was meeting every day, should we?

Should we break bread every time we meet? If we have a meeting in our home, should we break bread together?

And what about the verses following verse 42?

Should there be "many signs and wonders"taking place?

Should we have all things in common?

Should we be selling our property and possessions and sharing them with each other?

Should we be breaking bread from house to house?

Here is a question of a different nature: If this is the early church, then do the practices of the mature church differ from this early form?

I do not intend to address any of these questions. I only ask them to make a point. I think we have come to understand that to a great degree, we do not have to follow the form of this early church. We are comfortable with this thinking in the verses following verse 42. I haven't heard too many people advocate the literal selling of our personal property so we can have all things in common.

But what about verse 42? This is where it gets complicated. We have come to accept that these four things are all practices that we should see in the Body of Christ. But how often? How often should we take communion? There was a point in time when we did not take it every Sunday. Were we wrong ? There are churches that take communion perhaps once a month, or once a quarter. Are they wrong? If we gather on a Sunday morning, and there are a lot of testimonies and prayer, and we never get around to the teaching, are we wrong? If the person who is supposed to prepare the elements forgets, and we can't take communion, are we wrong?

And then we get to this issue of prayer. What exactly does this prayer in Acts 2:42 look like? Is it part of the Sunday meeting? How long should it be? How many people have to pray before it qualifies as Acts 2:42 prayer? Should it be a separate meeting? What if the whole body spends an hour in silent prayer, does that qualify?

Well, you see the problem. All we have is a lot of questions, none of which I want to attempt to answer.

What I want to look at is this question: What was The Lord's heart concerning this chapter? What did The Lord want us to see? What was the heart issue He was addressing?

I think that each one of these practices, starting in verse 42, identify a heart attitude that we should see in the body. If The Lord works that heart attitude into our lives, the form those practices take is of lesser importance. Maybe the form is of no importance at all.

What I would like to do is to identify three principles or themes that are illustrated in verses 1 to 41 that are common in all the practices of verses 42 and following. They are three overlapping principles that are very similar to each other. If we see these principles, then we see the heart of the practices that take place in verses 42 to 47. And if The Lord works that attitude into our hearts, then we don't have to worry ourselves with the form it takes.

 

Principle 1

The first principle involves the miracle that takes place in the life of Peter. Ed talked about this at Hashawha.

We tend to get all excited about the tongues of fire and the speaking in tongues, but when Peter was filled with the Spirit, something really miraculous happened. The Lord made the Bible come to life for him. This was an awesome thing. The miracle was in Peter's ability to explain what was happening from scripture in the Old Testament. The miracle was in The Word coming to life for Peter.

Peter became a living, breathing, example of verse 17: " I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND". The effect of the Spirit being poured out on Peter was that the Word became alive for him.

This is the kind of outpouring we need to walk in today. But we don't have to wait for the outpouring of The Spirit. The Lord is still pouring His spirit into the lives of believers. And when we walk in it , then we will see miraculous things happen. The Lord will breathe life into our teaching, into our fellowship, into our prayer, into our communion, and into every other aspect of our lives. These are things every bit as miraculous as the blind seeing and the lame walking.

If we were to see believers walking in that kind of outpouring today, what would our teaching look like? What would our prayer look like? What would our fellowship look like? What would our communion look like? If The Lord is breathing life into those things, does it really matter what they look like?

Imagine a whole group of people who have just experienced God pouring out His Spirit into their lives. What do their lives look like? For these believers in Acts 2, that's what we read in verses 42 to 47.

42 ¶ And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;

45 and they [began] selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

So do we try to imitate those verses? No! The outpouring produced the effects of verses 42 to 47, not vice versa. So we go back to the outpouring , not the effects . We ask The Lord to continue to pour His Life into ours, and then we leave the result, the effect, the form , in His hands. The effects for us may not look exactly the same, but the heart of those effects will be.

We may listen to some teaching and say to ourselves "now that is a wonder, surely that is from The Lord". We may not literally sell our possessions, but our hearts will be "it's all The Lord's, so if you have a need, then what I have is yours."When we meet each other during the week, and we share what's going on in our lives, and we understand that what gives us unity is our common dependence on The Lord and His work, then what better meeting of the church can we have?

Principle 2

 

The second principle we want to look at revolves around the whole reason chapter 2 is happening in the first place. We find it in verse 24:

24 "And God raised Him up again , putting an end to the agony of death , since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

This is all happening because of the death and resurrection of Christ. Because after the resurrection, we read in verses 32 and 33:

32 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.


Christ is the One responsible for all of this. When Christ was raised, He put an end to the agony of death . It was only by His death and resurrection that the power of death could be broken. This chapter is all about His work, the work of The Cross . He has broken the power of death in our lives... we're not just talking about hell and eternal separation here, but the death of walking in our own effort.

He put an end to the agony of death, the agony of walking in the flesh. He put an end to the agony of walking with no purpose... a life on earth that only leads to death. There is nothing in these 41 verses about what man's part was. It is all about how, through Christ , we now have the opportunity to experience life .

This is a theme of everything taking place in this chapter. The teaching we read about in verse 42 must have talked about the work of Christ, as well as the fellowship, the prayer, and certainly the breaking of bread. It was a common denominator of everything going on in this church. Now don't jump to the conclusion that they were solely dealing with issues of salvation. Certainly salvation would have been part of it, but the principles never change, no matter where you are in your walk. This is a definitive principle of how to live, no matter where you are in your walk with Christ.

David spoke of this same life giving work of Christ. In verse 28 David says:

28 'THOU HAST MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE' .

And then in verse 31 Peter says, concerning David:

30 "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT [one] OF HIS DESCENDANTS UPON HIS THRONE,

31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

David wasn't just looking ahead at Christ as The One who would eventually take The Throne. He was looking ahead to Christ as the One who would defeat death. David understood that the "way of life"was contained in the work of one person "“ Christ.

That early church must have been consumed with talking about the life and work of Christ. They weren't talking about how to live, but about The One Who has the life. This was quite a departure from the Judaism they were accustomed to hearing.

This is the work we need to be concerned about today. We need to be pointing each other to this principle, the truth that the life is in a person.

 

Principle 3

The last principle I want to look at revolves around verse 37:

37 ¶ Now when they heard [this], they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do ?"

"What shall we do?"That is such a typical question. Man has wanted to know what to do from way back. And man has attempted to answer the question in the flesh. This is where the church makes mistakes. The proper answer is crucial.

Of course, Peter makes no mistake in his answer.

38 And Peter [said] to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What does Peter tell them to "do"? He tells them to look to Christ . He tells them to be baptized, to immerse themselves in the work of The Cross , and to receive the gift of the Spirit.

That's what these new believers are to do. That's all we ever do! We repent of attempting to follow in the flesh, and immerse ourselves in the work of Christ. Not that we set about doing what Christ did, I mean we lay claim to the work He accomplished. And then we accept the gift of the life of God to our lives.

Look at verse 40: And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation !"

What is this "perverse generation"? Is it unbelievers who are against The Lord? Perhaps. But look at verse 36: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-- this Jesus whom you crucified ."

Maybe it refers to those who crucified Christ, or more generally, to those would crucify Christ. This is some strong language. In other words, this "perverse generation"refers to those who reject Christ, or simply those who reject the work of Christ, those who attempt to approach God by a work of their own flesh, separate from the work of Christ.

This must have been a theme of the preaching in verse 42. It must have been something they continuously encouraged each other in. It must have been an issue they would hear each other pray about. A surely they reminded each other of these truths when they shared the cup and took the bread.

This principle has never changed. The thing we "do"is to repent every time we are tempted to reject the work of Christ by attempting to approach God by our own effort, and then receive the gift.

Conclusion

 

So what can we learn from the first 41 verses of Acts chapter 2 that tell us something about church life then and church life today?

We can break it down into three very simple ideas:

The effects we see in verses 42 to 47 are evidence that The Lord was pouring out His Spirit into the lives of the early Church. When we walk in that same outpouring of His Spirit, we will see, in heart form, similar effects.

Christ brought an end to the agony of death. Life is contained in Him and His work. This was the preoccupation of this early church, and it should be our preoccupation as well.

We repent of attempting to follow in the flesh, immerse ourselves in the work of The Cross, and receive the life of Christ.

As you can see, these three themes overlap each other. They are intertwined. There is one more common theme that we haven't mentioned. Look again at verse 42:

42 ¶ And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

  42 ¶ And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

 

This word continually is very important. I think they were continually focused, not so much on the actions, but on the heart of what was going on. They were continually focused on Christ, on walking in the outpouring He had brought about, on the life that He was bringing apart from their fleshly effort, and on immersing themselves in the work that He had accomplished at the Cross.

Those are some of the lessons we learn from this early church.

 

 

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