December 21, 2021 3:00 am
Faith and fear are mutually exclusive. We can’t be faithful and fearful at the same time. But here during this week when we celebrate a significant event within our faith, we also face some of the most trying times of our year. If it’s not busyness, it’s finances. If it’s not the pandemic, it’s the inevitable challenges of family gatherings. But today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out our focus should be on the One whose birthday we celebrate. And that brings peace.
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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.
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Today's episode of A New Beginning is brought to you by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.
Learn more at harvest.org. And while you're there, browse our library of free e-books designed to help you grow in your faith. People are so afraid right now, but here's the thing.
Don't be afraid. God is with you. At this time of year, our minds are often a chorus of clamoring worries, great and small. But Pastor Greg Laurie points out the hope of the holiday. Here is the message of Christmas. Don't be afraid because we are told that God would send his son and you would call his name Emmanuel.
And what does that mean? It means God is with us. Faith and fear are mutually exclusive. We can't be faithful and fearful at the same time. But here during this week, when we celebrate a significant event within our faith, we also face some of the most trying times of the year.
If it's not busyness, it's finances. If it's not the pandemic, it's the inevitable challenges of family gatherings. But today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out our focus should be on the one whose birthday we celebrate, and that brings peace. The title of my message for you, Don't Be Afraid. Do those words sound familiar? They were given 2,000 years ago to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And by the way, my text that I'm going to be looking at in a few moments is Luke chapter two. But how relevant are those words for us today? Don't be afraid. People are so afraid right now. I read recently on the New York Times website that the top fears of Americans at this moment in history are as follows. Losing American democracy, getting sick with COVID, community changing for the worse, facing eviction, or becoming a violent crime victim. Then we have our personal fears.
We're afraid. What if I get sick? What if a member of my family gets sick? What if my family falls apart?
What if my wife and I end up getting divorced? So many things to frighten us. But here is the message of Christmas.
Don't be afraid. Because we are told that God would send his son and he would call his name Emmanuel. And what does that mean? It means God is with us. But here's the thing. Who did this message originally come to?
It came to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Now here's the problem with the Christmas story. Let me restate that. There's no problem with the Christmas story. Let's just say the problem is in the way we see it today. We see it through a certain lens.
I would sum it up this way. We've made Christmas too beautiful. And we've lost the raw power of the original story. For instance, we have taken the images of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus and so romanticized them. They are looking tranquilly into each other's faces. They all have halos over their heads. And of course baby Jesus has a little small halo. We've romanticized the wise men. When they arrive they are in coordinating colors getting up their camels, holding up their gifts. The Bible doesn't even say there were three wise men by the way. What if there were nine wise men and they just went in on the gifts together?
Guys do that a lot you know. No but we've taken the story and added so many layers of tradition to it I think that we're missing what the story is really all about. And we've certainly romanticized these shepherds.
Let me talk to you about who the shepherds were in the first century. Let me start by saying these were not popular people. These were guys that were very low on the social ladder. In fact they were despised. They did the work that nobody else wanted to do. These were guys that got out there and got their hands and feet dirty.
They had dirt under their fingernails. So when they heard that some savior was born in a manger or in a barn they related to it because that's how they had their children out in the open air. But God can pick these people who are on the bottom of the social ladder to be the first evangelist with the message that the Messiah had come. This gives hope. Hope to ordinary people like you and me.
In 1 Corinthians 1 27 we read these words, take a good look friends at who you were when God called you into this life. I don't see many of the brightest and the best among you. Not many influential.
Not many from high society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women as the culture overlooks and exploits. God chose nobodies to expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies.
Isn't that true? That's the way Jesus rolled. That was his modus operandi.
He was always going after the outcast. There's Jesus with a woman caught in the act of adultery. There's Jesus with Zacchaeus the tax collector who didn't have a friend in the little town he lived in known as Jericho.
There's Jesus with another hurting person. That's why Christ was called the friend of sinners. So the profession of a shepherd was not even thought of as really all that legitimate. They were despised and mistrusted. They were thought of as people who were dishonest. In fact the testimony of a shepherd was not even allowed in a court of law. So in the Bible as we'll read in a moment it says shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. That's romanticized in our minds but if we were to update it it might be and there were used car salesmen watching over their cars by night or we might read certain telemarketers were calling people at night. Not everyone's favorite people but God chose them.
What happened? Now let me read to you from Luke chapter 2 verse 8. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them and they were terrified. The angel reassured them saying fear not or don't be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people the Savior. Yes the Messiah the Lord has been born today in Bethlehem the city of David and you'll recognize him by this sign. You'll find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth lying in a manger. Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others the armies of heaven praising God and saying glory to God and the highest and peace on earth among men with whom God is well pleased.
When the angels had returned from heaven the shepherd said to one another let's go to Bethlehem let's see this thing that has happened and they hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph and there was the baby lying in a manger. Let's come back to these shepherds of Israel. They were living in frightening times. Everyone was afraid.
Why? They were under the thumb of Rome. Let me say it another way they were under the iron fist of Rome.
Rome had established what was known as Pax Romana under the rulership of Augustus Caesar which had conquered most of the civilized world at that point. So many Jewish people were wondering will the Romans ever leave our land again? Will we ever be free again? Will the Messiah ever come? And suddenly seemingly out of nowhere but right on schedule appear these angels with this message don't be afraid the Messiah has come. You know it's interesting whenever angels appeared they usually started with these words don't be afraid and you know why? Because when an angel appears you're generally pretty afraid.
Angels are powerful beautiful magnificent spirit beings and so they usually started with those words. You know someone said I haven't researched this myself that the Bible says fear not or don't be afraid 365 times. If that's true that means that there's a fear not for every day of the year. So whatever you're afraid of the message of the Lord is don't be afraid. Fear not is the message and also we have a message of great joy. Fear not and have joy. So that's really a big part of the Christmas message is that you can get rid of your fear and replace it with joy.
The condition of joy is to let go of your fear because God had come to the earth born as a baby in Bethlehem in a small town called Bethlehem on a silent night. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. We're delighted when we hear stories of people whose lives have changed because of Pastor Greg's teaching from God's Word. Pastor Greg Laurie gives a message at that point. I realized it had to do with church and I immediately told them I didn't want to go but I went as the night went by.
I know God was whacking me upside the head. And so I figured I'd get a free concert and my wife will get the church stuff. So I agreed to go.
I really enjoyed the music. But as soon as you started giving the message I got very uncomfortable and asked my friends if we could leave they told me not until this is over. My palms started sweating and I just knew that my friends had spoken to you because it seemed like you were talking just to me. Your message was about not hardening your heart and after you finished you gave the altar call.
I asked my friends again if we could leave now and they said not until it's over. Then you repeated the altar call. A friend from work who was sitting right behind me later told me when you repeated the altar call a third time she said, Lord what about Frank? And when she was done praying she said I jumped right up and ran down the stairs to the field. I remember asking myself what I was doing there. A young counselor approached me and began praying for me and I started crying like a baby as I accepted Jesus into my heart. But the story doesn't end there. Over time I started to fall back into some of my old ways. I knew deep down inside that I shouldn't be doing those things.
There was no excuse. Then just this year when I heard that you were doing another harvest crusade in Southern California I knew I needed to attend again. My wife and I had both talked and we made reservations to fly from Alabama to attend the October 3rd 2021 SoCal Crusade. Once again your message spoke directly to me and I recommitted my life to Jesus. Thank you Pastor Greg for never wavering from the Word of God through these many years. We're thankful God is touching lives today and if you feel led to invest so this kind of life-changing ministry can continue make a year-end donation online at harvest.org.
That's harvest.org. Well Pastor Greg is mapping out the pathway toward less fear and more joy as we move into our Christmas celebration. Let's continue today's message. This is the most significant event in human history and by and large most people missed it all together starting with Rome. This is an event that would shake the planet. We would mark human time based on the birth of Christ and yet most people in Rome didn't even see the significance of it. As far as Rome went, as far as Caesar went, this is just another person to tax and Caesar had a very high view of himself because we read in Scripture that a decree was sent out by Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed and actually Augustus means of the gods. So this particular Caesar believed he was a deity. There were statues erected throughout Rome and Roman territories of Caesar Augustus and he was referred to as the savior of the world. So it's ironic that this announcement of the savior's birth is given but this guy thinks he is the savior of the world.
So this was big news in heaven and really no news at all on earth and that happens a lot today. And the day Rome was all that and a bag of chips. Rome, powerful Rome ruled by Caesar Augustus coming back to him. History tells us that he was small in stature which means Caesar was a little dude right. So we can say he was little Caesar. Little would he know that pizza would be named after him.
Pizza pizza right. So we don't really think much of Caesar now but he was a big deal on earth at that time but this event was world changing. Here's another thing that's a big deal in heaven. Whenever a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ the Bible says actually Christ himself said there is joy in heaven over one sinner that comes to repentance. So every time someone says yes to Jesus there's a party in heaven. Now we might dismiss it and say well what do I care someone got religion.
Oh no they didn't get religion they found Christ and that's a big deal in heaven. Now if you were going to announce this message you would not have gone to the shepherds. You would have gone well probably to Caesar himself.
Make this announcement. Hey Caesar get the word out. But instead the Lord's effectively saying little Caesar you're fired. The party is over. You're no longer the savior of the world.
Actually you never were. You need to stand down because the real king has arrived. You might have told the high priest or some other person of influence if we were announcing the message today let's get a PR firm and let's get the influencers out there to post about it on social media.
None of that. The Lord went to the lowest of the low. The shepherds.
Now listen to this. These shepherds had a choice as to what to do. Look at verse 15. It says when the angels returned to heaven the shepherds said to each other let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that happened. See they had a choice.
No question they had this mind-blowing experience of the radiant light and the angelic chorus saying glory to God on the highest and peace on earth among men with whom God is well pleased. And they could have said let's just hang out here and soak it in. Or they might have said well we can't go there.
We're not dressed appropriately and nobody wants shepherds around. No they said let's go quickly and let's see this thing for ourselves. You know a lot of times we miss out on what God wants to do in our life because we don't respond appropriately. They ran to the stable and we read in Luke chapter 2 verse 17. And seeing him the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. And all who heard the shepherd's story were astonished but Mary kept these things in her heart and thought about them often.
But the shepherds went back to their flocks glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen as it was told to them by the angel. Listen you have the same message. You need to share this message too. Especially in this Christmas season. Listen we all know people who are really hurting this Christmas. Some have lost their jobs. Some are sick. Some have a loved one that is sick. Some are very depressed. As you know alcohol use, drug use is up dramatically.
Calls to help lines or hotlines with people who are having suicidal thoughts are through the ceiling. And we need to tell people a savior has been born. We need to tell people there's hope.
We need to tell people to not be afraid. And share this message just as the shepherds shared it. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie with good encouragement for our Christmas season. People may be more open to a conversation about the Lord now than at any other time of the year. You know Pastor Greg evangelism is our heartbeat here at Harvest Ministries. It pervades all we do. And we're making available a great resource that undergirds our evangelism efforts.
Season one of The Chosen on DVD. Yes. How can we use this as an evangelism tool especially with those who just you know just don't go to church? Yeah that's a great question because we're dealing with the generation now that has been born with screens. They've never known a life without an iPhone or a tablet device or or a big screen in front of them somewhere. So this is how many of them process information. Now of course we would like them to become more literate and read more.
But hey let's meet people where they are. And so that one of the best ways you can come to them is through sending them through cinema, through film, through dramatizing something and telling a true story but in a way that connects to them culturally. And I can't think of anyone who's done a better job of this than director Dallas Jenkins in this series called The Chosen. The Chosen is a dramatic depiction of the life and ministry of Jesus.
And it's done in a way like I've never seen before. These apostles come to life. These Bible stories just jump out at you in a way like you've never seen before.
And I'm very excited to announce that we are offering season one of The Chosen to you this month for your gift of any size. And what a great time to sit down and watch these stories with your family. I have to tell you the episode where Jesus encounters Nicodemus is one of the most moving things I've ever seen.
In fact I was speaking with actor Jonathan Rumi who plays the role of Jesus and told him how powerful his portrayal of Christ was in those scenes of The Chosen. What have you come here to show us? A kingdom.
That is what our rulers are worried about. No, not that kind. Then what? A sort of kingdom that a person cannot see unless he is born again. Born again?
Yes. You mean a new creature? A conversion from gentile to Jewish?
No, no that's not what I'm talking about. Then what is born again? I hope you don't mean return to the womb because that would be a problem for me.
My mother and she rest in peace is dead. Truly I say to you unless one is born of water in the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
That part of you that is what must be reborn to new life. So we're going to send this to you for your gift of any size. Whatever you send to help us financially to continue on teaching the word of God and preaching the gospel will be greatly appreciated and we will rush you your copy of season one of The Chosen so you can sit down with your family and start enjoying it together.
But it's not just entertainment. You're going to be moved spiritually and it's going to make you want to open up your Bible and read the stories as given to us in the gospel. So don't delay order your copy of season one of The Chosen for your gift of any size to Harvest Ministries. Yes the perfect time to have a DVD that tells the real story of Jesus. It would make for good quality time with your kids or grandkids. As Pastor Greg said we'll send it to you to thank you for your investment in this ministry and the lives that will be touched in the coming year.
And doesn't our culture need a touch from the Lord right about now? So thanks for your investment today and we'll say thanks tangibly with season one of the TV series called The Chosen. You can donate securely online at harvest.org or write us at A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514. Or call us any time 24-7 at 1-800-821-3300. That's 1-800-821-3300. Are you receiving Pastor Greg's daily devotions each day via email?
If not, let's take care of that right now. You can sign up today free of charge at harvest.org and you'll receive a daily inspirational thought from God's word each day in your inbox. Again go to harvest.org. You know sometimes we can't always make it to church but here's the good news. Church is coming to you.
It's coming to you on your TV screen or on your tablet or your computer or even your phone. We do it every weekend and it's called Harvest at Home. We have worship. We have a message from the word of God.
If you want to find out more just go to harvest.org and join us this weekend for Harvest at Home. Well next time Pastor Greg brings us more insight on the good news of great joy, an angelic message given by some lowly shepherds. But before we go, Pastor Greg closes our time together this way. When the shepherds realized the Savior had been born they went and told everyone and people were astonished. Will you go out and tell someone about Jesus today? Will you try to engage someone in what I would call an evangelistic conversation and tell them that there's hope in this hopeless world? Tell them that there's peace and the tumult? Tell them that they don't have to be filled with fear and instead can be filled with joy? Tell them they can have a relationship with God?
If you do that you'll be giving the greatest gift you could ever give. Let's all pray together. Father I pray now that we'll take this message to heart and that we'll look for opportunities to share this good news with people that don't know you. Lord because this is a season where your name is sung in songs and the mention of Christmas is everywhere but very few know what it's all about. Help us to be like these shepherds telling others about what you have done for us. Use us for your glory we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Hey everybody thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners so for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make him known to others or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner just go to harvest.org
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-06 21:38:18 / 2023-07-06 21:47:32 / 9