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A Stupendous Christmas

If Not For God / Mike Zwick
The Truth Network Radio
December 21, 2022 8:30 am

A Stupendous Christmas

If Not For God / Mike Zwick

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December 21, 2022 8:30 am

In this episode, Mike Zwick sits down in an interview with Stu Epperson to discuss the true story of Christmas.

Encouraging Prayer
James Banks
Finishing Well
Hans Scheil
Finishing Well
Hans Scheil
It's Time to Man Up!
Nikita Koloff
Truth Talk
Stu Epperson

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So you'll be alerted when we have our next video. Welcome to If Not For God, stories of hopelessness that turn to hope. Here is your host Mike Zwick.

If Not For God with Mike Zwick. I've got a very special guest today. I've got Stu Epperson, the owner of the Truth Network right here, and Stu wrote a pretty good book.

I read it, and I'll read it again. It's called First Words of Jesus, and you know you're big if you've got a forward by Dr. David Jeremiah. Oh, he was very gracious. His team, Turning Point, just made an amazing new movie called Why the Nativity. I was just at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. with my bride, watching that with Paul Joyner, Executive Producer, Dr. Jeremiah, and a bunch of folks.

It was just sensational. It was saturated with Scripture. The gospel is called Why the Nativity. I'm telling you, it is a great Christmas movie documentary, but it's got so many great effects. Professional actors, real animals, it's the whole story of Christ.

I mean, this was a difficult crisis pregnancy in a time with all kinds of geopolitical chaos, censorship, taxation, everything going on. The story of Christ and Christmas comes out of that whole crucible. Really, there's so much in Christmas. In my book that Dr. Jeremiah has graciously supported and written the foreword for is a book that attempts to connect to do what the Bible does, and that is connect the cradle to the cross. How Jesus Christ came on mission, on a rescue mission, to save wretched sinners like me and like you. There's so much in all the Scriptures of Christmas and all the characters of Christmas where we see that rescue mission happening, even with the most unlikely first heralds, the shepherds. It's all throughout there. We're called to be heralds of the gospel.

This is a great time of year with the sights and sounds and the Madison Avenue and the lights and all this stuff. You go into a secular pagan department store. You may go into an establishment owned by an atheist, a chain of stores, and you hear words like, peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.

Why am I hearing that here? Well, it just opened the door for you to share the good news of Jesus. Yeah, and I mean, a lot of people are talking about prophecy nowadays, but I believe the Old Testament actually prophesies about the coming Messiah. I've got Isaiah chapter 9, and I'm going to start in verse 1. I've got the New King James version, so if you've got your Bibles, and I hope you do, pull out Isaiah chapter 9.

You can pull it up on your phone or your iPad, but the New King James version in verse 1 says, Nevertheless, the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first he lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun in the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan and Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy. They rejoice before you according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For you have broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle, and garments rolled in blood, will be used for burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. Jesus is still saving people today.

That's just a side note. Upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever, the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Well, Stu, that sounds a lot like Jesus. It sounds a lot like Christ. It sounds like a lot like a prophecy that has been fulfilled. We need to talk about prophecy that's coming. A fifth of every Bible scripture, one of every five Bible verses, talks about the future events, the return of the king. But we need to make sure before we get too far into that, and especially in the speculation and pontification or postulation of when he's going to return and are these the signs of the times, we need to recognize and live in the reality of the first coming of Christ. That he came in this advent.

He came born of a virgin. Galatians 4, verse 5, in the fullness of time God sent forth his son, born of a virgin, born of a woman, the seed of the woman, to conquer, to crush the seed of the serpent, to bring us to God, to bring reconciliation, to do what the law could not do, to condemn sin in the flesh, and to pay the price of sin, to ransom us. God rest ye merry gentlemen, to save us all from Satan's power while we were gone astray, O tidings of comfort and joy. These are tidings of comfort and joy. So it's real important that in our excitement for the second coming, and in our arguments, and we need to discuss post-trib, pre-trib, post-mill, amill, all the different theories and all the different discussions, and it's really important that most importantly we're ready for a second return, but we need to embrace that first return and make sure we're spreading the message, the gospel, the ministry, and the word of reconciliation. Because he came, so we need to announce the Savior's birth, his life, his death, and his resurrection, because that's what saves souls.

Because when he comes back the second time, it's too late. Yeah, you were talking about it this morning at Wednesday in the Word, and so every Wednesday morning at any Dario, I believe, in North Carolina, we meet at the one in Winston-Salem. There's one in Cartersville. There's, I mean, there's one... where was the one?

Cartersville, King, Stanleyville, Clemens, Mooresville, which is near Lake Norman, Ashboro, Archdale, Thomasville, and of course Winston-Salem. And this is a great group of guys getting in the Word, a lot of encouragement, and just a bunch of messed up guys like us going through the Bible. We were talking about that, how we are ambassadors for Christ. God has called us.

You are not your own. You are here to herald his message. And what a great example those first shepherds were to herald his message. You had told a story this morning because you were talking about we need to share the good news of Jesus with others, but you had talked about a story where we really have to have a sense of urgency.

And you told a story about Dwight L. Moody. Well, the passage that we've quoted all our life, and this morning we dealt with 2 Corinthians 5 and the first part of chapter 6. We've talked about new creations in Christ. Everyone knows that verse.

It's a beautiful verse. We have a new life in Christ. We talk about the numbers of Christmas, the numbers of the Gospel, 521, how Christ... God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we could be found righteous.

We could have the righteousness of God in him. So we have this new righteousness, and we've been given this, we're ambassadors, given this word of reconciliation. And then Paul closes out that thought.

It's really a bad chapter break, honestly, but the chapter breaks weren't in the original text. But Paul closes that thought out in verse 2 by saying, Now, today is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation. So there is an urgency. There's a limit to God's grace and mercy.

It is unlimited in its extension, its offer, but in its time it is limited. None of us has promised another breath, another heartbeat, another day. So what Paul's saying is, look, don't take the grace of God for granted. Don't receive it in vain. It comes to you to come in you, to flow through you, so you're heralding and proclaiming to everyone, be reconciled with God. Get right with God.

Follow Jesus while you still have time. And he says, he climatically says in verse 2 of 2 Corinthians chapter 6, he says, Behold, now is the day of salvation. So the clock is ticking.

The door on the ark of God's mercy and deliverance is shutting. And the day of God's wrath is coming. The day of the great return of the king is the next big event in history. Whatever your eschatological construct is, the king is returning. He's coming back. We don't know when.

Maybe morning, maybe soon, maybe evening, but surely he's coming soon. And the days are getting darker. You think it's bad? Now it's going to get a lot worse. A lot more pressure on Christians, a lot more censorship, a lot more attacks on the faith. But the beauty of the gospel is that the offer is to all, and we are God's saves, and he saves the worst of sinners like me. But the offer, the open arms, will close. And that door will close. And the wrath of God, just like the flood came down and wiped out the entire earth, except for Noah and his family, faithful Noah, righteous Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. The wrath of God will come in fire and wipe out. He'll vanquish all his enemies. When he comes back in Revelation 1 7, every eye shall see him, even they that pierced him. He will come back with the sword of God, flaming fire out of his mouth, eyes like fire. He will come back on that white steed as a conquering king.

And D.L. Moody was a great preacher in America over a century ago, a great man of God, the founder of the Moody Church, Chicago, Illinois. He preached the gospel. One Sunday, he preached real hard. He preached a message of salvation.

It was a bit of an outreach Sunday, a lot of unbelievers there, a lot of new faces. And he said this, he said, I want you to come back next week, and I want you to think about Jesus Christ, and I want you to contemplate what will I do with Jesus of Nazareth. So he gave them a week.

He says, next Sunday I'm coming back. Well, little did he know, a little did anyone in that hearing know, that the great Chicago fire would break out in between those two Sundays. And thousands of lives, millions and millions of dollars of destruction, worth of destruction. And it absolutely devastated the entire city of Chicago. One of the worst fires, by the way, in American history.

And 22 years later, at the 22nd anniversary of the great Chicago fire, D.L. Moody got up in his church on that anniversary day and spoke. And I'll try to paraphrase the quote. He said, it's one of the greatest regrets of my life. He said, many of those people I have never seen in this church since, many of those people have never come back to this church.

It was the last time I ever saw them. And he said, I have learned a painful lesson, and I have a broken heart for not pressing the issue of receiving Christ right now. He said, never again will I give any unbeliever time to contemplate and think. I will press them to know and follow Jesus now. And then he said this.

He says, I would cut off my right hand before I would give someone time to procrastinate, to put it off. Don't put this off because now, behold, now is the day of salvation. And so there's an eminence to the call of Christ, just like there's an eminence to the return of Christ. We don't know when, we know he's coming. Well, you don't know when you're going to die. All of us are going to die. Ten out of ten of us are going to die.

You know when your last breath is. So if you don't know Christ, don't put that off. There's people praying for you.

You need to wake up. Those of you who are believers, you need to cut the nonsense out of your conversations. Quit wasting everyone's time and talk about Jesus. Get people to the cross. Get them to Christ.

Do it in a gracious way, in a loving way. Talk about the ballgame, the World Cup, the NBA, the NFL, your bowl team. Talk about all of that. Have fun. Wear the colors. Have a good time. But use every bit of that as a way to get to Jesus.

You know, that's what an ambassador does. They're not there. You're not. You are not your own. You're there to spread the message of reconciliation.

That's it. And you know, I was looking at Romans chapter one. I've got the New King James version in verse 14. Paul says, I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.

So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are also in Rome. And you say, well, why would he be a debtor? Why would he be indebted to these people? And I think one of the things that Paul realized is that he was no more worthy to become a Christian than you or I are. He actually persecuted Christians. He was right near Stephen when they stoned him to death.

And I think he was collecting up clothes or something like that. And he was probably one of the people who was encouraging Stephen to be stoned to death. He persecuted Christians. He persecuted the faith.

But by the grace of God, he was met on the road of Damascus by Jesus Christ. And he said that because he received this grace, because he received the salvation that he did not deserve, he felt indebted to others who have not heard the good news to share the good news with them. And so there's really two ways that you can be indebted to somebody. You know, Stu, if you loan me $500, I can actually owe you the $500 and I'm indebted to you for that $500. Another way that I can owe you the $500 is if you give me $500 to give it to Compassion International to feed the starving children, then I owe that money to Compassion International.

And so I didn't borrow any money from Compassion International, but you gave me the money so I could give it to them. And so in a sense, maybe what he's saying is that the gospel for him, he received salvation, but it's a loan from God that now that he has received the good news and he has been saved, he has been saved by his faith through grace. It was a gift of God, nothing of himself, so that we can't boast that he feels indebted to go and share that same gospel with other people.

Absolutely. And Paul, imagine that on your resume. I know everyone listening, we've all blown it, we've all messed up, we all beat ourselves up at night, but imagine laying in bed at night with the images, the pictures, the faces of the men, women, and children that you dragged to jail and had executed for the crime of following Jesus. And that's what Paul did.

He was a bloody man. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, the most religious guy around, and yet God transformed his life and turned him from the greatest murderer to the greatest missionary, from the greatest hater of the church to the greatest harvester of unbelievers, from the greatest enemy of the church, of all things, to a great encourager of the church. And so, what a miracle story. And what Paul basically is saying in 2 Corinthians 5.17 is God can do that with you. If any man is in Christ, if anyone is in Christ, Paul's like, thank God for the word anyone.

Thank God that God so loved the world, right? If anyone is Christ, he is a new creation. All things have passed away.

All things have become new. The blood of Jesus even wiped out his bloody past, even wiped out the murder of Stephen, that great deacon, that great man of God. We read about that in Acts chapter 6 and 7, the brutal murder of a saintly man who gazed into heaven and going places in the New Testament. Christ is standing up as he's receiving home this martyr, this man of God, Stephen. Paul had him executed, was so above even getting his hands dirty.

He gave the word and just stood and watched and held the coats of everyone else that did the deed. So this guy was a changed man. So now he introduces himself, to your point, and with every epistle as a slave of Jesus Christ. Romans 1-1, Paul a servant, a slave of Jesus. We don't like the word slave as much as we like servant, but that's the word slave in the Greek. And he is a doulos, and he is bound now by a new master.

Separated, Romans 1-1 says, separated under the gospel. So this is what he is bound to. So now he has a new boss, he has a new mission, he is now an ambassador of heaven, and he is now tasked with the message and the ministry of reconciliation. Which is simply what?

I'm an ambassador. I'm calling people to get right with God, be reconciled with God, presenting Christ. Colossians 1, we proclaim him admonishing everyone and teaching everyone that we may present everyone complete and mature in Christ.

So there is a debt that Paul couldn't pay and could even try to pay back. But it's language to indicate that he is now under grace, and he's not under law. So he's free to serve the living God, and there's not a greater service, there's not a greater calling, a greater ministry that all of us have than the ministry of reconciliation.

That's right. And the word gospel, I actually found this out recently, is not an exclusively religious word. I'm not sure if you know where the word gospel comes from, but when a Roman general in Rome, when they would win a battle, they would send back literally a gospel message. And so this gospel message that they would send back was that the battle had already been won.

The message that they did not send back was that, you know, things are getting better or, okay, things are improving, we really need you to work hard. The message that they sent back was that the battle had already been won. Now, the gospel is not good advice on how to fight the spiritual battle.

It's the good news that the battle had already been won. Believing this message releases us from the penalty of sin, and then as you continue to believe it, it releases you from the power of sin as well. The fire to do in the Christian life comes only from the fuel of what's already been done. So the battle to do in the Christian life comes only by soaking in the fuel of what's already been done. And Stu, I think you talk about that in your book, First Words of Jesus.

Absolutely. Jesus said, it is finished and it was done. And from the gifts of the wise man, which each symbolize beautiful aspects of the deity of Christ, the kingship of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ, from the great heart of Mary, who knew at the very beginning this sword will pierce your own soul and the pain that she would endure watching her.

The one she gave birth to would bear her sin and she would watch him die. To the shepherds, these no-named nomads who were ignorant, illiterate, yet they were some of the greatest missionaries and heralds and ambassadors of the good news. It says in Luke chapter 2, 17 and 18, people got on me like, well, you read way into that. You made the shepherds out like they're saints. No, look, I just said what the Bible says. It says they went out and they spread the good news of Jesus everywhere.

So that's what they did. I didn't say they got advanced degrees. You said you made them out like they were saints, but you said something this morning. The old country preacher said, you're either a saint or you're an ape.

So I think sometimes we look at saints as these people who are super human Christians or whatever, but what does a saint actually mean? Someone who's sanctified, set apart, someone who's new, and someone who has Christ in them. Now, again, the Scripture the Scriptures don't profile the shepherds. We don't have anything about them after Luke 2, but we do know this, that their encounter with Jesus Christ was so transformational in their life that they went out and they spread the word of it everywhere. And furthermore, you think, well, how do people receive it?

Well, it tells us how people receive it. It says that everyone that saw the shepherds were stupefied, were mesmerized at what happened to the shepherds, because they knew these guys. So something changed in them. And we're not saying they went on to become great saints. We're not even saying they were saved, but we're saying that something happened where they encountered Jesus. And they went and told everyone everywhere spreading the message. And of all the people for God to send out as the first heralds, for God to notify, for the angel to appear to in that Luke 2 passage, it was these ignorant, illiterate, uneducated, and unclean. They weren't allowed to go to church because they dealt with sheep and they had to work on the Sabbath. So they went out and chased around these little furry animals on the Sabbath.

So you have these guys that are the least qualified. No one knows their name. You remember their names? Do you know what song they inspired? They inspired many songs. While shepherds watched their field by night, they inspired all kinds of songs. Way in a manger. Way in a manger, that's right. The shepherd, the cattle are lowing, but the most significant song, or arguably specific to them, was this song, Go Tell It on the Mountain.

Over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. Now, you know the names of the folks that wrote that? Okay, just like the names of shepherds, no one knows their name.

Why? Because they were African-American slaves in slavery in early American history. But the joy of Christ and the message of Christmas was so rich in them that they wrote a song that we sing to this day, this time of year and other times of year. Go tell it on the mountain.

And that's the takeaway. The shepherds did it. They sang it. These slaves, under the pressure and the heat and the brutal atrocities of slavery, wrote a brilliant song that later an African-American composer in Tennessee picked up. He actually put the words, the music, and all that to it, but they're the ones that pretty much blessed him with it, all of us with it. And that's a song we still sing.

You know what that was inspired by? That was inspired by Isaiah 40, which was what Paul used in Romans 10 when he said, How should I hear without a preacher? So friends, how are the people around you going to hear about Christ unless you open your big mouth and tell them the good news? Buy them a meal, buy them a coffee, show them some love, buy them a Bible, share the gospel in word and deed. But don't just say, well, I'll just live a good life. No, a good life ain't going to lead anyone to Christ. That's why that same passage in Romans 10 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Then it begs the question, how should they hear if there's not a preacher who will go for us?

Isaiah chapter 6 says, right? Well, check this out. Then it goes on to say this, How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them that bring good news and that spread the tidings of peace, which in the Hebrew is the word shalom. So look at those feet, Zwick. Slip the shoes off, look at them.

They're ugly dogs. There's a lot of odor and whatnot, but those feet are beautiful in God's eyes when they are spreading the gospel. Let your feet carry you somewhere today to someone who needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Maybe it's to the passport office. She can take the gospel to countries where they have never heard the gospel.

2.5 billion have never heard about Jesus. What are we doing about that? Maybe it's just go next door to the neighbors. Maybe you just need your slippers and just walk a little sidewalk by your house there by your driveway. Walk over, run their paper up to the door. Say, Hey, I want to just tell you today, God loves you.

How hard was that? See? Give them, you know, dropping some brownies off. Hey, you want to go to church with me?

Hey, come over. Watch Why the Nativity. It's a free movie. David Jeremiah. It's the only Christian Christmas movie. I know that he just, he just wants to give it to everybody. Dr. Jeremiah is like, you know, most movies are very expensive. He's like, I'm giving this movie to everyone. Dr. Jeremiah, like the shepherds, like those slaves, is going and telling it on the mountain.

He's made a big movie. It's going to be on national TV networks. Fox Nation. It's going to be all over the place on Christmas Eve and leading up to Christmas.

Why the Nativity? So you can invite a neighbor friend to watch that or send them a link. Let them watch it on their own in their own time, in their own house. Bring them some popcorn.

Have a watch party. My point is there's so many ways to do this and there's so many amazing ways to make him known to go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. How lovely are your feet and how will you spread and herald the good news of Jesus because many of you listening are far more educated and articulate.

You can actually read unlike the shepherds and others, but are you reading the gospel to your children? Are you spreading the good news? Is he not worthy in his message and why he came? Not worthy of telling the whole world about Jesus. That's why we have the Truth Network. That's why we're pumped about programs like If Not For God because you are using this platform to invite people to Jesus and then to invite people to invite other people. This thing is a multiplier. We're mobilizing everyone to go call out to the world as ambassadors, ministers of reconciliation.

Be reconciled with God. I just looked up Why The Nativity Movie and it's on YouTube. It's absolutely free. You can watch it right now. I'm going to watch it after I get out of here when I'm on the road.

Watch it with the children. I'm going to listen to it. First Words of Jesus by Stu Epperson Jr. You can go to Amazon and pick it up or anywhere where books are sold. Stu, I'm excited to have you back on. I'm glad that Jesus came into the world to save a sinner like me. If you've never given your life to Christ, I just want to ask you right now to pray with us, Lord Jesus, forgive me. I am a sinner.

The Word says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Please forgive me of my sins. I turn away from my sins and I give my life to you. In Jesus' name, amen. Amen. If not for God. If not for God. All right, for my YouTube channel, if not for God with Mike Zwick, just like, subscribe, and hit that notification bell so you'll be alerted when we have our next video. So we'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-21 15:03:53 / 2022-12-21 15:15:16 / 11

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