Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
People are in deep bondage while under the illusion that they're free. The Jews of Jesus' day thought they were free and didn't like being told they needed deliverance. Today, more about Jesus, the great gift giver.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, a lot of people today who think they're free are really in slavery, just like the Jews of Jesus' day. You know, Dave, as you were speaking, I couldn't help but think of the fact that evil never retreats on its own.
It only retreats when it is confronted by a more superior power. And of course, as we think of the power of the devil, the power of death, the power of evil, sin, isn't it wonderful that God has given us a Redeemer who is more powerful than all those evils? And that's why we rejoice at Christmastime. And you know, speaking of Christmastime, we think of God's generosity toward us.
We, of course, all want to be generous toward others. So as you are considering a year-end gift, you might want to pray about contributing to this ministry, especially those of you who perhaps have never connected with us before. Now, I'm holding in my hands a book that would be a wonderful year-end gift to give to your friends, to your relatives, to your children. It's entitled, Have You Considered 365 Readings That Emphasize God as Creator, the Intricacies of His Creation. In fact, as I look at this book and leaf through it, I notice that it is all color-illustrated.
Right now, it's open to a story about how prairie dogs survive. Very interesting. This book helps us to worship God as Creator. 365 readings, perhaps I've already emphasized that for every day of the new year. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
Of course, I'll be giving you this info once again at the end of this message. Now that's the first contrast between a son and a slave. There's a second contrast and that has to do with two different fathers.
Two different fathers. Jesus said, verse 38, I speak of what I have seen with my father, that's the father in heaven, and you do what you have heard from your father. They said, Abraham is our father. Jesus said, if you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did. But now you seek to kill me a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing what your father did. And so they go back and forth with Jesus and they say, well, you know, our father is Abraham and you are born implied of fornication, they say to Jesus.
Now, you have to brace yourself for this, okay? But Jesus didn't take that course, how to win friends and influence people. That came a little later.
That was a little later than Jesus. And you may be offended by how plainly he speaks, but that's exactly why we have to hear what he has to say. He is speaking on behalf of the father. The words that he speaks are true. So are you ready for them?
You can brace yourself a little bit for this. Verse 44, you are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth because there's no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he's a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell you the truth, Jesus said, you don't believe me.
Wow. And Jesus is saying, now, what about this imagery of fathers? What's going on there in the text?
That has to do with the nature, you see. In what sense was the devil the father of these people? He was, in this sense, that they had his nature, which is a nature of deception and lies. And these lies, they told themselves so many times over and over that they began to believe lies about themselves, that they were righteous in the sight of God because of their works, unwilling to see their need of deep, abiding redemption.
And that's, of course, where the lie really resides. And so Jesus said, you know, there are two different fathers in the world. There's the Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's one father. The other father is the devil.
And the human race is kind of divided between the two, isn't it? A young woman comes to me and says, you know, I'm in love with a man who's really a nice guy, but he's not a Christian. Well, what does Pastor Lutzer do? He takes her to this text and says, you know, there are two different fathers in the world. There's this father and there's this father, the one in verse 44.
You and he may get along for quite some time, quite well, but eventually you're going to have trouble with your father-in-law. I don't have to repeat that, do I? Jesus is speaking to religious people. And today in this church and across the world, wherever we go, and you know, we stream live all over the world and are heard on the radio, et cetera, primarily religious people. And Jesus is saying that there is a level of deception that you can enter into as a religious person. And as a result of that, you can miss the fact that you need the kind of redemption that Jesus Christ came to give.
Two different experiences, two different sons, two different contrasts, actually. And Jesus is saying that what we ought to do is to recognize that we need God as our Father. And very clearly, Jesus just puts it out there. As you read the Gospel of John and elsewhere, Jesus is constantly saying that if you don't receive me, you don't receive my Father. You think of the outstanding the astounding, that's the word that I want, astounding claims that Jesus Christ made. And yet you have people today who say, well, you know, to me, he's a good teacher. Well, good teachers normally don't exalt themselves and tell people that their eternal destiny is totally determined by what these people do with him. No, but Jesus did that. And that's what it comes down to, as C.S.
Lewis has shown, that either Jesus Christ was a liar or a lunatic or he was Lord, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And that's really, and that's really the message of Christmas. With Seneca, who cried, oh, that a hand would come down from heaven and deliver me from my besetting sin. I'm speaking to you now heart to heart. Just want you to understand and listen very carefully when I tell you this.
You and I don't need a whole lot more good teaching. What we need is spiritual power to live differently, as the angel said, to deliver his people from their sins. And only Jesus is able to do that. Only Jesus is able to do that. And that's why we exalt him and that's why we remember his birthday.
It is because he is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God of all gods, the one deliverer, the one savior whom we proclaim to the world. Now, a couple of things to help us take these strands and bring them together. I've already made the point, but I want to emphasize that the worst possible slavery is slavery to sin. Now, these Jewish people, God bless them, they were not, when they said we've never been slaves of anyone, they were not referring to political slavery because they were under the yoke of the Roman Empire. And of course, the Jewish nation had been under the yoke of Egypt and other countries all the way through. And so they understood all that. But what they were saying is that religiously, we've never been slaves to anyone. Religiously, we have been free. What they didn't realize was because they failed to acknowledge the depth of their need, they were really slaves to their thought patterns that put them in much better light than they were. Something like a little boy who said to his mother, I'm eight feet tall.
I'm eight feet tall. Really? And he was, according to the yardstick that he had made. The Bible says that when we judge ourselves by others, we sin and we are not wise. So first of all, the worst kind of slavery you can have is slavery to sin.
It is a bad taskmaster. And I'm speaking to people who think that they are free. They can do whatever they like. They can go wherever they want.
They can indulge in whatever they want to indulge in. And they say to themselves, I am free. And I say to you today, you are bound.
You are bound. You wake up in the morning and it's sin that tells you what to do. And no matter how much you rationalize it, you do it. It's a terrible kind of bondage. And there's bondage to the conscience. Someday at Moody Church, I want to preach a series of messages on the conscience.
I've been gathering material on that for a while. And I think, for example, of a man, true story, who murdered someone when he was basically a teenager, something like about the age of 18. And the police questioned him and all, but he was never charged. He grew up, married, had a family and became a Christian. And years later, I mean, I'm talking about 25 years later, he turned himself into the authorities because he said he couldn't live with his conscience. And he said later, and in one of my books I quote him, when he said that, I'm a freer man here behind bars than I was when I was on the outside. There is a freedom of the spirit that can only be given by truth, which sets people free.
The worst kind of bondage is bondage to self. I'm told that Alexander the Great, you remember before he died he wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. But someone suggested that there was another world that Alexander had not conquered. And that is the world of the heart. And that, by the way, is one of the reasons I'm preaching the series of messages that I told you about, going to preach it.
Because it was Luther who said, I fear my own heart more than I do the pope. And what we need to do is to recognize that there is a slavery to the human heart. Secondly, the truth sets us free. The truth sets us free. Jesus was saying to these religious people, if you want to be free, you have to take off the mask and deal with reality and see yourself and see God.
You know, it was Calvin, the great theologian who in the beginning of his Institutes, and by the way, his Institutes became the textbook for Protestant theology for about 200 years. But he begins by saying that there are two kinds of knowledge. There's knowledge of God and knowledge of self. And sometimes it's hard to know which comes first.
But one thing is sure, you can't have one without the other. You can't know who you are unless you're in God's presence. And knowledge of self comes by the knowledge of God. You want to know what our big problem is in our society?
Everything seems to be going haywire. It's people who think they know who they are without any reference at all to God. That they can just on their own find out who they are, find out their own morality, and find out their own direction without knowing God.
But God sees behind the mask. You know, during the days many years ago of the O.J. Simpson trial, the prosecution began one of its defenses or one of its assaults, I guess would be more accurate, saying this.
Wealth and fame can't change this simple truth. O.J. Simpson is a person. People have a good side and a bad side. We will show you the other side of the smiling face.
Now, no matter where you come down on on the verdict that was eventually given, that's irrelevant to the point that I'm making. People have a good side and a bad side. And we have to God sees what is on the other side of the smiling face.
He sees the anger, the envy, the secret addictions, the the other part of our life. And Jesus said that when you come to me, you can be truthful in my presence. And when you know the truth about yourself and you know the truth about Jesus and who I am, you can be free. Of course, we continue to struggle with sin. But sin no longer is our task, master. We keep looking to Jesus for the deliverance that was promised by the angel to Joseph and Mary, that he will save his people. And then, of course, the bottom line is that truth has to be received, doesn't it?
It has to be received. As you go through the rest of this text, you'll discover that there are those who rejected Jesus and they want to stone him and they want to kill him, all in the name of religion, by the way. And so there were those who went their way and then, the disciples of Jesus went another way. And so it is that Jesus is constantly dividing people, dividing people.
And that's what he does today, too. You must confront this Christ. The question is, are you going to receive what he has to say? You'll notice that Jesus said that truth has to be received if you abide in my word. I'm back in verse 31. If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth. It isn't just simply making a decision for Jesus, important though that is, because there is a time when you cross that threshold, but that you abide in the truth, that truth becomes a part of you, that you are reading the truth, that you are allowing the word of God to impact your life, and then the truth begins to grow in your heart and it overcomes the error. Jesus came to die.
We emphasize Bethlehem, of course, during the Christmas season, but remember that Jesus was really born crucified. And when Simeon held the little baby in his arms, you remember he said that this baby came that the hearts of many would be revealed. And God sees who we are today behind the mask. And he says, if you know the truth and you receive the truth, you'll be fully free, free indeed. Seneca, as I mentioned, oh, that a hand would come down from heaven and deliver me from my besetting sin.
Seneca, your wish has been granted. Jesus has come to save us from our sins. And may we rejoice in that at this Christmas season. I want to conclude with Phillips Brooks, who wrote that lovely song, O Little Town of Bethlehem. He was there during the winter. This was, I think, back in the 1800s, saw the beautiful town and wrote that hymn that all of us loved. But I choose it because of the last stanza.
I looked at it this morning, and I'll see if I can remember it. Oh, holy child of Bethlehem, be sent to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in.
Be born in us today. If you've never received Christ as Savior, if you've never responded to the truth, give up the mass. Come as you are, but come to Christ because remember the words of the angel. He shall save his people from their sins. Let us rejoice in the real message of the manger. Let's pray together. Our Father, we ask that even as your word has gone out today that you might by your Spirit help us to see that Jesus is the deliverer, that he is not only here to give us orders and to tell us how to live, but actually to reach down from heaven and save us. We ask that those who are bound today as slaves might be freed, that those bonds might be broken. And we ask, Lord, that there shall be a freedom in Jesus even as they face the truth of who they are and who he is. Help us, Father. Cast out our sin and enter in.
Be born in us today. Now before I close this prayer if God has talked to you, you talk to God. No matter by which means you may be listening, you can bow your head right where you are and say, Jesus, I'm a sinner. Today I receive the truth. Today having heard your word, I give up my defenses and the mask of my hypocrisy and I receive Jesus as mine. Father, help us to do that with all that we are, with no reservations. We pray that we might see your glory and your victory in Jesus' name.
Amen. My friend today, don't ever put Jesus on the same shelf as other religious teachers. Not a one of them made the claims that Jesus makes. He is the one who was born in Bethlehem.
Of course, he died on the cross, was raised from the dead, taken to heaven, and he showed that he had the ability to forgive sin and bring us to God, and that's why we worship him every single day of the year. And as we're thinking about the year end, this is one of the last days we are making available a special resource for you. It's a book, 365 Readings, color illustrated, of God's creation.
For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, but I have to say thank you to the many of you who support this ministry. As you know, we are listener supported.
Therefore, it is because of our partners that running to win can be heard around the world. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book, Have You Considered?
We'll give that to you one more time, rtwoffer.com or 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. In 1 Timothy 2-12, Paul writes, I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. Rather, she is to remain quiet. An anonymous running to win listener wants to know, is this verse ever negated or clarified elsewhere in Scripture?
Well, the very short answer is no. I don't think that it is negated. I think that there may be some clarification if you take the total amount of what the New Testament teaches about the role of women in the church. But I believe that the bottom line is simply this, as Paul says, that women are not supposed to teach nor to usurp authority over men within the church. When you look at the New Testament, you discover that the emphasis is on elders, male leadership. And the whole trend today toward female elders, I think, is a concession to our culture. I don't find it in the Bible. All the attempts that have been made to show that this is purely cultural, that it can't possibly apply to us, I think, result in forced interpretations of a rather clear passage. So I believe that women can teach other women, they can teach children, they can serve under the direction of men in terms of women ministries, but I think the verse is what it is.
And I think that we have to accept it as such. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or, call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. During this holiday season, we should consider Christmas from a different viewpoint, from a place far away in a time long ago. The birth of Jesus took place under appalling conditions. Next time, don't miss A Thoughtful Meditation on Lots of Space but No Room. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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