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Learn more at arnicare.com. That's a-r-n-i-c-a-r-e dot com slash iheart. Hi, this is Roy Jones with ManTalk Radio Podcast. Our mission is to break down the walls of race and denomination. Your chosen Truth Radio broadcast will be starting in just a few seconds.
Thank you. This is the Truth Network. Do you feel like you're on a religious treadmill? Do you feel like Christianity is just a system of rules and regulations?
I can do this, but I can't do that. Do you feel like your efforts to reach God, find God, and please God are futile? Do you feel like your faith is dead or alive? Today, Pastor Russ Andrews will walk us through Scripture to answer these questions. Join us on Finding Purpose, a local triangle ministry glorifying God by helping men find their purpose for living.
For more information and to connect with Russ Andrews and Finding Purpose, you can visit us online at findingpurpose.net or connect with us on Facebook. Now let's listen to Russ Andrews as he teaches us how to be a Christian without being religious. Do you know why Luke wrote this account of the life of Christ? It's because he had a friend in mind who was having doubts about his own faith, and that friend was a man by the name of Theophilus.
We don't know much about Theophilus, but he called him, you know, he referred to him as like being a part of the royal family. But whatever, whoever he was, he must have had some doubts. Maybe you come in tonight with some doubts. I can't think of a better book to be studying than Luke if you come into tonight with questions and doubts. And by the way, God loves questions and doubts, particularly if your heart is open to the evidence.
Look at verses three and four. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you've been taught. Listen, not only is the Christian faith a reasonable faith, it's also a sure and certain faith.
Hebrews 11 one, now this time I'm going to use the NIV translation, says, now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. See, Luke was used by God to carefully examine all these evidence, all these events. He was thorough in his research. He was sure and certain in his faith. His life had been truly changed. And as a physician, he cared for people. And one of those that he really cared for was Theophilus. And he wanted Theophilus to experience what he had experienced. And guess that's what I want for all of you. I want you to experience what I've experienced ever since I committed my life to Jesus Christ as a young boy.
You see, here's what happened to me. I observed my mother. She was a very strong believer. She had an incredible voice. She could play the piano. She was accepted at Juilliard School of Music. And she sang in every way.
And then a funeral just about in Eastern North Carolina. And she sang in a choir. I never got to sit with my mother because she was always in the choir. But all, particularly on Sunday mornings when she was practicing, she would fill our home with hymns of that Jesus. She had pictures of Jesus all throughout our house. If you came into the front door of my house or at the back door through our garage, you would enter through the pantry and then into the kitchen. And she had a huge picture of Jesus there on the kitchen.
I mean, I'm talking about this big. You couldn't miss it. When you walk through the den all the way back to my bedroom, you pass through our den. You pass by the television set. And she had a set of praying hands over the television set. When you walked into the end of the hall and took a right, you were outside my bedroom. And there on the wall, she had my favorite picture of Jesus.
Again, it's this big. And it's a picture of Jesus as the shepherd. He's holding a little white lamb.
He's got a huge smile on his face and a tear coming out of one of his eyes. And then you walked into my bedroom and she had a picture of Jesus over my bed. I didn't have a chance. But I listened to my mother when she told me about Jesus. I also listened to my Sunday school teachers like Ann Kiehl, who was my next-door neighbor. And I listened to my minister, Mr. Kenneth Sexton, who's going to be with the Lord. Mr. Sexton, one Sunday morning in the 11 o'clock service, had an altar call.
Church about this size, about this size. And I was sitting right back over there with my grandmother. And he said, if you want to know that you have eternal life, I want you to get up out of your seat and come down here and kneel down and I'll pray with you. There were three of us who went forward that morning.
I don't know who the other two were. I just know that if there'd been a brick wall at the end of that pew, I was going through it. I listened to Billy Graham during the 1960s, whenever he was on television. I began to read my Bible as a teenager. I read books by people like David Wilkerson, Brother Andrew, whose book was God's Smuggler. He smuggled Bibles into the former Soviet Union.
I read a book by Corrie Ten Boom called The Hiding Place, where they hear Jews in, I think she was in Holland, and they got caught and she went to a concentration camp and miraculously escaped. I read a book by Joni Erickson called simply entitled Joni. She broke her neck when she was 17 years old and she became a believer through that process. She's been confined in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic for over 50 years.
She's a little bit older than me. You know what she said? She said when she dies, she wants to take a wheelchair to heaven.
Do you know why? She wants to thank Jesus for it. She said, I never would have known my Lord and Savior the way I do without this wheelchair.
And then she said, I'm going to give Him permission to cast it into hell. You see, the lives of all these people had been changed and I believe them. Faith has been sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. You see, the more I read the Bible and the more I read these incredible accounts of changed lives, the more my faith changed, the more my life changed, and the more I believe, the more my faith became sure and certain. In verse 4, Luke writes, so that you may know the certainty of the things you've been taught.
This word know comes from a Greek word that means to know completely, to know beyond a shadow of doubt. Do you want to have this kind of faith? A genuine faith that endures, a faith that is sure and certain, a faith that brings peace and joy and hope. Do you know that if a man doesn't have hope, he can't live very long? I'm going to tell you something, guys, I got great hope.
And I'm not bragging. I want you to have the same hope that I do. I know the moment I die, I'll be more alive than I've ever been because I'll be in the arms of Jesus. Do you need hope tonight?
Do you have this sure and certain faith? If not, then here's what I want you to do. I want you to use the God-given mind that He's given you. And I want you to take this study guide and spend time at it alone with God this week and every week. And here's all you got to do, man, if this is new to you. Open up your Bible.
It's really simple. Do the lesson. And before you begin to read the Bible, do the lesson. Say, God, if you're there, if you're not sure, I pray that you'll speak to me through your Word.
And I tell you, He will. The more time you spend in it, the more you'll hear God speak and the more you'll believe. Remember, the Christian faith is a reasonable faith. It's a faith that is based upon fulfilled prophecy. It's a faith that is built upon eyewitness accounts. It's a faith that is built upon changed lives. And I hope all of our lives will be changed this year as we study the gospel of Luke together.
Even though we're in Luke 1, I want to start in John chapter 1, verses 4 and 5, which says, In Him was life, talking about Jesus, In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. I remember a time, and I'm sure you can too, when I was sitting on the porch of my grandfather's beach house, looking out over the ocean as a storm gathered. It was a very dark night, pitch black dark, and lightning was flashing, and thunder exploded from every direction. And it was as if God was venting His wrath at a world living in rebellion. And I remember the night was so dark that you couldn't see a single star. Yet as I watched the storm move across the water, I looked way out into the distance, literally miles away, all the way up to the horizon, and I saw one bright light shining like gold.
I could not see the source, but I knew it was the moon, breaking through a gap in the clouds and casting its light across the dark waters below, forming a path, y'all have seen that before, forming a path all the way to me. It reminded me of the prophet Isaiah. When Isaiah lived, it was a time of great darkness.
Israel was a divided kingdom, if you know your Old Testament. Isaiah warned Israel that because she had abandoned God, God was about to abandon her. And guys, sadly, our nation has abandoned God. We have sowed to the wind.
What should we expect? The whirlwind. That's right, Jeff. Isaiah warned Israel that she'd abandoned God, but Israel did not listen. And so God divided the kingdom.
He tore the kingdom apart. In 722 BC, the Assyrian army marched against Israel, defeated the ten tribes of the north, and then carried them back to Assyria as slaves and we never heard from them again. Ten tribes, you remember the twelve tribes of Israel, they just vanished. And then in 586 BC, the southern kingdom of Judea, you would think they would have learned the lessons from the northern kingdom from their brothers, but they didn't.
Aren't we hard-headed? They fell to King Nebuchadnezzar's army and the Jews were carried off to Babylon, where they remained in captivity for 70 years. And so when I read Isaiah chapter 9, I wonder if the prophet saw something similar to me as he stood on the shore of history and observed the storm clouds gathering over his nation. All around him, all Isaiah could see was darkness, and he heard thunderous warnings from God in his mind. That's what he recorded in the whole book of Isaiah, these warnings. But then as he looked out towards the horizon, centuries out into the future, like me, he saw a bright light shining and forming a path towards him.
Do you remember last week I told you that the Christian faith is a reasonable faith because it's based on what, Wayne? Fulfilled prophecy. No other book in the world has fulfilled prophecy, only the Bible. And one of the prophets that I quoted last week was the prophet Isaiah. I believe that when Isaiah saw that ray of light breaking through the clouds of darkness on the horizon of the future, I believe he sat down and he penned the words we read in Isaiah chapter 9. Again, he's looking into the future, way out into the future, 700 years to be exact. And he said, the people walking in darkness, who's he talking about?
The Jews. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light of the light of the light of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. What great light did he see? And Jesus is known as what? The light of the world.
And then in verse 6, Isaiah penned these words, for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Guys, tonight as we go through this chapter, these verses, I'm going to share with you truths that we learned from Scripture. And one of those truths is that during the darkest moments of history, the light of the Gospel always shines the brightest. And the darkness cannot overcome it. Have you ever gone into a dark room and lit a match? What happens to the darkness?
Did y'all hear what Jeff said? It flees. You go home tonight in a dark room and turn the light on, and you'll see the darkness just disappear. Isaiah lived around 700 B.C., and he prophesied about this coming light. And then if you fast forward to the year 430 B.C., we will find the last, well, not technically, but in the Old Testament canon that we have, the last prophet appeared on the scene.
And what was his name? Malachi. And when Malachi appeared on the scene, guess what? The nation of Israel was in shambles.
They'd been scattered. The temple had been destroyed. And there were now a few Jews that were beginning to return to the homeland, Nehemiah and Ezra, to rebuild the temple. But they'd been in slavery for 70 years in Babylon.
To date, it was the darkest period in Israel's history. However, God had not forgotten His Word. And so once again, God chose a messenger to speak truth into the darkness. In Malachi chapter 4, here's what the prophet writes, But for you who revere my name, the Son of righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings, and you will go out and leap like calfs released from the stall. And then he wrote this, Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and awesome day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. If I had to pick one truth that I want you to take away tonight, it's this one. God is faithful.
He remembers His Word. And guys, the Bible basically is full of nothing but promises. When you read through the Bible, it's just filled with promises. Some of those are specifically to Israel, but some of them are to you and me. And God's promises never fail. Do you believe that?
I do. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised to send a saving to the world. And then 300 years later, through the prophet Malachi, God promised to send a forerunner to announce the coming of the Lord.
This forerunner would be a messenger of good news. What would he say in John 1 29? Behold, the Lamb of God who does what?
Takes away the sins of the world. For 400 long years, the dark period between the Old Testament and the New Testament, God was silent. You're talking about a dark period. When God is silent, it's dark. And God had not spoken since He last spoke through Malachi, but all that was about to change. The long darkness was about to be pierced by light from the sun, s-o-n. And that brings us to Luke chapter 1.
So beginning with verse 5, I want you to follow along with me. In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughter of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. That means they were what?
Old. Hey listen, when you read through the Bible, you'll notice that when God moves in world history, when He wants to basically make an announcement to the world, He tends to find one righteous man like a Billy Graham, like a Billy Graham, or one righteous woman like a Corrie ten Boom. If you're not familiar with her, go read The Hiding Place.
I read it back in the 1960s. Or in this case, a righteous couple like Zechariah and Elizabeth. And He chooses them to bring hope to the world. Now it's interesting, don't y'all find this amazing that Zechariah's name means Jehovah has remembered? And Elizabeth's name means God is faithful.
Do y'all think that's coincidence? You see, God is simply showing us that His Word never fails, and that's why we're saying, Great is Thy faithfulness. By the way, King Herod, who was known as Herod the Great, there were a number of Herods. He was the first Herod. He ruled over the Jews from 37 to 4 B.C., right up to the birth of Christ. And he was an evil dictator, apparently had either nine or ten wives, and he murdered at least one of them. But he's also the Herod who in Matthew chapter 2 will send out an order that all the boys in the area of Bethlehem under the age of two be what? Slaughtered, murdered. At the other end of the spectrum, you find this righteous couple who are living their lives in obedience to God's Word.
So let me ask you something. What does it mean that this couple was blameless, that they were righteous in God's sight? Let me tell you what it does not mean. It does not mean that they were sinless. It simply means that their lives conformed as best they could to God's laws and commands. And one of those commands were that they were to bring a sacrifice to the temple to atone for their sins, and they did that. But more important than that, God looked into their hearts, and what did he see?
Faith. Do you remember in Genesis 15, 6 it says Abraham believed God, and therefore he credited Abraham with righteousness? To be credited with righteousness just means that God sees faith in your heart, like the thief on the cross. And in the courtroom of heaven, he issues an eternal edict over you. He says, I declare you righteous.
And guess what that means, man? If you've placed your trust in Jesus Christ, when God looks at you, he remembers your sins no more. He's dumped them into the depths of the ocean, never to be brought up before you. Romans 8, 1 says, Therefore there's now no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus. Do you know where condemnation comes from? It comes from Satan. You know what comes from God? Mercy and grace. So let me ask you, do you have faith in your heart?
When God looks into your heart, does he see genuine faith? I want you to notice something here. And this flies in the face of all the prosperity preachers that are on television. By the way, every day is not a Friday and this ain't your best life now.
Who am I talking about? If you see Joel Osteen, I know he's got better hair than me, but just change channels. Living your life blameless for God does not mean that everything is going to go well in your life. Some people say, well come to Jesus and life will be a bed of roses.
That's not true. Come to Jesus and you're going to find out you've got an enemy who's really out to get you. His name is Satan. Satan doesn't really go after non-believers. He's already got them.
He's coming after you and me. Look at Zechariah and look at Elizabeth. Do you think they understood this truth? They were old in age and she was barren. And back then, barrenness was viewed as a judgment from God.
It was a sign of his disfavor. And so I'm sure people were going behind Elizabeth's back, well she must be doing something wrong. Look at her. She can't even have a baby.
But see, God is faithful. What do you think Elizabeth and Zechariah have been praying for probably for decades? Lord, please bless us with a child.
Lord, please hear our prayer. Y'all probably know maybe your wife. Maybe you don't have any children or maybe you have a daughter who's not, is having trouble getting pregnant.
It's rampant. And I've seen it in my own family. One of my daughter-in-laws had trouble getting pregnant. She finally did. But I remember she was in anguish. It killed her. She was happy for her friends when they got pregnant. But it pained her. And so my wife and I, we were pleading with God.
Please give them a child. And God did. Another truth that we're going to learn from this tonight is that while God was concerned about the nation of Israel, he was also concerned about this godly, humble couple. And I want to tell you something.
It's still the same today. God is concerned about the world. And he's really concerned about our nation. But he's also concerned about what you're going through. I mean, you can go to the Lord with anything. He already knows it. If you had one son that broke his arm and another son that just, you know, messed up a fingernail, are you going to pay less attention to the son that's hurting over his fingernail?
No. You come to him with everything. Psalm 34 verses 15 through 18 says, the eyes of the Lord are the eyes of the Lord. The eyes of the Lord. Psalm 34 verses 15 through 18 says, the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry. Guys, when you get on your knees and pray, God is listening. The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them. He delivers them from all their troubles. And that doesn't mean that you're not going to go through troubles, but he's going to eventually deliver you. Sometimes that deliverance comes because of your death. But he delivers you nonetheless. The Lord is close to the hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Do you come here tonight brokenhearted over something? Tonight, excuse me, this afternoon at one o'clock, this place was packed.
We had 500 plus people here. And it was because a young man by the name of William Adams who aged at age 23 did not wake up last Friday morning. And their parents, Craig and Nancy Adams, got that phone call that you never want to get. But they're all believers. And I've watched a couple. I've been with them this week. I actually officiated the funeral service.
I've watched a couple today who sat right there. Yes, they had tears in their eyes, but they mourned, but not as those who have no hope. Craig, but you know what they've been doing? They've been crying out to God in this moment of sadness for his comfort.
Craig called me this afternoon at about 4 30 and said, I just almost feel guilty. I have so much peace. No one should have to bury a son.
But let me ask you this. If you have to bury a son or daughter, do you want to have God with you or not? I don't know how a person who doesn't have the Lord goes through something like that. Do you need to be comforted tonight?
I'll tell you what I told the people this afternoon. One of my favorite verses in the Bible. Jesus says in Matthew 11 28, come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest for your souls. Do you know there's nothing better than rest for your soul?
Your soul is where you get anxious and you get fearful and where you can have depression that's so dark you can't find a way of escape. And Jesus says what? Come to me. See, in America we think we're men are supposed to just pick ourselves up by bootstraps and do the best we can. That's not biblical. The strongest man in the world is a man that God sees on his knees every morning, dependent upon God.
Paul said when I'm weak, then I'm strong. Elizabeth and Zachariah were burdened, but they knew who to turn to. And so what did they do? They cried out to God. And God was about to not only answer their prayers, but more importantly, He was going to show the world that He had not forgotten His promises to both Isaiah and Elijah. Excuse me, Isaiah and Malachi. And so look back at Luke with me again. Look at, I don't remember what verse this is, but it begins.
By the way, I'm using the ESV tonight, not the NIV. Now while He was serving as priest before God, this is Zachariah, when His division was on duty according to the custom of the priesthood, He was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
This was either at noon or late in the afternoon. And there appeared to Him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachariah was troubled when he saw Him, and fear fell upon him. Most men in the Bible, like I'm thinking of like John, the apostle Paul, when the Lord appeared to him, Isaiah, when an angel appears, you realize you ain't much.
I don't know what it looked like, but it was an outer worldly experience, and most of these guys fall down trembling for their lives. And this is why since Zachariah was troubled when he saw Him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, hey Zachariah, this is probably not the way he said it, don't be afraid, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call His name what? John, and you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at His birth, for He will be great before the Lord, and He must not drink wine or strong drink, and He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from His mother's womb. Notice He said, He will be filled even while it's in His mother's womb. Do you see where I can go with that? It's a he, not an it, in there.
I mean, give me a break. And He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and He will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to do what? To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and they're disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make what?
Ready for the Lord of people prepared. Being a Christian is not about being religious, but about having a dynamic, alive relationship with Jesus Christ. You've been listening to Finding Purpose with Pastor Russ Andrews, a local triangle ministry glorifying God by helping men find their purpose for living. You can discover more about finding your purpose in life by checking out the resources at findingpurpose.net or connect to Finding Purpose on Facebook. Pastor Russ would also like to extend a special invitation for you to join him and over 300 other local triangle men to study God's Word together every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. Find out more at findingpurpose.net. This is the Truth Network.
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