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December 25, 2020 3:00 am
You could sum up our lives. You could sum them up in in the pattern that you see illustrated here, we heard the revelation of the gospel.
We believed we pursued Christ and embraced him, and as Christians we begin to think deeply about the great truth and love the word hundred and our lives are marked by a desire to obey. Thanks for joining us today and every Christmas to you and your now while you probably known the details of Jesus birth for years and you can recite the story with ease. And while it's vital for any Christian to know what happened on that first Christmas it's far more important that you know how to respond to the central truth of that event in Bethlehem and that is that the God of the universe, humbled himself and took on human flesh in order to save sinners like you and me. John MacArthur helps you embrace that amazing truth today as he wraps up the study.
He calls the promise of Christmas well before we go any further, John. Merry Christmas to you and your family. You know you and I both are lovers of the Puritans and they weren't particularly lovers of Christmas they saw it as a pagan holiday.
There are also people who think that way today and we get there questions every year, but I know you love Christmas you love to celebrate Christmas, so talk about that and why like I'm not ignorant about the fact that Christmas is confused with some pagan celebrations not only done undo all of that.
I don't need to turn Christmas into a pagan holiday because it does have connections to paganism in its history. I just like Christmas to say okay as it is a good thing to think about the birth of Christ absolutely is a wonderful thing to realize that God became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth is it is a great truth that he came into the world to live a sinless life, die a substitutionary death rise again provide salvation absolutely I can strip out all the other stuff and take take care of my focus and put it on the birth of Christ, don't. I think Christians who who feel like they need to throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater that is to throw Christmas.
The celebration of the birth of Christ away with the pagan aspects of it miss the point. I would rather focus on the reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and throw the pagan side out so as long as the whole world is going to be focused on that. Why would I not take advantage of that opportunity through the years. How many people I can't even count who have come to faith in Christ. The preaching of the, the birth of Christ around Christmas at our church. How many people have even been introduced to the gospel through the Christmas concert series that we hold and ever. Every bit of every single thing that's done there musically is sacred.
We don't do any secular music at all, were not sing and I'm dreaming of a white Christmas so the gospel presentation takes advantage of Christmas and every year people come to Christ to the concert series so I think the wrong thing to do is to say whether some pagan elements in this deal so let's throw away the, the birth of Christ. I rather say let's take the birth of Christ and throw away the pagan part of it and I make everything we can out of that. That is great thanks John for that helpful perspective and now friend, I invite you to follow along in Luke chapter 2 as John MacArthur continues his look at the promise of Christmas as we come to verses 15 to the end of the section in verse 21 we really come to the somewhat human part.
It's a pretty simple and straightforward message. It's one with which most of you are very familiar to simple story about the shepherds response. I could just tell you that story or have you read it. Make a few comments and you have there's nothing complicated.
There is nothing hidden, nothing mysterious, but as I went over it.
I found that it served to me as a good illustration. A good illustration. A good analogy of what happens when anybody embraces the Savior the details that are given in the account down to verse 21.
Show us by illustration form. What happens when someone comes to Christ. That's what I want you look at and just from verse 15 down to verse 21 and it's it's a very simple passage very simple narrative, but it serves as a good illustration is not an allegory, but it does serve as a good illustration of how people respond deceivingly to the gospel. I'm sure you have as a kind of unfolds. Verse 15 came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, let us go straight to Bethlehem then see this thing.
This happened which the Lord has made known to us spontaneously, mutually collectively, there was the same response from everybody. In fact, the Greek verb is what we call an imperfect in the that's a name of a tense in the Greek language and the imperfect tense. That's the term that describes something that's not completed that's continuous action. It's imperfect because is not complete. They use that verb here to express the fact that this was an ongoing kind of discussion in verse 15. They were all continuing to say over and over to one another.
This we gotta go with got ago there would be a little process involved or somebody has to take care the sheep they got a figure that problem out how to get somebody care for the sheep. While gone got a go and there probably were talking about.
Will we need to do this and we gotta do that and there's this task.
In that task.
They were all embroiled in the fact they had to get out of that place and get to him and there was spontaneity at this point nobody needed to lead them. Nobody needed to sort of get them to comply. Everybody had exactly the same response. It's without delay at once were going to go now traditional shepherds fields about 2 miles from the town of Bethlehem and so there would be a little bit of a walk involved in this. They wanted to get on the way. Immediately they were in full agreement. They said let's go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us, they would most likely have had to walk uphill since Bethlehem sort of sits on arrearage sort soon as they could. They were on their way with a view to seeing this thing let me talk about that word thing because think any little more definition.
It's literally the Greek term rami and it means a word or a reality. Let us see this reality. They now understand that they have heard the word from God that there is a reality and the reality is that the Savior has been born they can confirm it easy enough because the angel had said to them, you're going to find a sign back in verse 12 you to find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying where in a manger and that's just an unheard-of thing very unusual.
Probably never happened nobody would put a baby in a feed trough in a stinking stable so that would verify that this is all true immunity they had seen the angels that was verification enough with their run to get even more verification when in fact they found the child exactly where the angel said he would be.
Which meant that this was not just an earthly situation going on. This was heaven and earth involved. They believe the angel and I think that's indicated in verse 15, they said, let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened. They believe that's the first thing I want you to notice.
They had a revelation from God, and they believed it and if I can borrow that as an analogy, that's how people come to Christ. They have a revelation from God, and they believe that the revelation from God is the Savior has come, and they believe that step one and step two in the whole movement toward salvation their faith in the word of God, then cause them to pursue Christ and that's the third step in in anybody's life and coming to Christ first. You know the revelation. Secondly, believe the revelation thirdly you come to Christ, you, you ascended to that you embrace Christ and that's essentially what will illustrated that is not the intent of the passage to teach some spiritual truth, but it's a wonderful illustration of a spiritual truth is verse 16 says they came in haste.
Again, this idea of enthusiasm and eagerness. The language indicates that they are in a hurry in their enthusiasm is great. They came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph know how they did that, but word of mouth about the birth baby spreads pretty rapidly and and they continue to look for 16 and found eventually their way to Mary and Joseph. What followed after that is also normal. As an analogy or an illustration of behavior of someone who comes to Christ its witness someone who's heard the truth of the gospel someone who is believed that someone who's common found Christ, then witnesses look at verse 17 and when they had seen this made known, the statement which had been told them about this child, only stopping there from it.
I can't believe that there wasn't some large conversation between verse 1670.
I'm inherently scruffy grubby shepherds coming in the middle of the night into this stinking stable finding Joseph and Mary baby lying in a manger and they're all overwhelmed with what's happened so Joseph and Mary must've had some response same greetings sent. How can we help you and then they unfold the socket well and I can just hear them all vying for telling the story their way as Joseph and Mary try to sit quietly and listen in the must've been wonderful confirmation for them as well. For any malingering doubts that that might've been raised in their minds and they told the story of how an angel came in and angel described one would been born good news of great joy, a Savior, he is Christ the Lord, and on the total store and then a whole host of angels came and there were angels everywhere and they were bright and they were shining and they were praising God and thanking God how it was incredible. And as that story unfolded. I think Joseph and Mary probably began to unfold. Some of their side of the details. Well, isn't that wonderful because you know an angel came to me. Joseph might've said and he told me not to worry about the fact that my virgin betrothed bride-to-be. Mary was pregnant because the baby that was in her womb was put there by the Holy Spirit.
She was not a sinful. She was not unfaithful to me that she was going to have a child would be Emmanuel, God with us God in human flesh, and that he would be named Jesus because he would save his people from their sins. And this all happen to me when I was deciding whether to divorce her stone her to death. I and I had a dream and that remains the Lord came to me and tell me the whole thing and and and Mary might've quietly said and you know I had a visit from Gabriel and Gabriel came to me. No, I'm just a young girl in a virgin and said you can have a baby in a baby's gonna be son of David, son of the most high God he can rule over the kingdom. The last eternally in and all is beginning to come together and the shepherds talk about being in on the scoop therein on and at this particular point, it's Joseph and Mary and a handful shepherds and Zacharias and Elizabeth and they know about really nobody else has the kind of inside information that these people have and what is their immediate response after the whole thing unfolds when they had seen this. They made known, the statement which had been told them about the scratch they went everywhere and said the Savior's been born the Savior's report, Christ the Lord is been born. I told the story he probably stole the story about the angel and the Angels told the story about Joseph told the story about a virgin conceiving a child in unfold the whole marvelous incredible count and again they illustrate what happens. I think in the life of a newborn soul first comes the revelation to understand the gospel in faith to believe the gospel and then the action that goes and pursues Christ and embraces Christ and then comes the immediate response which is to witness a tell you right now, folks. The most aggressive, faithful people in proclaiming the gospel are the newest Christians because the joy run so high the excitement is so great. The enthusiasm is so profound and so these shepherds become the first New Testament evangelists. The first New Testament evangelists and they repeated the astounding revelation from God, as well as their own personal meeting of Joseph and Mary and the baby lying in the manger. They couldn't restrain themselves.
To me this is the greatest news the world whatever know this is the greatest news ever heard far beyond anything he could've ever imagined. American anything in their humdrum life that could equal this might suggest you the true spiritual commitment is determined by the quality and tenacity of one's long-term joy over salvation. You can say you're committed.
You can talk about the commitment you have to Jesus Christ, but it really comes down to how much joy you have and how eagerly you share that there were eyewitnesses to the good news eyewitnesses to the Messiah being born and they spread it. They couldn't restrain themselves they couldn't contain themselves and you know when we stop doing that when we stop having that kind of seal and that kind of passion when we betray a heart that is no longer overwhelmed by joy when we betray a heart that is no longer unrestrained in its compulsion to tell others we betray a sinful heart because indifference and ingratitude is a sin.
That's amazing in all the longer people are Christians, the less they seem excited about it. They move further and further away from the initial revelation of the gospel and become more more involved with other things get a lot more excited about sports and restaurants and food and kids and grandkids and houses and cars and possessions and vacations and and rarely ever do they literally burst forth with exuberant joy toward others who know not Christ because of their sheer compulsion to talk about the one who saves them from eternal wrath when they shepherds did and they told far and wide and says in verse 18, all that heard it wondered at the things which were told by the shepherds and we wanted to create was a stir. The word wonder is the word some mods so it's a fun module means to marvel to be amazed and by the way, it's common in Luke's gospel.
He likes that word and it's repeated again and again. I mean the things Jesus did cause people to be amazed to cause them to wonder cause them to marvel that was pretty typical. You see them use that word in chapter 4 chapter 8 chapter 9 chapter 11 chapter 20 uses in chapter 24, and in also in chapters 4 and five. You get a similar kind of response, Jesus cause people to be amazed is no question about it was an amazing person they'd never seen anybody like you, I think today that there are people like that. There's a certain amount of wonder about Jesus particular our Christmas season. You know the certain wonder about the Christ child and wonder about the whole Nativity situation that there's a certain amount of respect given to Jesus with regard to that, but that's not salvation that is not salvation. Being amazed by Jesus to do that's not enough. That's just curiosity may be at its highest level widespread reaction was amazement curiosity not commitment, but I don't think that would've restrained that because they were so internally compelled to tell the story. I mean Angels revelation from God. Miracle conception in a virgin son of God, son of the most high God, born in a stable laid in a feed trough the whole thing was some kind of story and you know people would be pressed to believe it.
It would be pressed to believe it because the angel comes in, the angel says you'll find a mirror wrapped in cloths and lying in a future and sure enough, that's exactly where he was and if God wasn't working all about how how could that all happened. It had to be divine, God had to be working this whole thing out. The child was exactly where they were told by angels and of angels are involved in this and Angels know the whole situation. This is gotta be from God. As I told you before people and see angels up to now Zacharias on Angel and Mary saw an angel shepherds on Angel Peninsula who surveys nobody else did.
The idea that all heaven broke loose and whole multitude of angels showed up. Pretty amazing stuff and it was all confirm because he did exactly what the angel said. Sure enough, there was a baby in a manger. No wonder people wondered, and I think that's that's sort of the contrast to the shepherds, the shepherds got the revelation believed it and ran to Christ's 100 been good if it it said in verse 18 and all heard it went immediately to the manger doesn't say that they just wondered went on with her life.
The next little comment in verse 19 I find interesting as well. It takes us into the heart of Mary, it says, but Mary treasured up all these things pondering them in her heart. This is just mulling over contemplating them deeply that she went much deeper. Believe me, than the amazed people in verse 18. I mean this this is just beyond comprehension.
Here's a 1314-year-old girl. She's looking into a feed trough and she's seeing their baby come out of her womb. She's never known a man this baby was conceived and born without ever knowing a man this baby is the son of the most high God this baby is the rightful heir to the throne of David. This baby is the Savior of the world. This baby is the anointed Messiah. This baby is God, the Lord mean it's also mind-boggling in the common world human beings. Mary must've wondered you no one is going to start saying profound theological things tomorrow is going to do miracles.
It's going to happen here.
One might expect out of this child will the will have a normal relationship with his child and mother has to a baby will I nurse this child is mothers do I raise this child is mothers do.
What will this child be like, and when will he enter into his glory and when will he take his kingdom and will at all happened and how my going to be a mother to a child that is God must've wondered all those kinds of things must wondered even about discipline setting an example how do you set an example for God, anything that would come into a mother's mind must've come into her mind.
She just pondered it. She just thought deeply about it, she thought deeply about God's redemptive purpose and how God had promised the Savior and the Savior had finally come and later on in no verse 3435. This chapter Simeon comes up to Mary and says I hate to say this, Mary.
This child skin appears your heart like a sort not all gonna be wonderful for you. This can be very painful. Having this son sort can go right through your own soul. And it's true being the mother of the son of God is a painful thing she loved him. She must've loved him like no mother is ever loved a child because he was perfect and yet she saw him suffer. She saw him suffer so profoundly and so unjustly, and eventually she was there when he was nailed to the cross me all kinds of suffering. She must've been thinking about a lot of things and is not analogous somewhat to the Christian experience is just following the little illustration firsters the revelation of the truth, the gospel then there's faith like the shepherds put in what God said and then there's action to go and to find Christ and then there's witness the exuberance and the joy and then comes pondering after those initial days of euphoria.
As you grow in your Christian life you begin to think more deeply about the realities of who he is here I am yours Christian longtime after many many years of ministry and I continue in my reading I never get enough. I have an insatiable desire to know more about my God and my Christ just plumb the depths of all there is to know and to ponder those things and when somebody's truly converted.
I think there's never enough, never comes a point of satisfaction. As Paul said, that I may know him that I'm enormous organizer you no one you normally don't get anybody else yet.
I don't know. I like it like Mary illustrates that Hungary heart that wants to understand the depths of this great salvation and then finally, in verse 21. I finally will give you one more time's a brief one next to finally verse 20 the shepherds went back hey did you know that when you become a Christian and you had the greatest imaginable transformation and you've heard the revelation from God, and you believe that any of embraced Christ and you begun to witness when all that has happened in you even begun to think deeply about the profound realities of who God is who Christ is and what the saving purpose of God is unfolding in the world when you come to that point, you still have to go back to work but goes on, doesn't what goes on. And that's analogous to what happens, you go back only go back to the different attitude you go back, glorifying and praising God. That's what they did. They went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen justice had been told him it was exactly the way they were told by the angel. Every detail was exactly accurate and they went back with a whole new attitude on what their attitude was like before they had this incredible counter with the revelation of God, but it certainly wasn't like it is now. They may have been, hopefully, may have worried, wondered and doubt didn't question them and been wearied in all of that.
But not anymore. Went back, glorifying and praising God, and that too is analogous to what happens when a conversion takes place, there's a revelation we hear the revelation of God. We believe it we go and we embrace Christ there's witness that follows.
There's a deep pondering about great divine truth. As we deepen our knowledge of the word of God and there is also a life attitude of praise and worship to God that marks a believer by the time they got the whole story put together with the additional elements of Joseph and Mary would bring to bear on it. They were so filled with praise and thanks they were literally overwhelmed by it all and they just went back, glorifying and praising God for the whole thing. That's the attitude of the Christian should have. They knew that this is the child to be the Savior of the Christ the Lord fulfill the Davidic promised Abraham a promise and the promise of the new covenant could restrain themselves, their lives were just filled with praise as one of the final verse and the section verse 21 and it says and when a days were completed before his circumcision. His name was then called Jesus the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb of this is good Jewish law in the Old Testament was very explicit. According to Genesis 1711 and 12.
Leviticus 12 boy baby born in Israel needed to be circumcised.
That's what the will of God required by this time in the Jewish tradition.
Circumcision occurred always on the eighth day. By this time, circumcision was accompanied by the official naming of the child on the eighth day may have known the name before them, but that was the official naming of the child on the eighth day and so in eight days were completed, they came together for the circumcision in the name of Jesus. Why is it was the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Matthew 121. The angel said to Joseph, when is born: Jesus is to save his people from their sins. And when he was born.
It's exactly what they did not. I think illustrates another component of the Christian life and that's obedience is you get some up our lives.
You could sum them up in in the pattern that you see illustrated here, we heard the revelation of the gospel. We believed it. We pursued Christ and embraced him.
We became witnesses to that glorious transformation and we began to tell others about it and as Christians we began to think deeply about the great truth we became students of the word. We love the truth. We love the word we ponder the truth and we also are characterized by exuberant joy and praise and gratitude to God, which is expressed in our worship both singular and corporate and our lives are marked by a desire to obey what God tells us to half-sister. Simple little look at the very human side of the story the shepherd, but it does provide. I think a good analogy or illustration patterns that occur in the life of one comes to price, revelation, faith, action, witness, thought, deep thought. Praise and obedience.
You're listening to the Christmas day addition of grace to you. Thanks for being here as John MacArthur unpacked the promise of Christmas. That's the title of his study and now if I can. Let me make a suggestion take time today to read the Christmas story in Matthew chapter 1 in Luke chapter 2 maybe also read Philippians chapter 2 as well do that with your family and one last thing, if you been strengthened by grace to you this year would you do us a big favor. Let us know how God has used this program in your life.
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Make sure to take advantage of all the opportunities you have, to study God's word. You can supplement your personal Bible study with daily devotionals written by John will read articles on hot button issues facing the church on the grace to you blog watch grace to you television and download any of John's more than 3500 sermons. That is every sermon from nearly 52 years of John MacArthur's public ministry. All of that Bible teaching, and more is available free of firstname.lastname@example.org again that's TTY.org now for John MacArthur and the entire grace to use staff. I'm your host Phil Johnson. Wishing you and your family. Blessed Christmas celebration and beer next week when John looks at how you can be a spiritual leader, someone other believers can lean on you kickoff a study titled the courageous Christian, with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Monday grace to