You see, the problem of indifference is the problem of not realizing the state of sinfulness.
I think there are many people who miss Christmas today because of that. They ignore Christ because they don't know they're sinful. They don't care about the Savior because they don't understand that they need to be saved. They don't understand that the wages of sin is death.
So consequently, they ignore the remedy because they don't even qualify the disease. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Television stations run and rerun classic Christmas movies. Stores and businesses put up decorations everywhere. Movies of all kinds, from soft drinks to cell phones, are running special Christmas promotions. So in a world that is saturated with holiday-themed messages, how could anyone miss Christmas?
Could you be in danger of making that very mistake? Find out today on Grace to You as John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, brings you a special message titled, The People Who Missed Christmas. And now here's John with the message. In spite of the media, in spite of the public relations, in spite of the advertising, in spite of all of those things that attract our attention, it seems to me that most people will miss Christmas. With all the paraphernalia and the trappings around it, the simplicity of the birth of Christ is literally drowned in a sea of paganism. You say, well I guess it's true that today people miss Christmas, and all you have to do is look around and you know it, don't you? Busy, doing all kinds of things, but missing Christ.
You want to know something? If you think it's something that had happened today, I want you to know and we're going to go right back to the Bible, that when Christmas happened in Bethlehem, most people missed it then too. Turn with me to Luke chapter 2 and verse 7. Luke chapter 2 and verse 7.
And I want you to think with me as we look at this truth. This is the story of course in Luke 2 of the birth of Christ, and I just want you to look at verse 7. And we're only going to pick out some highlights to illustrate this matter of the people who missed Christmas. Verse 7, speaking of Mary it says, And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloth...really, they weren't clothes at all, they were just long strips of cloth...and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Now the first person that missed Christmas was the innkeeper. The innkeeper missed Christmas. It was right in front of him, but he missed it. He had to confront a pregnant woman and her husband, but he had no room for them, and so he missed it. Look back at verse 7. He not only missed it by not letting them in to stay with him, but he missed it by being so indifferent that he doesn't even appear to have called for any help for Mary when she gave birth because verse 7 is markedly concerned with a lonely birth...a lonely birth. The innkeeper missed Christmas.
And what amazes me is that he missed it even though it might have happened on his own property. And I begin to think about why he missed Christmas. Simple answer. Preoccupation.
Seems best to me. That seems to be it. Preoccupation.
You say, what do you mean? Well, he was so busy. I mean, his inn was full, or his guest room was full, or all of his little lean-to's were full.
Why? Because it was the census in Bethlehem and the city was literally bulging with everybody who had any ancestry there and they were coming to the city and since it was the city of David, those who were in the line of David were there and that's why Joseph and Mary were there, both coming from the line of David, one through Solomon and one through Nathan. And so there they were and the city was bursting with people. And he was busy caring for his guests and his house and whatever situation he was involved in and he wasn't hostile and he wasn't unloving and he wasn't unsympathetic and he wasn't really indifferent. He was just busy, just real busy.
I guess there are a lot of people like that. The chambers of their souls are filled with needless things, filled with human interests. They're filled with the stuff that doesn't matter and they missed the Christ of God. The innkeeper missed it.
He was too busy. Look at your own life. Did you spend more time shopping than you did adoring Christ? Did you spend more money on stuff than you invested in His kingdom? Then maybe you've been in the trap, too, where the innkeeper was. I want you to meet another man who missed Christmas, Matthew chapter 2.
This man really missed it. And he's very different than the innkeeper. He wasn't ignorant.
He was very well informed. His name is Herod. And believe me, Herod missed Christmas. Matthew 2, 1, Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born? Now watch this, king of the Jews. For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. Verse 7, Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search diligently for the young child.
And when you have found him, bring me word again that I may come and worship him also. Now Herod pretended to want to worship Jesus Christ, but he was tremendously fearful because one had been born who was called the king of the Jews. And it says there, Herod, verse 3, the king.
He was a king. And when he knew there was born a king, he was afraid. When it says he was troubled, it uses the word that means to be agitated, stirred up, shaken up.
It is the idea of total panic. He panicked. He had no room for Jesus.
Why? Fear, fear. He was afraid of him. He was afraid of another king. And when he heard that a child was born, it was to be the king of the Jews. Verse 16 of chapter 2 says, The wise men, of course, didn't come back and tell him, so he saw that he was mocked by the wise men. He was exceedingly angry and he sent forth and he slew all the children that were in Bethlehem and in all its borders from two years old and under.
Two years old means anything from the first month you enter that second year to the fullness of that second year. And so they were slaughtered, all of these children, in order to try to wipe out the child. And as you know, God had already warned Joseph and Mary and they had taken Jesus and fled to Egypt. Why did Herod miss Christmas?
Fear, jealous fear. You say, Well, surely there aren't any Harrods left. Surely there aren't any people who slaughter people. Oh, there are around the world. Believe me, there are. And I think we're realizing more and more about it. Man is depraved.
There are always Harrods in any society. But I think there's a greater lesson for the mass of humanity than just to see this as Herod only. Because there are many, many people who miss Christmas because of the same basic kind of fear that Herod had. Herod's fear was that somebody else would take his throne. Herod wasn't about to let this little child interfere with his career, with his position, with his power, with his ambition, with his plans, and with his lifestyle.
He was not about to let somebody else be the king. And I guess I have seen as much of that as I have any other kind of reason for rejecting Christ. Oh, there are people who want Jesus as a resource when they get into trouble. There are people who want Jesus as sort of a nice spiritual friend. There are people who maybe even want Jesus as somebody to keep them out of hell but they're not interested in crowning Him Lord. What about you? Have you said no to Jesus Christ in your life because you're afraid of the claim He'll lay on you?
Because you want to be the Lord of your life, the master of your fate, the king of your little thin kingdom? That's tragic. His kingdom is so much more glorious. There's a third group that missed Christmas. Look back at chapter 2 of Matthew, verse 4.
This is shocking. Herod heard from the wise men that this child was to be born. And boy, he wanted to find out where immediately to put the child to death. And so he gathered, verse 4, the chief priests and the scribes of the people together and demanded of them where the Christ should be born. And they said unto him in Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet and thou Bethlehem in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea, for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel. He said he called all the experts together, the brain trust, the theologians. The chief priests were the high priest, the captain of the temple police, and the best of all the priests out of all the orders with the great administrative skills and the great teaching skills and the great leadership skills.
They had become the chief priests. They were the minds, the brains. They were the theological minds of the day, the Sanhedrin. And they knew all the Scriptures and their friends, the scribes who were the linguists and the interpreters and the ones who knew the culture and the history that surrounded the biblical data and the combination of all of these men got together and they said, we know where the Messiah is to be born. And they quoted Micah chapter 5 verse 2, that Old Testament prophet who said, Bethlehem.
They knew. You know what shocks me? It just shocks me. They never went there. Did you ever think about that? They never went there. You say, is that surprising?
It is to me. What was the one thing the Jews had been looking for since Moses had said there would come one known as that prophet? What is the one person that they had looked for all the way through their history?
A deliverer. And here they were under Roman oppression. Now always they had looked for a deliverer. They had longed for such a one to come. It had been the great hope of all our ages. It had been the one that they had looked for. The destiny of Israel was bound up in the coming deliverer, the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed, the greater son than David's son, the one who would come and establish the kingdom, the great hope of their hearts, the hunger in their breasts illustrated in the ministry of John the Baptist as they flocked to hear of one who was preparing the way for the Messiah. And here were the brains of theology.
Here were the ones who knew it all and yet they never even bothered to walk two miles to three miles south to Bethlehem to find out for themselves if this was not the Messiah. Why? Why did the Sanhedrin miss Christmas?
I'll tell you why. One word, indifference. Indifference. They didn't care. Why were they indifferent? Well, because of pride, or if you want to look at it from the other angle, because they didn't think they had a need. What did they need with the Savior? What did they need with the Messiah?
They were all right the way they were. You see, the problem of indifference is the problem of not realizing the state of sinfulness. I think there are many people who miss Christmas today because of that. They ignore Christ because they don't know they're sinful. They don't care about the Savior because they don't understand that they need to be saved. They don't understand that the wages of sin is death, that sin plummets people into an eternal hell. They don't understand that.
So consequently they ignore the remedy because they don't even qualify the disease. The innkeeper missed Christmas because of ignorant preoccupation. Herod missed Christmas because of jealous fear. The Sanhedrin missed Christmas because of indifferent pride. Fourthly, Jerusalem missed Christmas.
Isn't that amazing? Jerusalem right there missed Christmas, shocking. Back to Luke chapter 2, let me show you something. In Luke chapter 2, verse 8, there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord came to them, and you know the rest of the story. The angel told them what to do, and the shepherds came and they saw the Christ child. And verse 20 says, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen as it was told unto them. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, you know who God picked to tell us to? Shepherds. And they came, no one else came.
Did you know that? And if you read further in the narrative of Luke, you don't hear much beyond the shepherds. For example, in verse 25 of chapter 2, and behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. And then it goes on to tell how Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel. Simeon was righteous and Simeon was devout and Simeon wanted to see the Messiah, and Simeon did see the Messiah and he glorified God and said, I'm ready to die now.
There was a man. Is that all? No, there was a lady who went to Anna, verse 36, a widow, and she saw the Messiah. And then in the end of verse 38, and she spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Anna told a few others, but the sad thing is, listen people, the mass of Jerusalem missed Christmas.
Totally. It happened a couple of miles away. It was the fulfillment of all their dreams and all their hopes. It was that great event which was to change the destiny of the world, but they missed it. Why did they miss it? Why did Jerusalem miss it?
I'll tell you why. Religion. Religion. They were very religious. They were so busy with their religion, carrying out their ritual, that they missed the reality. Oh, they had all their feasts and all their festivals and all their ceremonies and all their washings and all of their rules and regulations and laws and myriads of things that had grown up around their religious system that were not even biblical at all. All kinds of rules they had to keep and in the midst of all of their religion, they never got the message. Oh listen, religion will damn you faster than anything else if it's false religion or if it's their true religion in the wrong way. Because religion gives you a place to hide and think you're spiritual. Satan's ultimate disguise is as an angel of what?
Of light. And so Jerusalem missed Christmas. Well, they were religious. Fifth, the Romans missed Christmas. The Romans. You say, well the Romans, what do you mean? Listen, this whole thing was set around the Roman scene.
Luke gives us that. Matthew sets the scene around Herod, the king of the Jews. Luke sets the scene around Caesar Augustus because Luke is a Gentile. And in Luke 2, 1, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. And the decree that everybody be taxed was made when Corinneus was governor of Syria. And when that decree went out, that set in motion the events that made Christ born at Bethlehem. In other words, the prophecy of Micah was really set in motion by a Gentile emperor named Caesar.
He was the one who made the decree. The Roman soldiers were the ones making sure the people did it, registering the people, taking the census. All through the life of Christ, the Romans are in the scene at all times. At the death of Christ, he appears before Pilate. He is executed by the Romans. The Romans lie about his resurrection, fabricating a story so as not to at all have to face the reality that he rose from the dead. The Romans are woven all through the biblical record. But they all missed Christmas.
You know why? Idolatry. They had their own gods. Christ didn't fit in.
And there are people in the world like that too. The Buddhists missed Christmas. They're worshiping the wrong God. Oh, Jerusalem, they worshiped the right God but in the wrong way and they missed it.
And you can be a Protestant and you can be in a church and miss it. And some people just are just pagan and they miss Christmas, not only because they worship Buddha or something else, but they have their own gods. Oh, I don't think people worship the idols like they did then, but I think we have our idols and our gods. Some people worship money. Some people worship sex. Some people worship cars, materialism, boats, power, houses, whatever, prestige, popularity, fame. And those are the pagan gods. And if that's what you're worshiping, you'll miss Christmas.
You may get some presents and eat a big dinner and see a tree, but you'll miss it. Finally, and maybe this is the saddest of all, Nazareth missed Christmas, Nazareth. It says in Matthew 2 23 that after Herod had died, Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus, the child Jesus, and went back to Nazareth. And in the fourth chapter of Luke, a tragedy takes place. Finally, Jesus realizes it's time to tell the Nazarenes who He is. And verse 16, He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up. And as His custom was He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah and when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written.
And this was His message. He was declaring who He was. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And He closed the book and gave it to the minister and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him and He began to say to them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. He said, I'm the Messiah. They knew that was a Messianic Scripture from Isaiah. He said, I'm the fulfillment of Isaiah 61.
And what was their reaction? And they all bore Him witness and wondered. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
Is He kidding? This is Joseph's son. In verse 24, He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. You know why Nazareth missed Christmas? Familiarity...familiarity.
They knew Him so well, He wasn't special. That is a deadly thing, people. And whenever I come across somebody who is not a Christian and I ask them if they've known of Christ and they say, Oh yeah, I was raised in that, but I'm not a Christian. A fear grips my heart because familiarity strangles conviction. You've heard it so many times, so many Christmas stories, so many Christmases, so many sermons, so many Bible lessons.
Familiarity breeds contempt. And so in Mark 6, 6, the rather pensive tragic word, He marveled because of their unbelief and He went around about the villages teaching. He marveled at Nazareth's unbelief. And by the way, beloved, in Matthew 13, 58 it says, He did not many wonderful works there because of their unbelief. You know what happened in Luke chapter 4 at the end of the chapter? When Jesus got done with His message in the synagogue, it says they grabbed Him and they took Him out to the cliff on the edge of the town to throw Him off, to crush Him to death for blaspheming, but He passed through their midst miraculously.
They would kill Him. That's what I call missing Christmas. Oh, the deadliness of familiarity with Christmas truth breeds a stony heart. I'm telling you, you better respond while your heart is soft or your heart will become hard and you won't have the opportunity to respond. Some of you have been raised in Christianity, raised in a Christian home, and you've never responded to Jesus Christ.
And if you keep hardening your heart, you never will. Listen, there are lots of reasons why people miss Christmas. They miss it because of ignorant preoccupation. They miss it because of jealous fear. They miss it because of prideful indifference. They miss it because of religious ritual.
They miss it because of false gods and they even miss it because of being so familiar with it. But behind all of those reasons is one basic reason, unbelief. They won't believe.
They refuse to believe. And so said Jesus. He came into the world and the world what?
Received Him not. And John says the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. But then he says this. In the first chapter of John, the 12th verse, but, now mark this.
This is the turning point. But as many as what received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Whatever your excuse, whatever the reason you've been missing Christmas, if you receive Christ and believe on Him, Christmas will become a reality in your life.
It can happen today. That's between you and God. That's John MacArthur, pastor, author, and chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. John is currently showing you how to avoid being one of the people who missed Christmas. Today's lesson focused on what is probably life's greatest tragedy, to encounter the life-giving truth of Jesus and yet not embrace it. And John, even though non-believers are responsible for their sin and how they respond to the salvation message, I know that you would say that Christians need to be sure they're making the truth clear.
You know, Phil, that is so important. I was reading a survey just this week that said 50 percent of professing Christians believe you're saved by works. Fifty percent of professing Christians believe you're saved by works when the Bible says salvation is by grace through faith, not of works.
The negative couldn't be any stronger. The current sort of mega-church dominance of evangelical Christianity has, among other things, left people very confused about the gospel, because the messages in all those churches are so driven at the person. They're all people-centered, not God-centered, not Christ-centered. So you have people who think they're Christians who basically hold to a damning heresy that you're saved by works. It's one thing to reject the gospel.
It's something else to think you accepted it when it wasn't even the gospel. So we need clarity if we need anything, certainly, because we've got to get that message right. So we want to let you know that we have some tools that will help you get it right. This is so important for your own eternal soul and for those that you influence. The book I've been mentioning, I remind you about God's gift of Christmas. This will give you the gospel in a beautiful 120-page gift book that you can give to friends.
It's titled God's Gift of Christmas, available from us. The MacArthur Study Bible. If you don't have a MacArthur Study Bible, you need to get one. It's a flagship resource. The Word of God with 25,000 footnotes that help you explain the meaning of any and every passage in Scripture.
And then I would suggest another gift for Christmas, One Perfect Life. This has never been done before. It takes the four gospels and blends them together.
Everything that Scripture says about Christ weaves it into continuous chronological narrative. So great news, by the way. All of our resources are currently on sale. We've discounted our prices by 25 percent. Sale ends next week, so take advantage of those prices today. God's Gift of Christmas, the MacArthur Study Bible, and One Perfect Life.
Yes, friend, this is a great time to get your Christmas shopping done and give those you love gifts that will have a spiritual impact. To order God's Gift of Christmas, the MacArthur Study Bible, One Perfect Life, or another Bible-related resource, all at 25 percent off the regular price. Get in touch today. Call our toll-free customer service line, 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, gty.org. Again, during this limited time sale, God's Gift of Christmas, the MacArthur Study Bible, One Perfect Life, and nearly all of our Bible study tools are 25 percent off the normal price.
And shipping is still free. Order when you call 800-55-GRACE or visit gty.org. And as we get into the last two months of the year, just a reminder that much of our annual budget is met by gifts we receive during November and December. Your year-end support helps keep Verse by Verse teaching on radio in your community and in communities around the world. It also allows us to distribute thousands of free books or CDs by mail each month as well as maintain our website with its thousands of sermon downloads and much more. To express your support, call 800-55-GRACE or give at our website, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Remember to look for Grace To You television every Sunday and then be here next week when John examines the attitudes and actions that should characterize every follower of Christ. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
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