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December 12, 2021 1:00 am
The night sky over before him was suddenly ablaze with light, a myriad of angels appeared to announce the birth of Jesus, their audience a group of poor shepherds. It had to be terrifying. No wonder the Angels first words were, fear not. Today we relive a key part of the Christmas story stay with us from Chicago.
This is The Moody Church. Our weekly service of worship and teaching with pastor Erwin Blitzer. Today we continue a four-part answer to the question raised by a Christmas Carol, who is he in yonder stall.
Later Erwin Blitzer will talk about the response of the heavenly host who said he is the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Pastor looks or comes now to open today's service in a moment were going to be singing together Angels we have heard on high and it's a reminder, actually it's Angels from the realms of glory, you know, at the Christmas season is filled with angels actual stories because it's the in breaking of God into our world so angels accompany the, the incarnation is why we have a number of different songs regarding angels, but also we will have the Advent candle the Advent candle today is the candle of love. Looking back, yes to the Advent and the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago, but looking forward to the return of Christ. As you've heard me say so many times there was a time when the incarnation was just an item of prophecy just like the return of Jesus is today and he did come and he will come again will you join me now as we pray together and prepare our hearts and sing to the glory of God. Angels from the realms of glory father, thank you that we can be here today to worship one in spirit draws together.
We pray that we might be focused upon what we are singing what we are hearing for your glory and we shall thank you and Jesus blessed name today for the second week of Advent we read in English and French verses from Luke and John, this is God's word secure right ever priest spoke these words concerning his son, John the Baptist in the coming Messiah.
When they West given that mother's womb.
Blessed be no God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as you spoke by the mouth of the honey prophets of old.
That being David from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear and heartiness and righteousness before him all our days get some kind child time you get people to God clock on the team and he for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that waiver.
The name should not perish, but as eternal life.
Today we like to the second candle of the advent of wrath. The candle of love. We thank you that the precious gift came silently. We thank you that the gift came to a manger was laid in a manger that we might remember he comes to our hearts through faith blesses during this time of worship. We ask in Jesus name and in let me begin today with a question. What do you think is the greatest enemy of Christianity and grace we might be tempted to say that it is the new atheist that it is humanism, someone else might answer that question by saying that it is really other religions. It's Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam. Often times the enemy of Christianity, we might be more accurate if we were to say that it is Satan because he stands against everything that Jesus Christ stands for, but the question is how does he do his work.
That's the question like to suggest today that the real enemy of Christianity exists in every country in every home in the world and in every human heart because the real enemy is the deception of the human heart is the deception of human nature. Because the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked who can know and the way in which that manifests itself is by an exaggerated sense of our witness.
We believe that we are better than we really are and the reason is because we don't know how good God is and we think that God is something like us and he accommodates himself to our sin and to our need and so we really don't have that much to fear because after all were good people back in the days when I was a boy.
I remember being at what we would call here in the United States is state fair and that we walked into the house of mirrors. Now, if you've ever been in a house of mirrors. You know that you go into one room and you are tall and skinny you go all the way to the ceiling and then you walk into another and your short and very fat very fat and then you going to some men, you know the bottom part may be very thin, but the upper part is the opposite of thinness. However, you want to describe it. Most of us go around looking for a mirror to make ourselves look and there's a part of our personality that is the manager aside and it wants to manage the way in which people see us and it is always on guard, less something exposed or something happened to us that will in some way tarnish our reputation or something that perhaps will call into question who we really are.
And so we had this image that we need to maintain what you know this is the second in a series of messages entitled who is he in yonder stall.
Last time we noticed that the angel Gabriel said he shall be called the son of the most time today. We also have an angel. Perhaps it is the angel Gabriel speaking and saying he shall be called the Savior, a Savior, Christ the Lord, would you take your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 2 I know that you know the story very, very well. We've heard it every single year but we need to hear it again. We never outgrow the Christmas story simply because we never grow the gospel and so I'm picking it up.
Actually in verse eight of Luke chapter 2 very familiar words and in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night and an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. The angel said to them, fear not for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people fronting you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you. You'll find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. What an experience. Let me set the context. First of all, were introduced here to the shepherds you need to know that being a shepherd, you knew that you would be despised and be looked down upon.
Shepherds were generally considered to be thieves.
They were like vagabond. They had a bad reputation because they also did not keep all the niceties of the law. They wash themselves regularly and furthermore they were oftentimes unskilled and what is more, they would be out in the field, sometimes for weeks at a time without taking a bath so when they arrived in town. Everybody knew that even the blind people would know that the shepherds have arrived, but it is to the shepherds in the outskirts of Bethlehem that the angel goes and the Bible says that the angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear and who wouldn't be filled with fear and then when you think of it, they were filled with fear for two reasons. First of all because of the in breaking of the invisible world into the visible you and I need to understand that there is indeed the invisible world and by the way these stories of angels are true assistant mythology.
When God entered into the world. All of the heavens were involved all of the angels. The Bible says they look forward to this event because they look forward to our redemption and so they show up in the Christmas story in a number of different races and I want you to visualize your out. And it is night. It is dark and suddenly from one end to the other. You have this bright light and you have an angel speaking to you when that give you the heebie-jeebies I would think it would to look that one up in the dictionary just frightening is another reason why they were afraid is because, particularly in the Old Testament whenever God broke into the visible world. It was a time of dread for people. I think for example of Mount Sinai were God says stay away, stay away. Don't even come close to the mountain because whoever comes close may be incinerated. They will possibly be put to death because God says I am holy. You think for example of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve, you know, they walked with God in the cool of the day they had a wonderful time walking with God and then they sin under full of shame and now they're walking in the garden and they hide themselves because if there's anyone that they do not want to meet at that moment, it is God is like a thief was in the process of stealing and suddenly the police shines a light directly on them and they are caught anybody but God. May it be a newly created lioness but not God. Yet God says Adam where are you these shepherds knew that whether it was an angel or a different manifestation that they would be exposed for their sin and their need and so they were filled with fear. By the way we lost that fear of God haven't way I think for example of Martin Luther when he was performing his first mass there in Erfurt and today you can go there and you can see the table where this actually happened and he trembled because he thought that he would be struck and in light of the fact that he was doing what he believed to be a miraculous act of taking ordinary bread and ordinary wine and turning it into the body and the blood of Jesus Christ and he expected to be struck down because of the terror of the old mighty so the angel says to them, fear not know the good news is going to turn out to be the good news is that we're going to be invited to come to God and we no longer need to fear because there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. All we do need to fear God because of the consequences of our sin and because of the way in which God disciplines us, but that dread that fear of eternal damnation will be taken away because in the Old Testament.
It was stay away, stay away, but the message of the gospel is going to be calm come to God now that background. What I'd like us to do is to see three features of this good news and I'd call that the gospel, because that's what the word gospel means we talk about the gospel. It's the good news first of all, it's for everyone. You'll notice what the Angels say the angel says it is to all people, specifically for all people as part of verse 10 and we can see this even in the Christmas story geographically. If you can think of Rome as being in the center of the world ruling the world is like a Gustus being the spider and all of the other countries are the spiderweb and he sent there notice. Notice the providence of God here because it is Rome that must coincide with God's purposes in Bethlehem.
So to seeking Caesar a Gustus, who gives the decree that this couple would mean for them, it would mean that they go to Bethlehem during this enrollment and so Caesar must act because God has to get this couple down to Bethlehem so that Jesus is born there now. Theoretically, if he had done this in a month later or a month earlier. Jesus might not of been born in Bethlehem but even there, you already see that Jesus is born in the country that touches Europe and Asia and Africa right smack in the middle and he will be a savior for everyone who believes on him. He is the Savior geographically. He is the Savior linguistically, so that in the end you of people from every tribe and every nation and every tongue giving him. He is the Savior of all people vocationally. He will even say these shepherds with their bad reputation.
In addition to that, he is also the Savior morally he is going to take people from the depths of sand, then those whose lives have been devastated by sin and is going to save them and exalt them. You'll notice what the angel says to the shepherd. For unto you is born this day a Savior it's for you and it is for me it is for us. First of all, the good news is really for everyone, but there's a second feature and that is that the gospel is good news, but you can understand the good news.
Unless you understand the bad that a Dan has to do with the human heart as a pastor I really do believe it's my responsibility to help you and to help myself diagnose the human heart, because our capacity for self-deception is so huge, we deceive ourselves in so many ways that I don't want to be deceived and I don't want you to be deceived and the way in which we know the human heart and it's great need for salvation is by first of all, looking into the word of God and then secondly, looking into our own hearts and seeing that there is with in us the love of deception note was the German philosopher draft and by the way, it is good. Let's not go thing here some way that most Americans pronounce it. He never recognized.
It's good he said only God knows who I really am, and may he preserve from finding out that's the way in which he looked at it.
Could we just take a moment and ask God to show us who we really are to see the way in which we do it.
The bad news is, this sin is far worse than you and I think it is. That's the bad news and we take sin and we minimize it in different ways by what we call it nobody sends anymore they just make some bad choices and you've heard people say, okay, I made a bad decision, but that doesn't mean that I'm the bad person we know what the Bible says. The Bible says that we are not sinners because we sin, but we do sin because we are sinners fundamentally and even the good things that we do that we think were going to balance it all, even those things are tainted by sin. I know that this sounds a lot worse than it really was because you have to remember when you're sitting next to somebody on a plane and you're giving them some hard truth. You always have to smile.
I try to smile all the time. So here I am. Next to this very self righteous old woman self-righteous because she doesn't need redemption.
She's lived a good life. So I said to her.
Are you ungodly would you characterize yourself. Are you kidding how offended. Could she be. I'm ungodly. I said, you know, I'm really sorry about the fact that you're not, because that means that Jesus didn't die for you when you mean Jesus didn't die for me.
The Bible says that Jesus died for the ungodly.
So apparently you don't qualify according to your own assessment.
So today nobody sends they all make bad choices. Years ago I told you about walking along Clark Street here in a bunch of schoolchildren were on their way somewhere, and the teacher was trying to keep them all on the sidewalk and there was little Matthew maybe 10 years old and he walked with 1 foot on the sidewalk and the other foot on the street and she said Matthew, you're making some bad safety decisions. Why, when I was 10 years old are teachers would've spoken more plainly than so we minimize sin by what we call that we minimize sin by how we compare it. It is in this most arguments and marriages course you know my wife and I've never had an argument you let me tell you this if you never had a disagreement in your marriage. Both of you are not needed. I would say that's my you know you did this in this. Okay, I messed up here but it's not as bad as you and on and on it goes right, we compare cells we find somebody who's worse than we are, we minimize it by the way in which we compare it we minimize it because we define it we define it only in terms of of our outward actions and all the things of the heart are left untouched. When Jesus said that that's what God looks at. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart and we all so you see minimize it by how we deny it. I'm told that if you live with an alcoholic and thank God I've never had to do that within my own extended family, but they will not take any responsibility. Everything belongs to somebody else and talk about denial you've ever counseled someone who's been in an immoral relationship, you'll know that they will lie lie lie until you have to extract the truth from them like taking a sliver out of your hand with tweezers. Why because the managing part of us comes and says I'm in charge here I need to preserve my reputation and that's why I said it's the greatest enemy of grace.
Grace comes along and we think were too good to need it. So that's the bad news.
What's the good news. What was the news of great joy that the Angels brought to the shepherds. The good news. Turns out to be grace that Jesus Christ will live and he will die, and he will die in our place and dying in our place. Therefore, and receiving our sin in us receiving his righteousness, and return to now do the same things for us as he does for his son is Jesus going to rule. Yes, Jesus is going to rule on a throne. Are we going to rule yes were going to rule with him.
The Bible says does Jesus inherit all things, yes, he's going to inherit all things. What does Paul say in Romans chapter 8, we inherit all God loves us with an everlasting love God, love Jesus with an everlasting love. Jesus pleases the father someday in heaven when were finally all the sin will be pleasing to the father. That is grace, and it is the grace of God's acceptance and his forgiveness. It was Paul Tripp who made the statement that the forgiveness and the transforming power of grace extends as far and as deep and as wide as the devastation of sin is either.
Maybe somebody listening today, who says you know I have sinned too much so it's like Luther said, you know natural man.
He goes from pride to despair.
Pride, on the one hand despairs on the other.
Both need grace young pastor I was listening to said that everybody is desperate.
There are some people who know that they are desperate. There are other people who don't know that they are desperate, but everybody is desperate standing before God without grace. We are all desperate and, therefore, that is, the depth of our need and you see once we begin to understand what grace means. It means so much more than simply coming to Jesus and having your sins forgiven though. Thank God it means that you ever struggled with the sin that you just can't get rid of and when you do, what do we do to ourselves. We promise each other and we promise ourselves.
I will never do that again because we remember the guilt and we remember the shame but we do. Don't blame and you see the reason that we do is we think to ourselves that this is going to be won by human determination. That's the way in which it's going to be one. You and I soon discovered that even wills that been yielded to God are very the way of freedom is to look to Jesus, who won the victory who made the provision and so we come to him and say, oh God, I look today not to my own ability to say no, but I look to your grace. I look to your victory and my focus is going to be outside of me to what Jesus did, because he is very very gracious Savior.
And so the gospel is bad news but it's also very very good news. When I was in seminary many years ago there was a professor who taught us who knew the Bible very well affect.
I remember taking a course from him and the minor prophets. You know that's Malachi and all those other prophets and he would never bring a note into class come into class. He opened his Bible and begin to teach. He knew the Bible so well that there was a rumor that perhaps he had helped the apostles actually write it. I mean he knew it that well he still teaching there a class or two and he's in his 90s somebody asked him this question. All right you got all these studies, you know all the Bible you know there are many books in your library to go from the floor to the ceiling. What do you have to say what's the bottom line that you will learn and he said what I've learned is this that I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior. That's what he learned. Now the Bible says that the Angels brought news of great joy will who the joyful. I mean imagine having acceptance before God. Imagine having an entrance into God's presence. Imagine the barrier between us and God being taken down. Simply imagine it.
Of course it is news of great joy and that's why during the Christmas season, we celebrate Jesus as Savior.
The news of great joy that I want us to nail this down in a way that we really understand its full implications.
First of all when it comes to salvation. We don't just need a teacher, we need an actual Savior.
Jesus is the Savior told you before about the Parliament of world religions were I was looking for a sinless Savior went to the various moves that were there. Hinduism and Buddhism as long. Nobody had a sinless Savior and you see the reason why Jesus is the only one who can bring us to the father is because you'll notice what the angel says shall be as Savior Jesus Christ of the Lord, that is Jesus Christ.
God because he's the only one qualified to save us sometimes. I preached on the doctrine of the assurance of salvation. One way that you know that you are not saved is if you still believe at this moment that there are other ways of salvation. If you say that this other religion out here is just as good as Christ in following this person is as good as following Jesus, you still do not understand the gospel. Everyone who is converted understands two things I'm converted by Jesus Christ and what he did for me, and secondly, there is no other way.
There's no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved. What heard me say many times he's the only qualified the Savior, Christ the Lord. Second, it's important for us to realize that we don't need help. You know sometimes when you pray for people, especially if there not Christians or don't understand the gospel to fail.
You pray for me. I need all the help I can get it in your beyond needing help your situation is much more serious than simply needing help. You need life that only Jesus Christ can give you know if you're drowning and you still are conscious somebody control you, you know, an inner tube or something and you can grab it or you grab a rope and you can kinda help yourself that's not the imagery of the Bible.
The imagery of the Bible is that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and were not even able, on our own to grab the rope God has to come down and we are already unconscious and he has to make the decision pluck us out and bring us to safety because if that doesn't happen, we are lost. That's why the Bible says salvation is of the Lord years ago when we are in Canada we used to sing a song that I don't think I've ever heard here in the United States.
It's an old gospel song and the words are wonderful. I think that the tune is a little hokey that's maybe why we don't sing it very often but it goes like this. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore very deeply, staying within sinking to rise no more. But the master of the sea heard my despairing cry from the water lifted now safe by that is the gospel in our desperation we call up and we are saved, not to put too fine a point on it, but all the other religious teachers of the world are drowning in what they are saying is let's join hands together and enjoy the descent to the bottom of the lake. They are not saviors unto you is born this day in the city of David, an actual Savior and your life may be as devastated as towns after a tornado with all the devastation of sin. But Jesus had that in mind when he died so that if you receive him, you too will be exalted. You two will be forgiven. You two will be given the gift of eternal life to which you can make no contribution at all. Talking to a young man one time. It is the way you know my parents used to always tell me. God helps those who help themselves. No wonder the guy was bound in blindness and sin. God doesn't help those who help themselves. God helps those who know they cannot help themselves that soon God you see now why I said that the beginning of the message that the greatest enemy of Christianity is in heart because they're some of you were listening to this or saying you know I am still a good person and I don't think I need the gospel.
I don't think that I need grace, you may be sitting there just allowing all this to sort of Passover you because you are glory in your deception as 1/3 lesson and that is this salvation is free. It has to be because He purchased it's nothing that we can contribute to when I just I know that I preached on this before.
Not this message, but a message on this text. I'm just astounded that the angel in effect is really giving them an invitation to go to Bethlehem and always says that there shall be a sign unto you, I mean that clearly is the angel saying go see him see them for yourself.
And so the Bible says in verse 15 when the angels went away from them into heaven but shepherds said to one another.
Let's go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known. They went with haste. I had a Sunday school teacher who used to say this you know what happened is the shepherds were out in the field and then they decided that they would go to Bethlehem and so they they took the flock and they left it in the hands of one of them said, you know, you stay here and will go well, that's not what the text says now that might've happened. I realize I don't think that's what you imagine one of the shepherds after this brilliance, and the stars of the heavens being even end by the glory of God and a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest honor of P's goodwill toward men continue even imagine one of them saying, well, you know, stay here and the rest of you go and then when you come back.
Tell me what you saw and every single one of them went trying to out run themselves. And at that moment they didn't care how vulnerable their flock of sheep because I didn't really matter to maybe the wolves would get the maybe the thieves would get them, but who cares. We have seen the Savior of the world. What difference does it matter and so they left their flocks behind. Salvation is free when the shepherds got there they didn't say Joseph and Mary didn't say now, if you pay some money will pray for you that you maybe say or you know, if you give some money it will contribute toward it and God will feel better about you is not the way people are saved, they came, the gift of eternal life was free, but they did have to leave behind the possibility of a very vulnerable flock when you and I come to Christ.
The gift is free, but we might have to leave behind some things. For example, one of the things we definitely have to park at the door, his pride is a that's why this self-deception that I'm going to save myself.
I'm going to go to church.
I'm going to do the rituals. I'm going to say the prayers and maybe after I'm dead.
Some people say prayers for me and maybe if we had it all together we can say no you can't.
Not that way.
Salvation is a free gift, but in receiving it. You often have to leave behind some of you have to leave behind your family.
Maybe not geographically but your family, as opposed to your faith in what you need to do is to say, or you might have to leave behind a husband. I'm, of course, figuratively speaking, because he might not be sympathetic to your faith, but does it really matter, the king, the Lord of hosts, and by the way, shepherds were despised when they come back, giving glory to God. It says they returned to glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, as it had been told them that they verified the story.
Do you think it matter to any one of them what the people back home said about them as shepherds. Oh, you know you're just a shepherd did that man is not to see how freeing the gospel is that once you and I have been accepted by the King of Kings. We don't have to manage that image.
We don't have to always be constantly tweaking it so that we look good. We don't have to win all the arguments we don't have to be right all the time because Jesus has made us right in the presence of the father and in that read Joyce and we continue to rejoice because of the good news of the gospel. Martin Luther said that salvation is wrapped up in the personal pronoun one little personal pronoun salvation is wrapped up in that look at these two short sentences, Jesus Christ is the Savior. That's one sentence.
Jesus Christ is my Savior. That's another sentence.
Luther said that even the devil can say the first one.
Jesus Christ is as Savior, but only a true born Christian who understands the gospel can say Jesus is my Savior, my king, my Lord, my God, the one who rescues me from my sin. Now I hold them out to you today special you folks who don't think that you need a Redeemer acknowledge the self-deception of the heart acknowledge that if you saw yourself in God's presence.
You are desperate, world desperate, but we are great sinners. Thank God.
Christmas reminds us that we have a great Savior who saves us from our sins. Well, thank you God. Let's pray father I pray that all those who heard this message today may be searching their heart right now for those who know you made a love you more because they've heard once again the story of your redemption for those who do not know you overcome that blind father, show them that they're not as righteous as they think they are because you're more holy than they think you are father I pray that right now many people listening to this weather here Moody Church across the world by intranet or radio right now. Maybe receive Christ as Savior.
Even for their seated some maybe driving the vehicle and they hear that some may be sitting in their living room. Many listening right here now. Would you believe in Christ and be saved. Say Jesus be my Savior and his blessed name on them, stand and respond by making room for Christ in our hearts stand to sing on today's Moody Church. Our pastor looks or spoke on the words of the angels, shepherds announcing that Jesus was a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This was part two in a four-part series answering the question. Who is he in yonder stall next week. Join us for part three. As Simeon proclaims he is a light to the Gentiles. This Christmas series will encourage you in these troubling times all four messages can be yours on CD for a gift of any amount Moody Church. Our call 1-800-215-5001.
Let us know you'd like to support Moody Churches ministry are think you will come as a pair of CDs you can enjoy again and again. Call 1-800-215-5001 or you can write to us at Moody Church media 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard Chicago, IL 60614 online go to Moody offeror.com that's moodyoffer.com join us next time for another Moody Church. Our with pastor Erwin lutes are in the congregation of historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of Moody Church