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December 24, 2020 12:01 am
Jesus was not the only baby whose birth was foretold in the Gospels. Today, R.C. Sproul turns our attention to the birth of another child, the one who would prepare the way for the ministry of Christ.
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The birth of Jesus wasn't the only amazing one foretold in the Gospels. That's next on Renewing Your Mind. Welcome to the Christmas Eve edition of the program. Today we return to Dr. RC Sproul's verse by verse study of the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke is going to focus on an often overlooked birth narrative tucked away there in Luke chapter 1 is the story of another child was born.
He wasn't born of a virgin, but his entrance into the world was part of God's redemptive plan tells us that Elizabeth days were fulfilled that it was time for her to deliver her child and so she brought forth a son, and then we have this simple note from Luke one her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord shown great mercy to her. They rejoiced with her. We know that's when Elizabeth first received the news that in her old age and in her barrenness that she would conceive and have a child that she withdrew from her residence. She withdrew from her friends and relatives and wanted to be alone because there was a type of embarrassment. Perhaps that she would experience being noticeably pregnant after all these years of barrenness and obviously she did not want to be an object of scorn or of ridicule or of pity or any emotion like that but nevertheless, the word got out, I don't think anything moves faster than CNN news, then the news of some woman's becoming pregnant, there is a sorority among women that as soon as one conception is known, it spreads like wildfire throughout the whole community.
It's a good thing because the people are rejoicing in the news of the imminent birth of another child.
So one way or another, all the friends and relatives heard about this coming event in Luke tells us simply this, that when her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her beloved Mrs. the communion of saints. This is what it's all about in the community of people who believe and put their trust in God the Word of God tells us that as Christians in the communion of saints.
We are to weep with those who wait and to rejoice with those who rejoice, so that your joy is much, and my joy is your joy in your sorrow is my sort our sorrow and that's how it is to be among the people of God.
I have to say this this morning, December 18 very important day in the life of our family that I have been nothing less than astonished at the degree of concern and the intercessory prayer that is going on for the last eight months and indeed for the last eight years. For our dear daughter-in-law and for her family for the children for her husband. One just needs to look at Facebook and see the prayers in the statements of support from all over this land, and indeed from other parts of the world with an overwhelmed by that kind of communion of the saints, and so certainly our family and I believe our whole congregation has been uplifted and strengthened by that intercessory prayer and when the chapter and that prayer comes when the one who suffers so much for so long is relieved of that and enters into the presence of Jesus.
For those who are left behind. It is a time of sorrow, but for her. She joins the general assembly of the saints and of the spirits of just men and women made perfect in the heavenly sanctuary. So with that, we rejoice just as friends and relatives of Elizabeth came to share in her joy and came to share in her experience of the tender mercy of God. That's what we share every day the tender mercy of God, then Lucas on to say that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child has the Jewish law required and they would've called him by the name of his father Zacharias that is the friends in the relatives they came in they wanted to see on the eighth day the circumcision of Zacharias Junior they wanted to share in the joy of that moment when the father would be honored by the naming of the son with his same name.
And so that's what they expected to hear and instead they were shocked because his mother Elizabeth answered is obviously at this point the father Zacharias was not able to answer anything because he was unable to speak, but Elizabeth answered and said no.
He should be called to none on he shall be called John when satisfied with this answer from Elizabeth and so we're told that they said to her, there isn't anyone among your relatives whose called by that name John. You don't have a uncle you don't have a cousin you don't have a grandfather and great-grandfather great great grandmother's family ever been called John, are you kidding us. Elizabeth the this baby shall be called John. You would think that these wonderful friends and relatives that had gathered to share in the joy of the birth of this child in the circumcision where there were several that's fine whatever you want to call your baby is fine with us. So by his name shall be called John no the friends and relatives they just hold on here where you check this out with the father we want to know what Zacharias thinks about all of this and so they motioned to him and apparently he not only couldn't speak, but he couldn't hear any way in his ears were blessed by not having to listen to this intramural debate among the friends and relatives that were assembled on this occasion and so they motioned to him.
They want his verdict on the matter now before we get to his verdict. I want to jump off at this point for an application may seem like a little bit of a stretch to you this morning.
Some of these texts that we encounter seriatim as we go through the Bible verse by verse or extraordinarily difficult to find application for our lives than sometimes I have to be a little bit creative in it.
But here's what I want us to think about what you have here is a conflict with custom it was the custom of the people that the child would be named after one of the relatives in the family. That was not a principal required by God. Rather, it was a tradition that grew up over the centuries, and it become what we call a custom that is, it was customary to name the child after someone in the family and now all of a sudden Elizabeth and Zacharias are going against the custom now. The people had no idea why they were going against the custom, I don't think that these friends and relatives had plotted together and said we know that the Lord God omnipotent has decreed that this child will be named John, but will have none of that we have a custom to protect here and so were to make sure that this child is named Zacharias, Junior there was none of that.
This struggle with custom was not a deep, profound ethical or theological issue.
The custom itself was what we call audio offer us. It had no inherent ethical import is perfectly all right if families name their children after relatives proud to have been named after my grandfather and my father and have the same name for my son and for my grandson until at some point some infant in the stroll crib will rise up and protest and say I had enough of this RC Junior 12345 stop but we carry on that custom in our own family. Nothing wrong with that but beloved.
There are times when principal and custom clashes that are so significant and so important that we need to be extremely alert to them. It is never excusable for a believer or anyone else for that matter, to disobey a principal set forth by God for the sake of a custom or about tradition or of a contemporary community standard, but I would rank as the second most egregious ethical issue. Our nation is ever based was the issue of slavery and you realize that people who were well respected in many cases, godly people who bought and sold slaves as chattel who debated the question of whether those slaves had souls. Can you imagine educated and enlightened people having discussions like that and you have any idea what Wilberforce and others had to go through to change public opinion to change what was customary to change what was acceptable in the secular culture and even in the religious culture with respect to slavery, but it was a custom set.
A moment ago. In my opinion, slavery was the second most egregious ethical issue are countries ever face. I think that far ahead of that is the issue of abortion.
And I pray God for a multitude of Wilberforce is who will relentlessly speak against this monstrous evil until such a day that our nation will awake up but I do listen to the rhetoric I see the signs and I say are you people thinking at all pro-choice.
A woman has a right to her own body. Even though we know that that unborn child has its own unique DNA. It may be in her body, but it's not a part of her body. It has its own unique identity, its own heart its own brain its own consciousness. You see the videotapes of the actual procedure by which these unborn children are mutilated and you see you can't hear.
But you see the silent scream. You see the reaction, the visible physical reaction of the unborn child. The contortions of its face screams of its mouth and its revulsion in pain as its body is being torn limb by limb, Auschwitz lease those people had some time to live on this planet before they were tortured to death that mother's choice and is exactly where that baby's choice begins just as my freedom ends where your freedom begins. What could be more simple than that, but it's accepted it's part of the culture. The culture of death in which we live. And as I've said every chance I get it.
I've studied theology for over 50 years. There are things about God. I don't know he's incomprehensible. But if I know anything about God, I don't just think I know that a shut up about that. He hates abortion and he will judge nations that supported their churches that supported their people in this room who supported I don't think they thought about it for five minutes.
How could they we may be that wicked, but were not that stupid. But that is a custom that collides with a vengeance with the principles of the sanctity of life set forth by our God and so I beg you not to base your life on what is acceptable in your culture. I just talked to a lady the other day. Very nice lady. She's divorced and she looked minutes talk to me she knows I'm a pastor and she said well I never thought I'd be using birth control at this stage in my life but I need to because my boyfriend wants me to. She sent it to me without shame. Just as we have people in the church living cohabiting that shame because it's acceptable.
Yes it's acceptable by a culture that's pagan.
Yes it's acceptable by culture. This barbarian but is not acceptable in the house of God and the first thing you have to understand if you're going to be a Christian is that you cannot be conformed to this world that we march to a different drummer. You can't say that Jesus is Lord and allow the social mores of your community dictate your behavior. It's that simple. Well thank God for Zacharias and they made signs to him what he would have the child called and asked for a writing tablet in the road saying his name is John, did you catch that say the same thing that Elizabeth set with Elizabeth. She said he shall be called John so I will say about that will last. Zacharias, and so they Zacharias and he asked for the tablet, and he writes on the tablet what his name will be John not said his name is John.
The deed is done. The discussion is over. He already has his name. His name is John and at that point, Zacharias had shown how much he was controlled by custom and how much he was controlled by the word of God and so they all marvel instantly.
His mouth was open his tongue that had been bound shut up tight was loose and he spoke praising the first words out of this man's mouth after he had suffered through nine months of silence were praise and adoration for his God not had the opportunity and my ministry to write a few hymns, some of which we've sung at this church and I was loved to sing them. Only one of those hymns that I write the words and the music everyone else I wrote the words and we got somebody was a real musician to write the music for how long ago was that Randall who sick and you pray for him because he is that concert this evening, we sent him home but we don't know how long ago Randall came to Mae Burke couple years year or two and asked me if I would write a him on the Benedictus and I did. You remember saying no, I hope not, because we've never sign it and the reason we never saw that he hasn't found anybody yet to write the music but is working on it right. So one of these days, Lord willing were going to say the Benedictus in response to this amazing tender mercy of God to his servant, Zacharias. When that happened.
We are told to fear and wonder came on all who dwell around these sayings were discussed throughout the whole country of Judea to hear what happened to Elizabeth and that babies that they named John, Zacharias wrote on the board. His name is John suddenly was able to speak again after all these months, every village in the hill country of Judea was abuzz with the news of these extraordinary events and all those who heard them Them in their hearts saying what kind of child will this be.
They couldn't wait to see what this little baby would grow up to be like my wife said to me this morning on the way to church you sit on, you think that Zacharias and Elizabeth had any idea that their little boy was going to run out of the desert and act like wild man eating locusts and wild honey. I don't think they had that on his program where their plan but the hand of the Lord was with him was with him.
The day was born with him before he was born belief that his mother's womb with him when he came to the Jordan River to baptize and call Israel to repentance is with him when he was in prison, was with him when he was the gospel of Luke weaves together the birth of Jesus with the birth of John the Baptist. They fulfilled prophecies in ways that amaze people and they were an unmistakable sign that the Messiah indeed had arrived. Thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind and this Christmas Eve. Dr. RC Sproul is taking us through the first couple of chapters of Luke as we prepare for our celebration of Christ's birth are resource opportunities intended to help you in your own study of Luke is a hardbound volume with nearly 600 pages based on Dr. Spruill sermons which he preached at St. Andrews Chapel.
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