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The Mystery Of The Manger Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2021 1:00 am

The Mystery Of The Manger Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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December 24, 2021 1:00 am

When you acknowledge your need for Jesus, there’s no room for pride. Unlike you, Jesus had a choice where He would be born. His first night on earth was in a borrowed manger—a cattle feeding trough. He came with no kingly pomp—just a humble bed of straw. In this message, you’ll learn how Jesus’ coming in the manger can change you. All the rationalizations of your sin can be put away and you’ll be truly home.  Click here to listen (Duration 25:02)

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jesus said of himself, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

He always had to sleep in someone else's home. The Son of God began his time among us in rude surroundings. No kingly pomp, just a humble bed of straw. We can learn much from his first hours in Bethlehem, and today we will. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, people like to think they're moving up in the world. Jesus clearly took a move down. You know, Dave, it is truly remarkable, and by the way, I love that phrase you use, that Jesus was born and lived in rude surroundings. I've never heard it put that way before, but it's very accurate.

And just imagine, as you have already alluded, men and women love to move up the ladder. Jesus came down, and we never fully understand his humiliation. Well, my friends, today is Christmas Eve. When I was a boy, I looked forward to this day for months in advance, because in the Lutzer home, we always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. Well, now as we think about Christmas, we're reminded of the supreme gift, the coming of Jesus Christ. And in the midst of all of the friends and all of the shopping and all of the buzz, so to speak, that surrounds Christmas, this is an opportunity for us to focus on him, to worship him, to give thanks to God for his unspeakable gift, as the Apostle Paul put it.

So let us concentrate now on the coming of Jesus rejoicing in our hearts that we actually have a Redeemer who is capable of redeeming. Rebecca and I have been to Scotland, and we have been in the very room where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James, who ended up being James I of England, who ended up being the one to commission the King James Version of the Bible. But I remember the room.

It is a large room and very high ceiling, and then gold-guilted ornamentation all throughout the room. And the guide told us that as Mary, Queen of Scots, was giving birth to James, that there were a number of midwives, and there were also people there to make sure that the baby wouldn't be switched with another baby. If the baby was born dead, sometimes they took another baby, and that would be about the same age and substitute. So there were people there to make sure that wasn't happening. And then outside of the building, there were a whole bunch of people waiting, wondering whether or not it was a boy or a girl, wondering whether or not the child was alive, wondering whether or not Mary, Queen of Scots, was still alive.

Now here's Jesus. Who in the world was paying attention to the fact that Mary and Joseph were there, this couple that few people knew who came from Nazareth? Nobody was paying attention. This was not a big deal. Babies are born all the time. And I am amazed, and that's why we sing how silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given. And what this story reminds us of is that God sometimes works mightily in very ordinary ways, very ordinary. Everything about this story was ordinary.

Now we know, of course, that Jesus was conceived of a virgin, and that had to be so that he would not be tainted with even original sins, so that he would be totally sinless. But the fact is that everything else is ordinary, and we always look for God in the miracles. We say, give me a miracle, O God, and God comes along and says, I'm giving you a manger, and we don't see God in the manger. But think of how silently he came.

No fanfare, no midwives there, nobody waiting outside to see whether the baby's doing well, how mother and baby are doing, none of that. How silently he snuck into the world when no one was watching. The shepherd showed up only because the angels told them they should. Something else that I think the manger teaches us, and that is how personally he came, how personally he came. Now, last week, I tried to explain to you why it was necessary for God to be the Redeemer, that he could not create a human being. There could be no one else who could possibly do what God was going to do, and that is to redeem humanity. Only God could do that. This was God in the flesh. Can you imagine holding God in the flesh, Mary feeding God in the flesh, how personally he came?

Spurgeon, the great preacher from England, said that it was as if all the light of the sun were concentrated at a single point. And that's true of this baby. Oh, I know that if you held the baby, he would look like an ordinary baby, because, as I've explained many times, there was so much more to Jesus than the eye could see. That's why we sing veiled in the flesh, the Godhead see, had to be veiled, or you couldn't have looked upon this child. And he still had all the attributes of deity, even though he chose not to use them for the time that he was here on earth. But he still had them.

He retained his deity. I remember reading the story about a man who, a father, actually, who adopted a biracial child. And he said that when he would look at that child across the breakfast table and stare into this boy's eyes, he wondered whether or not he would recognize the boy's father if he saw him.

It's a good question. Would he recognize the boy's father? What are the traits that his father might have? You know, when you look at Jesus as a baby, he has the traits of his father. You might not have guessed that right at the beginning, but as Jesus went on and did miracles and made these stupendous claims about deity and then did the miracles to back up those claims, you would know that you were in the presence of God. And in one of the most breathtaking statements, Jesus said in John 14, he who has seen me has seen the father. Wow. You see me, you see my father.

The similarity, the resemblance is there. This is God, God on earth. And so I am amazed at how personally God came, didn't delegate it, didn't say an angel would do it or another man would do it.

No, no, no, no. If you're going to be redeemed, I have to do the redeeming. God came personally. I think that when we think of the manger, though, what strikes us the most, at least at the beginning is the fact that he came so humbly, so remarkably humble in his arrival.

This is what staggers us is the humility of it all. I don't think that we would understand Luke two verse seven very well, unless we remember that Jesus is the only person born on this planet who chose where he would be born. You and I didn't choose. We had to be with our mothers wherever she was.

That's where we were. Jesus had a choice. You see, in eternity past when God, the father, the son, the Holy Spirit, when redemption was planned and we're speaking now in time, whereas from the standpoint of deity, these things were always true. It's not as if God is making new decisions today because God has known all things from the beginning. God has existed from the beginning and still though decisions were made.

No question about it. Bible is full of the decisions of God. So using time categories instead of eternity categories, which we can't get our mind around, I want you to visualize the Trinity is discussing where Jesus is to be born. And well, what about Rome? I mean, Caesar is going to be up and about at that time.

And how about being born right next to Caesar's palace and then taking him on because after all, Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Well, if not Rome, what about Jerusalem? You know, it says in the Psalms that God loves Jerusalem. It's been a long time since I've been there, but the Bible says that God loves the gates of Zion. And every time I see the gates of Jerusalem, I think, well, you know, God loves those gates.

It's what it says in the Psalms. What about Jerusalem? Big temple that Herod had built.

How about Jesus being in the temple, Mary and Joseph showing up at the temple and lo and behold, there's a baby born. No, it's not going to be Jerusalem. It's going to be Bethlehem six miles south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, though it is one of the least among all of the little towns. And that's why we sing old little town of Bethlehem, though it's much bigger today. And I'm going to choose Bethlehem. And that's where Jesus is to be born. You have to understand that the birth of Christ was just as much planned as his crucifixion. It was part of God's program. And so Bethlehem is chosen. And then it's not, you know, to be born in an inn, which is where respectable people have their babies born. No, no, no, no.

He is going to be born in a stable and of all things laid in a manger. Church historian Bruce Shelley said that Christianity is the only religion. It's the only religion that has as its central doctrine, the humiliation of God.

You can't find this anywhere else. Look at all the other religions of the world. And that's why the Jewish people of the day rejected Jesus as Messiah.

One of the reasons is because, you know, here you get a, here you get a baby, you know, and the story circulated, you know, that he's born, he's put in a manger. And then you also have him being crucified. We don't understand that, but crucifixion was terrible. Crucifixion was, it was relegated to those who were really thugs, scum, I'll use the word.

Those are the people that were crucified. That's why the Bible says, cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree. And there's Jesus hanging on a tree in absolute weakness, apparently unable to do anything about his plight.

Now he was, but he wasn't doing anything about where he was. Anybody else with the power would have come down from the cross. Jesus could have, but didn't. And so what you have is this weakness of God. And you know, I read it this morning.

I can't believe this. First Corinthians chapter one, verse 25, never saw this verse before, obviously saw it, but it just never hit me. It says, the foolishness of God is wiser than men. And the weakness of God is stronger than men. The weakness of God. I mean, here he speaks and the worlds are created.

The stars are created. The weakness of God. It's the apparent weakness of God with Jesus dying on a cross and of all things being born and put into a manger. And yet why did Jesus do it? Paul says, Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the law so that we might be redeemed. In other words, Jesus says, I'm going to bear what you deserve, namely your sin so that you get what you don't deserve, namely my righteousness and forgiveness. And that's really what salvation is all about.

The wonder of the righteousness and the forgiveness that God gives to those who believe. And that's why the preaching of the cross is such a stumbling block. Give us a God that you can't crucify. Give us a God who is born in a palace, but don't give us a God who is born in a manger. And yet it is in that humiliation and the eventual cross that you and I have been redeemed. It was Augustine, the great theologian who said, God has humbled himself and yet man remains proud. And there are some of you who are listening to this message right now and you've never trusted Christ as savior.

And if you analyzed it, it would be because of your pride. You have not recognized your deep need of a savior who can do for you what nobody else can do. There's nobody else out there like Jesus.

And if you trust him, he can be yours. You can believe in Jesus. You can be saved and reconciled.

There is no other way. And there are some of you to whom the Holy Spirit is speaking right now and you know who you are, that you have never received the gift of eternal life that came to us initially in a manger. You know, sometimes my heart is like that stable.

Sometimes it is dark, cold. Sometimes it is unclean, just like that stable. And then we think back and we see that Jesus was in a stable. Jesus, the presence of the king was there in that stable. And because I've received Christ as savior, and I hope that you have too, the presence of Jesus is in my heart. Jesus is in that stable, to use that analogy. Now I know there's a big difference. He was in the stable of Bethlehem only for a short time, and he comes to live in my heart and in yours permanently.

And then there's something else that's different. He wants to clean up our hearts. He wants us to be cleansed from our sin. He wants all of the guck of the world, all of the rationalizations of our sin to be put away. He wants to clean us.

And that's what he's doing. You know, Paul says in Ephesians chapter 3, very interesting, he says, I pray that Christ shall dwell in your hearts by faith. Well, of course all believers have Christ in their heart by faith. But what he means is that Christ might feel at home in your heart by faith.

That's a good translation. He comes to the stable of your heart and does he feel at home? Has he cleansed it? Have you let him cleanse it or have you said, now you can be there, but I don't want to be cleansed. I love my sin too much. A Christian can even say that. But for those of you who have never trusted Christ as savior, I have good news that if you invite Christ into your life to receive his forgiveness, if you do that, you will belong to him forever.

If you give him that opportunity to come in. And in a moment, we're going to sing a song that if you sang this song with sincerity and understanding, you could be saved while you are singing it. The words written by Emily Elliott are these. Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown when thou camest to earth for me. But in Bethlehem's home, there was found no room for thy holy nativity. Come to my heart, Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee. I say to you in all sincerity in my heart, as your pastor, I want there to be plenty of room in my heart. For Jesus.

And I want him to clean it up. And that's what the message of the gospel is. The baby of the manger becomes the baby of the cross, becomes the man of the resurrection and the glorious return and becomes the savior of those who invite him in. Would you join me as we pray? Father, I want to pray for those who've never trusted Christ as savior. May they know now why they need him. And we want to thank you, Father, for the manger.

Thank you for Jesus Christ's humiliation. And we ask that as we sing together that there may be those who sing you into their hearts by saying, Lord Jesus, there's room in my heart. I give up the fight. In fact, before I close this prayer, I'm talking to you now, my dear friend.

Would you write where you are? Believe on Jesus and be saved. Granted, oh God, we pray we do love you very, very much in Jesus' name. Amen.

Amen. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer, and I want to have a personal word with you. I'm well aware that there are many of you who have been listening to this broadcast and you are not looking forward to tomorrow. You're not looking forward to Christmas because perhaps you lost a loved one this past year. There are so many people who are living in loneliness.

Recently, I was speaking to a mother who's been rejected by her children. I can imagine the difficulty that she will have to endure Christmas rather than enjoy it. But let me remind you that Jesus Christ came to be with us. He came to be with us even in those hard times, even in times of loneliness. Some of you may be listening to this and you are in the hospital and you don't know what the future holds.

Well, let me assure you that none of us knows what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. So I trust that this Christmas will be a blessing to you even if the situation that you find yourself in is filled with stress, uncertainty, and fear. We've come through a very, very difficult year, as all of us know, not only because of the virus, but because of the political situation, forest fires in California, and the list could go on and on. But I leave you today with this assurance. God has not abandoned his sovereignty in the midst of human pain, human need, and the need for God's gracious forgiveness and redemption. So share that message with someone today and always remember that God is with us all the way to the finish line. And someday, what we are going through today will be made clear when we are in his presence. Be faithful until then.

From my heart to yours, have a blessed Christmas. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. How involved should we be in our worship services? The issue is bothering Josh, who writes, Josh, thank you so much for your question, and of course, the Bible does speak about worshiping God with our whole hearts. You remember Jesus said to the Pharisees of his day, you worship with words, but your heart is far from me. And that, of course, is what often happens in our worship services today. So there's no question but that we should worship God in spirit and in truth, as Jesus told the woman who had come to the well. As a matter of fact, the priority is so great that Jesus says that the Father seeks such to worship him.

Now imagine that for just a moment. God is actually seeking for worshippers. And I might say that he was seeking for this woman. Success as we generally know it was not open to her, but fellowship with God was, and that's what the Father was seeking. So in answer to part of your question, absolutely, the Bible talks about us worshipping God, heart, mind, soul, all that we are, and to sing his praises to his glory. Now, when you say that when you lead worship, the people become silent, I'm not sure exactly how to interpret that. Maybe it is that they are not able to get into the music that you are using.

Maybe it's a music issue. Maybe some of them don't know the Lord, or some of them don't know exactly what is expected of them. I'm sure that you've clarified all that for them, but still, oftentimes people are hesitant to show their emotions.

We have to help them get over that, don't we? And as a result of that, to be able to worship God with real commitment and with real zeal. Bottom line, Josh, I think what you need to do is to try to create an atmosphere where people are not only invited to worship, they are encouraged to.

They come together in a congregation that is willing to sing praises to the Lord so that even the timid and those whose hearts may be cold come into God's presence and there receive acceptance that the fire of worship might be rekindled. God bless you, and thanks again for your question. Thank you, Josh, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Our Christmas series continues on our next Running to Win as we relive the bright lights over Bethlehem. Join us as together we contemplate the mystery of the angels, messengers of God sent to do His bidding. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-05 15:00:02 / 2023-07-05 15:08:40 / 9

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