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Do Not Be Afraid: Zechariah

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
December 7, 2014 5:00 am

Do Not Be Afraid: Zechariah

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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Hey, Summit Church. Before I introduce the Summit Pastor who's going to be speaking today, let me just go over a few quick things with you that are pretty important. On the way in, you should have received our December update that includes everything that's going on here at the Summit over the next month. You'll want to take some time when you get home today to look through it. You cannot look at it during the sermon because we've asked God to put the Plagues of the Apocalypse on anybody who looks at this during the sermon.

But when you get home, you're going to see in there a number of things that are important. You'll see a challenge to those of you who made all-in faith commitments to finish strong in the next few weeks. First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you who believe so strongly in the mission that you gave generously over these past couple of years. I want to challenge you to go on with us. You see, All In has never been about raising money for some specific projects, but about growing in our devotion to Jesus' saving mission here in Raleigh-Durham and then through us in the world.

I want you to be all in, not for a season, but for a lifetime. Veronica and I have prayed about this, and we're not going to reduce our giving now that we've fulfilled our faith commitment. We're going to maintain it and try to even increase it in the coming days.

I want to challenge you to do the same thing. Of course, that will involve continual sacrificial giving, but life is about living for His kingdom and leveraging what we have to see salvation come to others. As we've shown you this past month, Your All In Giving helps make everything we do around here possible, from our kids' ministry to our local outreach ministry to domestic and international church planning. One of the most exciting things Your Giving makes possible is going to happen this month. We think of Christmas at DPAC as a gift from the summit to the entire triangle, an opportunity for thousands to experience the celebration of the gospel and the true joy of Christmas. You'll see in your update details of how you need to reserve tickets before they're gone and how you can serve. By the way, that's usually more fun than even going and attending. It's a great chance to get to know other people at this church. The story in your update is going to talk about a couple in our church who was reintroduced to the gospel and to the summit through Christmas at DPAC two years ago. This is why we do it.

It's like Pastor Jason talked about last weekend. I want you to ask again, who is your one? Who is your one? Who is the person that you're praying that God will transform in the next year?

Everybody should have one. Who is the person you are inviting to join you this year at DPAC? Veronica and I will be with people that only had come to our church at this event, and I hope that you will too. This week we're going to be starting a new series leading up to Christmas called Do Not Be Afraid, in which we're going to go through the gospel of Luke and look at the statements where the angel said, do not be afraid.

We know that Christmas is supposed to be a time of joyful celebration, but the truth is it can be a time that just puts a spotlight on the things that bring fear and disappointment into our lives. I'm very excited to that end. To kick off this series this weekend, we're going to be hearing at all of our campuses from our own Pastor Chris Green. Pastor Chris leads our Chapel Hill campus, and he's the newest member of our Directional Elder team. Before he comes, I want to tell you how grateful I am for Chris and Erica and their family and his leadership here. Recent events in the last month have made a lot of people question where we can really find justice. It's highlighted some of the racial division that still exists in our community. Now is a time for leaders who lead with grace and truth, who demonstrate the peaceable beauty of the body of Christ, who are swift to hear and slow to speak.

No one embodies those things more than Chris Green. So Summit, at all of our campuses, I want you to put your hands together in thanks to God and as a warm welcome to Pastor Chris Green. So good to see you, Summit family. I'd like to say what's up to you. I'd like to give a shout out to all of our campuses in Raleigh and Durham and Cary. We send you our warmest, warmest welcome from your family that is in Chapel Hill.

So glad to see you today. I'm glad to be able to kind of kick off this Christmas season, as Pastor JD said, with a series in the book of Luke. So if you have your Bibles, you can go ahead and turn to Luke chapter 1. We noticed that in the Christmas story that Luke has an angel appearing and saying, do not be afraid on three separate occasions. And what we want to do today is focus in on the life of a man named Zachariah.

Now with Zachariah, he deals with God giving him a promise, but wrestling simultaneously with his fears. Sometimes fears can create doubt and unbelief for us. So when we think about fear, I want you guys to get a literal picture of what fear looks like. So I want you to take a look at my family right here.

Yeah, so this is a picture of fear right here. My wife was actually just simply trying to take a picture of the family sitting on the steps and then a bee shows up. All right, a bee shows up. The bee shows up and, you know, everybody's going crazy and pointing and everything. Oh, my God. You know, if you want to see me act that way, let me see a snake.

All right. If I see a snake, then I get scared. Now, I grew up in the country, you know, you know. So if a snake rose up in my yard, you know, I'm going to have to you know, I want to keep my man card. So, you know, I'm gonna have to deal with that snake.

But usually I don't like the food with snakes. You know, you know, being outside, I don't know about being outside. All right. But, you know, we had some campus pastors, you know, in some of our locations that came up with the idea that us campus pastors should go on a little camping trip. And, you know, I'm not going to say their names, but their initials are R.J. Hoggart, Ryan Daugherty, Todd Onzicker and Daniel Simmons. You know, they say we should go on a camping trip. You know what all these guys have in common? They're white.

All right. They're white. I'm like, dude, what's up with y'all and wanting to go camping? You know, and they're like, come on, Chris.

Come on, Chris. Man, imagine being outside in the presence of God by a campfire, gazing upon the heavens. I'm like, no.

Imagine being in the omnipresence of God with central heat in a hotel room looking at ESPN. All right. We can we can bond that way, too. You know, I mean, listen, there's no no question. No question.

You know, I had dreams just about like if we went out camping, I heard a coyote, you know, a bear or something. You know, them bringing a snake up in there saying like, Chris, it's just a garden snake. You just grab it by his neck. He don't have a neck.

What are you talking about? That's that's the problem. That's the problem. I admit the problem is I got a fear of snakes.

And my fear of snakes is directly connected to my doubt in being able to handle a snake situation. So what do we just learn? Is that y'all need to pray for black people because we have a face issue when it comes to camping.

All right. Help us, Jesus. Help us, Jesus. See, people are afraid of a lot of things. And those fears and doubts, they impact what we believe about God and how he can intervene in our lives. So as we walk through this passage, my prayer today, that God's spirit will make aware those promises in the face of your fears.

So let's read. Luke one, verse five, it says, In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zachariah of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. See this couple in the midst of their faithfulness, they lived every day and every night. Dealing with the reality that they were barren and that they were old.

They live with the reality of disappointment. See, in this culture, you must understand that being childless, childless was socially and economically disastrous. Economically, it was disastrous because if you had children, that meant in your older age, you could be taken care of.

See, this was pre 401K days. All right. But socially, it also, people viewed not being able to have children as a defect of their sin. We know that that's not the case with them because they're walking blamelessly, but people looked at them that way. There's something wrong with you.

God is not like you. There's something very wrong with the situation. So you can see how they could face a lot of social disgrace. So often, men were counseled in this situation if their wives couldn't bear children to have a divorce.

To propel them in a better financial situation. See, many of us here today, we face this same type of challenge. See, you've been faithful, but it seems like around every corner, there are disappointments. We have disappointments personally. We have disappointments financially, physically and socially.

Personally, some of us here are single. We're disappointed that we're not married yet. And then there's others of us that are married and we're disappointed in our marriage. See, some of us are disappointed in our inability to be able to have children. While others, we're disappointed in the way that we raise the children that we do have. Financially, we're disappointed that it's taken so long to break through in this career path. And then some of us have obtained the career that we had, that we wanted, this dream job.

But it hasn't met up to its expectations. Physically, we're disappointed in how our health is failing us. And some of us are disappointed in watching the health fail in the lives of our loved ones. Socially?

Are you kidding? We're disappointed right now with the racial divide that is alive and well in our country. I mean, it would be crazy to ignore the hurt, the pain, the disappointment, the fear that is going on in places that have taken national attention of recent in Ferguson and New York. Everyone is hurting. People are disappointed with the grand jury's decisions. Others are disappointed with the reaction of people to the city officials and officers, while others are disappointed with just our lack of awareness of this issue altogether. Listen, we're disappointed in this world because we believe there should be a world that should exist. We deeply desire for it to exist, but it doesn't exist at all. We ask ourselves, when are we going to have peace? When are we really going to be united?

Is it possible? Are we afraid that this will never happen? See, it's easy to let our circumstances, our disappointments and pain eat away at the very fabric of our faith. It makes us question our faith instead of trusting and believing in our Heavenly Father. Do you believe that even in the midst of your disappointment right now, that your Heavenly Father still has your best interest in mind? So what do we learn so far from this couple? Here's what we learn so far from them. Never let your fears redefine your faith. Never let your fears redefine your faith. We should celebrate this couple despite their ongoing cycle of disappointment because they trusted and obeyed God.

How do we know this? They didn't get a divorce. Zechariah could have had an easy way out. He was man enough to stay with his wife despite the social ramifications and even the financial repercussions. They didn't commit adultery. They honored their vows.

They stayed together despite his sickness and in health for richer or for poor or for better or for worse. They didn't become bitter towards God. Remember, Zechariah was a priest. That means that he often took people's prayers to God, often watched their prayers get answered while his was not even being answered. But though their faith was very admirable, they were still missing something.

And they were missing something very important. So look at verse 11. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense and Zechariah was troubled when he saw him and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John.

You should call his name John. Then in verses 14 through 17, it goes on to explain that they're going to give birth to a son. He's going to bring great joy because he's going to be a great prophet. He's going to lead the nation in repentance, but he's going to prepare the way for an even greater child.

Jesus, the Messiah. See, isn't this how God is? See, we've been praying things, but God wants to give us a better answer than what we can even ask for. He wants to give us something better than our minds can even ask, think or imagine. He's trying to give us Jesus. See, while we sit around and wonder why God hasn't answered our prayers yet, God is doing something greater. But guess what, we're limited. We're limited because guess what, our thoughts are not his thoughts, not ways are not his ways.

And he wants to show us something right here. But because we are so limited in our thinking and we have finite minds but our God is infinite. Let's look at Zachariah's response. Pay attention to how his disappointment tag teams with this fear and it creates this doubt and unbelief. Look at verse 18. And Zachariah said to the angel, How shall I know this? For I'm an old man and my wife is advanced in years.

I can't believe it. His doubt actually just said, I'm old, but my wife over here? She's more advanced than me. She has a master's degree in depends, a Ph.D. in geriatrics. I'm so glad that Elizabeth wasn't there. Because I know she would have a few choice words for this dude, because no dude in his right mind would ever use the word old and wife in the same sentence. Never do that, especially if it could be written down in scripture, because, you know, that means she could go down as being that old chick. You know?

No, no. But this is how we often react to God's promises, too. There's over 3000 promises in God's word. And whenever the Holy Spirit whispers one of these promises, the enemy is right there whispering to you fear. There are two types of responses towards God's promises. One is grounded in faith, but the other is grounded in hopelessness and bitterness. See, the responses that come from faith might sound like this. God, you confuse me. You frustrate me. But I know that you're real.

You have my best interests at heart, even though I'm just not feeling this right now. Those are the kind of prayers that you can read all in songs, because these were the kind of authentic prayers that David prayed. But then on the flip side, there are responses that come from hopelessness and bitterness. You doubt God's character. You doubt his love. You begin to doubt his existence. See, in the first, you're looking at God. You're looking at God, even if it's with confusion and anger.

But in the second, you're looking at yourself in self-pity. Zechariah is basically telling this messenger in self-pity and in bitterness, I don't believe you. It's too late.

I'm too old. This sounds too good to be true. Yes, you're a messenger from God, but you're a junk mail messenger from God. You ever got junk mail before? I get plenty of junk mail. You get that junk mail, a check that says, hey, Christopher Green, you just got $5,000.

And I know it's like some catch or something crazy. So I call my kids over, and I'm like, hey, guys, look. We just got a check for $5,000. They're like, oh, we're going to get some stuff right now. Then I take that check right in front of them, and I go rip. And of course, my son just loses his mind. Oh, my God, Daddy, why did you get rid of that?

One time he even went in the trash can and tried to put it back together. And I'm like, dude, don't believe that. That's junk mail. That's junk mail.

Are you here today? And when you hear God's word and God's promises, do you believe this is a junk mail gospel? Do you believe that his promises are junk mail? Do you really believe, Jeremiah 29, 11, do you really believe that God has a hope and a plan for you in your future? Do you believe that or is that junk mail to you?

Do you believe in Zephaniah 3.17 when our God tells us that he's in our midst and that he sings a song over you? Do you believe that you serve a God like that? Do you believe in that promise? Do you believe that? Do you believe that if God's people would humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, that God would heal our land and forgive us of our sins? Do you believe that or is that junk mail gospel to you?

Do you believe? So Zechariah has his pity party, and the angel speaks. So let's listen to what the angel has to say. Verse 19, the angel answered him, I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God. And I was sent to speak to you and bring to you this good news. So Gabriel said, in the immortal words of Beyonce, you must not know about me. He said, you are a priest. You should know about me. I made some pretty significant appearances. I show up on the scene.

People are scared. Look at Daniel. You should have read Daniel by now, Zechariah. You need to understand that I don't text God.

I don't look at his Instagram post. I stand in the very presence of God. Do you understand that the gospel that we have is from the presence of God?

How dare we doubt that? See, it's understandable that he was afraid of the presence of that angel, but he should be more afraid and fear the one that sent this angel. See, it's okay for me to be afraid of snakes a little bit, but you know what I should fear more than snakes? The one that created the snakes. So when he's talking, I need to listen and believe. So guess what? Since he has doubts and he's afraid, in verse 20, God says, I'm going to help you believe.

How does he do it? Verse 20, and behold, you will be silent and unable to speak. This is like the first God ordained time out.

All right. Until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time. And I'm sure that once news got back to Elizabeth, she was like, who the old chick now?

Who the old chick now? Verse 21 says, and the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And he came out and he was unable to speak to them. And they realized they had seen a vision in the temple and he kept making signs and he remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

Little quick caveat, really quickly. Notice that it says he remained until his time of service had ended. That means he immediately realized that after his discipline and his little pity party, that he needed to be faithful in the midst of his discipline. So he persevered and this guy continued to do his free sleep duties, even though he now has a newfound disability. Then in verses 24 and 25, after Zachariah returns home, the couple finds out that they're pregnant, so they're grateful and now things might be able to change economically and socially for them.

But nevertheless, Zachariah is still disciplined for nine months. He can't speak or hear. You're like, Chris said he couldn't speak. Where does it say he couldn't hear? Well, later on, we're going to see in verse 62 that when people wanted to communicate with him, they made signs back to him.

And if he could hear, why were they making signs back to him? But doesn't this consequence seem a little harsh, a little unfair for a righteous man? I mean, people like Abraham and Gideon and Ezekiel, they didn't believe when angels appeared and they made a request. So why such severity on Zachariah? It's because he's being disciplined for responding to God with hopelessness and bitterness. See, Zach church, he followed all the rules, but he had no joy in the promises of God.

I hope that you're not here today and you follow all the rules, but do you really have joy in the promises of God? So God had to shut him up, literally. Why? Because he wanted to bring him back. He wanted to love him.

He wanted to heal him. See, God is working out our salvation in ways sometimes that feel foreign to us, but you must believe that you have a loving father that will love you back into his presence. Pastor JD said it like this. He said discipline is not God trying to pay you back, it's God trying to bring you back. See, when it may feel like punishment, God has already punished his son, Jesus.

The Bible says there's no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. He already poured his wrath out on his perfect, blameless, sinless son. Do you know who's trying to destroy you? It's the enemy. He seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.

And guess what he makes you do first? He makes you question the promises of God. He makes you question the severity of your sins.

He makes you remain uncertain about how much your God loves you. But as believers, we can't be punished for our sins because we're disciplined. But the reason why God can discipline us is because he already punished a substitute for us, and his name is Jesus. That's why we say Jesus in our place. Matt Chandler said it like this.

He said the wrath of God is more clearly seen in his allowing us to continue in our sin, but the love of God is most clearly seen when he steps in and disciplines us for our sin. Now jump down to verse 62. Elizabeth gives birth to John.

Everybody's excited. But when they get ready to name the child, she says his name should be John. And they're like, hmm, I don't know about that because we got a Hezekiah, and we got an Obadiah, and we got Haggai, but John?

That don't even sound right, all right? So in verse 62, they made signs to his father inquiring what he wanted to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet, so he quickly writes, his name is John.

And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was open and his tongue loose, and he spoke blessing God. He spoke blessing God.

So you can learn a lot in time out in nine months, right? But seriously, what has God been teaching you in these last nine months? Can you hear him? Has he softened your heart enough for you to receive his word? The greatest lesson that Zechariah could have learned here was to stop looking at himself and begin to gaze onto the power and the promises of God. See, the greatest lesson here is that we, even in our bewilderment and confusion, that we should look at God. That even in failed relationships that we should look at God. Even when our health is beginning to fail, we should look at God. Even though our dreams are unfulfilled, we should look at God.

We have to get our eyes off of our self and self-pity and begin to put our focus on hope and faith in our God. See, God took being slow to speak and quick to listen to new levels for our brother Zechariah. Do you notice that the only function he was able to keep was his eyes. See, he quietly had to watch things take place for nine months. And one of the things he was able to see was the love of his life.

Elizabeth, despite her old body, overcome barrenness day by day for nine months. In fact, Zechariah was so amped at the birth of John, he pulled out his notebook and as any good rapper would do, say, I'm about to do this little freestyle about everything that just happened right now. Look at verse 68. This is what he said as he begins to sing. Blessed be the Lord 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.

So after nine months of being quiet and having to watch everything, what comes off his lips first? The answer for our people. This is the answer right now for our people. The answer for the nations, our deliverer. The horn of salvation that comes from the line of David is Jesus. It's Jesus.

He went on further to speak more about Jesus and then he prophesied about John. And I'm sure that when he finished singing the song, people were like, that dude Zech, he got bars. That dude Zech got bars.

And if you don't know what bars are, that means you probably do a lot of camping. But this is one of the things that we learn here. I want to encourage you. Let your faith conquer your fears. Let your faith conquer your fears. And some of you may say, Chris, Zachariah got what he was praying for.

Yes. I hear you. You say he was disciplined for his unbelief and he persevered.

But let's be real. Right now in 2014, I'm struggling because I have some unanswered prayers. And I'm drowning over here in disappointment. How in the world can this help me? How can this help me? Did you read what he said carefully? Did you read what his song was about? Did you notice where his joy was? His joy was emphatically grounded first on the birth of Jesus. And then on his baby boy John.

Why? Because Jesus is the only hope for salvation for his people. The first few words that come out of his mouth in nine months points his people to Jesus. To Jesus. Jesus, God, is the best gift that he gives. Jesus can take away our pain. He can take away our sadness and despair.

And he can fill it with true joy and security. It's not the things, it's God himself. See, God is not just trying to give us wife and kids and cars and houses. He's trying to give us something better than all of that. He's trying to give you life. And listen, he can give you a life that no one can ever take away. Not even death. So if God chooses to shut you up for nine months in silence to birth a love for Jesus, the greatest gift in you, you're going to say it's worth it.

It's worth it. See, the greatest birth in this passage is not of John. It was the birth that would come through faith in Jesus Christ.

Did you notice, by the way, that this time of silence was nine months? See, out of your pain and your despair, God is birthing a love in the true Messiah. The greatest gift that you could ever have. See, the birth of Jesus answers all of our fears. It answers all of our fears so that you don't have to be afraid. You could be born again.

As I close, I want you to write one more thing down. Don't let fear and doubt create disillusionment about the presence of God. God's words come from his very presence.

So don't let disillusionment come from your fear and doubts. One thing that I didn't mention earlier, and that's what Zechariah's name means. Zechariah's name means God remembers. God remembers.

Summit family, God remembers. He has not forgotten you. He has not forgotten your prayers.

He has not forgot any of his promises toward you. So don't stop believing. Don't stop praying. Don't stop crying out from your heart to your God because he desires to answer your prayers.

He desires to give you his presence. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Right now in your seat, bow your heads with me.

Right now, I want you to examine your heart. You should feel free right now to confess your fears right now to God. Some of you, God's Spirit has spoken to you. You know that you have not trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Don't be afraid. You can trust him right now. And there's many of us right now that we believe God, but there's certain areas in our lives where doubt and unbelief are screaming in our ears. So right now, I want you to trust the promises of God. Right now in your seat, just begin to pray and cry out to our God. Let's pray together.

We pray for ourselves, but you guys know here at Summit, we believe that we're called to love God, to love each other, and to love our world. And right now, our world is hurting. Our world is hurting right now. So this is what I want us to do right now. I want to take the focus off of us and let's look at God right now. I want us to pray for our nation. So I want everyone at all of our campuses right now, I want you to stand with me right now as we begin to intercede for our nation.

Let's intercede right now for our family all throughout the country. I want you to remember a promise that Jesus gave. He prayed this prayer for us in John 17. He said, God, help them to be one.

One, bring complete unity among them so they'll know that I was sent by you. Do we believe that? Are we struggling right now just like Zachariah? Do we believe it's too good to be true in light of everything that is going on in Ferguson and everything that's going on in New York and even in our own communities?

The racial divide that exists. We have a God that is bigger. So right now, let's just begin to pray. Let's begin to intercede for our world right now. Make your praises and your prayers known to God right now. Let's pray.

Yes, Jesus. Give your arms, God. Stand in your presence.

Stay in your presence. Heavenly Father, you teach us that we should mourn with those that mourned. God, teach us how to mourn. Teach us how to humble ourselves, God, for you. God, even if none of us that stand here right now, as we stand in the gap for our nation, none of us deserve your grace and your mercy, but you've given it to us anyway. God, so we pray right now. We pray for our nation.

God, even as you tell us in 2 Timothy that we should pray for those that are in high positions. God, we pray, just as you're a just God, that you will teach us, God, your ways. God, we need you more than ever. We need you to speak to our hearts, speak to our fears. Help us to always pray, even from this day forward, bold faith-filled prayers about your promises, your presence, because you truly are a gift to us. Help us to be salt and light in our generation. God, we honor you and we love you. In your name we pray, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-03 22:07:05 / 2023-09-03 22:20:24 / 13

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