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The Gospel According to the Wise Men, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2020 9:00 am

The Gospel According to the Wise Men, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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December 24, 2020 9:00 am

The story of the wise men is often treated like a “bonus feature” of the Christmas story. But it actually teaches some powerful truths about the gospel.

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Today on Summit Life, a message of freedom from J.D.

Greer. Sometimes it seems like the story of the wise men is kind of treated like a bonus feature of the Christmas story. It's a nice little extra story about a visit to the maternity ward by some pretty famous people. But today on Summit Life, Pastor J.D. Greer is showing us that this story actually teaches some really powerful truths about the gospel. It's the conclusion of our series called Upside Down Christmas. And if you've missed any of the previous messages, you can find them online at J.D.

Greer dot com. Now here's Pastor J.D. with the conclusion of the message from Matthew chapter two titled The Gospel According to the Wise Men. God commandeers the universe to accomplish his purposes. Matthew stamps his Christmas story with evidence of God's absolute control over everything. God caused Rome to tax the whole world so that he could move Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where the prophecy said that he would be born.

Remember I pointed out to you just the complete inefficiency of that? I mean God could have whispered to Joseph to just take a trip to Bethlehem. He could do that, but instead he moved Rome to do a census of the whole world. That's just Matthew's way of showing you that God has no problem wielding an entire empire to accomplish the fulfillment of one little teeny tiny prophecy.

Here, Matthew shows you that God wants pagan sorcerers to be among the first to worship Jesus at his birthday party. Just to make a point, so he commandeers the constellations to bring them there. He controls the heavens. He speaks through donkeys. He manipulates governments. There is not one square inch of the entire universe, including every decision made in Caesar's palace over which God does not have complete control.

The book of Psalms says that he'll make even the unrighteous wrath of man bring praise to him. One of the things if you're a J.R.R. Tolkien fan is you recognize that in many of his novels he has elements of nature that are major characters.

You know, trees or eagles. Well, Tolkien was a very committed Christian and he had the considerable distinction of leading C.S. Lewis to Christ. How did you like that on your spiritual resume?

J.R.R. Tolkien was a very committed believer. The reason that he put those kind of elements in there was to show that God commandeers every element of the universe to accomplish his purposes.

That was the whole point of him doing that. Psalm 46 10, be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. Usually when we think about how we're going to exalt God among the nations, usually what we think about is what we need to do.

Right? We've got to give more. We've got to go more. We've got to go on mission trips. And there is a place for us to think about that. But there is also a place for us to just be still and reflect on the fact that God is going to accomplish his purposes. That he is not dependent on anybody or anyone to accomplish it for him. Nothing or no one can stand in his way. And if he needs to rearrange the universe to make it happen, then that's what he'll do.

And by the way, if you're a believer, that's the same promise he has over your life. The same God who sovereignly arranges all the stars in the sky, sovereignly arranges every single detail in your life for his purpose. That's why the verse that you hear me quote a lot and I'm sure you know if you've been around church, all things work together for good to them who love God or are called according to his purpose. Not your purpose.

Right? I mean, you probably have a purpose for your life that has something to do with discovering your potential or whatever. But he says, I'm calling you for my purpose and what is God's purpose for me?

Well, luckily, there's Romans 8 29. For those whom he predestined, those he called, right, to be conformed, listen, to the image of his son. God has one overriding purpose for you as a believer, and that is to reveal Jesus to you and to bring forth Jesus from you to others. That is the pursuit that he has been on every day in every second of your life is to bring you to a place where you would know and understand and love Jesus and where you would be in a position to be able to demonstrate his glory to the world. That's why the pain was in your life.

That's why the disappointment. It's all been about bringing forth Jesus from you. In the darkest chapters of your life, he was at work just like he was here because he commandeers every detail because that is his overriding purpose to conform you to the image of his son to make you love Jesus, know Jesus, and demonstrate Jesus to the world. Number three. Number three. The wisdom of the world. Here's the third thing it shows you. The wisdom of the world has been turned upside down on its head. This story shows you that the wisdom of the world is turned upside down on its head. You see, these are wise men, and so this story shows you a few things about worldly wisdom. Tim Keller, in a message I listened to him on this passage, said that it shows you three things about worldly wisdom. Listen to this. We're in a very educated area.

In Raleigh-Durham, there are more PhDs per capita than anywhere else in the nation, so here's what I'm about to say. This story shows you, first of all, that the wisdom of this world is dated. It is dated. You see, the wise men in those days were considered wise because they knew how to read the stars. That seems pretty foolish today, doesn't it?

Astrology goes in and out of date in terms of how chic it is. A hundred years ago, it was totally defunct. Then about 30 years ago, it came back into fashion.

Now with Tom Cruise, it's back out again. What seems wise today is ridiculed tomorrow. Freud, if you're into psychology, Freud is in, then he's out, then he's in, then he's out, then he's in, then he's out, then I think right now he's out again. Certain dimensions of critical scholarship, like the famous Jesus Seminar, which about 80 years ago was, you know, all the rage showing that one-sixth of what is recorded in the New Testament attributed to Jesus, only one-sixth of it Jesus actually said. Today, that theory, that seminar, totally ridiculed even among unbelieving scholars. Certain scientific theories that are in in one day are out in the next and then ridiculed. Now here's the catch.

Let me kind of read your mail a little bit. Every generation, every generation thinks, oh no, no, our intellectuals are different. In a hundred years, our intellectuals are going to be admired for their forethought and their genius. That has never been true.

And don't be so arrogant as to think it's going to be true for us. What the Bible teaches you and what history bears out is that whatever the educated and intellectual people of one generation believe will be mercilessly ridiculed by the educated intellectual people of the next age. Yet when I pick up the Bible, I am dealing with ultimate truths about God and eternity, the core of which Christians have believed consistently for 2,000 years. It has not changed one bit.

C.S. Lewis said, he said this, all that is not eternal is eternally out of date. It shows you that the wisdom of the world is dated. But God's truth is one thing that never changes. Second, the wisdom of the world is inadequate.

It's inadequate. Here's a trick question. How did the wise men find Jesus? Don't say the star. Because the star got them started.

How did they, there was a little, do you see this? How did they actually find where Jesus was going to be? The Scriptures. The star got them started, but the Scripture is actually cold on the details. Matthew is showing you that worldly wisdom is severely limited.

Worldly wisdom can help you diagnose the problem, but worldly wisdom can rarely fix it. I think of the John Mayer song. Waiting on the world to change. You know what I'm talking about? I'm not singing it.

Boom. Here's the lyric from that. Now we see what's wrong with the world and those who lead it, but we just feel like we don't have the means to rise above and beat it. Mayer knows there's a problem, but the song's kind of depressing because he doesn't know the answer. So we're waiting, waiting on the world to change.

I mean, that's his answer. We're just waiting for what? You know how to diagnose a problem. We've got problems with our leaders. We've got problems here, but we've just got to wait, wait on it to change, I guess by itself. The wisdom of the world is inadequate. Third, the wisdom of the world is narrow and exclusive. The wisdom of the world is narrow and exclusive. The only people who have access to the world's wisdom are the worldly wise, which works out great if you're smart. Works out great if you've got mastery in a certain field, but if you're not smart, you're not highly educated, too bad, you're out. The world's wisdom is very exclusive.

It's only the smart people in a certain area that have access to it. By contrast, the first people to worship Jesus who is wisdom incarnate are who? The wise men and the shepherds, who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to education.

Wise men as educated as you can get, shepherds dropped out of middle school, but both find themselves kneeling in the same posture, in the same place, at the foot of a cradle. You see, the gospel is the most inclusive worldview ever put forth because it brings together races. It brings together the rich and the poor. It brings together the educated and the ignorant, the righteous and the unrighteous, because it shows you that all mankind has one common problem, sin, and one solution, Jesus. So therefore, in Christ, the Jewish Pharisee, the pagan philosopher, the king, the shepherd and the prostitute sit down together because the basis of their acceptance is not found in who they are or what they've done, but in what Christ has accomplished by His grace for them all when He came to be born as a baby to bear their sin and die in their place. This is the cradle that rocked the world and turned upside down all of her values. And by the way, don't miss that in the eyes of Jews, both the wise men and the shepherds were out.

Here's how crazy this is. If you're writing a book for Jewish people, to start your gospel by showing that the first people who come to see the truth are pagan philosophers, uneducated roughnecks, those are the shepherds, and a couple that's not married and has a baby and everybody else thinks is immoral. Those are the first three to get it. And you know what Matthew's trying to show you? Everything's upside down. Everything that the world has established is making you worthy in the eyes of God. The gospel turns upside down because not a one of us is worthy. There's none righteous, not even one.

We all have become unprofitable. And it's not our worthiness that's going to make us acceptable to God. It's going to be His grace. And His grace is given indiscriminately because it is Christ who died for the prostitute and the king and the saint alike.

Because all men are sinners and there's one solution, Jesus. That's why they say the foot is level at the ground of the cross. And I would add that we all kneel in the same place in front of the manger, whether you're a wise man or a shepherd. One more thing this story's got to teach us, but in order to get to it, let's go back to the text one more time. So if you've got your Bible, go back to verse 13. Now when they, the wise man, had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and he said, Rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and remain there till I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him. And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This, you see, was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet out of Egypt I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise man, became furious. And he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah. A voice was heard in Ramah weeping in loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children.

She refused to be comforted because they were no more. Number four, Jesus is God's answer to senseless evil and my pain. Jesus is God's answer to senseless evil and my pain. This story ends in a tragedy. Herod, realizing that the wise men are not going to come back and show him the baby so he can go kill it, goes on one of his maniacal rages and orders all baby boys under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding regions murdered.

By the way, if you have been in a skeptical New Testament class at UNC Chapel Hill and heard a scholar say this cannot possibly be true because there is no other record of it, Bethlehem was rural and it was rather small. So this massacre would only have killed about 20 or 30 babies which would not even have registered in the list of the horrific things that Herod did. There's so much more horrific things that he did, this wouldn't have even made the list. That's why there's no other record of it.

But still, it's hard to imagine anything worse for these families. So Matthew quotes, listen to this, follow it very closely. Matthew, in the midst of an unspeakable tragedy, quotes two things from the Old Testament that are extremely important for you to get. The first quote is Matthew 2.15 quoting Hosea 11.1, out of Egypt I've called my son. This is a reference, follow this, out of Egypt I've called my son. This is a reference to the exodus from Egypt in which God took Israel out of the brutal pain of slavery and brought them into a land of peace, the promised land.

That's his first quote. Second quote, Matthew 2.18, a voice was heard in Ramah weeping in loud lamentations, Rachel weeping for her children who refused to be comforted because they were gone. This is a quote from Jeremiah 31.15 in which Jeremiah is offering hope to the children, excuse me, to the children of Israel that are being taken off into exile. You see, after God, watch, brought the children of Israel into the promised land, after he delivered them from Egypt, he told them that if they would serve him, this would be their land forever, but if they defied him, then he would send them back into exile. Well, after hundreds of years of consistently rejecting the word of God, God said fine, you're going back into exile. And around between 500 and 400 BC, the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and they destroyed the city.

And when they did, they took a bunch of Jewish captives and they held them as prisoners in a place just north of Jerusalem called Ramah. From there, these families were torn apart as they were petitioned off and different parts of the family were sold into slavery. Can you imagine being a parent and watching as your high school-aged son or daughter was taken away from you, never to see them again because they were being sold into slavery to one person and you were being sold to another.

Watching little children who would either be sold into the sex slave trade or sometimes murdered right in front of you because they didn't want to have to deal with them. Can you imagine the horrific pain in Ramah of watching your families torn apart, never to see them again. In the midst of that unspeakable pain, Jeremiah says this, next verse, Jeremiah 31, 16. One day your voice will cease its weeping.

One day your eyes will cease from its tears. For your children shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord. What is that hope?

What is that hope? God is going to bring his people back from exile and he's going to do it by sending a new victorious king who's going to inaugurate a new covenant in which he's going to change their hearts and reconcile them to each other and to God and bring peace on earth. What Matthew is showing you, listen, is that Jesus is the ultimate exodus that all the other exoduses have pointed to. He is the deliverance from our bondage to sin and he is the return from our exile from God. Now watch, Matthew takes that and applies that here to this situation. On the one hand, there is horrible news.

Children all over Bethlehem have been slaughtered. But at the same time, there is good news, there is hope, and that is that a king has been born, a new king has been born. Not a king like Herod, but a king who will conquer death, not give it out. A king who will heal our hurts. A king who will not exploit us, but a king who would pour himself out on our behalf.

A new king who will reconcile us to himself and to each other. What this story shows you is that unlike evolution, unlike a lot of things, whether it's Buddhism that are going to try to tell you, well, I mean, yeah, it's too bad, but that was the last word. Herod had the last word. This story says, nope, God has the last word. This gospel says that this world is the way it is because of the curse of sin. But a king has been born who is going to bring an end to all that because he bore the curse of our sin and our place and he is one day soon going to put everything right again and bring an end to all suffering.

And those we lost in tragedy are going to be brought back and reunited to us and it comes through the birth of a baby that nobody paid any attention to. But chains shall he break for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be in him no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things have passed away. And so there is hope in the midst of hurt and there is life in the midst of death.

This is why I'm telling you this is the cradle that rocked the world. The most profound questions in the world are answered by the birth of a small baby in a manger nobody paid any attention to because everything that the Bible's been teaching you about sin and pain has been brought to fruition in him. Just like Israel was in slavery because of our sin, because of their sin, God delivered them. Jesus is the ultimate exodus. Just like Israel was sold into exile and God brought them back, Jesus is the one that brings us from exile. So Jeremiah said to this group of people, you're weeping now, you're weeping now. But one day, one day God's going to bring it all back and every sad thing becomes untrue. And what he says to us in the midst of our pain is, Herod doesn't get the last word.

Herod doesn't get the last word for what Herod intends for evil. God, through the cross and resurrection, makes new. Have you ever really gotten the message of Christmas? I know you've heard the Wiseman story, I would imagine you have, but have you ever really gotten the message?

Here it is. The gospel is for you and you are absolutely lost without it. He came because of your sin. He came because you were exiled from God. He came because you were in captivity. He was born as a king, but he was also born as a servant and a slave because he would grow up to bear your sin.

He would grow up to die on a cross where he would endure the pain and the humiliation of what you had brought onto yourself. The wise men and the shepherds show you that you don't have to be the right kind of person to know Jesus. You don't have to be smart, you don't have to be perfect, you don't have the right background. God receives you as you are, as you are, for he has died to make you into what he wants you to be. All you've got to have is a sense that something's not right with you and God.

That's all you've got to have. You've got to have a sense that God has been leading you and maybe that's in fact why you're here. You've been following, figuratively speaking, you've been following a star and it's brought you to this place where you're hearing the scripture. That star, again figuratively speaking, might be pain in your life. It might be unanswered questions. It might be dreams that you've finally gotten your hands around but weren't what you thought it was gonna be. It might be listening to your college professor explain to you what he thinks the universe is like and you sitting there saying, I don't buy that.

That doesn't explain everything. There's something more to life than what he is telling me. I don't know what the star is in your life but God still leads people through those kind of things but he brings them to the place of the scriptures where he points you to a baby born in a manger who would die for your sin and can reconcile you to God. Everything in your life has been bringing you to this moment so that you can hear that and just like the wise men would go to Bethlehem to see Jesus, you are here at a place where you can come to the throne of Jesus Christ and understand that he is why you were created and he died to reconcile you to himself. Have you ever received the message of Christmas? It's a gift. It's a gift for all who would receive and believe but you have to choose to receive it and to believe it just like the wise men did. And what you should do is fall on your knees at the foot of his cradle at the ground before his cross and worship him like they did, receive him like they did and open up the gifts of your life to him and serve him with exceeding joy for the rest of your life. You can make that decision today and give your life to the one who gave his life for you.

And what better time than on Christmas Eve making tomorrow an even more momentous celebration. To learn more about following Jesus visit us online at jdgrier.com. Earlier this month I sat down with Pastor JD and we talked about our popular resource the annual Summit Life Day Planner. It's such a staple resource.

You know, I didn't realize it was that popular. I should probably make a note of that in my own little planner to bring it back up again next year. You know, there's nothing magical about New Year but I think it does present a natural opportunity for us to reflect on what's going right in our lives what we need to do more of and what we need to stop doing. We've provided a tool that will help you ask some of those questions how to take stock of your life, set some goals and the ways you want to grow in the coming months and basically to get a hold of what's going on in your life. We're also going to include a one-year Bible reading plan. I know sometimes when you sit down to spend time with the Lord you're like, I just need somebody else to show me what to read.

I'm hoping this will give you that tool. It's a little different than the one in last year's planner but it will keep you saturated in the scripture every day. We would love to get you a copy today. If you'll just reach out to us at jdgrier.com that's one of the things that we would love to be able to connect with you on in a way that we could continue to walk with you in your spiritual growth. We'd love for you to request our newest exclusive Summit Life resource when you donate today to support this ministry at the suggested level of $25 or more. And if you've already given a monthly gift as a gospel partner would you consider adding on an extra year-end gift? We want to enter the new year with boldness and confidence to reach even more people with the gospel. Your generosity at this time of year is such a blessing and we're so grateful. Our mission is to journey with you as you dive deeper into the gospel every single day. And we want you to join us. Our team is home with their families today so we're not answering the phones but we want you to know that you can request the planner when you visit us online at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vitovich inviting you to join us tomorrow for a special Christmas Day message. The human heart has a God-sized hole that we're waiting for something to fill.

But Christ is that ultimate fulfillment of our waiting. That's Friday Christmas Day on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-16 01:51:18 / 2023-08-16 02:01:55 / 11

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