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December 15, 2023 9:00 am


Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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December 15, 2023 9:00 am

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and peace. But the reality is for most of us, December is just as hard as the rest of the year, if not more!

Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey
Summit Life
J.D. Greear
A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
The Urban Alternative
Tony Evans, PhD

Today on Summit Life, Pastor J.D. Greer talks about the presence of God.

Many of you want your circumstances changed this Christmas. What if there were something greater than changed circumstances? What if it was to know that God was really with you? To know God again as your everlasting Father, to have peace with the mighty God, to walk with the wonderful counselor, to know intimately the Prince of Peace? Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You know, Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and peace, but the reality is that for most of us, December is just as hard as the rest of the year, if not more.

In fact, this last week of preparation can feel stressful and way too busy. So does the Christmas message actually change anything? That's our subject today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer as we wrap up a short series called God with Us.

If you missed any part of the study, you can find the whole series at Right now, let's join Pastor J.D. for an important message that he titled Immanuel. Isaiah 9, verse 2. The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

What exactly does that mean? Well, what kind of darkness were these people in? Israel during this time was at a time of national crisis. They were under siege. Economically, they had been devastated.

Their very existence as a nation was now under threat. They felt like they were, you see Isaiah's words there, dwelling in the shadow of death. In other words, theirs was a darkness of uncertainty about their future. Theirs was the darkness of fear about their safety or about the safety of ones that they loved. Theirs was the darkness that comes from a feeling that they were abandoned, that they were all alone, that they were helpless and they were hopeless. Theirs was a darkness that was from the sense that they had been even abandoned by God because of their past sins.

The mistakes that they had made, they had gone down paths from which there really was no way to return and no way to have things put back together the way that they were supposed to be. You see, maybe you feel like you're in a similar kind of darkness this Christmas. Maybe there are fears, the darkness of fears about your own future. Maybe you are facing uncertainties of your own. Maybe this is the first Christmas you're going into it unsure about what this next year holds for you in terms of a job. Maybe it's the uncertainty of the health of a loved one. Maybe it's your own health that you're uncertain of and that's leading you to the darkness of fear. There's a fear about what you're going to be like next year at this time, who is going to be with you.

Maybe this is the first Christmas you're going into as a divorced man or woman. Maybe this is a Christmas you're going into with a darkness, a feeling, I'm abandoned, I don't have anyone to turn to, I don't know where to go. Maybe it's just the darkness of the fear of death. Sigmund Freud famously pointed out that the fear of death dominates us more than we probably ever realize the way the writer of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament said it, said that we live our lives as captives to the fear of death. Maybe it's this sense or this feeling that you have been abandoned by God.

Here is my question for you. What if all of the problems in your life ultimately stemmed from or at least were exacerbated by the feeling that you were separated from God? Some of the most insightful secular writers of our time have pointed out that a lot of our drive in life, a lot of our angst and dysfunction goes back to a fear that we are not accepted, the fear that we are not approved, the fear that we are living under some kind of judgment.

Arthur Miller, who wrote the play Death of a Salesman and many other plays, was once asked in an interview to explain some of the themes that seem to recur in his various writings and his various stage productions. And he said that when he was a teenager, he had stopped believing in God. He said, but even after ceasing to believing in God, he said, I feel like I've carried around this sense of judgment. I could not escape this sense of judgment.

I still felt like I needed to prove myself to others to have somebody tell me that I was okay, that I was acceptable, that I was approved of. He said he realized that he had simply replaced God, the God from his childhood, the God from his childhood with the approval of an audience that he was still looking for someone to tell him he was not under judgment. Madonna, whom I typically don't quote in sermons and whom I may not consider to be one of the most insightful writers of our time, nevertheless said this in Vogue Magazine.

When does he read Vogue Magazine, you ask? Don't be distracted, just listen. My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre.

That's always pushing me. I push through one spell of it and discover myself to be a special human being, but then the feelings come back and I feel like I'm still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I've become somebody, at least everybody tells me I've become somebody. I still feel like I have to prove continually that I am somebody.

My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will. The Bible explains this universal human condition, whether you are religious or not, in Genesis 2 and it says that the first effect of our sin was a sense of nakedness. Now if you know the Genesis story, you know that Adam and Eve were naked before they sinned, but they had no sense of shame about their nakedness. There was no sense of vulnerability to that nakedness. The reason was, and I'll quote some of the early church fathers here, the reason was because they were clothed in the love and the acceptance of God. And feeling clothed in the love and the acceptance of God, even though they were naked, they didn't have that sense of shame about it because they knew they had their heavenly Father's approval. Having stripped themselves of the love and acceptance of God in their sin, they now felt vulnerable, they now felt exposed, they felt ashamed, they felt under judgment, they felt in darkness.

What if the problem behind all the other problems in your life was being separated from God? Blaise Pascal famously said that the human heart has what he called an infinite abyss in it. The abyss that yearns for happiness, that latches on to various things throughout life, thinking at last I have found it.

This is what I have been missing, this will complete the heart. He said various things work at various times, he said, but nothing quite gets it all the way to where we wanted it to be. We know deep down that there's still something that we are missing. Here's what he said, and I'll read from his poinsettia. He said, this inability we have to be happy.

What else does this craving point to other than that something that was once there is now missing? He's referring to Genesis 2, and that which was there which is now missing was the love and acceptance of the heavenly Father, the love and acceptance of God. Into that darkness, into that nakedness, into that separation, God sent a child. He would not be a normal child, he would live the most unusual life. He would not be born into power and privilege the way you would expect the son of a deity to be born. He would not rule from a throne, he would be born in poverty. He would make his life with the guilty and the oppressed. He grew up to die unjustly a criminal's death, even though nobody could point out anything he had ever said or done wrong. He was born that way because he was identifying with us. He was uniting himself to us.

He was born in poverty because in reality that's what all of us are before God. He would die a criminal's death because he was bearing our sin. Isaiah would say he was not dying for his own sin because he had no sin to die for. He was dying for our sin. Surely Isaiah says he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him so that by his stripes we could be healed.

When I was a teenager my pastor explained it to me like this very simply. He said let this book here represent your sin, let this hand represent you. He said your sin stands between you and God so no matter how close you try to get to God, no matter how hard you work, that sin will always be there and that separation will always be keeping you from the love and the acceptance of God. What Isaiah says is that Jesus came to bear our sin and our sorrow. He took upon himself that separation.

He died for it on a cross, put it in a grave and buried it forever so that now nothing remains between God and me and nothing remains that keeps me from being loved and accepted by him. Look at how Isaiah would go on to describe the relationship that this child would give us to God. He shall be called wonderful counselor.

Counselor means helper. It means somebody who walks with you through life, someone who shoulders the heavy load, someone who promises to work in all things for your good, someone who does not keep you from problems but someone who walks with you through those problems, the infinite and mighty God working on your behalf as your help and your counselor. Mighty God. This is not the mighty God in the sense that we just see he's mighty from how he created the universe but the mighty God working in and through me to make me into what he wants me to be, to commandeer all the things happening in my life so they are working for his glory and my good. People say, well, if God were really on my side, then I would never have any problems. But God has greater purpose for you, purposes for you than just keeping you from problems. He is making you into something and he is doing things in this world that will accomplish his greater purposes. He doesn't keep us from problems all the time. He keeps us within those problems.

Everlasting Father, I would suggest to you that if there were ever anything we needed in a Savior, it is a perfect and everlasting Father. For some of you, your sweetest childhood memories go back to the love you experienced from your dad. For others of you, perhaps many more, some of your greatest pain goes back to a dad who wasn't there. Or maybe he was there but he was abusive.

Or maybe he just never emotionally connected to you. You never heard him say, I love you, or I'm proud of you. I remember seeing an interview in Sports Illustrated with Bo Jackson.

When I quoted Vogue Magazine a few minutes ago, some of you thought I needed to turn in my man card. Okay, I just got it back, Sports Illustrated, Bo Jackson. In case you don't know, Bo Jackson was, many say, the greatest athlete that, at least of our generation, some say, greatest athlete who ever lived. He was a professional in two sports and at the top of his game in both of them. Bo Jackson, in this interview in Sports Illustrated, said, he said, you know, he said, my dad, who is still alive, has never been to a single athletic game that I have ever played in my life. He said, here I am, what many say is the greatest athlete alive. He said, and after the game, he said, I may have had a great game, accolades pouring in from reporters and from coaches. He said, here I am in the locker room, and he said, several times I've looked across the locker room and seen another player, one who didn't even start.

Yet there he is with his dad, his dad who has come to the game and they're going out for a drink or something after the game, and he said, I look at them with envy and I can't understand it. He said, because I would give every bit of my athletic success away for that kind of relationship with my dad. If there were ever a place in which we felt our need of salvation, it was to have the father that we crave restored. And he, Isaiah said, shall be called the everlasting, the eternal father.

Jesus was the father that we'd always been yearning for, the father that our earthly fathers was supposed to point us to. I tell my kids all the time, I'm your dad, I love you. I will never stop loving you. I will always try to be your biggest fan.

But see, my love at its greatest is there as a dim reflection of an even greater father, a greater father who will never fail you, a greater father who will love you even when I fail you in my love, a father who not only would support you and love you and be your fan, but a father who would give his life because he could not bear the thought of you being apart from him. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. We'll return to our teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to quickly invite you to consider a few ways that you can strategically partner with us in the coming year. First, you can join in multiplying the gospel in your neighborhood and across the world by sharing our daily devotionals with your friends and family who want to go deeper with God. Or maybe it's by starting a Bible study in your home using some of the monthly resources created by Summit Life, or even listening to our free teaching library together. Or maybe it's by giving a one-time donation or becoming a monthly gospel partner. However you choose to spread the story of the gospel this Christmas, we want you to visit to be equipped to give or to let us know what you're up to. And this month, receive the 2024 Summit Life Day Planner with your generous gift to the ministry.

Give us a call at 866-335-5220, or check it all out at Now let's get back to the conclusion of today's teaching. Here's Pastor JD. For those of you that are in our Summit family, you're probably familiar with this story because we've talked about it a little the last couple of weeks, but one of our pastors recently adopted a child from another country. And the court in that country awarded them the gift of the Spirit. And the court in that country awarded them the child. This child was officially a Doherty.

His name is Charlie Doherty. And so right before the day came when they were supposed to pick Charlie up from this orphanage, something happened in the country. There was some political upheaval, some problems. And the country froze the process and said, at this time, no more children are going to be able to leave our country. Now the child is already legally theirs. And so Ryan and Morgan found out that there was the only possibility, the only chance they had was, since the child could not come to them, for them to go to him.

And so they left two or three weeks ago and they were there for a while, basically camping out outside of the orphanage, spending as much time with their son as they could. And then lobbying the courts every day, meeting with government officials, pleading with them to release their son. But what you see is that you see there's a father who loves his son and since his son cannot come to him, he is going to that son and he is fighting for his son. And as I'm watching this unfold, I am just reminded of what a picture of the gospel this all is because I have a heavenly father who actually went farther for me than Ryan is even going for his son. He wasn't just expensive and inconvenient for him.

He just didn't purchase an expensive plane ticket. He poured out his blood so that I could be reconciled to him. He didn't try to move me from a country of poverty to a country of privilege. He transferred me from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of his dear son. Jesus is the everlasting father. He's everything we have ever yearned for in a father. The sweetest memories of your father where there is just a dim echo of the love of your heavenly daddy.

And for those of you who were devastated and disappointed by your dad, it's just there to remind you that there's a heavenly father who is never disappointed and never will. He shall be called the prince of peace. He would bring us peace by restoring us to peace with God. Here's a secret I've learned in my life and seen it played out hundreds of times in the church that I pastor is that horizontal dysfunction almost always goes back to a vertical disconnect from God. You see as people, our souls are so dissatisfied without God that we turn toward other things and we begin to abuse them and use them. That's why we have a hard time loving people and trusting people and forgiving people because instead we abuse them because we need them to fill a place that we're missing because we're missing God.

We do the same thing with power, with money, sometimes even with food and drink. That's why, listen, the peace of God in your life horizontal only comes from peace with God. You may have noticed this that when people find God, they become better husbands. They become more content as wives. They become better fathers. They become more forgiving.

That's because our souls were made for God and our souls are restless until we find our rest in him. One day, Isaiah says, this child will restore the earth the way it was intended to be. He will right all wrongs. He will restore justice, but first he had to be born as a substitute for our sin to reconcile us to God. Before he could institute the peace of God on earth, he had to bring peace with God between us and the father. This was the light that God sent into our darkness. Many of you want your circumstances changed this Christmas. What if there were something greater than changed circumstances? What if it was to know that God was really with you, to know God again as your everlasting father, to have peace with the mighty God, to walk with the wonderful counselor, to know intimately the prince of peace? There's a little phrase back in verse two that talks about the birth of the child I want to draw your attention to.

Look at this. The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light and for those dwelling in the shadow of death, shadow, that's your word, on them a light has dawned. Shadows aren't real things. Isaiah says to these people, you're dwelling in the shadow of death.

Shadows can't hurt you. There was a pastor who was about my age. I had kids about the ages of my kids and when this pastor was my age, his wife developed suddenly a very rare form of cancer that took her life within about three weeks. He conducted part of the funeral and was riding with his oldest daughter, who was 12 years old at the time, was riding from the funeral place to the grave site and his oldest daughter had heard him say in the message, Psalm 23, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. And she looked at her daddy and she said, daddy, you said that mommy walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

What is the valley of the shadow of death? And this pastor thought for just a few seconds, trying to figure out how to explain this to a 12 year old. He said when beside the car he was riding in, this big old tractor trailer drove by and the way the sun was shining, it cast a shadow across their car that passed over them. And he looked at his daughter and he said, sweetheart, if you had the choice, would you rather be hit by that truck or would you rather be hit by its shadow? And she said, well, of course, daddy, I'd rather just be hit by the shadow.

He said, that's right. He said, he said, Jesus got hit with the truck of your mommy's death so that all that would be left for her is the shadow. Jesus would take the truck of darkness. He would take the condemnation. He would take the shame.

He would take the abandonment. He would take all of it so that all that would be left for us is the shadow. You see, when he died on the cross, there was actual darkness. There was an unnatural, unexplained three hour period of darkness where the darkness that we had encountered entered into his soul. On the cross, Isaiah says, he bore the penalty for our sin.

He was actually punished for the things that I had done wrong. On the cross, he faced abandonment. He would look to heaven and he would say, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

That was not prose or poetry. That was the son of God, forsaken by the father so that you and I would never have to be forsaken by him. He would go into a tomb where he would meet my death head on and he would defeat it so that nothing would be left for me except for the shadow. So I know that there are many of you here, listen, who you might feel alone. You might feel alone. You're not.

All that is is a shadow. He has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. You might feel abandoned.

You can't be because he was abandoned for you. You might feel condemned. There is therefore no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.

Jesus went into the darkness so that you could have the light of God's presence eternally with you so that, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life because anger and wrath and separation was absorbed into Jesus in my place so that now what I call him is not condemning judge. I call him everlasting father. I call him mighty God. I call him my wonderful counselor. Do you know God this way? Do you know God this way? You can. You can. In fact, if I could be rather simple, there's two groups of people in here.

There's one group. You do know God this way because you have personally received Christ as your savior. You have received his invitation for him to save you. And what I want to tell you is God is with you. God is with you.

And some of you need to reflect on that. You need to reflect that the aloneness that you feel, the darkness that you feel is just a shadow. You're not abandoned. You need to take heart.

That's all it is is a shadow. If you're not a believer, that's the other group. If you've never personally received God's invitation, then well, I've got good news or bad news and good news for you. The bad news is God is not with you. He loves you deeply. He does, but he's not with you. You really are in darkness.

You really are alone. You really are condemned. The good news is he's offered himself to you.

He's died in your place. He's removed the separation if you'll receive him. Well, the good news that Pastor JD talked about, that offer of salvation is available to you today.

It's the real gift of Christmas. If you've never received that gift, we would love to help you learn more. Be sure to get in touch when you visit You're listening to Summit Life with JD Greer. Our teaching today wrapped up our short series called God with us. But if you've missed any of the previous messages, you can hear them all free of charge when you visit And don't worry, there's more Christmas teaching on the way next week. It's a joy to be here with you on your station and online so that you can dive deeper into the gospel message with us each day. While these programs come to you free of charge, they actually take a lot of financial support to produce and distribute.

And that's where friends like you come in. When you donate to Summit Life, you're bridging that gap. At this time of year, your donation is more important than ever. You can join the mission by giving a special year-end donation of $35 or more. And we'll say thanks by sending you the 2024 Summit Life Planner.

Ask for a copy when you give today. Our number is 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or give online at If you'd rather mail your donation, our address is JD Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. And if you haven't gotten ahold of Pastor J.D. 's brand-new book called 12 Truths and a Lie, now is the time to do that. We've been hearing so many incredible stories about how this book is impacting lives. You can purchase at or wherever you get your books. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Have a great weekend of worship and be sure to join us next time as we unpack more solid biblical teaching as our foundation right here on Summit Life.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-15 10:39:10 / 2023-12-15 10:49:27 / 10

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