Why the Reception of the Holy Spirit is Not Always Accompanied by Tongues/Prophesying December 30, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Evangelism, Holy Spirit, Joel, Religion, Signs and Wonders, Tongues, Witnessing.
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First, let me apologize for not getting yesterday’s promised links up. I hope to have them up by Sunday.
Many teach that the reception/baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by tongues, prophesying, some other type of miracle, or at least some supernatural power in service (R. A.Torrey, for example). It is easy to understand why. When Moses in Numbers 11 wished that all Israel would be filled with the Spirit, it was for the purpose of supernatural service, particularly prophesying. The prophesy of Joel also specifically indicates miracle gifts like prophesies and visions as being characteristic in the last days of those on whom the Spirit is poured out. It is also true that several times in the book of Acts, not just on the day of Pentecost, that miracles often accompanied the filling with the Spirit.
Yet they did not always, even in the book of Acts. Acts 3:8 speaks of Peter speaking with boldness but not of performing miracles when he was filled with the Spirit.
There are three reasons why I believe that miracles do not always accompany the reception/filling/baptism of the Spirit.
1. Hebrews 2:3-4 teaches that the purpose of these signs and wonders were confirmation of the eyewitness testimony of the disciples. Acts also indicates that these signs and wonders served as confirmation that those believing in Christ were truly believers (Acts 8 and 10-11). We do not need such confirmation today because of the confirmation(s) found in the book of Acts. Also, we have the completed Word of God today which makes confirming signs and wonders unnecessary.
2. The main result of being filled with the Spirit seems to be boldness to witness rather than miracles. Compare the various passages with 1 Thessalonians 1-2, where Paul describes the missionary experience in Thessalonica.
3. The main doctrinal passage on the work of the Holy Spirit within the believer (especially 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 8) do not emphasize the sign gifts. In fact, Romans 8 does not even mention them. It seems that the main work of the Holy Spirit within us and within the church is quite independent of signs and wonders.
For these reasons, one should not require a miracle to prove one’s salvation, to confirm one’s preaching, or to verify that someone has the Spirit of God. The Bible just does not back that up as a present reality.
The Holy Spirit though is of great importance. That is in a sense the theme of the book of Acts. The importance of the Holy Spirit, however, is not in that miracles are performed through men by Him but rather that He enables men to spread the gospel of Christ throughout the world. For that purpose, we certainly continue to need the filling with the Holy Spirit today.
The Power of the Holy Spirit December 27, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Holy Spirit, Promises of God, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Power, Witnessing.
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Later this week:
Tuesday: Links For Investigation – the Holy Spirit
Wednesday: Why the Reception of the Holy Spirit is Not Always Accompanied by Tongues/Prophesying
THE POWER (Capability) OF WITNESSING IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
Luke’s first book, his gospel begins with the Christmas story. It is, however, just the beginning. Luke goes on to tell us of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The other writers of gospel did not as far as we know write any further histories. Luke was different. He wrote a sequel. He wrote a man named Theophilus and told him that the story of Jesus did not end but continued in those who believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
This sequel we call Acts. Although Jesus is still an important figure in the book of Acts and men like Peter and Paul play important parts in the history, it is the story of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who follow Christ. Since many of us are followers of Christ, it is important that we know this story. This story, like Luke’s gospel begins with a promise and its fulfillment. That promise is to us as believers in Christ and its fulfillment defines the reality of the Christian. This promise is the Holy Spirit and this reality can be described with one word, “power”, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit in a believer that enables us to be witnesses of Christ.
A. Now, this power of the Holy Spirit to witness of Christ’s salvation is available the moment you believe. If you compare the passage we have just read with Acts 2:37-38, it is obvious that all that comes with the Holy Spirit is available at the moment of faith. Sometimes the gift of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by miracles but not always. Look again at Acts 2:37-47. It seems that the only ones at this time performing miracles were the apostles but they all received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In the case of the power of the Holy Spirit to witness, you receive that power at the moment you believe. This was the promise given by Jesus in Luke 24:44-49. It is referred to here in Acts 1:4-5. Jesus compares here the baptism of John with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are some significant differences between these two baptisms. The one is physical, the other spiritual. The one is by man, the other is by God. The one could be seen; the other could not normally be seen. The two baptisms have this in common: both baptisms come after one receives in faith the message of God. When one believed John’s message, John would baptize him. When one believes Christ message, the Holy Spirit baptizes him.
Think about the significance of this difference. John could have baptized someone by mistake. There were those who came to John, in whom he recognized that there was no faith in them and whom he refused to baptize. It is possible, though, that he could have baptized someone who had no faith. John was not all-knowing. The Holy Spirit, however, never baptizes the wrong person. All who he baptizes are true believers in Christ (1 Corinthians 12). That is why I am certain that every believer has the power of the Holy Spirit to witness because every believer in Christ is baptized by and with the Holy Spirit.
The Great Commission is closely connected with the Holy Spirit power (John 20:21-23). Although the word for power in Matthew 28:18-20 is “authority” rather than our word here “capability,” Matthew’s version of the Great Commission also makes it evident that “capability” from God also plays an important part. Jesus ends with this phrase, “And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Everyone who God wants to fulfill the Great Commission has the promise of the capability through the Holy Spirit to fulfill that commission. We cannot plead lack of ability. God the Father gave us, under the authority of Christ, the ability and capability to witness of Christ the moment we were saved and He will never leave us nor forsake but rather has given us the Spirit of God to be with us, to aid us, to enable us to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
Of course, we should prepare and learn. That is what Jesus is doing in this passage and what he had been doing during the past three years, teaching them and preparing them for the day when they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Even at this late date, it seems that they still had some gaps in their knowledge. Look at verses 6-7. Here the disciples are asking about the timing of the kingdom.
The reason these disciples are asking about the kingdom is clear. They know the Old Testament prophecies of Joel 2. In fact, in the next chapter, Peter uses that passage to explain to the multitude at Pentecost that what they were doing in speaking in tongues was simply a manifestation of God’s power as was connected in the minds of every Jew, that when the Messiah comes, the people would be endued with the Spirit of God for the purpose of prophesying and revealing God’s Word. It was just a foretaste. That prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled when Christ returns to this earth sometime in the future.
Of course, the disciples did not understand that there would be at least two thousand years before Christ would return. You would not have understood it and neither would have I. I think that is why Jesus answers them the way He did.
Jesus tells them two things…
First of all, you do not need to know when the kingdom will come. You need to trust that the Father’s timing is perfect and you need to be patient.
Secondly, you need to know how to spread the news of the kingdom.
1. He told them what to do, “…be witnesses of Me…” Jesus is the news of the kingdom. It is not primarily about a Jewish kingdom but about a Jewish king. It is not simply about an ethnic people but about a spiritual change to the world order. The only way to accomplish that is for the world to hear about the Jewish king, Jesus the Christ.
2. He told them where to start. “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
3. And He told them how they were going to accomplish this. “…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”
This power was accompanied by believers boldly or plainly witnessing of the gospel of Christ. Look at verses 32-36. Peter says in verse 32, we are witnesses of his resurrection. Boldness is implied in the word witness. It is translated occasionally “martyr”, one who is willing to die. I do not usually recommend that you witness in such a way that you get fired from your job. We are to be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Our witness, however, should be such that we are willing to pay a price to be a witness. I am afraid that most of us, if we had to choose between our job and our witness, we would choose our job. If we had to choose between our family and our witness, we would choose our family. If we had to choose between being accepted and witnessing of the one who has accepted us, who would we choose?
Let us continue reading verses 33-36. Peter’s witness was so bold and so plain that many of the hearers, according to Acts 2:37, were cut or pierced to the heart. Perhaps you remember the tragic story how that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was suddenly pierced to the heart by the stinger of a stingray and how that he himself pulled the stinger out and then almost immediately died. This is same picture. It was sudden! It had immediate consequences! It resulted in immediate actions! In this case, however, it resulted not in death but in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let me again emphasize that witnessing by the power of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by boldness, that is, plain speaking (Acts 2:29; used three times in chapter 4). We do not live in a time of bold speech for Christ among Christians. This era we live in is commonly called the postmodern era. Simply put, it means that what is right and wrong changes as culture and standards change. In other words, what is sin in Michigan may not be sin in Ohio and what is good and acceptable in Indiana may be shameful and sinful here. In other words, there is no certainty, there is no plain speech. We look at each other and try to figure out what is right or wrong. Unfortunately, we at times reflect in our lives the post-modern culture.
Some believe that we cannot go long with this type of attitude. Humankind gravitates toward certainty and hope, even if it is a false certainty and hope. The growth of cults and Islam and even of some aspects of evangelical Christianity is evidence to the fact that many people want Yes to mean Yes and No to mean No. In Acts 2 and 4 and other places, we see that these men spoke plainly. They did not dance around issues but plainly gave the truth. The Holy Spirit led them in that and empowered them in that and enabled them with boldness and wisdom to just tell the facts.
Why do we not want to share with each other much less with an unbelieving world, what Christ has done in our lives? I do not have the answer but it surely has nothing to do the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit gives us plain speech, ready speech, boldness to speak of what we know.
Do you have the power of the Holy Spirit to witness? If you are a believer in Christ, the answer is yes. You need to tap into that power. There is no alternative source. the ability to tell the world of Christ is in you right now in the form of a person, the Holy Spirit.
If you have not received Christ, you do not have this power. You need a different power, the power of the gospel. Paul in Romans 1:16 writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Gentile).” You are incapable of saving yourself but the gospel of Christ will save you from your sin if you will believe it. Peter said to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” There are two actions implied in that invitation. You need to turn from your sin and you need to turn away from any other way of salvation and turn only to Christ. Turn to Christ today and receive the Holy Spirit!
Thoughts Concerning the Manhattan Declaration December 23, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Abortion, Civil Disobedience, Manhattan Declaration, Politics, Religion.
The Manhattan Declaration has raised a number of questions among our attendees.
1. Is civil disobedience Biblical for the believer in Christ? The short answer is yes. The Bible, however, defines civil disobedience fairly narrowly. In Acts 5:29, Peter replied to the authorities, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” They were being commanded not to preach the gospel of Christ. The purpose of their civil disobedience was not to earn recognition for their cause. In fact, that was the problem from the point of view of the authorities. They were gaining recognition for Christ by their preaching. These men were simply doing what they were commanded to do.
2. What about paying taxes to governments that allow or pay for abortions, gay marriage, etc.? Jesus according to Matthew 17:24-27 paid the temple tax although the temple rulers were corrupt (which is why he cleansed the temple twice!). He also taught the lawfulness of paying taxes to Caesar in Matthew 22:15-22. Paul teaches in Romans 13 that paying taxes even to the pagan Roman government was the Christian thing to do. Fortunately, we have in a democracy a voice in the government but whether we do have a voice (as Jesus did in the temple, it was His Father’s house) or whether we do not (as Jesus did not in the Roman government) we are still subject to the laws. Only when commanded to disobey God personally do we have the option of disobeying the government. Since we are commanded to warn against sin, being forbidden to preach against abortion or gay marriage would certainly be an area where we must obey God.
3. Should Grace Bible Church ally itself in the way some evangelicals did by co-signing the Manhattan Declaration with non-Christians or with those who claim to be Christian but whose doctrine we believe disqualify them from being truly Christian? It is profitable, sometimes, in a democracy to ally ourselves with those who see as we do on an issue. It, however, is not wise to allow our good intentions to confuse people as to what a Christian truly is. To ally ourselves with those who do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the only way of salvation is a denial of who we are as believers in Christ. To ally ourselves with those who are in a group that teaches that their church or that good works are the way to God is a denial of the efficacy of the cross of Christ (Galatians 2:14-21) and to be avoided at all costs.
For the above reasons, I will obey God rather than men. If I am commanded not to preach the truth, I will disobey. I will not, however, ally myself with false teachers with the possible result that people will be led astray from the truth concerning Christ and His gospel.
Isaiah 9: What the New King Brings (A Christmas Sermon) December 20, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Faith, Gospel, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Joy, Light, Matthew, Millenial Kingdom, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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Tuesday: Links concerning the Manhattan Compact
Wednesday: Thoughts concerning the Manhattan Compact
Sunday: Beginning a new series on the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.
WHAT THE NEW KING BRINGS
INTRODUCTION: This week when we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will be celebrating the birthday of a king. The past three weeks we have looked at the prophecies of Isaiah about His coming to the earth as the baby in Bethlehem as well as His future coming to rule and reign on the earth. Today I want to again look at Isaiah and again look at what Jesus brought with Him at the first Christmas and what He will bring to this earth in the future.
A. The New King Brings Light to Those in Darkness (9:1-2).
1. There is hope in Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5). Matthew 4:12-25 records the fulfillment of this prophecy that Christ would begin His ministry in Galilee. The King brings light to those in darkness beginning – not in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life; nor in Rome, the political capital of the Roman Empire; neither in Alexandria, the intellectual giant of Egypt; and not even in Athens, the home of Greek philosophy. It is in Galilee, specifically the city of Capernaum and the surrounding area in which the King brings light to men in darkness. It is not a center of importance. Does He ignore the others? No, but in Galilee is where He begins and He expands His light throughout a dark world.
Jesus being the Light of the World and bringing light to humankind is a very important part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1:76-79, Zacharias sang at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. He ended his song with, “You, my son are going to be the prophet of the Highest and you are going to prepare the way for the Messiah, the one who is going to rise like the sun in the east and bring mercy to the Jewish people, the one who is going “…(t)o give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
I am glad that light is not limited to the Jews. Repeatedly in Isaiah we have seen that He brings light to all humankind. Simeon, when Jesus was just eight days old in Luke 2:32, identifies Jesus as “(a) light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles, because they did not know the God of Israel, lived in the land of the shadow of death. They lived there because they rejected the truth of God (Romans 1). They lived there because they have spiritually, even when going through tough times, shaken their fist in God’s face. They were in total darkness.
That was my situation and that was the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. The reality of eternal death, although certain, is not yet accomplished for you hearing this message this morning. Someone has already been executed for our sin. It is Jesus, the King and the Bringer of Light. It is through faith (John 1:4-8) in His death and resurrection that He proclaims light to the human race which is sitting in the shadow of death (Acts 26:22-23).
B. The New King Also Brings Joy to Those Oppressed (9:3-4). It is in these verses that we see not only the first coming of Christ as a man but also His second, future coming as the Prince of Peace. They are melded so closely to each other that one can hardly recognize where one begins and the other ends. That is so, even though there are at least 2000 years between the two comings.
1. What kind of joy does the King bring (9:3)?
The King brings multiplied and increased joy, exceeding joy. That is what Mary sang as she carried her Savior in her womb, “My spirit rejoices exceedingly in God my Savior.” Even before He was born, the King brought exceeding joy. The angels proclaimed to the shepherds tidings of great joy. The wise men saw the star and had exceedingly great joy.
This joy is multiplied and increased because it has been a long time coming. It is the joy of the harvest. The farmer plants in the spring. He works and waters the field through all kinds of weather. Heat and cold, sunshine and rain, all through the spring and summer and fall he works and waits and then the harvest comes. That is the type of rejoicing in this passage. Since Adam, humankind had been waiting for Jesus to be born. That is one reason why He was received with great joy. It has been two thousand years since Jesus returned to His Father’s throne. When He returns to earth again, it will again be a time of great joy for those who trust in Him.
This joy is also multiplied and increased because it is the joy that comes with victory. When the King comes He brings victory over His enemies and over the enemies of His oppressed people. In that there is great joy.
2. What kind of oppression does the King relieve (9:4)? This fourth verse refers to Gideon in the book of Judges. The Midianites were a great host of raiders, who would come and destroy the crops and plunder the Israelites and murder and wreak havoc. That is the type of oppression the Israelites were suffering. They labored, they worked hard, and they planted. As soon as they planted the Midianites came and destroyed the crops. The people started hiding food. One of those hiding food was a young man named Gideon. God told Gideon, “I want you to take an army.” Gideon did. God told Gideon, “Reduce your army to 300 men.” Gideon did. God told Gideon to attack at night with three companies surrounding the camp, to blow their trumpets in their right hand, to break the pitchers concealing torches in their left hands, and to cry out, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” The Midianites woke up to the sound, saw the lights, panicked, and began to kill each other in the confusion. It was the largest case of friendly fire in history and God is the one who caused it. He is the one who delivered Israel from the oppression of the enemy. The resulting joy is the joy that only the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords can bring.
C. Finally, The New King not only Brings Light and Joy but He brings Eternal Peace (9:5-7). Verse 5 describes for us how complete this peace will be. The market for army boots and uniforms will be depleted. There will be no use for them because through His victory the King brings peace.
1. This King’s Name is Wonderful Counselor — Isaiah clarifies what he means in 25:1 and 29:14. Isaiah 29:14a says, “Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder…” This King does things that no other can do. His works are past finding out. They are too great for us. When I think that the ruler of the universe came to die for me so that I might have light and joy and peace, it is too marvelous, too wonderful for me to understand. This King, Jesus Christ, is Wonderful.
2. This King’s Name is Counselor — It may be that “wonderful” and “counselor” are intended to be one name. Either way, the point is this. He has the wisdom to make and carry out a perfect plan of peace. If you return to Isaiah 29:14b, you will see why God felt that He had to intervene in His people’s affairs, “…For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Before the creation of the universe, Christ had a perfect peace plan for this earth. That’s why we can turn to Him. “…Christ is a Counsellor to us and with us, because we can consult with him, and he… counsel(s) and advise(s) us as to the right way and the path of peace.” (Spurgeon)
3. This King’s Name is not only Wonderful Counselor but also the Mighty God — He makes the plans work because He is God. Yes, He became man and was tempted as you and I but as God He also came. If you are weak, go to Him for strength to carry out what He wants you to do. He is the Mighty God.
4. This King’s Name is also the Everlasting Father (or Father of Eternity) — His plans are good because He cares like a father and because they are eternal. Only an eternal God can guarantee eternal peace. If you are scared, depend on Him. If you are worried, turn to Him. He will never leave you holding the bag. In fact, He’ll hold the bag for you and stick around to see what you might be facing.
5. Finally, this King’s Name is the Prince of Peace — His plans are focused on peace. If you are disturbed, He has you in His sights and is unconcerned because He has you and all around you in His grip.
*In the past, His coming made peace with God
*In the present, right now, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when they put their faith in Christ and the Prince of Peace comes to live within them.
*In the future, His second coming will usher in an eternal kingdom of peace.
INVITATION: “The most important part of our verse (9:6) is the first three words….…‘For to us’. The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us, (to you). A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.”
“God has a Christmas gift for you……..not wrapped in bright paper and fancy ribbon, but in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger…….It is the gift of His Son. It is for you. The gift is still there. It must be personally received.”
“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look in the Father’s Face and tell Him you have received his Christmas gift. Have you done that?” (Pritchard)
One thing about a gift, you can only give something once. You can only receive a gift once. So it is with the salvation of God. When you turn to Christ in faith and receive the gift of salvation, you never have to ask again. That gift is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, the Eternal Father, the Father of eternity can give an eternal gift. You may not have been enjoying the gift as you should but it is still yours. Perhaps you’ve received the gift of eternal life. That is a Christmas gift that you can never receive again but you can take it off the shelf and enjoy it not only every Christmas but every day for the rest of eternity. Christ wants you to enjoy the light and the joy and the peace that He has provided for you. If you haven’t been living for Him as you should, then tell Him as we pray that you are sorry. He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Turn to Him and start living for Him today.
Why Sports Talk Shows Condemn Tiger Woods December 9, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Character, Family, Religion, Sports, Temptation.
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Adultery is sin. That is what the Bible says.
Adultery is wrong. That is what a couple of sports talk show hosts (one national, one local), to whom I have listened, say.
What really concerns me is their questioning the wisdom of marriage for someone like Tiger Woods or some other top-of-his-game-sports star. Perhaps they are just overstating their case.
We need, however, to take marriage seriously. It is a wonderful gift from God. It is the way God intended for us to live on this earth. It is the way God made us. Our sinful desires and ways keep us from experiencing marital bliss but our abuse and misuse of the gift does not cheapen the gift itself.
Our young people, especially Christian young people in our church, need to hear the other side of the story. They need to know that marriage is a good thing, a wonderful thing. They need to hear that from the Word of God but they also need to hear that from us married adults.
They need to know that marriage is not a relationship of bondage but of joy and fulfillment. They need to hear that from us. They need to see that in us. They need to know that Tiger Woods messed up, not because he married and set himself up for temptation but because he violated a sacred promise that God holds every married person accountable for because it is a gift from Him.
Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas” December 8, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Evangelism, Messiah, Religion.
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The controversy during the past few years over stores not allowing their employees to wish their customers a “Merry Christmas” has evolved into a political speech issue in the minds of many on both sides of the issue. There is a campaign now that enlists churches to become promotional centers for saying Merry Christmas. This may be a good thing. I am not yet certain. I am afraid though that it is actually a commentary on our failure to present Christ.
Our pastors’ sermons against Santa Claus are sometimes stronger than our sermons presenting Christ.
Our members’ condemnation of the commercialization of a Christian holy day is weak in comparison to our fervor in laying up treasures and gifts for ourselves here on this earth.
Our families’ reservation of the holidays and Holy Days for themselves bears witness of our hesitancy to leave father and mother for Christ.
We rejoice more in the sentimentality of the season than in having our name written in heaven.
So what should we do? We should say more than “Merry Christmas.” These are pleasant words and there are occasions when circumstances or time allow nothing more to be said. We should, however, tell people about the Christ. Most people do not know what the title means. They do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, who came to take away the sin of the world. They need to hear. We need to tell them.
Read the Christmas story from Matthew or Luke and emphasize the gospel elements of the Christmas story. Let people know that it is more to you than a tale but that Christ’s birth began the life of the One Man who could and did change history through His life, death, and resurrection.
Find those Christmas carols that tell the gospel and talk about them with people. Anything by Charles Wesley is good. He packs his carols full with the gospel. “Joy to the World” is especially good. “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” also. Tell people what it means that Christ was born to give men second birth or what the curse was that “Joy to the World” speaks about.
Talk about the Christ of Christmas. People need to respond to him and they need to know that. Let “Merry Christmas” be more than a greeting and more than a political statement of your religious and free speech freedoms. Make it an opportunity to tell the good news of Christ to your friends and neighbors and enlist them as disciples of Christ.
Christmas Sermon on “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” December 6, 2009Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Isaiah, Jesus, Longfellow, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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This week on “Eternally Significant”
Tuesday: Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas”
Wednesday: Why Sport’s Commentators Condemn Tiger
THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF PEACE ON EARTH
INTRODUCTION: One of the most obscure prophetic references of the New Testament is found in Matthew 2:23, where he writes of Joseph bringing his family back from exile in Egypt to the city of Nazareth. Matthew writes, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” He is referring to this first verse of Isaiah 11. The word “branch” is the Hebrew word, “netser”, which means a sprout or a shoot. Matthew was trying to emphasize the humble beginnings of Jesus.
A. The twig or sprout symbolizes for us the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ (verses 1-9). Compare verse 1 with Isaiah 53:2-3 to see another description of the humble beginning of Jesus Christ. In that chapter we see that Jesus was despised so that He could make peace with God for us. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could come to God. Why then did it have to be Jesus? Why could it not have been some other descendant of the royal line that provides the peace Isaiah describes in this chapter? What makes Jesus different from the other descendants of Jesse? Isaiah goes on to tell us in this chapter (Isaiah 11).
1. He has the Spirit of God continually on Him (verse 2). Now Jesus, as far as we know, was not born with the Spirit of God upon Him. He was God who became man but when it came time to begin His ministry, He went to be baptized publicly by John the Baptist. When He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and rested on Him, anointing Him as the Messiah. I do not understand how God the Spirit who is one with God the Son can do that but that is what happened. The reason it happened was to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Sent One, the Christ of God. (That is why the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was such a serious crime, an unpardonable sin. The underlying foundation of that sin was a total rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and of the proof of the Holy Spirit in His life.) When Peter first preached the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles in Acts 10:38, he pointed out that this anointing of Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and the works that followed were what set Him apart from every other man. These works by the Holy Spirit proved His Messiahship.
Four times in the book of Revelation, Jesus is identified as having the seven Spirits of God. This is a reference to verse 2 of our text. Here is proof again that this not just another royal descendant but that this little sprout of which Isaiah writes, this little shoot is the Holy One of God, the Messiah.
2. Not only does He have the Spirit of God continually on Him but also He judges righteously and faithfully (verses 3-5). Our Lord Jesus Christ judges so righteously and so faithfully that His name is called in Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In other words, this is not some unknowable, untouchable King who will rule the earth but a Lord who becomes righteousness for His people. We are unrighteous and unfaithful by nature but He changes that for those who believe in Him. He comes as the gentle, loving healer and counselor of men and He comes also as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He comes as the hope of this world, the Prince of Peace, and as the Man that men cannot forget. Most precious of all to me though is that He comes as the LORD our righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
As we continue to look at Isaiah’s description of Jesus as the righteous and faithful judge, we see, in the middle of verse four, another of those transitions that take us from the past when Jesus came, meek but Spirit-filled ministering to those who are weak, into the future, when He establishes His kingdom on this earth. There is a change and this change is identified by the destruction of Christ’s earthly enemy.
Who is His enemy? Of course, all those who reject Him, the earth, but the end of verse four singles out a particular person. He is called “the wicked” or “the Wicked One”.
“…(W)ho is this individual here called the ‘Wicked One’?… The apostle Paul quotes this very scripture in 2 Thess. 2:8: ‘And then shall that Wicked One be revealed’”; (Jennings). This is directly talking about the Antichrist. This little sprout, this little shoot is different because of the character and the power of His justice. He will judge His enemy, the Wicked One.
3. He brings peace to all of creation (verses 6-9). These are amazing verses. Could this literally happen? Could the predator and its prey become playmates? Is it possible that we need never fear danger to our children from the wildlife around us? According to Hosea 2:18 God will make it possible. “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.”
That passage as well as Ezekiel 34:25 teach us that God will make a covenant with the animals of nature that will make the world safe for His people, Israel. When God makes peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, it will be world peace. Both nuclear bombs and rabies will be eliminated. There will be no more need for satellites to watch other nations and no need for protection from wild animals. How will it happen? This sprout, this shoot, will make it happen.
B. Isaiah not only presents Jesus as a sprout but also as “the root of Jesse.” This shows us the eternal establishment of peace on earth through Jesus Christ, who was of the house and lineage of David (Compare Revelation 5:5-6 and 22:16 with verses 10-16 to see that these verses are talking about Jesus Christ). Yes, Jesus started as a sprout, as a shoot coming up out of the decaying stump of the royal house of David but He will take root, He will become a tree. When He does, a new day will dawn on the earth. Verse 10 uses the phrase “in that day.” Verse 11 states, “It shall come to pass in that day…” The question now is this. What will happen that will reveal Jesus in His power and His glory?
1. He will rescue His people, Israel (verses 11-16). The beginning of verse 11 shows that God will bring Israel for the second time into the land. The first was when he called them out of Egypt. They are in the land now but Christ has not yet called them there. They still have not accepted Christ as their Messiah. There is coming a day, though, when they will accept Christ as their personal and national Savior. That is the second time that God is talking about in this verse. This little sprout, this little shoot that was despised and rejected in Isaiah 53 will come back in strength and in power and will rescue His people Israel.
Notice that the root of Jesse brings change to the landscape of the Middle East (verses 14-16). I am not talking about the political landscape although that will also be true. Christ is going to change the geological landscape of the Middle East when He returns. I do not understand exactly why or how but it will be another proof to the nations of who He is. He is no longer the little sprout, the shoot but a mighty, all-powerful root, which changes the landscape of the world if it should suit His purposes.
2. Not only will He rescue His people Israel but He will be worshiped by the Gentiles (verses 10 and 12). Verse 10 says they will seek Him. Romans 15:12 translates this phrase, “In Him the Gentiles will hope.”
Let me clarify what a Gentile is for our young people. Before Christ came, God divided the world into two groups: his people, the Jews and the rest, the Gentiles. When Christ came and died He tore down the ethnic dividing wall and took from the Jews and from the Gentiles and made a new people, the Church. This is what is meant by “the Gentiles will hope.” We have hope in and through Jesus Christ. We were not Jews. We were not of His people but God made a way of hope for us through Jesus Christ. He sent a little sprout, a little shoot to die for us and become the root on which we can stand and draw strength.
The Gentiles will not only seek Him but they will also rally to Him (verse 12). The wicked are destroyed, the Jews are restored but there are those who are not Jews who have turned to Christ. He was a despised, overlooked sprout but now He is the rally flag for all who serve Christ both now and in the future and forevermore. At that time peace on earth will be complete.
“Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. Confederate Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard fired the opening salvos of the American Civil War on April 12th, and Fanny Longfellow was fatally burned in an accident in the library of Craigie House on July 10th. The day before the accident, Fanny Longfellow recorded in her journal: ‘We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.’ After trimming some of seven year old Edith’s beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny’s dress– immediately wrapping her in flames. In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry’s study in the next room, where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized throw rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances– severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning. Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. (Incidentally, the trademark full beard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow arose from his inability to shave after this tragedy.)”
“The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote, ‘How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.’ A year after the incident, he wrote, ‘I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.’ Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: ‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.’ Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. (Charles did not die but it was a serious wound.) (T)he Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, “Christmas Bells.” We have part of this poem in our hymnbook. We call it, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
1. I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
2. And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
3. Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
4. Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
5. And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’
6. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’
If you are a believer, you have peace with God. Do you have the peace of God? Philippians tells us in 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing but in prayer and thanksgiving let your request be make known unto God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Christmas can be a troubling time. We saw in Longfellow’s the difficulties sorrow brings. Eighteen years later he wrote in a poem that he still suffered from sorrow. In your sorrow, in your troubles, in your worries and difficulties you can have peace. The peace of God. He began as a little sprout, a little shoot in Nazareth but He can be a root of strength and nourishment in your life. Go to Him, throw yourself on Him for strength and insight and direction and help in the time of need.
This peace on earth, good-will to men began as a little sprout, a little shoot. It still is not fully grown. Christ is yet to be revealed as the Root. That will happen when He returns. Yes, hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men. The thunder of our weapons drown the sound of peace on earth, good-will to men. But God is not dead, He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Wrong shall fail and right shall prevail with peace on earth, good-will to men.
How is it possible to have this peace? According to Romans 5:1, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is only possible through faith in Him. He died for you, so you could have peace with God.
Will you trust Him today? Will you let Christ make your peace with God for you by becoming your righteousness.