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Fourth Advent Sermon on December 18, 2012 preached at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan December 19, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Angels, Christmas, Deuteronomy, Incarnation, Jesus, Matthew, Messiah, Prophecy, Virgin Birth.
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Do Not Be Afraid
Matthew 1:18-25

INTRODUCTION: Joseph is the third person involved in the Christmas story who has been told not to be afraid. Earlier Zacharias and Mary were told not to be afraid. Later, the shepherds are also told not to be afraid. In each case the command was connected with the appearance of an angel but in Joseph’s situation the command is connected to a difficult situation that he is facing, what to do about Mary. He has three choices.

I. He could make her a public example (verse 19). This would involve a public accusation and if she was found guilty death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Mary had no rights in the matter. Her pregnancy was proof of her sinfulness. Yet she was his wife. Joseph was a just man who kept the law. She was a criminal.

II. He could put her away privately (verse 19). This would involve divorce papers being given to her in the presence of two witnesses. She could perhaps, in spite of her sullied reputation find a husband. She was young. There was a chance that she would recover. Again, Mary had no choice in the matter. She was at Joseph’s mercy. Mercy is what he intended to show. He could not keep her as wife for then he would have to adopt the child. If the child was a boy, then any further son’s by her would lose any possible inheritance, whether in Nazareth or Bethlehem. As a just man, he took seriously the inheritance law for his oldest son. It was commanded by God. He felt that he had no other choice.

III. He could keep her as his wife (verse 20). This did not occur to him apparently or at least was not considered seriously until the angel told him, “Do not be afraid!”

A. Do not be afraid, she is not a criminal; she is not a sinful woman. She is a virgin. Her son is not from a man but a miracle of God.

B. Do not be afraid. Adopt Him. Give Him the legal inheritance that is His, the throne of David.

C. Do not be afraid. Call Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sin! Jesus means “Savior.”

This is the first of two names given to the child in this passage. The second name was actually given over seven hundred years before Christ was born. The name “Emmanuel” which means “God with us” was prophesied to an ungodly royal ancestor of Joseph’s, Ahaz. This name is mentioned by Matthew as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

These two names have meaning for us also. Jesus is the Savior. He came to save His people from their sin. His people were the Jewish people but He did not come just to save His people. When Jesus as a thirty year old man came into the presence of John the Baptist, a prophet of God, John pointed his disciples to Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus Himself once said to the Jews in John 10, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” He was talking about us. In Ephesians 2, Paul writes about Jesus in His death tearing down the wall of partition that existed between Jews and Gentiles for the purpose of saving people out of both groups and integrating them together like a building where the blocks or the bricks interlock to become one.

What is it from which we are saved? There are many things one could be saved from? The name “Savior” comes from a medical word. When a patient recovers from a deadly illness because of the wisdom of the doctor, we say, “The doctor saved him.” When a medicine causes a miracle cure, we say, “The medicine saved her.” When a medic or a first responder’s actions rescue a person from death, we say, “That man saved their life.”

Jesus once said that He came to save the sick. He was speaking figuratively. You see, humankind is sick with sin. Most do not recognize their sickness but every person, born into the world is sick with sin and will die of that sickness unless they have a Savior. The name that Jesus was given to bear here on earth is a reminder that He is the one who came to save.

The second name, Emmanuel, tells us how it is that Jesus can save. He is “God with us.” When Jesus was laid by Mary into the manger, he was no ordinary baby. He was and is still the virgin born Son of God. The name Emmanuel is a sign from God that He Himself has entered the human race.

Ray Pritchard tells this story. “A young man sat in my office and listened as I explained the gospel to him. Finally he said, ‘I just can’t believe all that stuff.’

So I asked him, ‘What would it take for you to believe?’

‘I would believe if God came down and stood in front of me and told me himself,’ he said.

‘My friend, he already has come down,’ I replied. ‘He came down 2,000 years ago and lived among us. If you don’t believe that, then I have nothing better to offer you'” (from Ray Pritchard in When Did Christmas Begin?).

Savior and Emmanuel: these two names are brought together in a hymn by William Cowper that we rarely sing today. “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

“Some 200+ years ago there was a man in England by the name of William Cowper. He is a man who was of nervous disposition. All the biographers talk about that. He struggled with nervous problems, depression. It looks from reading his story that he suffered from what we would call a form of manic depression, given to some great difficulty in his life. At one point in his life, by his own testimony, he was depressed, upset and fearful that he was under the wrath of God. He said, ‘I flung myself into a chair by the window and there saw the Bible on the table by the chair. I opened it up and my eyes fell on Romans 3:25, which says of Christ, ‘Whom God has made a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ William Cowper said, ‘Then and there, I realized what Christ’s blood had accomplished and I realized the effects of his atonement for me. I realized God was willing to justify me and then and there I trusted Jesus Christ and a great burden was lifted from my soul.’ Looking back on that day, William Cowper wrote a hymn several years later that is in our hymnbook today. ‘There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains…’” (from Ray Pritchard in Propitiation: God’s Not Angry With You).

As we pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the Virgin Born Son of God would you not trust Emmanuel, “God with us,” as your Savior from the stains of sin? He promises that He will save you through His blood if you trust Him and Him alone.

Second Advent Sermon 2011 Grace Bible Church December 15, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Angels, Christmas, Luke.
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Luke 1:5-25, 57-66

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable;
Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible;
And He can do what no other power can do.

A. Obstacles are common in our lives. Chuck Swindoll, commenting on this chorus wrote, “If things seem a little difficult today, just wait: they’ll soon be impossible! Uncrossable rivers, untunneled mountains, and impossible circumstances really aren’t unusual. How do you handle them?” (from Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back). This couple faced an uncrossable river. To make matters worse, it was a shameful situation in the minds of some. To have no children was in the mind of some more than a misfortune. It carried the implication that this was a Divine punishment for some secret sin.

i. We should do God’s will even if we see no way to overcome the obstacles (vs. 5-7). Is the situation impossible? Yes! Is the shame unbearable? Perhaps, but doing God’s will is not determined by our circumstances. How did this couple live in this situation?

a. They were righteous: Their righteousness was intended to please God and not men, which was in contrast to most of the religious leaders and many of the people of that day (and this as well).
b. Walking in the commandments and ordinances: This is the actual revealing of their righteous character. They might be accused of legalism today.
c. Blameless: This means that they not only were good in character and that they lived it out before men but also that there had never been an accusation made against them.

This righteous man’s attention was on a rare opportunity. It was probably only once in a lifetime that a priest obtained the lot of going into the sanctuary and burning incense on the golden altar. “It was the great moment of Zacharias’s life…” “Ascending the steps to the Holy Place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief operating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias” (Vincent). Everyone else’s attention is on him (verse 21). The action of burning the incense should not have taken a long while but it was interrupted by the actions of a prayer answering God.

ii. We, like this couple, should turn to God in prayer because He can overcome the obstacles (vs. 8-13). This couple had probably prayed for years. Whether you feel Zacharias’ prayer was concerning a child or concerning the Messiah, God’s timing and purpose was different from theirs but God was now going to give them the desire of their hearts.

B. When God overcomes obstacles, we are expected to be ready. The attack on Longstop began on December 22 at 11:15 PM. Plans had been made for a big Christmas offensive in North Africa and all was set to go. Longstop, named by the British, was the hill where the attack would begin. The ridge was two miles long and 800 feet high. From its crest, nothing in the valley could move undetected – not a rabbit, not a man, certainly not a tank. It was so rocky, it seemed bony, with powdery soil that covered a climber as flour covers a baker. Although modest in height, the hill had hundreds of secret gullies and dips. The Allies viewed the hill from seven miles away through a telescope. They thought they knew what they were facing but there were two critical errors made. They underestimated the number of Germans on the hill. Instead of a company there was close to a battalion of Germans there, including some of the toughest troops in the whole German army. Worse than that, the hill was actually two hills. To capture one without the other would be deadly and disastrous. If they had looked at their maps or asked troops who had occupied the hill three weeks earlier, they would have known. Instead, the British and Americans attacked unprepared. After twice attacking and taking the lower hill and receiving reinforcements from the French, the Germans attacked on Christmas morning. The Allies fought hard but the battle was lost before the first shot had been fired because the knowledge needed had not been understood. The Germans renamed Longstop. They named it Christmas Hill. It was Easter before the hill was finally taken.

i. We should be ready to obey when God overcomes the obstacles (vs. 13b-15). God did not allow Zacharias to name his son after himself. God also did not allow him to pass on his family calling to John. John would be a Nazarite who never get to fulfill the lofty calling of the priesthood. Zacharias, however, obeyed (vs. 59-63)

ii. We should be ready to believe when God overcomes the obstacles (vs. 18-25).
God uses obstacles in our lives to accomplish His purpose. Although the attention of the people were on the burning of incense, God’s attention is on His plan for the world. God sent an angel and removed a voice to get Zacharias’ attention. It also got the attention of many others. Getting people’s attention is a vital part of God’s plan.

C. God’s purposes go beyond our obstacles and our lives (vs. 16-20).
i. Our worship should go beyond our immediate joy and thanksgiving (vs. 14, see also 67-79). In the book of Luke, rejoicing is often associated with forgiveness of sin. In this verse we find the word twice. Once associated with this couple’s pain and then with the expectations of salvation for the people.

1. Rejoicing is associated with pain. In this case their pain is erased but joy can co-exist with pain. George Matheson penned a hymn while in the throes of a bitter disappointment. He dearly loved a woman whom he wanted to marry. As the romance developed he knew he had to tell her that he was going blind before her love for him went any deeper. To his total surprise, she broke up the relationship. Although he felt something within him had died, the hymn that he wrote was then born in his soul: “I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice, rather than of working it out myself.” We know it as “O Love that wilt not let me go”. Listen to the third verse,
“O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

b) Rejoicing is associated with the salvation of God’s people: Zacharias is speaking from a limited Jewish standpoint. This rejoicing, however, is for all people (Luke 2:10). You see, Christmas is not about solving our individual problems but rather about knowing that our individual problems matter in God’s purpose in saving the world.

You’ve heard the message and perhaps you have rejoiced that there is hope for you and forgiveness for your sin. Don’t stop there! Turn to God! Trust Christ! He died to forgive you but the forgiveness is only available if you turn to Him and to Him alone for salvation.

If you are facing an obstacle in your life, God may want to do more than just test your character. He may want to use that obstacle to reach someone else for Christ. This Christmas season, you will have opportunities to witness, that you won’t have the rest of the year. Some of those opportunities will be associated with painful obstacles. Yet, you will be able to get people to come to church with you, who normally would not come. Are you going to use those opportunities?

Revelation 13 and 14 Questions (answers next week) September 19, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Angels, Antichrist, Eschatology, Judgment, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ.
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  Questions from Revelation 13

  1. We first met the beast in Revelation 11:7. When you compare 13:1 with 12:3, what is immediately recognizable about this beast? According to 13:3, who is the “power behind the throne” during the reign of the beast?
  2. What do we recognize about this beast when we compare 13:1-2 with Daniel 7?
  3. What does 13:3 and 13:14 tell us about the history of the beast when he comes to power? What will be the result of this event on the people of the world (13:3-4, 8)?
  4. How long will God tolerate this “new world order” (13:5)? What will God allow Him to do (13:5-7)?
  5. What is the warning that Christ makes in verses 9-10?
  6. What is the purpose of the second beast (verses 11-18)? Is he equal in authority to the first beast?
  7. Should we be fearful of the number 666? Why or why not?
  8. What additional information do we have about the 144,000 in 14:1-5 which we did not learn in chapter 7?
  9. What is the general message to be taken from the three messenger angels (14:6-11)?
  10. What is the relationship of these judgment proclamations to the martyred saints (14:12-13)?
  11. Who is given authority to mete justice out on the world and how fully will He accomplish His task (14:14-20)?

So we are not speeding through Revelation… September 4, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Angels, Day of the Lord, Judgment, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Seven Trumpets of Revelation.
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I was certain that we would be able to cover two chapters last Sunday night. I was wrong. That means there will be no new questions posted this week but you can find the questions for chapter 11 here.

Although this angel is like (10:1, “another“ of the same kind) the seven trumpet angels, he is different in a significant way. What indicates that this angel is Christ (compare with 11:3 and remember that the world angel means messenger)? See also Daniel 10:6 and the description of Christ in Revelation 1.

Revelation 7:9-17. The previous references refers to those who believe

The description of this angel corresponds very closely to the description of Christ in Revelation 1 as well as visions of Christ in Daniel and of God’s glory in Ezekiel.

The eating of the little book refers back to Ezekiel 2:9-10. What type of message is likely in the scroll considering both Ezekiel and the context of Revelation?

This is likely a message of judgment.

What concept is in the sealing of the things which the seven thunders spoke (by the way, these things were not written down)? See also Daniel 8:26 and 12. What two things are assured symbolically and literally by sealing?

Sealing speaks of certainty that something will happen or will come to pass, it cannot be altered because of the authority behind the seal. In this particular case, there is the added fact that the things spoken by the thunders are not yet revealed.

What seems to be the purpose of chapter 10 according to verses 5-7?

Again there is an emphasis on these things being the final judgment on evil men. This judgment is also known as the Day of the LORD.

What, in the context of what we know already about the message of the Revelation, is the likely meaning of the book being bitter in John’s stomach but sweet in his mouth?

For the believers (especially the persecuted ones mostly in view in the book of Revelation), God’s vengeance on the wicked has a sweetness to it but it has the added terror to it of understanding the awesomeness of God’s judgment.

When have we earlier seen many tribes, peoples, etc. in this book (We see them again in 11:9)?

Revelaton 7:9-17 – In this instance, it is referring to those who believe and this group will be mentioned again but these phrases are also used in Revelation to speak of unbelieving men and women throughout the world.