Things We Need

Scripture text: Psalms 138, NLT

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. 
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. 
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD, for all of them will hear your words. 
5 Yes, they will sing about the LORD ’s ways, for the glory of the LORD is very great. 
6 Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. 
7Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. 
8 The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

INTRODUCTION

We are driven by our needs, it is human nature. When we come to church, we aren’t thinking about others or even the LORD, we are centered on our needs. This is what makes “Seeker” churches so successful. They use market place skills and they target the needs and desires of this current generation. They have thousands each Sunday while we have hundreds.

Tonights sermon is seeker friendly: I want to talk about our needs and how the LORD is ready to meet those needs.

I. FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED A POSITIVE ATTITUDE 

{Biblically speaking, a positive attitude is a thankful heart}

 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. 
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. 

Note first of all that David had a thankful heart. I am an Alabama fan and I have been convicted about the amount of anxiety I have over such silly things. I did a lot of praying last week and God answered my prayer and I am thankful. I didn’t watch the game {Iron Bowl} and I didn’t lose any sleep. I was thrilled with opportunity to preach Sunday night and I was focused on Sunday’s activities. That’s not me folks, that is God’s grace. You probably think I should be embarrassed to talk with the LORD about such trivial things as ball games: I am not. I talk to HIM about everything. There are worse things than being an Alabama fan such as gossip, slander, a critical judgmental spirit, greed and on and on but I just felt it was time for me to move on and from. Yesterday moring, I woke up giving thanks. All Alabama fans have more to be thankful for than we do to regret. Think about all the Teams that have never made it to a final four, or a National Championship. Why can’t I celebrate what the LORD has already done? That’s it, I can. I know everything is not perfect in your life but you can still be thankfull.


There is a man in this church who will remain nameless that was helping me a few years ago. He was giving me his time and his undivided attention. Later that week, I found out what was going on at his house. He was dealing with a problem that made mine look like a scratch. I went an appologized. I reprimanded him, “You should not have been helping me, you have problems of your own.” He shook it off with a grin. This is the kind of attitude that we need. We need a GRATEFUL HEART, a THANKFUL SPIRIT. If our heart is filled with gratitude to the LORD, our attitude will be POSITIVE.

II. WE NEED CONFIDENCE WHICH MEANS WE NEED A QUIET TIME

{David was not a perfect man but he was a praying man}
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.
David was a great leader because he had a positive attitude and a bold confidence. Where did these two strengths come from? David tells us in verse 3, his strength came from the LORD. As he relates later in the Psalm, “It was the power of God’s right hand that saved him.” {v.7}
Early into Jesus ministry, His disciples associated His strength with His quiet time. This was made obvious when they came to him and said, “LORD, teach us to pray.” Note, they did not say, “LORD, teach us to preach, to heal, to cast out demons, etc.” They ask Him to teach them the art of prayer because they associated His power with His prayer life. There was one black man in my seminary class. He was a tall, dignified, astute and gracious man. He peached one night at the Seminary chapel and he preached on prayer. He said one thing I have never forgotten–“Where there is much prayer, there is much power, where there is little prayer, there is little power.” The reason I have seen so little power in my life and ministry is that I have done so little praying.
Folks, I need my quiet time. I need it as much as I need a place to sleep or something to eat. I go to bed at night thinking about my QT the next morning. My confidence and strength does not come from within me, nor do I draw from my experience, althought that helps. THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH AND MY SALVATION. He is the bubbling spring that I drink from.
David could not have accomplished what he did without confidence. A leader must have confidence. If you lose your confidence, it is over. David was surrounded by enemies. The Jebusites still lived in the land along with six other nations, most of them Canaanites in orgin. These people did not want a united kingdom, a strong Israel. They wanted a divided and weak kingdom so they could do as they pleased.
We too are surrounded by enemies, the world, the flesh and Satan. His goal is to destroy our confidence and he was use whomever is available to do the job. All God’s servants have to be wise as serpents. The serpent’s enemy is mankind: 99% of the people you met hate snakes and the other 1% are devil worshippers {just kidding}. Snakes are still around in abundance because they know how and when to stay out of sight. They have mastered the art of hiding.
Criticism is like the ice that builds up on the wing of a plane: if you don’t do something about it, learn to defrost or deflect it, it will bring you down. Your wings are your confidence: when the devil is able to destroy your confidence, your flight is over, you are coming down. This is exactly what he did to Elijah. He used Jezebel to accomplish his mission. Elijah got so discouraged that he quit. His only assignement after the Jezebel fiasco was to find and anoint his replacement. NO ONE CAN AFFORD TO LOSE THEIR CONFIDENCE and the LORD is the source of our strength and our confidence.

III. WE ALL NEED HOPE 

{We need the ability to look beyond our present circumstances}
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD, for all of them will hear your words. 
5 Yes, they will sing about the LORD ’s ways, for the glory of the LORD is very great. 

David lived among pagans. They worshipped idols and idols were everywhere. Idols were repulsive to David, He knew that God deserves all the worship and praise. Although God was not being praised by other kings in David’s day, David was able to look beyong his present circumstances to a day when all kings would praise God. As we look back over history, we learn that since David’s time, there have been fewer and fewer pagan kings. This move away from pagan worship has been accelarated since the Reformation. Most of Europe’s kings have been Christians, as least in name. But there is coming a time when every king will give God glory.

IV. WE NEED ASSURANCE

6 Though the LORD is great, He cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. 
Though I am surrounded by troubles, You will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand {Jesus} saves me
8 The LORD will work out His plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.


I love CHRISTMAS and I wanted to preach a Christmas message but to this point the LORD has not given me a new one. But meditating on the verses above brought the incarnation to mind.
  • David is right: THE LORD IS GREAT, infinitely great, greater than any of us or all of us together can imagine. You could put every great intellects in the world along with all the great scupturers and they would not be able to make a image in God’s likeness or anything close. God is transcendent, like the Stars but moreso. There is an infinite gap between who He is and who we are. The earth itself is but a speck to God which would make us a microspeck, yet….
  • GOD REACHED OUT HIS HAND. He sent His son, born by Mary. The Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. Wow! The incarnation blows my mind…God becoming one of us to save us from our sin and the destruction that come with our sin.
  • THE POWER OF HIS RIGHT HAND SAVED ME. Who is seated at God’s right hand? Psalm 110:1….”The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” Peter repeated mentioned the fact that Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the father seven times[Acts 2:25,33,34; Acts 3:7, 5:31, 7:55,56]. Paul said in Romans 8…Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Jesus has interceded in our behalf…He has taken a position between us and hell and He is the only one capable of keeping us safe and secure.
  • THE LORD WILL WORK OUT HIS PLANS…and He has a plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” David Livingston the great missionary believed in the PLAN, he said, “I am immortal until the will of God for me is accomplished.” We need this same assurance; it would relieve us of a lot of useless anxiety.

CONCLUSION

To wrap it up: we need, desperately need:

  1. A Grateful Attitude
  2. A Strong Confidence
  3. A Vibrant Hope
  4. A Bold Assurance

God can give us these things, if we humbly asked. The greatest miracle, other than our atonement just may be prayer.

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Till He Appeared

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 2:1-11

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a Ruler will come from you
    who will be the Shepherd for My people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the Child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The beloved Christmas Carol, O Holy Night, was written by Placide Cappeau (October 25, 1808 – August 8, 1877). He was a French poet and wine merchant. It was later put to music by Adolphe Adam. A local clergyman ask Cappeau to write a poem for Christmas. Even after the poem was set to music, it was rejected by the church and did not become popular until years later.

Today, I want to take the time to read this great poem and then we will listen to it in song and perhaps hear some things we have never heard before.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born…

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from the Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever…

There is one phrase I want you to listen for, “Long lay the world in sin and error pinning, Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”

{Play Josh Groban’S version with scenes from the NATIVITY}

Someone was interviewing a Seminary graduate and they ask him, “If we call you as our pastor, what would be your purpose?”  Without a moments hesitation, he said, “To change the world.”Yes,” said the interviewer, “ultimately that is our goal but what is your immediate goal?” He said, “To change the world.”

Actually, this should be every believer’s purpose.

Getting back to O Holy Night and that second line“Long lay the world in sin and error pinning.” We don’t use the word pinning any more but it was word that was used when I was young…we referred to a person pinning away. It simply means, that a person has lost hope and is slowly dying. It may be due to grief, sickness, an unrequited love. It is basically a state of hopelessness. Now, lets put the entire phrase together…Long lay the world in sin and error pinning, Till HE appeared and the soul felt its worth.

  • We were stumbling in darkness–until He appeared.
  • We were lost, like sheep without a shepherd–until He appeared.
  • We had no hope–until He appeared.
  • We had no joy or peace–until He appeared.
  • We had no freedom–until He appeared.
  • We had no Christmas–until He appeared.
  • We had no Easter–until He appeared.
  • We had no ministries of mercy–until He appeared.

Jesus changed everything and continues to change lives today. But whereas Shepherds and Wise Men celebrated His birth: Herod tried to kill him and the Jewish religious leaders did not even pursue the lead. They were not even curious about this new born King of the Jews. Later, they would reject Jesus all together.

Why so much hatred for Jesus? I think the answer is found in John 3… “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

CONCLUSION

Great story in Our Daily Bread last Wednesday. A p0liceman stopped a woman because her child was not in the required child’s seat. Legally, he could have written her a ticket but that was the last thing she needed. Instead, he asked her to meet him at a department store where he bought her a child’s booster seat. The mother was going through a difficult time and could not afford a seat. Although she legally deserved a fine, she got a free gift instead. An act of kindness from a policeman.

That’s us folks, we deserve a fine, a penalty, punishment but because of God’s mercy we got a gift, the greatest gift–Salvation through the LORD Jesus Christ. Let Jesus change you world this Christmas.

 

Immanuel

 

 

 

SCRIPTURE

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

INTRODUCTION

I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas but I love it for a different reason than I did when I was a small child. I am not going to deny getting excited about Santa and a toy. Things are totally different now than they were back in 1950. Kids get new toys every week these days; some every time their parents go to town but it was not that way in the middle of last century. There were no rich kids in our neighborhood and the average child got at least one toy at Christmas and most kids in those days did not have birthday parties. My mother had 8 children and she gave two parties per life time: at 6 and 16 and she always made the 16th a surprise.

My love for Christmas today has nothing to do with a toy, not even a new computer or notepad. I get excited about Christmas because it is the celebration of the INCARNATION. My wife and I were in Forest, Mississippi on November 1 for a Celebration of life service and as we pulled out on I-20 to drive home, I started searching for a good talk radio program and found a station our of Jackson [105.1 The River] that was playing Christmas Music. I listen to the station almost everyday [on line]. I am a Christmas nut! I love Josh Grobans “O Holy Night” and Celine Dion’s “Ave Maria”. I have had a lot of people chide me for my love for Christmas by saying “Easter is more important than Christmas.” I always respond in the same way, “there would be no Easter without a Christmas.” What excites me about Christmas is that God, the Creator, came to this speck of dust we call earth and took on the garb of our flesh. We call it the condescension: Jesus came down to our level, our way of life and giving up the glory of heaven to walk the dusty roads of Palestine. The fact that He came translated clearly: HE CAME BECAUSE HE CARED! His coming speaks volumes.

Two centuries ago, cultures all over the world banished lepers. I have been told that at one time, one of the Hawaiian Island was used for the exile of lepers. There was no one on the island that did not have leprosy. There was no government on the island, no law enforcement. The hopelessness and despair drove the lepers to act in reckless and destructive ways; it became a hell on earth. These people felt God-forsaken and rejected until one day, a Catholic Priest named Father Damien moved to the Island. He did not come as a leper, he came as a servant to the lepers. He had a habit of addressing those who would come to church as “My brethren” but after a few years on the Island, he stood one Sunday morning and said, “My fellow lepers.” Father Damien had taken on their sickness. That’s what Jesus did for us: He came to our leper infested planet and took on our leprosy. When we had no hope, He came to given us a bright and glorious hope.

Matthew points out in his gospel that Jesus fulfilled every O.T. Messianic prophecy. Jesus says in Luke 24:44, “Everything written about Me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” He explained to the disciples on the road to Emmaus how that all the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Him. Several scholars point out that no other human in history, past, present or future can possibly fulfill these prophecies. I believe this was the approach that Paul and Apollos took when arguing with the Jews. There is even more evidence today: all the Jewish records were destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Today, no Jew knows his tribal identity. There is no way the prophecies could be fulfilled today.

Matthew goes back to Isaiah 7:14, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child, She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Joseph McCabe said, “Who could love a God remote, when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced; He is here, beside us, Emmanuel.” He is even closer: He is in us! John Wesley’s last words before departing this life were: “The best of all is: God is with us.”

As a matter of fact, Wesley wrote a Christmas Carol that expresses this thought as well as any:

Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold HIM come, offspring of a Virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail incarnate Deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.

My father in the ministry was Calvin C. Inman and he became acquainted [during his seminary days I presume] with an artist/preacher. This preacher would introduce his sermons with what he called a Chalk Talk. He would talk as he sketched and within minutes, he would have a graphic picture. He could draw a picture of a house in the shadow of the night. The house would look cold, dark and empty but then with a stroke of genius, he would put a light in the widow [A Thomas Kincade type picture]. That one light changed the entire picture. Jesus is the light  that changed this world forever.

Immanuel, God with us, wow! He did not send an angel, for God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son. He took our flesh from the portals of Mary’s womb, the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. He left a heaven filled with glory to live in a world cursed by sin. He took our flesh, He took our suffering and eventually He took our sin and shame. He suffered with us and for us that He might be more than a faithful high priest but also a sympathetic high priest. Jesus was an infant nursing on his mother’s breast; he was a child playing in the streets of Nazareth; He was a teenager; He was a carpenter’s son and then a carpenter. Jesus worked, sweated, got hungry and got tired: He was acquainted with hunger, with thirst, with rejection, with ridicule. He knew what it was like to feel lonely; to feel guilty and to feel God-forsaken.

If you could interview the disciples: I think all would say, “Jesus was exciting, He was real, He was fearless, He was God and it was wonderful to be in His presence.” When we needed courage: Jesus was there to say, “Take courage, I AM“, when we were afraid Jesus was there to speak peace to our fear. When we had doubts, Jesus was there to strengthen our faith. God with us…We are talking about His presence with us. So used to His presence, the disciple grieved deeply when Jesus talked about going away but He promised His presence in another dimension, He said in John 16…I know that hearing news like this is overwhelming and sad. But the truth is that My departure will be a gift that will serve you well, because if I don’t leave, the great Helper will not come to your aid. When I leave, I will send Him to you. When He arrives, He will uncover the sins of the world, expose unbelief as sin, and allow all to see their sins in the light of righteousness for the first time.” With the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer, we have God’s presence 24/7 no matter where we are.

RULE # 1–DO NOT CONFUSE FACTS WITH FEELINGS: FEELING  HIS PRESENCE WITH THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS PRESENCE. He can be present without manifesting His presence.

Let me remind you of a precious truth: our feeling His presence, our sensing His presence or seeing a manifestation of His presence has nothing to do with the fact of His presence. You do not have to be aware of His presence for Him to be present. There is a wonderful story in Luke 24 about two disciple who are very discouraged and they are leaving Jerusalem shortly after the crucifixion and walking 7 miles to a town call Emmaus. Jesus appears to the on the road and actually walks with them and converses with them but they are not aware that it is Jesus. How did He keep them from recognizing Him? I don’t know, don’t have a clue but they did not recognize him until they sat down for supper and He returned thanks. Then their eyes were opened and then Jesus vanished into thin air. He was present with them for hours while walking on the road and they did not know it.

RULE # 2–HE DEMANDS THAT YOU LIVE BY FAITH. Faith is HIS idea, it is His way of doing things. It is impossible to please HIM without faith. In laymen’s terms, this means He will not give us a steady diet of miracles or manifestations. His design is for you and I to lear to trust HIM and take HIM at HIS word. David said in Psalm 23, Yea though I walk thought the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because Thou art with me. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I am with you every single day, to the very end of the age.” Our faith is based on the integrity of Jesus. Can we trust HIM? Has He ever lied to us? There are times in our lives when we have nothing to go on other than His word and we must learn to take Him at His word.

The second temptation {Mathew 4} is the lure of the spectacular, the lure of the sensational. Jesus is capable of the spectacular and the sensational but He refused to build His kingdom on those things. Do you have to experience the sensational to feel the presence of God? Do you have to see special effects to feel the presence of Christ. Most of what the modern church does is a subtle form of entertainment; it is smoke and mirrors. Dr. Vance Havner told of the church that went Hollywood and had one sensational program after another to attack people. The church was growing with each new sensation but it was a mile wide and an inch deep. One Sunday, they brought in a talking horse, put him up on stage and his trainer ask: How many commandment are there? The horse to his right front hoof and tapped the floor soundly ten times. Then he ask him, “How many disciples?” The horse tapped 12 times. Then some smart aleck from the congregation hollowed, “How many hypocrites are there in this church?” Dr. Havner said the horse went into a dance. JESUS PROMISED HIS PRESENCE, He did not promise a feeling or a sensation. We either take Him at His word or we don’t.

RULE #3–CHRIST IS WITH US BECAUSE HE CHOOSE TO BE WITH US. The best illustration are in the bible and the best of the best is found in Genesis 45 when Joseph reveals himself to His brothers. By the way, Joseph was in their presence and they did not know it. He was among them and they were not aware of his presence. But what I want you to notice is what he says to them…“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. Later Joseph sends them back to Canaan for Jacob, then all the Israelites come to live with Joseph in Egypt and it was all Joseph’s idea. He wanted to be close to his brothers. You must understand that Joseph’s desire was to please his father and he knew his father loved all his children. Joseph made a conscious choose to forgive, love and be in the presence of his sinful brothers. What the brothers did or did not do had nothing to do with Joseph’s decision.

Jesus did not come to hang out with us because we are good or deserving. He came because His father loves us and He shares that same love. He came because He cared and He literally wants to spend time with us. This may be the most wonderful truth of the bible, Jesus wants to hang out with the likes of us. Joseph was a man of impeccable character: his brothers were liars, cheats, con-artist, rapist and murderers. Bro. Tucker referred to them as hooligans and outlaws. Joseph wanting to be near them was an act of GRACE.

I once read a story of a father, who had told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for his supper, if he broke disobeyed him mom one more time. The child disobeyed again and was sent to the attic: The father could not eat. He had the boy on his mind and his heart. His wife said: “I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring the boy from the attic. It would encourage his disobedience. He would have no respect for your word. You must not cheapen your relation as his father by failing to keep your promise.” To which her husband replied: “You are right. I will not break my word. To do so would cause my son to lose his respect for my word. But he is so lonely up there.” He kissed his wife good night, entered the attic, ate bread and water with the boy, and when the child went to sleep on the hard boards, his father’s arm was his pillow. {Pat Cook}

Call Him Jesus

 

 

 

 Text: Matthew 1:18-23

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

INTRODUCTION

We have been in Matthew’s gospel for a couple of years and I am not going to leave his gospel, I am going back to chapter one in this Christmas season. I don’t normally do this but we are moving toward Easter in our regular series and so I want to go back to chapter one for the month of December. Actually, [Lord willing] I am preaching twice today and then again on the 21. All three messages will come from Matthew 1-2 and two from this text. Today we are going to talk about JESUS OUR SAVIOR. Tonight, LORD willing, JESUS OUR IMMANUEL.

Before we get into the heart of the message: lets talk about Jewish customs as related to marriage. The Jewish people had a three step process in the consummation of a marriage between a man and a woman. First, there was the matchmaker who could be an individual or the parents of the children. You can see a good example of a match maker at work in the Fiddler on The Roof, which happens to be my favorite musical. This could take place when the children were babies but usually they were older. The second phase was betrothal. It was a formal engagement but quite different from what we think of as engagement. When a Jewish couple were betrothed, they were to assume the responsibilities of marriage but not the privileges. They did not live together but they could not have relations with anyone else during this time or it was adultery, just as if they were married. The only way to get out of the betrothal was a legal divorce. It was during this second stage that Mary became pregnant so you can imagine the anxiety this created. The third and final step was the wedding which lasted seven days. Marriage was a big deal to the ancient Jewish people and it should be big to us.

Joseph is very disturbed when he discovers that Mary is pregnant. He knows for a fact that he is not the daddy of the child. He loves Mary and does not want her to be stoned or embarrassed, so he is thinking about the problem and how he can do what is right and at the same time not hurt Mary. While Joseph is considering his problem and trying to decide what to do, the LORD appears to him in a dream and says…“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus is the Greek name for Joshua of Old Testament Hebrew. My English name is Jack and it has multiple meanings. A Jack can be a flag on a ship, a mechanical tool or a barn yarn animal just to mention a few. I think my name has over 30 meanings. My Hebrew name is Ya’akov. Jack is the English translation of Ya’akov which in English is pronounced Jacob [heel]. Jesus OT name was Joshua which means “Yahweh Saves”. Joseph was instructed clearly, “Name the child Jesus because He will save people from their sins.”

So that is our subject today…Jesus our Savior

I. THE NEED FOR A SAVIOR

Notice the text, Jesus came to save us from our sins. I have an old Ford Tractor that is 40 plus years old and practically worn out. It is a diesel which complicated things more than ever. When it breaks down, I call Joe. Joe has the right tools and the expertise to work on a tractor. I have all kinds of saws: chain, circular, skill, table, radial arm, zig, hack: if it is a saw, I have it. I may not be able to find it, but I have it some where. BUT, you do not fix a mechanical problem with a carpenter’s tool kit. To fix a mechanical problem, you need mechanical tools and mechanical know how.

How do you fix a spiritual problem? How do you settle the sin debt? We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is no one righteous. Solomon said in Eccl. 7:20, Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins. If we all sin, how are we going to fix the problem. We cannot fix a spiritual problem with natural tools. Education is good but it will not fix the sin problem. Technology is nice but it will not fix the sin problem. We have come a long way in medical science but it will not fix the sin problem. You may have billions of dollars but it will not fix the sin problem. Your can cure leprosy with more leprosy or cancer with more cancer and we can fix sin with more sin.

In Ruth 4:14 most translations will use the word ‘redeemer’ or ‘kinsmen redeemer’ but the Hebrew word is ‘ga’al’. The ga’al could redeem a farm from foreclosure, he could redeem his kinsmen from slavery and debt but to do so, he had to have two abilities: [1] He had to be able [financial resources to do so] and [2] he had to be willing. In Ruth’s story their were two ga’al’s and both had the ability financially to pay the debt but only Boaz was willing. This story is not about Boaz and Ruth: it is about Jesus and a lost world. Jesus is our ga’al, our kinsmen redeemer. He was incarnated to be our relation.

Long story short: God sent His Son to do something for us that we could never do for ourselves: “To save us from our sins”. Jesus is our ga’al: He was able and willing to save us.

II. HOW DID JESUS SAVE US?

Lets go to Romans 3 in the NLT because I do not know another translation that is so clear on this subject: For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Years ago I read a story about Night Court that was a custom in New York city in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. A man was arrested and brought before the judge for stealing a loaf of bread. When he was called to approach the bench, he refused to ma eye contact with the judge. He was staring at the floor. The judge order him to look up but even when he lifted his head, his eyes were looking down. The Judge said, “You must look at me.” Reluctantly, the poor man made eye contact. “What are you here for?” said the judge. “I stole a loaf of bread your honor,” replied the man and “I know that it was wrong. I am guilty.” “If you know that it is wrong to steal, why did you take the bread? Said the judge. “I have five hungry children sir and I have not been able to find work anywhere. I have searched your honor but no one will hire me. I could not stand the thought of facing my hungry children another night so I tried to steal the bread but as you know, I got caught. I am very guilty and very ashamed.” The Judge pounded his gavel almost in disgust and said, “I find you guilty as charged and I fine you 1$.” “But I don’t have a dollar your honor.” “I know that,” said the judge as he reached for his wallet, I giving you the dollar, now pay the bailiff”. Then  the judge pounded his gavel a second time and said, “I find everyone in this courtroom for indifference and neglect. How could you let a man and his family starve when you have more than enough. I fine everyone in the courtroom 1$, pay the bailiff.” Then he instructed the bailiff,  “Give the money to this gentleman so he can buy food for his family.”

How did Jesus save us: “He paid our fine with His own precious blood.” We were guilty as charged but He took our guilt and sin and gave us His righteousness. F.B. Meyer called it the GREAT EXCHANGE. Jesus gets my sin and shame and I get His righteousness. If that is not gospel, good news, I don’t know what is!

III. WHAT DID JESUS US SAVE US FROM?

More immediately, He saved us from sin and self. Sin is like leprosy. It begins internally and eats its way through the body until it destroys both soul and body. Sin is destructive. Sin is deadly. I tell folks who flirt with drugs, you might as well stick your hand into a den of rattlesnakes as to fool with drugs. Drugs are lethal, they will destroy your mind, body, soul, family, finances, career, marriage, etc. In the end, they are going to leave you dead. Jesus came to save us from destroying ourselves. Today, Jesus stands ready to save you from sin and self if you will repent of sin, turn from sin and turn to Him. Dr. Graham says you must do three things: [1] Repent and turn from your sin [2] Trust Jesus to forgive and cleanse you from sin [3] Commit your life to Him, to follow and obey Him. I agree: this is a sound biblical path: Repent, Trust and Commit.

Ultimately Jesus came to save us from hell and He is the only one who can.

  • Paul said [I Tim. 2:5] —For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
  • Jesus said [John 14:6]–I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
  • Listen folks, only ONE Person can save you from hell and that One person is Jesus.

I had surgery a few weeks back and as a part of my rehab, I walked through the neighborhood during the days I was off from work. It was very cold and I was wearing a hooded coat and had my head bent toward the ground to avoid having the wind hit me in the face. I was walking by a home but hadn’t really paid any attention to where I was when all of a sudden I heard a ferocious dog who sound like he is inches away from my jugular.  Right as I turn, he takes flight but before he got to my neck, he hit an 8′ chain link fence and it knocks him sprawling to the ground. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to react: once I saw the fence, I was OK. Had the fence not been there, I might not be here. The fence kept me from getting bit or maybe worse.

  • I could say that my courage saved me from the dog but actually, I took my courage from the fence. There was a moment of fright until I saw the fence.
  • I could say that my skill saved me from this mad dog but that would also be incorrect. I am old and slow, the dog is young and ferocious. I would be no match for the dog.
  • I could say it was the weapon in my hand but I didn’t even have a stick: I have carried one since but that day I had nothing. I had no doubt that the fence saved me from the dog.

A few steps down the path, and the still small voice said to me, “Jesus is your fence, He is the only things standing between you and hell.” Wow! Jesus is my shield: He protects me from sins destructive power and from the devil’s hate. Triple Wow!

If you are a Starwars fan, you will remember the Gungans who lived under water on the planet of Naboo The capital city of Otoh Gunga was anchored to a massive underwater cliff deep within a lake and was a mass of hydrostatic bubbles which keep  water out while allowing the Gungans to enter through them. There were satellite clusters outside of the city, including buildings which had been cast out from other Gungan settlements. While the Gungans could survive both on land and underwater, they chose to build their capital city under Lake Paonga to avoid contact with the Nabooian Humans. What I want you to do if possible is remember the invisible [almost] reflector shield used by the empire in their effort to wipe out the Gungans.

I have a slide to help you remember: I have two slides but the one at  the top is the one I want to use as an analogy. I want you to think about what Paul said in Ephesians 6:10-12… A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Paul is giving us a list of things that are out to destroy us: mind, soul and body. What protects us from destruction? In a word, JESUS. He is our invisible reflector shield. You can see the shield but it is there and if He were to remove the shield, all would be lost. Jesus and only Jesus stands between us and the destruction that our enemy intends for us. What can I say, “O Hallelujah, O what a Savior.”

Reflector shield

gungans with reflector shields