Today’s message for Sunday, January 27, 2019 from Asst. Pastor Travis Jackson:
As you can see, the title of this sermon is The Glory of God’s Gospel is Jesus Christ.
I will make several observations that pertain to this text as we study it this morning:
- The gospel compels people to believe in Christ Jesus.
- The gospel assures salvation to those who truly believe.
- The gospel illustrates that God preserves His people in Christ Jesus.
- The gospel glorifies God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.
Did you know that 360,000 babies are born each day? That equals 130 million babies born per year. That is a staggering number. Hopefully, each of these babies will become adult men and women; if they can escape the womb. Each of their lives will be different from one another. Some of them will be successful and others will not. Some of them will be husbands, some of them will not. Some of them will be leaders the some will be followers. Some of them will be Christians, some will not.
Only God knows why they were born and how their lives will turn out to be. God has written their lives in stone, just as He did ours, in stone, from eternally pass, so their lives will turn out exactly how He has planned it. How do I know this? Well, God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:4).
Over the course of human history, billions and billions of babies have been born. But only some their names is written down in history for everyone to learn about. For example, Alexander the Great, Cesar Augustus, Martin Luther King Jr., and etc. These men had a special task that God allowed and caused them to accomplished. Nevertheless, these men and many alike will never compare to the birth and task of Jesus Christ. On the name of Jesus birth was a turning point for time and history.
Last year in December, we previously learned that a multitude of angels suddenly appeared to the shepherds, which is shown in verse 13. They appeared because a divine act had occurred. What was the divine act? It was the incarnation of Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem. That is, the Second Person of the Trinity became flesh; the Word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (cf. John 1:14). The Word of God, Jesus, took upon flesh, was born of a virgin, and on that particular night, he was a baby who laid in a manger. Philippians 2:5-8 says “Have the mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form.” This is why we say that God became a man. And Jesus is one-hundred percent God and one-hundred percent man. Jesus is fully God and fully man.
This divine act took place on a starry night, and it was a night that will forever be memorable. It was the single greatest night that altered history–the future and time itself. It was the single greatest night that changed the very fabric of reality. It was the night when heaven kissed the earth; it was the night when the mundane became divine. And every other life-changing event is trivial compared to the incarnation of Jesus, who was born on that night.
The angels waited for this divine act of Jesus’ birth to take place. They waited for centuries to glimpse at God’s redemptive plan for creation (cf. 1 Peter 1:2). Angles are spectators. And on the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels finally had the privilege to observe how the Trinity willingly and singlehandedly acted on behalf of undeserving sinners, in making atonement for transgressors, by removing the scarlet stain that separated God and man, which human will could not ever remove (cf. Ephesians 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:9). We are the beneficiaries of this salvific plan.
Angels are not only spectators but also worshippers. The angels were worshipping and praising God for what He has done and how He kept His promises. According to verse fourteen, they have sung a song of praise, saying, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). They were exalting God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Angels are great examples to help us understand how to properly worship God. They were worshiping God prior to the incarnation of Jesus and, after His’ birth. As I am speaking, angels are presently worshipping God around His throne (cf. Revelation 5:11-14). As we sung songs this morning to the Lord, we were singing along with the angels.
When I was a child, I spent countless hours in worship services listening to long-winded preachers hooping and hollering, and choirs singing the same song ten times in a row. I dreaded going to worship services like those because they lasted for five or more hours in one sitting. I still dread worship services like that. We all have had good and bad experiences in a worship service. Depending on the worship service, we could be influenced negatively or positively. However, I am sure the shepherds had a positive experience seeing and being part of the worship service that the angles conducted on that night. On that night of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds may have watched the angels sing praises to God for several hours. I believe that night must have been the best Pentecostal church service that all of us would’ve been glad to participate in!
We truly don’t know how long the angels were worshiping God on that night, it could have been hours or minutes, despite how long the experience was, the shepherds enjoyed themselves. According to verse 15, Luke does not tell us the amount of time the shepherds witnessed the angels worshipping and praising God, the text simply says, “When the angels went away from them into heaven” (Luke 2:15). The angels suddenly left the shepherds to themselves; the angels vanished from the sight of the shepherds. The angels resumed their worship of the Lord, not on the earth, but in heaven (cf. Psalm 148:1).
An individual would naturally respond with fear whenever he or she is visited by an angel. Scripture provides several examples of this. There are examples in the Old and New Testament. In the New Testament, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, was frightened by the appearances of the angel Gabriel (e.g., Luke 1:12; 1:30). He told them, “do not be afraid”; be not fearful. In the same fashion, he told the shepherds to fear not (Luke 2:10). I recall being legitimately afraid of dying while standing in front of the railing at Niagara Falls because of the grandeur and immediate danger that Niagara Falls posed. I imagine the shepherds felt much the same way I was feeling that day. The shepherds’ fearfulness of the angel Gabriel was warranted because they might have believed that Gabriel was an angel of death (e.g., 2 Samuel 24:16-17; Judges 13:20-22). They were afraid for their lives.
But Gabriel told them to fear not because he brought good news to them. What was the good news the angel shared to the shepherds? The angel informed the shepherds that in the city of Bethlehem the Savior, the Christ and the Lord was born, and His name is Jesus. As you know the gospel means good news and, the angel brought good news to the shepherds on that night. The good news is about the Savior who rescues those whom God chose before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:33). The good news is about exalting the One who is the anointed Christ. The good news is about the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3) who we call Jesus. The good news is about Jesus because He is our only salvation and the One who was willing to dwell with sinners. This is the meaning of Jesus name.
The name of Jesus means ‘God saves.’ And Immanuel means ‘God is with us’ (cf. Matthew 1:23). He is the good news that the shepherds heard about.
After hearing and receiving the good news from the angel, they wanted to investigate the angel’s words, and understandably so. They wanted to know if the angel’s words were true or not. So they said to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us” (NASB). What they have heard became a priority and everything else was less important. The shepherds owned livestock and were responsible for the animals under their care (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Luke 1-5 [MacArthur, 2009], 162). So, they could not leave their sheep in danger of thieves and wolves, that would have been an irresponsible act. Either their sheep traveled with them or they hired other shepherds to watch their animals so that they can make it Bethlehem to see Jesus.
This brings us to our first observation: the gospel compels people to believe in Christ Jesus. The shepherds’ actions should not be a strange thing to you and me. They responded just like everyone else would have after first hearing the revelation of the gospel and believing it. Their excitement ought to be familiar with our own personal experience when we first heard the gospel. Can you recall the first genuine encounter that you had after acknowledging Jesus as Savior (cf. Romans 10:14)? After coming to the knowledge of truth in Jesus (1 Timothy 2:4), how did you feel? Were you excited? Relieved? Humbled? Convicted? Assured?
Before you and I understood our need to be saved; before God the Holy Spirit quicken our spirits unto new life (cf. John 3:5) changing us into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); before we made a confession of faith that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:8-10), God the Father drew us to His Son so that we can accept His invitation to know Jesus. That is to say, The Father called us to His Son before we received the gift of salvation. In John 6:37, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” In the same book and chapter, according to John 6:44, Jesus further said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
God is the One who sent the angel to tell the shepherds the good news of the Savior. God is the Person who allowed the shepherds to see His glory that shone around them on that night. All of this was done by God Himself. Therefore, it was God who compelled the shepherds to His Son. The Father extended the invitation, the shepherds accepted and sought after the Son, Jesus. Pastor John MacArthur said, “Those who truly believe the revelation of God in Christ will come to Him. They will accept His invitation” (MacArthur, 162). The shepherds pursued Christ and eventually found Him.
The Lord rescued my wife and me from the teachings of the prosperity gospel. Many of you know this about our testimony. He removed us from a heretical “church,” if you can call it that, and settled us in a church where the preachers preached the gospel expositionally every Sunday. Every Sunday we heard the gospel preached with such clarity, and the Lord used the preaching of the gospel to soften our hearts and God the Holy Spirit convicted of our sins, we repented and believed. God the Holy Spirit allowed my wife and me to realize the burden of our sins that caused us to stand guilty before a righteous God. Soon after, we were baptized and told everyone of what the Lord has done on our behalf. We were thrilled about the new profound life that we have in Christ.
The story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John chapter four illustrates exactly the actions of the shepherds. In John 4, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. She was surprised that Jesus, a Jewish man, asked her, a Samaritan woman to give him something to drink. The Jewish people despised the Samaritans, they called the Samaritans “half-breeds” which was a racist slur. It is like calling a bi-racial person who is white and black a mutt or mud-baby. Nevertheless, as Jesus and the Samaritan women began to talk, she realized Jesus is a prophet who made known to her that he knew she had five husbands (cf. John 4:16-20). After Jesus revealed to her that He is the Messiah (John 4:25), she left His presences and told the village of Samaria. The Samaritan woman was so excited that she dropped everything to go tell others about Jesus; she even forgot to give Jesus a drink of water he asked for. And the apostle John writes, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,” (John 4:39). And they said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). After the Samaritan heard the good news from Jesus Himself, she went and told everyone the same news she received, and they too believed.
Again, according to verse ten and eleven, the angel said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you [the gospel] of great joy … For unto you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The angel shared the good news, the shepherds believed and was compelled to seek after Christ. This is why the shepherds’ actions should not be strange to you and me because everyone ought to react in a similar fashion to how the shepherds responded. If you unable to relate to this, I encourage you to question if are you truly save. If you have heard the gospel numerous times but was not compelled to believe, it is fair to say, you do not know Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
We can only speculate how the shepherds found the young family, the passage does not say. Perhaps word of mouth allowed news to spread rapidly of a baby being born in Bethlehem. Perhaps there was a bright luminous star in the sky pointing towards the location of the family (cf. Matthew 2:9), similar to the Big Dipper that can lead people to the north. We honestly do not know. What we do know is that they diligently searched for them. Proverbs 8:17 says, I love those who love me and those who seek me diligently find me.”
They were looking for the long-awaited Messiah, and finally, this was their chance to be part of a historical moment. As you can read in verse sixteen, the shepherds “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby who was lying in the manger” (NIV). They were not lackadaisical. They did not wait, nor were thy slothful, but they rushed to find Mary, Joseph, and the Baby.
The second observation: the gospel assures salvation to those who truly believe. How did the shepherds know the angel’s word was true. How did the angel assure them? The answer is found in verses twelve and sixteen. Let’s look at those two verses together. In verse twelve, the angel said, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). That was the assurance the angel gave them.
And, verse sixteen says, the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” This is a fulfillment of God’s words that were given to the angel.
Nothing else in this life can provide assurance of salvation. Nothing in this world is a guarantee, only the gospel of Jesus Christ is. A family member of mines bought scratch offs lottery tickets. Her friend purchased lottery tickets too and he won forty dollars. She was so excited for her friend’s new fortune, and she said, “wow, you won forty dollars.” And as she began to scratch off her tickets, her friend looked at her and said, “Do you believe.” As I was standing there listening to them, my mouth dropped to the floor. I said to myself, belief in what? Are you going to believe that will not win any money? And she did. There is no guarantee in the world.
The third observation: the gospel illustrates that God preserves His people in Christ Jesus. According to verses seventeen and eighteen, Luke writes, “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it [marveled] at what the shepherds told them.” Unbeknownst to Joseph and Mary, they were unaware that angelic beings appeared to the shepherds, they had no idea of what transpired after arriving at the manager. However, Joseph and Mary recounted their story too. If you can recall, that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, telling her that she will bear the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:26-38), coupled with Joseph’s account of his dream (Matthew 1:20-23) confirming that him not to devoice his wife because she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. The shepherds, Mary and Joseph had a “me too” moment.
Look at verse eighteen again, it says, “all who heard it were amazed.” All? Who is Luke referring too? Who were all there that night? We know the shepherds, the villagers of Bethlehem, Joseph, Mary, and the Baby were there. Let me suggest to you that the wise men in apostle Matthew’s account were there? Turn to Matthew 2:8-11.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense, and myrrh.
They were called wise men because kings, like Nebuchadnezzar, used their gifts to practice divination, which is from occultish religions. In some fashion, God called these wise men out of the darkness and into the marvelous light of Jesus (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). They denounced their pagan beliefs, traveled to Bethlehem to worship Jesus who was lying in the manger. When they saw Jesus lying in the manger, they presented gifts and bowed down and worship Jesus. Luke 19:28 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The wise men were Gentiles, from a foreign country, to worship God who dell in flesh. They knew that that Baby was the only means of receiving salvation, that Baby was the only way of knowing the One true God.
This is what Isaiah said, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:7 [Acts 11:18-19]). And in of Psalm 98:3 says, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” The only redeeming salvation God has given to the world is Jesus. “There is salvation in no one else, there is no other name under given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
So, it is safe to conclude that the wise men, the shepherds, the residents in Bethlehem and Joseph were amazed at what happened. Do you know who was not as amazed as everyone else? Mary. Verse nineteen says, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Mary knew how her baby was conceived inside her womb. She knew that her baby was the Son of the Most High. Therefore, in the midst of all the people who were talking about their divine experiences, Mary was the only one that treasured up what she knew to be true. The Greek word for “treasured up,” syntēreō, it means to keep close; or to preserve. This is why the word treasured is used in verse nineteen. When Daniel had a dream concerning different kingdoms that will rise and fall, he said, “my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:28). He was looking towards what will come to pass. Likewise, Mary did not entirely understand what was happening, but she knew that her child was different than all the rest of the babies that were ever born.
Mothers, how many times have you contemplated matters that you noticed about your own children? How many times you have treasured those things in your heart and didn’t tell anyone else? My mother has held things close to her heart that concerned her children, she is now sharing those secrets with me.
This is why I said, the gospel illustrates that God preserves His people in Christ Jesus. Those people who were there at the inn looking at Jesus lying in manger represents the world’s view of Jesus. People believe that he is a good teacher, prophet, a mere man, some are amazed by Him, others think he’s irrelevant and all are amazed. And for those who only profess with their mouths but does not truly believe in their hearts will be the ones that quickly fall away from the faith. “The Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith,” according to 1 Timothy 4:1 that they claimed of having. But those who treasure Jesus in their hearts are not only amazed by Him, but they will be preserved by Him. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Do you understand? Whenever you treasured Jesus not only in your mind but in heart “For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:28).
Lastly, the fourth observation: the gospel glorifies God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.
We should know that the gospel glorifies Jesus Christ. The gospel does not glorify man; the gospel does not glorify you or me. The gospel does not glorify wealth and health. The gospel does not glorify denominations. The gospel does not glorify politics. The gospel glorifies Jesus Christ and Him alone. A backwoods Baptist preacher would say, “Can I get an Amen?”