Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Shepherds vs. The Wise Men: The Report goes out to Working Men, Elites, and Political Leaders

Recently I received some information, a report that was very good. Chelsey, and Karen, and my mom, and others had gone out for the Stuff a Blue Goose event, for the first time at Meijer, and with the help of MSP they had raised over $1,000 in donations and 300 toys. That is what you would call good news, yes?

Additionally, they even applied for an internal grant to get us more toys. Similarly Home Depot in the area has reached out and is going to support us with coats and winter gear for those in need, Also, Nelson House funeral home is doing a toy drive for us. This is all good news. Information, shared with me, that is encouraging.

I also received some bad news, and bad reports recently, at the parsonage, the basement flooded with sewage. We had to get it fixed. Then the furnace in the basement of the corps here failed. We got it fixed. Then the drain in the kitchen at the corps flooded with sewage as well. Crazy stuff!

Good news and bad news. That’s what we’re talking about today.

When we think about how we respond to things that happen in our lives, it’s just basic to human life. Some days we get good news, some days we get bad news. And life becomes very often how we respond to the information we’re receiving. Good or bad, our response tends to dictate how things will play out.

And when you look at the word gospel, you’re looking at the formula by which we find our eternal hope. We find everything we need in the gospel.

But baked into the gospel message there is both good news and bad news.

The good news is of course that Jesus came to save us. But is that enough to understand? Well, the big question remains, what is Jesus saving us from? That’s the bad news. The bad news of the gospel is, that we’re dead in our sins and trespasses and justly open to the wrath of God.

For me reading the bible early on, it was a hard book to read, because it tells you the hard part about yourself, and the sin problem, something that is internal to me and you.

Good News, Jesus’ offers grace. Bad news, you have to admit you’re a sinner, and also be willing to stop sinning by the power of the Holy Spirit, to repent, and embrace a new way.

I know for me when examining the life of Jesus, I didn’t want the gospel at first because I knew I would have to change my behavior. I would have to stop living for myself first. I’d have to stop getting drunk and doing drugs and smoking, and chasing girls. I would have to live a different life in light of what Jesus had done.

That was bad news. But the good news is, Jesus offers a perfect way, where we find our true destiny, and we come to find who we truly are, and what we were always meant to be.

But it’s all about how we respond. For me what seemed mostly bad news, is now today something I understand as almost entirely good news.

But if you boil it down to it, it’s information. The gospel is information we receive and then decide what we’re going to do with it. We read this map, these directions saying, you’re a sinner, you deserve hell, you will go there without Jesus, but here’s what you do, come to Jesus and receive Him as your savior, and you’ll be born again and set on a course for a new world, a new paradise free from sin.

It's a map showing you how to come to Jesus Christ, and how to receive Him as your savior personally. Have you made him your personal savior yet? It’s not enough to just hear it and say oh yes I agree with that.

What if I pulled out a map and looked at it and said oh yes, that’s quite correct. Have I gotten anywhere? No. I have to get in my car, follow the directions on the map, and then I’ll end up where I belong. Say I’m traveling to traverse city. I look at the map here in Owosso and say oh yes I agree that’s how to get there. You go up this highway then get onto another.

And I say to you alright I’m in traverse city. You would say no you’re not you haven’t moved.

And I’m worried today that some of you might be looking at the gospel, the map about how to receive Jesus and saying oh yes I agree with that. But you haven’t actually made Jesus Christ your personal savior and given your heart and your life to Him. You’re just agreeing that you like the idea of it.

It’s time to dive into the middle of this and give your entire life to Jesus, to cry out to Jesus to be your savior. Do it now.

If you haven’t done that, stop listening and just spend the next few minutes crying out to Jesus who is here, to be your personal savior. Period.

So today, we’re going to examine two parallel scenarios. First, the shepherds and how they connect with the messiah.

Then the magi, and how they connect.

Then how the shepherds respond to the message, and how Herod responds to the report from the magi.

From Luke chapter 2:8-20 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

The response of the shepherds to the information they receive is positive, they go on a mission in the midst of the night to find this child they’ve heard about.

A dark night, cold, tired, sheep sleeping, and boom, the whole universe changes for these guys. And they go off into the night and find this baby. And their response is positive, they praise God.

They received a report. They investigated the information. They confirmed it was real when they found the baby Jesus just as they had been told. The shepherds then returned, and gave God glory in the situation.

They obeyed God by telling everyone they saw. They took the information they received, verified it, then took the message to others. That is the same job we have today.

And I can tell there was an anointing on the shepherds as they spread the message. Because people were astonished by the message. It says they were amazed. There was power behind the message.

If some smelly shepherd came to my door saying the messiah had been born I probably wouldn’t respond too well. But if they had the anointing of God on them, well that changes everything.

Have you ever been told something by someone who had an anointing? And you knew you were meant to hear it from them. All of it was meant to happen. And there was power behind their words?

I’ll tell you this, I have things I like to write about and preach about, but, when I really am preaching or writing about what God wants me to share about, well, there is an anointing on it that is strong.

The idea of anointing though, is like, there’s power and authority behind the words. It’s more than words. You can sense God’s confirmation in it, even His presence in the words being spoken. It’s powerful. You all I’m sure have had moments like that, when God’s power resting on what you’d received. And you felt it. Hard to explain though, right?

Let’s take a look at our second scenario. The first you could say is the working class version of events. Next one is the rich elites and powerful version of events.

From Matthew chapter 2:1-18 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.””

The second historical depiction in Matthew shows the three elites coming to visit the baby messiah, God led them there through a star in the sky. Who are these men? Travelers from China, or India, or Japan? Or from Russia? They were philosophers, wise men, elites from the eastern half of the world.

Once again we see the spread of information and it’s effects in the world. God spread the truth into the East through the wise men. God’s kingdom plan is unfolding for the world.

But the evil one is already at work. He wants to kill the messiah while the messiah is still a baby. The enemy works through Herod, who orders the murder of the innocents in Bethlehem. A terrible event in history. But Joseph and Mary and the new baby flee into Egypt to escape the murder, but later return.

News reached Herod through the wise men. And he acted on the news with terrible plans. He has children slaughtered and it’s horrible.

And the enemy has plans in our world today, and in our state, the state of Michigan, a state that murders unborn babies. And it’s horrible. The enemy has plans. And sometimes we think we know so much. But we end up making huge mistakes when we don’t have the correct information. Or we don’t understand the information like we should.

News reaches the shepherds and they spread the good news. The same news reaches Herod, and he becomes a messenger of Satan, having the children in Bethlehem under the age of 2 slaughtered.

We see this same struggle in our news feed every day. The struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies.

How does news reach us? By various different routes, television, radio, social media, news websites, and so on and so forth.

That’s how we understand what is happening in the world right now. But what happens when the sway of evil enters the news? Sometimes it can have us believing good is bad and bad is good. It’s all about how the information is presented.

It’s all information. News, data, stats, facts, events, history. Information is so very important. It’s how we know anything!

The shepherds heard it from angels, and they spread the report after seeing it themselves.

When good news hits the right ears they magnify the good and spread the good. That’s our job, to spread the good news about Jesus.

Spread the good. Too often we hear bad news, and spread the bad. And bad takes over. We can’t fight evil with evil though. We must overcome evil with good.

When good news hits the wrong ears, evil takes place. Wicked people, attempt to destroy the good news. This happened in the account of herod.

The wise men followed a star and found the messiah. But the news hit the wrong ears when the word of the messiah came back to Herod, and he ordered the murder of many children, to try to stop the birth of the messiah.
  • Difficult Truths (the horror of sin and lostness) become
  • Glad Tidings (the mystery and glory of God’s total forgiveness and grace)
  • Then the battle on Earth begins between God’s Kingdom and Satan’s Empire.
  • God’s Kingdom spreads (through magi and shepherds)
  • Satan’s Empire attacks (murder of the children in Bethlehem)
All of this plays out in the historical events surrounding the birth of Jesus, the shepherds, the wise men, Herod’s response, no room at the inn for Jesus, the escape to Egypt, it all fits together, to define the battle between God’s kingdom and Satan’s empire.

So let’s talk applications.

First of all, this code word Gospel, good news, glad tidings, is for you. The good news, receive it as a gift for yourself.

Take the information and apply it. Take the gift, but also open it. Put it to use in your life. Don’t just read the information, make it part of you, make Jesus your full complete savior.

Then take the good news report, like the shepherds did, and spread it everywhere. Spread it at work. Spread it to your family. Hand out Bibles. Feed people. Pray with people. Knock on doors. Invite everyone to church. Hand out tracts. Post on social media. Send out emails. Write books. Start websites. Anything, and everything to get the message out.

But do it according to God’s will, and walk in faith as you do it, then you’ll be anointed as you speak and it will have power behind it. Walk in His will.

Thirdly, recognize there will be opposition. The enemy will be doing everything he can to discredit you, to cause you to slip up morally, he will try to block the message, hide the message, and stop people from listening to the message.

But God grants us the victory in all that. As we seek His will. Trust God in those battles, and recognize opposition forms. Even controversies will form around important issues where God wants you to take a stand. Expect it, and stand firm. Get that gospel out there.

Also recognize the power of information. The power of God’s word is that power, the power of the truth. But also recognize the power of lies, that’s why news and media and corporations are always trying to spin the truth and manipulate what people believe, because knowledge is power. So recognize that there is a war of information going on in our world. And people out there have a vested interest in manipulating your opinions and how you see things. Guard against that, praying to God for discernment, a vital tool, God’s gift of discernment, ask for that spiritual gift, to discern carefully the real truth of the times we’re in. Because there are so many webs of lies in this world.

But, Jesus said, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Only Jesus can set us free.

So in conclusion, and in summary:
  • Study the message of the truth
  • Believe the truth
  • Receive the truth internally
  • Share the truth with others - Love others in that
  • Recognize the spiritual battlefield – good vs. evil
  • Overcome the evil one with the love of Jesus flowing through you
  • Resist the lies of the world system
  • Discern the truth in this world with the help of God.