MESSAGE DELIVERED: DECEMBER 11, 2016
As we continue into this Advent Season, and continue to concentrate on the impending Birth of God’s Son, our Savior, the passage I just read to you may have you wondering “what does THAT have to do with His Birth”? And the obvious answer would be “nothing”, or maybe “very little”.
But this second candle that we light today is the one of PREPARATION. And that is supposed to remind us that, once we come to understand that God loves us SO much, that he could not leave us, as hopeless as sin had MADE us.
So He gave us HOPE, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus the Messiah; Jesus the Christ; the Anointed One of God! He gave Him as the tiny, innocent Baby whose Birth we observe this time each year.
And that small, precious baby would grow to become the precious Lamb of God; and as such, He would give HIMSELF, in Sacrifice, to rescue us, to ransom us, to SAVE us, from the penalty of sin.
When you know that, you must then make the necessary preparations…which is to open your heart, and your life, and invite Jesus in, and ask Him to be the Lord of your life. And when you ask, He will do that.
The necessary preparation then becomes for you to learn as much as you can, about this precious Lamb of God, so you can then go out into the world, and share what you know, with others who need to hear it.
And that is why I read that particular passage this morning, which you are thinking has nothing to do with the Christmas Season. But you see, this refers to those twelve men who Jesus had called, and it is after they have spent maybe two years in close contact with Jesus, learning from Him, and learning about Him, and are now being sent out into the world to SHARE what they have learned, with others.
And that is what I just told you that WE have to do as well. But when Jesus sent His disciples out into the world, He first gave them, temporarily, tremendous power! Such great power, that He cautioned them in how they were to use it. They received power over illnesses, to heal the sick; and power over Satan, to cast out demons; and even power over death, to raise the dead!
It would take a very special person to receive that much power, and not be affected by it; not be tempted by it. These men were, for the most part, simple fishermen. And they were going to enter villages, and heal every sickness in that village. They were going to remove every unclean influence in that village. And they would even raise those who had recently died.
That much power would cause people to look at these disciples, as GODS! It would cause people to offer them vast sums of money, in order to use those powers, as people would want. And it would be so easy for these simple men to become corrupted BY that much power. Men have been corrupted by far less! They could make for themselves fortunes, set themselves up as kings!
But, to do that would have corrupted the message of Salvation that they had also been given. So the disciples were cautioned to accept NOTHING, aside from their daily needs, as they used these gifts. They had paid nothing FOR those gifts, they were to charge nothing for using them.
Jesus knew that some people would accept the message they heard, as it was authenticated BY the gifts, and others would accept the gifts but reject the message. When that happened, they were told in verse 14 that they were to “shake off the dust of that place”.
This…Jesus said, because He knew how contrary people can be. How they will do what they should NOT, and NOT do what they should. We call that ‘human nature’, but Jesus calls us ‘sheep’. But even so, He told the twelve that He was sending them out as sheep, to be surrounded by wolves.
There was a reason for that. See, the thing about sheep is; they have NO defenses. No teeth or claws to fight with, no long legs to flee with. True, some have horns, but they only use them against each other!
So basically they are at the mercy of any enemy that finds them. And their only protection when threatened, is to run to their shepherd.
Sheep are completely dependent ON their shepherd to protect them, and in that ONE statement, you should be able to see that God wants us to BE completely dependent on OUR “Good Shepherd”; for everything…for our protection, for safe pasture, for cool water, for ALL our needs. Too bad we don’t always do that!
But His command here to the twelve, is still the same for us. Anyone who goes out into the world to do the work of the Lord, goes out as sheep among wolves.
So, we are to be dependent on the Lord for all our NEEDS, but not for our ATTITUDE. We are not to go out mindlessly, following someone else’s lead. Instead He told us to be “wise as serpents, but harmless as doves”, in verse 16. And we need to try to understand that.
In Genesis 3:1 we’re told that Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and he was more cunning than any other creature. Here, Jesus tells us that ‘serpents are wise’. In both of those verses, the word used could be translated as “prudent” or “sensible”, which means being careful to exercise sound judgement.
So Jesus isn’t telling us to be ‘cunning and devious’. He wants us to be careful in making wise decisions, and to avoid errors, in our dealing with others.
Then there’s that part about being harmless as doves. If you have a bird feeder, you will have attracted doves to it. And you don’t have to observe them for very long before you figure out that, while other birds like grackles might push them away from the seed, or that hawks might send them fleeing for their lives, they act very DIFFERENTLY to other doves!
If one dove gets too close to a spot where another dove wants to be, the first one will jump ON the second one, PECK at it with its beak, pull FEATHERS from it, beat it mercilessly with its wings, and chase it away!
And isn’t that just like Christians? Harmless to the rest of the world, but vicious to one another! You let some Christian fall into a trap, one found in some sin…a sin any OF us might have fallen into…and how do we react? We hold him up to ridicule. We persecute him. Even if he has repented with bitter tears, and been forgiven by the Lord, the CHRISTIANS will still CONDEMN him. We don’t see that wounded brother as having been restored, as the Lord sees him. We will continue to see him as damaged and condemned.
When Jesus said “harmless as doves”, He wasn’t saying we should go out into the world and let ourselves be pushed around. That word “harmless” can also be translated as “innocent” or “pure”. So if the terms ‘cunning’ and ‘harmless’ don’t quite bring the right image to your mind, try substituting ‘sensible and pure’.
When you have made the necessary preparations, and have gone out into the world to serve the Lord, you are to keep yourself from making mistakes in presenting the Gospel, and keep yourself pure, or innocent of any wrong-doing.
Jesus put those two things together, and said that our presentation of the Word is to be a mixture of them: sensibility, and purity. That means don’t be GULLIBLE, as Eve was. And don’t go chasing after fables that contradict the very clear meaning of the Gospel.
But so many people do that! They let some man convince them that he knows more than any other man…that he has knowledge that other men don’t. And even to knowing the exact time when the Lord will return.
And invariably, when some shyster tries to use the Name of the Lord, he will find gullible people to believe him, and turn away from the Truth. Even though Jesus very carefully told us already, in Matthew 24:36, and again in Matthew 25:13, that NO one, not even the angels in Heaven, can HAVE that knowledge!
And in that way, CUNNING men cause GULLIBLE people to fall into sin, when they choose to believe him, instead of God…just like SATAN caused EVE to believe him, instead of God. In both cases, they made a CHOICE not to believe the very clear Truth of God’s Word, even while they were THINKING they were drawing closer TO Him.
And any time that happens, it will bring shame to the church, which IS the Body of Christ on the earth today. ANY time someone says that he or she has ‘truth’ or ‘knowledge’ that contradicts what God has said, RUN from them. They are a deceiver, and have been deceived, by the MASTER deceiver, Satan, an enemy and accuser of mankind.
God’s people are to be “as harmless as doves” before the world, and that means “pure”, in actions and intents. And we are to be “wise”, meaning “sensible in our dealings with others”.
Those who are PREPARED SERVANTS, are to strike a BALANCE in our attempts to share God’s Love with the world. We are to be SENSIBLE in our OUTLOOK, and HONEST in our REPUTATION. THAT will make you a servant the world WILL listen to…and a servant who will NOT bring harm or ridicule unto the Lord.
To be able to DO that, takes conscious preparation! The disciples had studied at the feet of the Lord for YEARS, before He allowed them to go into the world to share what they had learned. And even then, He CAUTIONED them on how they were to act, while they were out there.
There are TWO THINGS you NEED to know, if you ARE a Child of God…if you have ASKED for, and RECEIVED, that Great Salvation, so rich and free: The FIRST is THIS…
We should NEVER get the idea that we are thoroughly and completely PREPARED!…that there is NOTHING more you need to learn. I have met men LIKE that…highly educated men who have been elevated to positions of great authority…men who assumed they have “arrived”, and are now ABOVE “common people”. And I have never known ANY of those men to add ANYTHING to anyone else. They were completely wrapped up in themselves!
Remember what Paul said…Paul, who maybe could have MADE such a claim…instead wrote in Philippians 3:12…”not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ has also laid hold of me”.
If EVER a man walked this earth close to the Lord, Paul of Tarsus did. And yet he strove DAILY to have a CLOSER walk with the Lord. And WE must have the SAME understanding. That’s why we call our radio program “A Closer Walk”…because that should be our DAILY PRAYER, to have that ever-CLOSER association with the Lord.
As I said, I have KNOWN so MANY misguided people…probably you have too…preachers and laymen alike, who PRETENEDED to have reached some ULTIMATE stage of COMPLETION…and they were ALL liars! Every one! We must NEVER, EVER feel that we KNOW all there IS to know, in our service to the Lord.
The SECOND thing is…remember I told you there are TWO things you must understand…the SECOND is: remember that we are to be in the world as SHEEP among WOLVES…and our ONLY defense…our ONLY protection, our only REFUGE…is the LORD!…our GOOD SHEPHERD! Do NOT look to any other PERSON or THING, for help. Look FIRST, and ONLY, to the Lord!
That second candle we lit is for PREPARATION. It is to remind us that, while we have HOPE because of God’s Sacrifice, we NEED to SHARE that Hope, with a lost world. Remember that you were once part OF that lost world, and look NOW where God has brought you, and understand that we need to develop a burning desire to share that hope with others.
As we continue to look forward to the ARRIVAL of God’s Son, and that is what ‘ADVENT’ means, “arrival”…as we look forward to Christmas Day, to the BIRTHDAY of the Lord, remember that we are celebrating an event that has ALREADY happened…and that we should NOW be looking forward to that SECOND Advent…when the Lord comes BACK, as He has PROMISED us that He would.
In the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus said “I go now to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there YOU may be also”.
Secular America, which has given us homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, and abortion on demand as a choice, has now hijacked Christmas, as a celebration of Santa Claus and Rudolph and Frosty…a celebration where there is NO ROOM for the Baby in the Manger.
And believe me, I don’t want to take SECULAR Christmas from you. I have enjoyed that with my family for YEARS. We enjoy the beautifully decorated tree, and the giving and receiving of gifts, the songs of the season…the delicious meal with family and friends…we ENJOY all that…but all that has absolutely NOTHING to DO, with GOD giving HIS GIFT to the WORLD!
I know those over-educated men will try to say “well THIS stands for THAT, and THAT stands for THIS, and the whole thing stands for what God has done”.
But NO! It doesn’t! There is REAL Christmas, and there is SECULAR Christmas…and as long as you understand which is which, then go ahead and enjoy BOTH!
Celebrate angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest”…and shepherds coming to the Baby in the Manger, and wise men coming to the Christ child…and THAT is the Birthday of God’s Son.
And go ahead and celebrate Frosty and Rudolph and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, and THAT is SECULAR Christmas…and as long as you know the difference…let the season be merry!
But make very sure you KNOW the difference. And if you don’t even know Jesus as Savior yet, then let’s have a time of invitation now, and give you the opportunity to CHANGE that, and RECEIVE God’s TRUE Christmas Gift…because He is ready to accept YOU as His Own, and Save you, and forgive you, and prepare that Heavenly home FOR you. And you come DO that while we sing…number 197…”Lamb Of Glory”…
That’s not a song usually used as an invitation, but it is what this season is all about!
So, IF you have already made THAT part of your preparation, then let me invite you to dig deeply into God’s Word, His love letter to you, and learn ever more about Him, and draw ever nearer to Him, and make this PREPARATION your LIFESTYLE…until He calls us home.
Number 197…Lamb Of Glory, that’s Whose Birthday we’re celebrating!