Sermon of the Month
The sermon was delivered at Immanuel Baptist Church, Newport News VA, on July 11, 1979.
Subject: What is Intercessory Praying?
Text: Luke 11:1-10
"And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. And He said unto them. Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek , and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
Intercessory prayer is the secret weapon of the church. It can be likened to an INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILE which God has placed in our hands. It can be fired to any spot on the face of the earth. It travels at the speed of thought. It always hits its target.
A great thing about this missile is that it can be armed with a delayed detonator. I can pray for something to happen years from now and it will come to pass. That is exactly what Jesus did in John 17. "I pray not only for these, but for all those who shall believe on Me through their witness/word"( John 17:20). Two thousand years ago Jesus was praying for each of us who believe today. Every time a person is born into the Kingdom of God, the prayer of Jesus is answered again. Jesus prayed a prayer that had a delayed detonation. We need to leave our children an inheritance of answered prayer. We may not leave them much more, but long after we're dead, God will be answering prayers we have prayed for our children. Wrap them up in blankets of intercessory prayer--God will remember.
Intercessory Prayer: The tremendous weapon of the church
What a tremendous weapon the church has. There is absolutely no defense against it. The devil has never invented an antiballistic missile to deter intercessory praying. A lost man is defenseless against intercessory praying. He has a defense against preaching--he can refuse to come. Some of you have invited lost people to church, they don't have to come. Even when they do come they don't have to listen. They can refuse to listen. They can count the lights in the ceiling, flip through the hymnal, stay awake by counting how many choir members are wearing glasses, refusing to listen.
We can give them a tract. They can throw it away and refuse to pay any attention to it. There is one thing--one weapon--there is no defense against--they cannot stop Jesus from knocking at the door of their heart.
Intercessory prayer: A ministry lies at the very heart of the gospel
In Isaiah 53:12 we are told Jesus came to make intercession for the transgressors.
"He was made to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus came to do one thing--to make intercession for lost people. The present ministry in which Jesus Christ is engaged is a ministry of intercession. Would you like to know what Jesus is doing right now--at this very moment? He is praying for us. "He is able to save all them who come to God by Him seeing that He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 10:25). "Little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. But if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous and He IS [present tense] (not He WAS!) the propitiation (THE COVERING) for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).
God's ideal is that we don't sin. But, what if we do sin? Confess it. We are not lost--we have not forfeited eternal life--WHY? Because we have an ADVOCATE--a fancy word for a defense attorney--a go between; someone who intercedes for us. We have an Advocate in the presence of the Father--ace to face--JESUS CHRIST the righteous One and He is praying for us. Every time we sin against God the Father, Jesus Christ stands before the bar of heaven--interceding for us.
Most lawyers plead their client's innocence in order to get them off free. Our Heavenly Defense Attorney pleads our guilt. "Everything the devil says about this believer is true--but I want you to forgive because 2,000 years ago I shed my blood on the cross for him. He's trusted in me and by the price of Calvary, the agony of Gethsemane, I want you to forgive his sins and let my blood continue to cover him from all unrighteousness. "Jesus, our heavenly defense attorney, is interceding. When the devil comes to accuse you--just refer him to your defense attorney. He handles all the problems. THAT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Jesus says "As the Father hath sent Me, even so SEND I YOU."
Intercessory praying: Practicing the priesthood of the believer
From the teaching of the Word of God, we know that the ministry of intercession lies at the very heart of the Gospel and at the very heart of Christianity. Jesus said we are a kingdom of priests. "Jesus loosed us from our sins in His own blood and has made us a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS" (Revelation 1:6); "We are a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD" (1 Peter 5:9).
What is the priesthood of believers? The priesthood of believers is a fundamental doctrine of the Word of God. Most of the time we explain it as the God-given ability to go into the very presence of God without a go-between man--IMMEDIATE ACCESS INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD. That is true, but only one-half of it.
The Old Testament priests did not go into the presence of God simply for himself. When he went, he took the whole nation with him. That's a miracle. One man had the ability to take the whole nation with him into the very presence of God.
You are a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, which simply means you have right to go into the very presence of God. You have RIGHT and OBLIGATION to take others with you into that presence.
The Latin word translated priest means "a bridge". That is very picturesque of a Christian. Christians are a bridge between lost man or needy Christians and the resources of an almighty God.
The priesthood of believers includes that I go to God on behalf of other people. It involves three people, the one praying, God, and the person for whom the prayer is prayed (a lost person, a saved person, a needy person, a church, a nation, a city, a government). That is intercessory praying.
The ministry of intercession is best illustrated in Exodus 17 when Moses and Joshua and all the people of Israel meet Amalek in the Valley of Rephidim. A very unusual thing happens. "And Moses said unto Joshua, choose us out men, and go out and fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand" (verse 9).
Joshua must have been a loyal follower because if I had been Joshua and Moses had come "this is the plan, I'm going upon the mountain with the rod of God--you go to the valley and meet Amalek and all the armies." "Moses, I've got a better plan. I'll go to the mountain with the rod of God and you go to the valley." Joshua knew what it meant to follow orders. "So he did as Moses had said unto him and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed, and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." There is intercession--Joshua down in the valley meeting the enemy head on in a face to face confrontation--Moses on the mountain lifting up the ROD OF GOD. They discovered something. When they lifted high the rod of God, Joshua prevails. When they lowered the rod of God, Amalek prevails.
Now who is doing the fighting? What is the source of that victory? Here is the principle of intercession illustrated. What Moses was doing was interceding for Joshua as he was fighting the battle in the valley and the victory that day came not from Joshua's strength and not from Israel's armies but from the intercession of Moses.
I'm convinced that the reason so many of our Christians going out into the valleys today and meeting the Amaleks of this world and are being defeated is because many of us are not standing on the hill of intercession holding up the rod of God. You will find every church winning victory after victory--Christian homes knowing victories--individuals living victorious when people begin to practice the ministry of intercession.
Intercessory praying: The rod of God is the name of Jesus
You and I have a rod just like that. Do you know what the Christian's rod is? THE NAME OF JESUS. That rod of God was simply God's authority placed in a human hand. I have a rod of God. You have a rod of God. That is the name of Jesus. The authority of heaven and earth resides in that Name. He places that name in our hands. When we stand before the needs of a lost world and IN THE NAME OF JESUS we go to the Father, and He hears.
"If ye shall ask anything in my Name, I will do it." "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). Did you know it is a sin to fail to practice intercession? If you are not praying for others you are sinning against God.
Intercession is Moses' going to the Father and praying that He forgive the people in spite of their idolatry, Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah, and Paul's prayers of intercession prayed from prison. All prayers of intercession--praying for others. "First of all I would that prayers and supplications and intercessions be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:2). "He commands us to pray for all the saints and me in particular" (Ephesians 6:18). "He said PRAY FOR HIM AS A PREACHER" (Colossians 4:2). Throughout the New Testament one cannot get away from it--the ministry of intercession lies at the very heart of the Gospel.
THE SADDEST THING ABOUT THE 20TH CENTURY CHURCH IS WE JUST ARE NOT INTERCEDING. We do not understand the first rule of intercession. Most of us who name the name of Christ today have never really entered into that ministry of intercession. What does it man to intercede? What kind of praying must we do if it is to be intercessory praying?
In the parable which Jesus gave us in Luke 11, there is a perfect picture of the ministry of intercession. "And He spake many things unto them in parables" (Matthew 13:3). A parable is: an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, a handle with which to carry a truth home with you, to throw or place side by side one thing with another for the purpose of comparison, a name given to a connected narrative--whether of events in human life or a process in nature by which some great spiritual truth is illustrated or enforced, a narrative true to nature or life used for the purpose of conveying spiritual truth to the mind of the hearer. Let us look at this parable (verses 5-8) and pick out the characteristics of INTERCESSORY PRAYING. There are three simple things about the ministry of intercession.
Intercessory praying must be daring praying
Everything about this parable breathes boldness, audacity and daring. Here is a man who at MIDNIGHT goes to see a friend. This was not a hot-spot of the earth back then. They rolled up sidewalks at dark and everybody went to bed early. They didn't stay up until midnight watching television. This man had been in bed and asleep for a long time. He woke him up. "I can't get up. My children are in bed with me." Many times in the homes there was only one bed. The father would pack all the children around him in bed. We put a baby in the bed with us in an effort to get them to sleep. You don't breathe. You don't move. You're not about to wake them up. What would you think about a fellow at midnight--after you had been in bed asleep for hours--banging on the door? "I can't get up. My children are in bed. You'll disrupt the whole family." He just keeps on banging. "I don't care I need some bread. I have a friend who in his journeying has come to me and I have nothing to set before him." That is audacious/bold/daring praying.
As we study prayers in the Bible we read of men who were bold in praying. I'm afraid a great many of us today come to God in prayer like a beggar coming to the back door. Half-hearted, half-apologetic, as though we have no claim on God. This is not what God said. Don''t come to the back door like a beggar asking for a handout--God wants us to come as a son. He is our Father. We have family rights. In John 14:14 the Greek word translated ASK could very well be translated DEMAND. "Whatsoever ye shall DEMAND in my name....that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall DEMAND anything in my name, I will do it".
When one realizes that he is an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ (sharing equally in all that Jesus is and all that Jesus has) and everything the Father has is his by birth and he is to Him as a Son then he stands upon his rights with boldness and daring. If the ministry of intercession is to be successful in our lifeâ€”we must pray this way.
1. Daring is the SIZE of the request. He asked for how many loaves? Three! Did you know that in Israel one loaf of bread was a day's supply? He came at MIDNIGHT asking for THREE LOAVES of bread. Some are afraid to pray specifically for certain things because it seems too much to ask. It just seems too hard for God to do.
"Thou are coming to a King
Large petitions with thee bring
For His grace and power are such
You can never ask too much."
God is honored when we bring Him large petitions.
I've read a great many books on prayer. A lot of people say that it is a low and vulgar idea of prayer to go to God to get something. That the whole purpose and premise and profit of prayer is the spiritual good that it does you. It helps you to grow. It makes you feel better. The communion you have with God is what you ought to look for in prayer and you're being very childish and very selfish if you go to God simply looking for God to give you things. Now, doesn't that sound lofty? Yes, but it is not scriptural. The challenge would be to search out every prayer promise that the Bible gives. In every one it tells us to EXPECT TO GET SOMETHING FROM GOD. Every encouragement that God gives us to pray is based on this--YOU COME AND GOD IS GOING TO GIVE YOU SOMETHING REALLY BIG. "Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3). "Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given--seek--knock". Every prayer promise of Jesus is if you will pray you will get something and you will get something big. Be daring in the size of your praying. Are some of us afraid to pray for a lost friend because he is such a hardened sinner? Or for a financial need because it just seems too large? Then we are blaspheming the Word of God. We need to be DARING IN THE SIZE.
2. We must be daring in the stubbornness of that request. He just kept on knocking/banging on that door. "I tell you though he is his friend he will not rise and give him." FRIENDSHIP DOESN'T COUNT IN INTERCESSORY PRAYING. Friendship would count in some kinds of praying. But INTERCESSORY PRAYING IS DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER KIND OF PRAYING. Not because of friendship but because of his importunity, persistence, stubborn to the point of having no shame about it. Do you ever pray like that? It is attitude that gets hold of God and says I am going to hang on until you bless me.
Why do we have to be stubborn and persistence in our praying? Because the enemy always opposes the answer to our praying. Therefore, we must be stubborn (Daniel 10:10). A good illustration is when Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord. The sun came up and the angel of the Lord said "Let me go." I can't perceive of a man being stronger than an angel. Something is really not right about that incident. If that angel wanted to be loosed, he could have been. Do you believe that Jacob was stronger than the angel? I don't. I believe the FIGHT WAS FIXED. I believe the angel was saying "let me go" and under his breath saying "I hope you don't because if you hang on a little bit longer, I'm going to bless you." God wants us to come with the attitude "Father, I'm coming in the name of Jesus. I have this burden on my heart. I want to see revival in my home. I want my children to be right with you. I want this person to be saved. I'm not leaving your presence until you give me the answer." DARING! STUBBORN!
3. Most of all it must be daring in its sacrifice. The most significant part of this parable is that the man identified himself with the other man's need. This man wasn't hungry. He didn't have bread because they had eaten it. They had exhausted the day's supply. He was full--satisfied--not hungry. Yet, a friend of his drops by on his way to another place and he hasn't had anything to eat. Most of us would have said "You're the one who is hungry, you go knock on doors. You go out making neighbors mad at you. You go begging bread. You're the one that's hungry." But notice what this man did. He sacrificed his own feelings, his own leisure, his own comfort because HE IDENTIFIED HIMSELF WITH HIS FRIEND'S PROBLEM.
A man who was not hungry went begging bread. THIS IS INTERCESSORY PRAYING!
It is the man who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior in his life that goes before God in intercessory prayer.
John Knox praying--"God give me Scotland, or I'll die."
Praying Hyde praying all day and all night that God would give him souls in India...acting as though his own salvation depended upon it.
This man identified himself with his friend's needs. Right here is where so many people drop out of intercessory praying. The essence of intercession is identification. If I am to intercede, it means I AM TO IDENTIFY MYSELF WITH THIS PERSON'S NEED just as this man identified himself with his friend's need for bread. You would have thought he was the one who was starving. "He was numbered with the transgressors." What did Jesus do? Why was He baptized of John in Jordan? When John saw Jesus coming and Jesus said "John, I want you to baptize me." John said "No Lord, I need to be baptized by you." Why did John react that way? Because when a person came to be baptized by John he was confessing he was sinful. It was obvious to John that JESUS HAD NO SIN TO CONFESS--therefore, he said "No, I need to be baptized of you." Jesus said "No, I want you to baptize me." What was the significance of the baptism of Jesus? Jesus identified Himself with sinners. That is intercession.
Listen to one of the most marvelous prayers prayed by a man named Moses: "And Moses returned unto the Lord and said, 'O this people have sinned a great sin and have made them gods of gold, yet now if you wilt forgive their sin and if not [notice this] blot me I pray thee out of Thy book which Thou hast written'" (Exodus 32:31). What was Moses doing? He was interceding. Do you know why? HE WAS IDENTIFYING HIMSELF WITH HIS PEOPLE. "God I want you to forgive this people of their sin, but if you cannot forgive them, I want you to blot me out with them. I want you to take my name out of the book which you have written." I just cannot understand COMPASSION and INTERCESSION like that, but that is exactly what intercession is.
Paul says the same thing and we need to take him seriously. He is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So what he writes is the truth. "I say the truth in Christ. I lie not. My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost. That I have great heaviness and continual [sacrifice] sorrow in my heart for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren--my kinsmen--according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1). THAT IS INTERCESSION. Identifying.
The law of spiritual harvest is: "If a grain of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it brings forth much fruit; if it doesn't die it abideth alone" (John 12). Christians are you abiding alone as far as your spiritual harvest is concerned? You have no harvest of lost souls to present to the Father. You're the seed, but you're abiding alone. Are you abiding alone? If you are, it is because you haven't died. IF IT DOESN'T DIE, IT ABIDETH ALONE. BUT IF IT DIES, IT BRINGETH FORTH MUCH FRUIT. Right there is the law of spiritual harvest. Paul said the same thing: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our body for we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake [NOW NOTICE] that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal flesh" (II Corinthians 4:10-12). Look at verse 12 the capstone "And so then death worketh in us, but life in you." Don't miss that. That is the law of spiritual harvest. Paul says that "death is working in us so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in you so then death all the time is working in me but life in you."
Every time somebody is saved, it is because somebody somewhere has died to themselves--their ambitions, luxuries, leisure time, and their fleshly interests. WHEN ZION TRAVAILS, SHE BRINGS FORTH A CHILD. So when some boy or girl, some man or woman, walks down an aisle and confesses faith in Christ, somebody died for that. It may be a mother somewhere, a grandparent--even years ago. Death worketh in us so that life worketh in you. The law of spiritual harvest--hear and listen--GOD SAYS THERE'LL BE NO LIFE UNTIL THERE'S DEATH. God never changes His rules, they are fixed and they are firm.
Until you and I are willing to take on ourselves VOLUNTARY DEATH to our own amusements, ambitions, plans, our own will--God cannot give us spiritual harvest. If we are willing to die to financial advantage, to worldly pleasures, to something that means a great deal to us--just die to ourselves and our own interests then we have the right to CLAIM AND RECEIVE THE HARVEST OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
The following story is a good illustration of this point. In a revival at First Baptist Church, Bowlegs OK one night a young woman walked down the aisle. Obviously she had been crying much that day. Her eyes were red and swollen. "For years I have been praying for my father and nothing has happened. He has never been saved. He has never been touched. His heart is still hard. Today I was washing dishes and praying 'Lord, save my father. Lord, whatever it takes, save my father.' The Lord said 'would you be willing to die physically for the salvation of your father? Would you be willing to give your life?'" That young lady was walking down the aisle to say she had told God whatever it took if her life--to get her dad saved--if her funeral would break his heart--she had told God that she was willing to die. BEFORE THE WEEK WAS OVER, THE FATHER WAS SAVED. Nobody had told her that was intercession but that is intercession.
We should long for God to show us this more and more. It is still somewhat a mystery about which many know little--but there is that area of Christian ministry--the ministry of intercession--that we can voluntarily take the position of intercessor--IDENTIFY WITH THAT PERSON FOR WHOM WE ARE PRAYING AND COME TO THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE--WILLING TO DIE TO SELF. Whatever God lays upon the heart in order to claim and receive spiritual harvest. Once we do that we have the right to BOLDLY DEMAND GOD TO GIVE THE HARVEST, BECAUSE HE KEEPS HIS WORD.
Intercessory praying must be definite praying
Most of us do not have our prayers answered because we are not definite and specific. We pray vaguely, generally. Vague prayers are not answered because it is an indication of FAITHLESSNESS. It doesn't take any faith to pray vaguely. For instance, in an evangelistic campaign we pray "Lord, save the lost", and if anybody is saved that week we say "God answered my prayer." Are we afraid to say "Lord, I want you to do something in the live of so and so (name)", that takes more faith. If we pray in this manner then we will know if God answered. Praying ought to be definite, specific. You spell out exactly what you want God to do
Intercessory praying must be desperate praying
Intercessory prayer must have a sense of urgency. This entire parable breathes of a sense of urgency. This man had to have bread NOW. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer. The ministry of intercession comes upon those that are desperate. Praying, Lord, it must happen; I must have this soul; I must see this deliverance; God, I'm desperate--that's urgency. When you get to the point of desperation, that is when God can move.
In the closing verses of this parable there are three reasons why we ought to be desperate.
1. Because of our inescapable responsibility. "A friend of mine in his journey HAS COME TO ME." It was the custom in those days if a fellow came to your door you had to take care of him. You were obliged to take care of him. My inescapable responsibility. This fellow had come to ME!
Now there are a great many Christians who are trying to shift their responsibility. There are some parents who are not providing the right spiritual atmosphere in their homes and they are shifting the responsibility to the church. God has given the child to the parents--not to the church--not to a pastor. The child is theirs and their responsibility.
You often hear "Would you go visit, God has laid this person on my heart." If God has given you the burden, it is your responsibility. That is the reason that the burden was placed on your heart. You go. The needs of your children, extended families, and neighbors ought to make you desperate in prayer.
2. Because of our inadequate resources. "And I have nothing to set before him." This is certainly a picture of most of us. "Lord, I have nothing to set before them. Desperate. I don't know what to do about my teenage boy, he is my responsibility, but I'm inadequate. I have nothing to set before him. I see he's drifting into the world and I've done everything I know to do. Lord, I'm desperate." Inadequate resources.
3. Because of His inevitable reward. "He will arise and give him AS MANY AS HE NEEDED." To know we can come to God in a desperate situation and lay before God our inescapable responsibility and our inadequate resources and be assured of His inevitable reward--that should make us want to pray. He will give us everything we need.
Why should we go away from God empty-handed? He has it all and He wants to share it with us--if we are willing to take the place of intercession. Are we willing? Are we willing to say LORD, I WANT YOU TO POUR OUT UPON ME THE SPIRIT OF INTERCESSION. I'm willing to let you love somebody through my heart. I'm willing for you to bring someone on their journey of life to me. I will accept them as my inescapable responsibility. I will identify myself with their needs. I'll be stubborn and persistent in prayer until the answer comes.
The first time I preached this sermon was on December 24, 1961 (when I was twenty-six years old) and the last time was on September 2, 1979. Between those two dates, I delivered it fifteen other times for a total of seventeen. Several times, this was my first message in a pastorate.
My introductory 1961 words follow: As we come to the first Sunday of our work together, permit me to say a few personal things. We are glad to be with you folks. We have come to do the work of the Lord and be a blessing. Call on us anytime you need us and we will come to you. There will be times when we will weep together; there will be times when we will laugh together. I ask for your patience as we become adjusted to the work and seek to formulate a program of work that will not only be a help to those already saved, but will seek to win those who are not saved. I'm going to expect each member to do his very best in these days. Pray for me. There is no substitute for prayer. I'm an old-time Bible believing preacher. I believe in a heart-felt experience with God that will transform a person's life. If anyone feels like shouting in my services, let him shout as long as he walks straight for the Lord when he hits the ground.
Although my work is a teaching ministry today thirty-six years later, my respect for the Word and the work of a local church remain constant. The main points in the sermon which deal with definite needs in a Christian's life are as relevant today as then. Unfortunately, few Christians are prayed for regularly by anyone. My suggestion is that each one who reads Sermon Eleven will read it in the light of praying for fellow believers, especially those in your own family and in your church.
Subject: A Prayer for Christians
Text: Colossians 1:1-12
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae: Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you. Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which ye have to all the saints. For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof we heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you since the day ye heard of it, and know the grace of God in truth: As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:".
The apostle Paul was an intercessor. The expression which described his praying was "striving in prayer" (Romans 15:30; Colossians 2:1-2, 4:12) which literally means to the point of exhaustion. He not only won men, women, boys and girls to the Lord Jesus Christ, he provided prayer support for them. As he wrote letters to the churches, he let them know not only that he was praying for them, but the content of his praying.
In our text we find Paul's prayer for the members of the church at Colossae. Paul was in prison in Rome and the occasion of his writing this church at Colossae was a visit to him by Epaphras who seems to have been the founder of the church. He wanted Paul's advice. From him Paul learned all about the condition of the Colossian church: their faith in Jesus Christ, their love to all the saints as well, and that a "dangerous heresy" was making headway in the church. Christ was demoted to the same category of a number of other deities. Subsequently, the theme of the epistle was designed to counter the heresy. The theme was "The Deity and all-sufficiency of Christ."
In verses 9,10,11, we find Paul's prayer for the members of the church at Colossae. Paul's prayers are marvelous and outstanding. No part of his letters are so illustrious, so full of his own soul and passion. We find he was anxious for all the saved ones--all ages, all degrees of Christian maturity. In his prayer, he has in mind very definite needs. Let us note the three major petitions which indicate he has in mind very definite needs for which he is praying.
Be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9). This is a prayer for deeper spiritual knowledge, for deeper spiritual insight and understanding of God's will. This knowledge, insight, and understanding comes by knowing God better. Was this not what Moses desired? God was calling him to a special task of service--and Moses said "I don't even know your name." Be sure God will reveal Himself more fully to the one who desires better understanding. This is as true today as it was in Exodus 3:13.
Knowing God better is the antidote for all problems and faults facing a church today. Problems aren't solved by having greater numbers in attendance, building a new building, getting a new pastor, or increasing the budget. When believers LEARN MORE ABOUT GOD and GAIN GREATER SPIRITUAL INSIGHT--all other things will follow. Knowing God's will brings spiritual insights. His will is revealed in the written Word of God. The knowledge needed is not hidden, but is laid out in the Bible. Without a knowledge of the Bible, we can never know God's thoughts, His intentions, and His will. Christian convictions must be based on the Word. God's Word is inspired, God-breathed. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). In His Sermon on the Mount, He said that not one jot or one tittle of His Word will pass away. How little we know the Bible which has produced confusion and ignorance throughout the Christian world. Our starting place in learning about God's will comes from the Bible. Our marching orders are from the Bible--not from any other source.
In June, 1896, two fast passenger trains met on the same track near New York City. Twenty-eight were killed in the terrible wreck. Amid the cries and groans of the wounded and dying, someone saw the engineer from one of the trains lying pinned under his burning engine waving a yellow piece of paper with his last strength. His dying words were: "Someone gave me the wrong orders."
We need more Christians convictions and understanding about great truths revealed in the Word:
1. About being born again
All are lost without Christ. Men by nature are sinners. In Genesis 3, God told Adam that he would die if he ate the forbidden fruit. He did not die physically; he did not die as a person. But he did die. His spirit died to God when he sinned. Everyone born since Adam has been born dead to God because of Adam's sin. Man is separated from God because of sin. He is a spiritual rebel against God.
In the newspapers awhile ago came the story from California of three young boys, ages six, seven, and nine, killing their father and lying in wait for the mother to return from the grocery store to kill her. Her screams, upon seeing her husband and their father, frightened them and they ran away and hid. When apprehended and asked why they did their deed, they said, "Dad was punishing us for breaking in a garage down the street. We decided to kill our parents and run this house to suit ourselves." This is what has happened in our own hearts. We want to run our lives to suit ourselves.
Jesus said to Nicodemus--"Ye must be born again; except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Jesus explains the two births--physical and spiritual. The new birth occurs when a person trusts Jesus Christ as personal Savior. That which was dead to God becomes alive to God. The Holy Spirit moves into the person's spirit and he is born again!
"For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). For by GRACE are ye saved through faith--and that not of yourselves--it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible's short formula for salvation is found in Acts 20:21 "Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD, AND FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST." No one enters the kingdom of God without this second birth--no one is a candidate for membership in a local church until he is saved. Faith does not save a person. Rather, faith gets the person to Christ and He saves when the person trusts Him. If you have yet to do this, my prayer is that you will do it today.
2. About the Lordship of Christ
Upon conversion, Jesus is to be the Lord of one's life and not just Savior. The plain truth--JESUS IS LORD became the basic faith of the early Christians. Three names were uppermost on their lips, sometimes singly, sometimes together:
a. He was Jesus--a name that identified Him as man.
b. He was Christ--a name that expressed faith in Him as the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.
c. He was Lord--a name which proclaimed faith in His divine nature. Lord means owner and ruler with the right to command.
A Christian will not do God's will until he recognizes that Jesus must become His Lord. Our Bible tells us of two gardens. Let us look at them.
1. The garden of Eden. "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed" (Genesis 2:8). In the garden of Eden man prayed, not with lip but with life, "Father, not Thy will, but mine be done." God had made very clear His wish for the behavior of Adam and Eve. The time came, however, in which the desire of man and woman in Eden was at cross-purposes with the will of God. And in this CONFLICT OF WILLS, the created chose their own ways and not the Creator's way; and in its train came SEPARATION, SUFFERING, SORROW, AND HEARTACHE--LIFEBREAK.
2. The garden of Gethsemane. "When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Kedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples" (John 18:1). In the garden, Jesus literally prayed, "Father, not my will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). "If Thou be willing, remove this cup from me, NEVERTHELESS". When personal preference and God's will were in CONFLICT, Christ chose God's will. On the heels of that prayer came SALVATION FOR MEN'S SOULS, RECONCILIATION TO GOD, AND TRANSFORMATION OF LIFE--INFINITE GOOD TO ALL AREAS OF HUMAN LIFE.
Though these two gardens are far removed in time from the day in which we live; we go into one of these gardens at decision-making time. IN EVERY INSTANCE IN WHICH OUR WILLS ARE IN CONFLICT WITH THE WILL OF GOD, if the FINAL CHOICE is our will instead of God's will, the decision is a GARDEN OF EDEN DECISION. If the FINAL CHOICE is to accept God's clear will, despite possible great agony of spirit in the consideration, we have made a GETHSEMANE DECISION. "And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). When we make Him absolute LORD of our lives--we will seek to do the things He commands.
3. About walking in the Spirit
The will of God for every believer is that he be SPIRIT-FILLED which means controlled by the Holy Spirit. When one is saved, the Holy Spirit moves into his spirit. But just because He is resident, does not make Him president! For most of us, we live our lives with self on the throne. The analogy for Spirit-filled is laid out in Ephesians 5:18 which is to contrast the Spirit-filled person with a drunk whose walk and talk are influenced by the drink that is in him. He is controlled by the drink. We are to be influenced and controlled by the Holy Spirit who is in us. When we surrender and yield to Him, Jesus becomes the Lord of our lives. We will then walk in the Spirit, not the flesh. People will see Jesus in us as the fruit of the Spirit, which is love (Galatians 5:22-23).
4. About the local church
In a sense, there is a universal church made up of all saved people characterized as the body of Christ. Of the 116 times, however, that the word church is mentioned in the New Testament, the reference is to a local body of baptized believers organized to carry out the work of the Lord Jesus Christ as His body on earth. Our concern is that the members of this local church will be filled with the knowledge of God's will and will do it.
Who is the HEAD OF THE LOCAL CHURCH? Our Lord. We need to get our marching orders from Him. Every member is just as important AS ANY OTHER PERSON. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit--not our own selfish ambitions--we can move!
The Bible must be preached and explained by the man who stands in the pulpit. The cry of the people--"Is there any Word from the Lord" as it was in Jeremiah 37:17. Preaching the UNDILUTED WORD helps bring SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT.
Jesus must be exalted in the church. In a beautiful home in a well-furnished bedroom on one wall was a faded, life preserver. It was ugly and very distracting. But the owner said, "This is not an ordinary one. It kept me afloat for 10 hours. I look at that the last thing each night and the first thing in the morning that I might be grateful." We need to keep Jesus before us that we might have the spiritual understanding and insight we need. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.
To be sure, we have many great churches today. But the devil spends more time in the churches than anywhere else. Deadens them! His real center of attack: church buildings have become chancelized; sermons intellectualized; music sterilized; services ritualized; evangelism paralyzed; missions penalized; and sinfulness of sin minimized. The early Christians were known for their poverty and power; while too many of our modern churches are known for their wealth and weakness. We live in an age of guided missiles and misguided men.
Bear genuine Christian fruit
"We also pray that YOUR OUTWARD LIVES, which men see, may bring credit to your Master's Name, and that you may bring joy to His heart by BEARING GENUINE CHRISTIAN FRUIT, that your knowledge of God may grow yet deeper" (Colossians 1:10, Phillips). The need of the hour is for Christians to let lights shine and to live right lives! No wonder the world stands off many times when they look at the church. "Seeing then all these things shall be dissolved WHAT MANNER OF PERSONS OUGHT WE TO BE" (II Peter 3:11)?
Perhaps you heard of the little boy who heard the clock strike 16 times. Certainly it was in need of repair. The boy commented to his father "It never has been this late before." While it is not ours to know "the times or the seasons which the Father hath put into His own power," we do know we are living in critical days.
Maybe you have heard of the lad studying geography while his dad was reading the evening paper. The boy asked his father "Dad, what's the shape of the world?" Without even glancing up from the paper, the father replied, "About the worst shape I ever saw." How the devil is working in the world today! He is deceiving countless millions! Materialism is reigning here in the United States. It is reported that Gandhi said: "I would be a Christian if it were not for Christians."
We must be CONSISTENT in our walk. We cannot afford to be inconsistent. Lost people had rather "see" a sermon than "hear" one. OUR CHURCHES NEED DISCIPLES MORE THAN MEMBERS. We need to walk like The King's children.
We are to bear fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ. The fruit of a Christian is another Christian. Like kind bears like kind. "A true witness deliverth souls" (Proverbs 14:25). Very few TRY to win souls. We seek to visit in homes but many times do not try to win people to the Lord. Everyone is either a soul-winner or a soul-loser. Many sit in the grandstands when they need to be down on the field playing. It was said when Jesus returned to His throne following the completion of His earthly ministry that Gabriel and a vast army of angels gathered to welcome Him home. Gabriel, serving as spokesman for the group inquired, "Lord, did your mission to earth have the success you had anticipated?" "Everything went off just as it had been planned by the Father," Jesus is alleged to have replied. "But what plans have you made for making the message of salvation known to the rest of the world?" The Lord answered--"I have entrusted that task to my disciples on the earth," "But Lord, what if your disciples should fail you?" was logically the next inquiry, "Well if my disciples should fail me, I have no other plan" Jesus concluded. This emphasizes a very important truth: Christ expects each one of us who has been saved to tell all our unsaved relatives and friends about Him that they too may be saved. Our Lord never intended that pastors and missionaries be the only ones to tell the lost about the Savior.
Power for the task
"May He strengthen you, in His GLORIOUS MIGHT, with AMPLE POWER to meet whatever comes with fortitude, patience and joy" (verse 11, The New English Bible)
God has made provision for us to have the strength and power to do His work. The root word translated power is the same for dynamite (Acts 1:8). While Jesus wanted His followers to witness to others about the gospel which is the good news about the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus for our sins (2 Corinthians 15:1-4) He told them to wait until the Holy Spirit came. He would be the power needed.
God makes available to His people the same power which raised Jesus from death. We cannot get along without God's power. Once a newspaper reporter asked William Booth what was wrong with the world--the great old man replied, "The world has tried to get along without God, and it simply can't be done."
When a church relies upon organization--we get what organization can do. When we rely upon eloquence--we get what eloquence can do. When a person relies upon money--we get what money can do. When we rely upon prayer--we get what God can do. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 'All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.' Amen" (Matthew 28: 18-20).
The bigness of the task before us sometimes seems too great for us. "Righteous art Thou O Lord, when I plead with Thee, yet let me talk with Thee of Thy judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously" (Jeremiah 12:1)? Don't fret! God has great power. A woman who could not keep a pet because she was too poor--kept a plant in her window. She wanted to remember that God was near and at work. God's power is available according to our capacity to receive it. The CLEAN, CONSECRATED VESSEL, God can use.
Can He use us? Will we yield to Him? In an art gallery in the city of Venice, there is a wondrous picture in which a beautiful young woman stands facing a figure of Christ as the artist had conceived Christ. In her hand suspended between her own head and Christ's head--she holds a golden crown. Underneath the picture is written the single question in Italian--"WHOSE HEAD?". This is the supreme question. It always has been. It always will be for you, for me. It is the SUPREME QUESTION OF THE HOUR now.
WHOSE HEAD SHALL WEAR THE CROWN OF OUR LIFE? Ours? Or Christ's? There is a CROSS in every life. There is a CROWN in every life. Christ must have either the cross or the crown. And we will put the crown upon His head or we will put upon Him the cross. We will seize the crown and refuse the cross for ourselves or REFUSE THE CROWN AND TAKE THE CROSS THAT JESUS MAY HAVE THE CROWN. Which will we do?
Mutual prayer support
Paul is the only New Testament writer to ask prayers of others in his behalf. Paul believed beyond a shadow of doubt in the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. As we work hand in hand and heart with heart--pastor and people, let us pray for one another. I pledge I will pray for you. Will you pledge you will pray for me? As we pray for one another, we can trust God to bring success to our labors.
I want to share a Christmas message first delivered on December 24, 1961, when I was twenty-six years old. Actually, the points are most relevant to contemporary believers as never before due to the increased secularization of society at the Christmas season.
You might remember that I customarily spoke from extensive notes, which means that I have several hundred messages on file. I recorded where the sermon was delivered, the date, and any visible fruit. My notations indicate that I preached the message thirteen times between 1961 and 1982. During the invitation at the end of the services, three were saved including two mothers. One was Wilma Marcum (Mrs. Bud), who was saved December 13, 1964 at Kerby Knob Baptist Church, my Kentucky mountain pastorate of seven years. Wilma is an accomplished pianist who faithfully serves the Lord at Kerby Knob. Several members of her family were saved, including one son who went home to be with the Lord through an automobile accident.
It was there at Kerby Knob that the Lord impressed upon me to close a service by reminding those present, "It's your move!" Those in a prayer seminar will recall the last overhead used reminds us of that fact based on Rabe Clemon's comment when he was sitting at a checkerboard with a game in progress, just waiting. When asked why, he said, "Pastor, I'm playing with Jack. Jack had to get up and wait on a customer. It's Jack's move. I'm waiting for Jack to make his move." As I drove on to the meeting house for the "meeting" that night, the Holy Spirit reminded me to close services with invitations. I'm glad I have done that faithfully down through the years. Only Heaven will reveal the impact of the preaching of His Word. We need to remember that any single service could be the difference in Heaven or Hell for some listener. We need to pray and preach with that truth in mind.
Subject: A Right Christmas
Text: Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:11
"And she shall bring a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins."
"Unto you is born this day . . . a Saviour which is Christ the Lord."
It is an interesting experience to observe the reaction of people to the Christian season. To children, Christmas means presents, trees, toys, lights, Santa Claus and stories about Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem. To youth it means special parties, social events and entertainment. To adults it means shopping, writing cards, wrapping presents, decorating homes, paying bills, and working extra hours. To the business man, it represents increased sales to bring the highest profit possible. Christmas means many things to many people according to their background, age and interest.
What does Christmas mean to you? To some it means a visit home. To some it means a sad memory as they look over the past year and think of the loved ones who have been called home since last Christmas. To others it means revelry. They talk about Christmas liquor and connect whiskey with the Name of the Saviour. To millions of people it means nothing. They do not know Jesus. December 25th is just another day.
But Christmas and what it represents means everything to the real Christian. It means that God loves him with all His heart. It means that God has regarded his lost condition and has done something about it. It means God has given the best gift the world has ever known and that the Saviour is born: to set an example with His life, to die for our sins, to be raised for our justification, to ascend on high and make intercession for him, to give him the hope of His coming again to gather all believers unto Himself.
Christmas means to the Christian that he has a Companion for life--a Friend in the hour of death--a loving Brother for eternity.
Now--if we are to have a RIGHT CHRISTMAS, certain ingredients must be placed into that Christmas. By following the Gospel story, which never grows old, we can identify the essentials and include them in our celebration.
A right Christmas includes three symbols which encompass the real meaning of Christmas
A. The first symbol is that of a cradle. The Bible says that God was manifest in the flesh: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).
God in a cradle! God in human flesh! In the person of a tiny infant! The words are so familiar to us all, "And Mary brought forth her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger" (Matthew 1:21). This marked the greatest event the world has ever known. His name "Immanuel" means "God with us.'
There have been rumors that men from outer space have visited our earth; but a recent government report says there is no evidence that anyone from outer space has ever set foot upon the earth. That government report overlooked the one exception: "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). Yes, the world has had a visitor from outer space. He is God of very God. The mighty God of creation once came and walked in human flesh on this earth.
Cradled in the manger in Bethlehem were the hopes and dreams of a dying world. Those chubby little hands which clasped the straw in His manger crib were soon to open blinded eyes, unstop deaf ears, and still the troubled seas. That cooing voice was soon to be lifted to command demons to depart, to teach men of the Way, and to raise the dead. Those tiny feet were to take Him to the sick and needy and were finally to be pierced on Calvary's cross.
This manger crib in remote Bethlehem became the link that bound a lost world to a loving God. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Christmas means God is interested in the affairs of man. Christmas indicates He loves us, so much He was willing to give His Son.
The real happiness of Christmas is not pagan joy generated by the exchanging of gifts but the fact of the Incarnation, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.
"And all things are of God, Who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
B. The second symbol that throws real light on the meaning of Christmas is the Cross.
It is impossible to celebrate the birth of Christ without thinking of the Cross. There was both light and shadows that first Christmas. There was joy with overtones of sadness, for Jesus was born to die. Jesus, approaching the cross, said, "Unto this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world" (John 18:37).
All that Christ did on earth was incidental to His crowning act of redemption on Golgotha's brow.
To Christians the joy of Christmas is not limited to His birth, gloriously supernatural as that was, because He was virgin born. It is built even more on the triumph of His death and resurrection. It was His death and resurrection that gave meaning to His birth.
One of the ideals of Christmas is that of sacrificial love. The real reason for exchanging gifts at Christmas, whether we realize it or not, is because the Spirit of sacrificial love permeates this holy day. He gave Himself; we thus give of ourselves. He died for all; we thus give sacrificially to those we love. The mysterious spirit of generosity which possesses us all at Christmas is the afterglow of Calvary. As we exchange our gifts on Christmas morning let us remember they are symbolic of the unspeakable gift of God's love.
Another ideal of Christmas is good will. The good will the angels spoke of did not come immediately after His birth. Herod hated Him, and sought His life. The Pharisees gnashed upon Him, and tried to kill Him. Men went on hating, marauding and murdering, but after His death, strange things began to happen in the lives of His followers. Peter no more took up a sword in anger. Saul no longer persecuted the followers of Christ, but himself was persecuted, beaten and imprisoned for the Lord.
C. The third symbol that helps us to understand the meaning of Christmas is a Crown.
Some years ago it was announced a $5,000 crib was made for a baby prince born into one of Europe's royal families. A jeweled crib for a human child, but a manger of straw for the Prince of heaven.
"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder" (Isaiah 9:6). He was born in a manger, He lived in the fields, He slept in an olive grove, He was crowned with a crown of thorns and enthroned upon a cruel cross. Little did those who mocked Him with the superscription realize in a few short hours He would indeed be King over hell and the grave.
A right Christmas includes making room for Jesus
Someone said that the Christmas story is the story of God seeking a room. The inn-keeper is a symbol of those today who have no room for Jesus. The room He seeks today is in our hearts. If our hearts and lives are filled with sin--then Christ cannot come in. This means not only sins of the flesh but sins of the disposition. Envy, hate, unforgiveness.
What a wonderful thing if on Christmas morning we could cast every evil thing out of our hearts and in repentance and confession receive His forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).
The story is told of a captain of a whaling boat going to church one Sunday morning. The preacher talked to him later and learned that the sermon had made absolutely no impression upon him. "To tell you the truth, sir," replied the captain, "I was thinking about where I could likely find my next whale. I have no room in my heart for anything else but whales."
Is it true of you? Is your heart so full of other things there is no room for Jesus?
As we travel along the highway, we see signs at motels bellowing out "No Vacancy." As far as Jesus is concerned, many have hung out the same sign. He has no place in government circles or in halls of learning. He has been ruled out by decrees from our courts, beginning with the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. Sadly enough, he has no part of the affairs in the average households in America.
John declares, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to become sons of God, even to those that believe in His name which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13).
A right Christmas includes worship
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a wonderful miracle of nature took place. The Heavens opened and an angel came down and announced to a group of shepherds on a Judean hillside, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:11-12) . Immediately a multitude of the heavenly host joined with the angel praising God. The shepherds in haste went to town, found the baby, knelt before Him, and worshipped Him.
If you and I are to have a Right Christmas, we must make time to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We, too, need to come with haste and bow down before Him in love. Adoration is simply looking at Him and loving Him. He is worthy.
It is said that Longfellow could take a worthless sheet of paper and write a poem on it worth $6,000. Rockefeller could sign his name to a check and it was worth millions. A mechanical engineer can take $5 worth of materials and make it worth $105. An artist can take an inexpensive piece of canvas and paint a picture on it which, in future years, will be worth thousands of dollars. And God can take a worthless, sinful life, wash it clean in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, put His Spirit into it, and make that life a blessing to the world.
But even God cannot accomplish this miracle unless He is given a chance. If we come, as did the shepherds, to Him, kneel before, surrender, and let Him have His way in us, He will make our lives beautiful indeed. He is ready to receive our worship now.
A man was brought to a great clinic for an operation to remove his cancerous tongue in order to save his life. As a large group of professors and students looked on, the surgeon said, "This will be the last opportunity for you to form words with your tongue. Would you like to say anything before the operation?" The man, looking up into the faces of those around him, cried out: "Praise be to Jesus Christ throughout all eternity." Oh, that we might feel that way about Him and give Him proper recognition from our hearts.
A right Christmas includes the grace of giving
More than anything else, Christmas is about the greatest Gift which has even been given to anyoneâ€”God gave His Son (John 3:16). One of the stories associated with the early childhood of Jesus was the coming of the wise men from Persia. "And when they came into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him, they presented unto Him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11).
In Persia, the Magi were honored as royalty, and their gifts were appropriate for another King. The gold indicated Christ's future reign, a gift fit for a king. Frankincense portrayed Christ's priestly intercession for them. Myrrh pictured Christ's coming death for them.
Each gift was a gift of value. We know more about the Lord Jesus Christ than they did. He has done more for us than He did for them. Are we bringing gifts to Him? In talking about Macedonian believers who gave abundantly out of their poverty and dire need, Paul observed, "And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 8:5). Are we giving ourselves to Him? Are we giving Him our time, our talents, and our money?
Jesus is giving all that He has for you and me. You and I would be on the road to hell if He had not given Himself and His own blood for our redemption. Yet we look at church attendance and find hundreds of believers who have not given one hour to Jesus during the past year. We look at the financial records, and find that hundreds have not given a penny in the past twelve months.
A right Christmas includes the matter of telling others about Jesus
The shepherds are our models. "And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child ... the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for the things they had heard and seen" (Luke 2:17-20) .
When John introduced his Gospel, he pointed out that men were in darkness and Jesus came as the Light. Men are still in darkness. You and I know what they need because we have found the remedy ourselves. Each person needs Jesus who can do far more for them than they can imagine. If we take the message of Christ to them, many of them will believe and will never be the same again.
When Syria besieged Samaria long ago, conditions were so desperate that those inside the city walls were starving. There were four lepers outside the city walls because of their physical condition. At one point, "they said to one another, Why sit here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die" (2 Kings 7:3-4) . When they rose up in the twilight and went to they camp, they were amazed at what they found. God had intervened. The soldiers had fled their tents leaving behind their bounties--including abundant food supplies.
The lepers ate and drank. "Then they said one to another, we do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: " (v 9). You can imagine what good news it was for those dying in the city to learn that provisions were now available for their deliverance.
There is a plan for the spread of the Gospel and that is for us to be witnesses. Success in witnessing is sharing the story of the Lord Jesus Christ and then leaving the results up to Him.
The story is told of a Senator in Washington who hosted a dinner for the Ambassador from Belgium. His elderly father, who was a devoted Christian, lived with him and often spoke to those around him about Jesus. Prior to the occasion, the son warned his father not to offend the special guest by mentioning Jesus. When he came downstairs and was introduced, however, he spoke to the Ambassador about his salvation. Quickly, he apologized to his son and retreated to his room quite ashamed at what he had done. Sometime later, the old man died. One wreath stood out with a message from the Ambassador to Belgium: "In Memory of the only man in America who spoke to me about my soul."
One day, life will be over for us or Jesus will come and take us home. After hearing one of her chaplains preach at Windsor on the second coming of Christ, Queen Victoria exclaimed: "O how I wish the Lord would come during my lifetime." When some inquired why, she responded: "Because I should so love to lay the Crown of England at His feet."
Two small children, with their mother, were looking into a department store show window at a Christmas scene. Shepherds were kneeling about a rustic cradle. Mary was sitting beside the cradle with a smile of contentment on her face as she rocked the cradle.
As the mother moved her children away, in dismay, the little girl said to her younger brother, "They forgot to put the baby Jesus in the Cradle!"
There is no true Christmas without Jesus. Christmas is His birthday. Let us all acknowledge the meaning of Christmas is His birth, His death and resurrection, and His coming again--a cradle, a cross, and a crown. Let us make room in our hearts for Him. Let us come before Him with worship and with our gifts. Let's leave determined to tell others the Gospel story. Only then will we have a Right Christmas.