AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
Luke 1-2, the
Bona Fides of the Babe
and the Good Faith of the Believer
Last Sunday before Christmas 2004
You can make up a new religion, but it will be yours, not God's; and it will have neither the antiquity nor the power over the ages, to meet the case for man, whose sin has from the first been a rupture and a confrontation with God. This led to death from which salvation alone can deliver, and since God knows His own mind from the first, this meant that the word concerning salvation was issued first in Eden (Genesis 3:15). Otherwise, there would be nothing but devastation of a reviling and revolting race; but God chose mercy not desolation, and to become desolate on the Cross, in order to be just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus the Messiah (cf. Romans 3:26).
The religion of God is for export, not import, and the export is ACCORDING to the covenant, not into some other pseudo-divine realm with its own laws, ways, thoughts and ... mode of entry. It does not matter what Mecca, Moscow, Rome or Jerusalem do to Christ: God has commissioned the Cross once, but no more (Hebrews 9-10).
Moreover, Moses WITH the 10 commandments, set much more than rules (though not less). When these were given, they were already in the context of the historic revelation of God in Eden (Genesis 3:15), which he recorded from the mind of God, just as our first parents de-registered from the grace of God.
It is this God, not some concoction of culture, who has acted, provided, appealed and delivered, and it is He who in the first commandment is to be worshipped. The 10 commandments are not for sale. From the beginning to the last, the Bible deals with one Lord, always revealed, and declared from the first.
Thus the 10 commandments are but PART of a texture which is NOT to be added to nor departed from in any point (cf. Deuteronomy 4, 12). As in the Old Testament with its promise FROM THE FIRST of the divine deliverance through one to come to this earth as a man (Gen. 3:15), to His actual arrival, the seething air of a sordid humanity has been enlightened with shafts of a sunshine which has healing in its wings, and has come direct in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Hence when at last His time came, as predicted precisely by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27, there were extraordinary events. As D-day in 1944 was the beginning of the end for the dictatorship of Hitler, so AD-day, the landing not in Normanby, but in Bethlehem, was the beginning of the end for the Age which, filled with grace, would end filled with the ruin for its neglect, the overthrow of the occupying regime and the reign of Christ. Meanwhile, since there is NO OTHER WAY, what you do with that way is crucial. The world has foozled, bungled and disbelieved so well and for so long with such magnificent folly, believing in inert matter, law without legislation and vitality without source, as if magic were over-active even in mature adults, that its desperate hopes are constantly frustrated. These, like broken wings, are so far off that it is like trying to believe in the Third Reich after Hitler had committed suicide.
Man's suicide by disbelieving in his Creator, his Saviour, in the revelation of God in the Bible, in the redemption of Jesus Christ, his Lord, is becoming a messy affair. Since mankind has become so many, there are millions who have been ruined in the recent past, in jihad, world war, Pacific Island war, Balkans war, African war, horrible unholy war, wearing its fraud on its grasping face, in war on the environment by foolish industrial practices, on youth by magical naturalistic teaching, on children by foolish indiscipline, and on life by quashing its true ideals. Instead the world is intent on inventing flimsy things that do not work: and of all this, there is so much that the world is drowning in its own day-dreams and their atrocious outcomes. We will overcome! they chant; but they will not because they cannot, because the mockery of God is not paid in progress, but in regress.
Let us then look at the Bethlehem landing and consider well the provision of God for peace, when the Truth landed on earth, and was given to man.
I The Bugle Call - Luke 1:35
Mary was to be moved on by the Holy Spirit, overshadowed by the power of the Most High God, so that the resultant child would THEREFORE be called the Son of God. Here is the divine inscription, the God of creation becoming man, so that man might find the Eternal God. To match this landing action, was another. Elizabeth (1:36), although long without child, would now have one in her old age, and back of this was one basic fact: WITH GOD nothing shall be impossible.
That is the first thing in our message today. You may be old, but your time is not past; young, but your time is not in this world's hands, if you are God's, but in His. There is no limit to what HE can do with you, provided you accept His call, go on His way and do not rebel. Thus came John from Elizabeth, Mary's relative, and he became Christ's precursor, His introduction. Out in the desert went John, living on honey and locusts, drawing crowds, warning them of the wrath to come, of the Messiah to come, of the need to be baptised by Him, which comes when His fire touches the heart, when He cleanses the soul and makes new children (John 1:12), born not of the will of man or of the flesh, but of God.
In this way, through John in the desert (Matthew 3), God was preparing for the last act of the Old Testament - which foretold this purging power in the Messiah to come, \whose arrival would and did become the first act of the New Testament. A baby, not a panzer division, a baby not a jihad murder squad, a baby, not a land grab, a baby, not stealing of funds as now seems so common in government leaders, in Japan or Europe. The baby did not have to be created, only formed; for it was a gift of God. It DID have to be received, when the time would come in adulthood, as the Grant of God by the Grace of God to clear the Guilt of Man, and cross the Gulf from man to God, for as many as believed.
Small wonder Mary sang her magnificat, for it was not wealth or human power which was the determinant for man, but the grace of God. "He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly," she cried. Remembering His covenant with Abraham to have a descendant on the human side who would bring blessing to all the earth, God then acted (Luke 1:34-35). The bugle was sounding for recruits to come and volunteer in this, His day; it still sounds, but soon it may cease, for His return is coming near (Psalm 110, Luke 21:24-33). A different martial music is in store (Revelation 19)!
2 Simeon's Declaration of Salvation
In Luke 2:25-35, you see aged Simeon, assured by the Lord that he would not die until he saw the salvation of God, taking the Christ in his arms, and declaring –
"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples,
a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
Here God's sure word in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, with 52:7ff. was being fulfilled, God as man becoming salvation in His own Person, and preparing to pay what it took to do so. Simeon, long in prayer for this giant blessing to his nation and people, and to the world, now could die in peace. The landing had come, the Lord was there, and he took the child in his arms. How fragile did the Lord make Himself, that a man could do this, even to the One who holds the world in His hands; but this was the mission, and with God NOTHING being impossible. If He could do that, how much more deliver your life in His hands!
However, there was a cost, and Simeon reminded Mary of this, saying of the Messiah, that He would be a "sign that would be spoken against," and that a "sword will pierce through you own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
This Christmas, then, in view of the light of life, Jesus Christ, what is to be revealed in you, in your hopes, ambitions, and for whom ARE you ambitious ? for yourself, family, or Christ! Not for nothing did Christ indicate that compared with the devotion to Himself, to God, even family is all but as if hated! (Luke 14). You may love horse riding, but for the kingdom, it is as a thing hated BY COMPARISON, so that Christ may be Lord in all and of all! Certainly, the priesthood of His day had its thoughts revealed, though a few later joined the Church! (Acts 6). Murder was in the thoughts of many of them!
3. The Angel's Assurance - Luke 1:37
With God, nothing is impossible.
Salvation is FROM all that is not right, and is first of all involved in the love of God, and secondly loving your neighbour as yourself, and thus, DOING what this shows. Have you waited for Christ as Simeon did, and received Him to your heart, as Simeon did. If not, do so. If so, rejoice in the Lord, for He will do great things. If you are His, tell others of Him; for accepted or not, He is king and His rule is to come. For you too there is a cost; for to follow the God who is light in a world of darkness must necessarily involve collision. Yet let it count! You will collide with corrupt culture, and must call others out of it to the King. It is difficult, of course: taking up your cross is not honey balm. But it is possible!
Blessed is it to make the possible actual, and the multiplication of the truth, practical.
Have you noticed the rebuke which Zechariah received for not believing, and Mary’s commendation though she asked a question ? Due enquiry about the nature of stark and unique miracle is one thing; a spirit of doubt about the merely extraordinary, is another. In either event, If GOD resolves on it, it is done. He does not dictate to the heart, but when He is Lord there, He directs it; and when HE directs it, there is NOTHING that can prevent His passage, His way for it, His call becoming a constraint, the constraint a pathway and the pathway a leading in the strength of His presence for the completion of His own mission assigned to you.
What IS impossible, is with man, if you rely on him, with woman, with child: it is necessary to lift the vision to Him who calls, and as seeing Him who is invisible, deal with the visible; as knowing Him who is almighty, to complete the calling; as fearless in His faith, to carve out like a speed boat in the waters, a direction in front and to leave a wake behind, as in Revelation 14:13, where we learn,
“Blessed are they who die in the Lord from this time,
that they may rest from their labours;
and their works follow them.”
Mary rested in her assigned task; Simeon rested in his attained assurance; but John did not rest when as a baby in the womb, he came near to Christ, also in the womb. He kicked (Luke 1:44), or leapt! Thus though your spirit rests in His grace, your life must be abundant in His service, always looking for paths of peace in His name, of goodwill toward men, of spreading the Gospel, of walking in His love, overflowing with His merciful grace, imbued with His life, attesting His truth, being kindly, applying His word, equipped with His presence (Colossians 1:27, Matthew 28:19-20).