Sunday, December 16th
If I haven't met you yet. My name is Christian Lynn back on the very gratefully Pastor here at Hillcrest. We're glad to have you here, especially during this Christmas season. This is just a wonderful time for the church to gather around the things that are fundamentally true and for her to celebrate that with all kinds of our neighbors and friends and people who are new to church. So we're glad to have you here this morning. I were in the middle of it perhaps you've noticed that Christmas has rushed upon you again as funny that we started. The series was like Hey Christmas is sneaking up on you. Make sure you know, you have to prepare snuck up on us again. Like we say get ready for it here. It is quickly at our door already this morning 2019 is two weeks away which is officially the future right 2018. I want my jetpacks and flying cars that sort of thing. So as were in the middle of it, we've said throughout this series. Feels translate could be in a three-meat personally aging but if I talked to folks, it feels like that Christmas is both come faster and faster and everything around it gets no easier and longer in a Christmas decorations come out after Halloween, like all of the noise around Christmas is greater and as the noise gets greater and greater is it gets louder and louder it is easier and easier to really be prepared that part of the reason we're not like heart located in this is that trees and decorations. Don't locate the Heart Right early presents don't locate. How do you have to slow down in the midst of all that noise settle the heart and mind around these these like grasping the reality of these fundamental truths that we are celebrating even when the noise and busyness is about him. It's it's still possible to miss him. Even worse yet, even when the noise and business is about him it is easy for us to allow it to sort of inoculate us to the truth. Have you noticed that like a lizard that chitter about it and the nice little celebrations around the market kind of blur and soften the edges and it even the Declaration of the truth will lose the sum of its Vitality for us. We are declaring the truth about the world that God created the world to send his son to redeem who came as the living King and it's it's easy for us to turn those in to sort of nice Notions instead of the rule of life. And this isn't like it's just we go or busy things are going on life is full of distraction. We have real responsibilities at this isn't any finger-wagging maybe stretch Pagination. It's just calling it out about us together to make sure we don't miss any of these pants. I just think. I cannot I want to get to heaven to be like, oh I missed that chance to celebrate, you know, because I had stuff to do. In this in this this short. Of time this beautiful Crucible of life that we get these chances to declare. What's true about him about us about what's going on. We want to miss them is common in the midst of Advent. The season were celebrating that he came and he'll come again almost always there's some Sunday where the topic is something about being prepared, right? If you been in church for a while, you've heard love joy peace, something like that and preparation. Like, how do you Initially prepare your heart like create the kind of soil where the truth about God could land in there, but it's Christians. Like how do you keep it? That way? I didn't keep the soil of your heart and your mind soft that you're still reveling in celebrating maturing growing in comprehending is understanding the truth living by the rules of Life. How do you continue to keep your heart prepared to receive this Emmanuel savary this extraordinary really good news about who Jesus is this week as we work to talk about how we have been in the book of Isaiah. By the way. I feel kind of visiting we're preaching to the book of Isaiah through this entire year and in just since the fall, we've only got enough to chapter 5 play blazing along to 66 chapters right now, but Answer we've been in Isaiah for a couple of weeks. But this morning we're going to Hazard going to jump 700 years Isaiah up in the New Testament to begin to answer this question. How how do we prepare our hearts? And how do we stay prepared to receive and understand and to celebrate worship Jesus during the season to move out of the book of Isaiah Into the Book of Luke. I'm if you would just go ahead and start opening your Bibles to the Book of Luke. If you do not have a Bible and you'd like one Tim who is ready. Just raise your hand real quick. We have free Bibles all the time. We just put it in your hand right now. If you need one to raise your hand if you need when you guys are the most Bible bring in group of people I've ever seen them. If you don't need a Bible, but Tim is ready to raise your hand tingles stay back in for the next hour ready to spring into action. We're going to be in the Book of Luke Highly Educated Physicians a funny word, but possibly a doctor but a highly educated his story and he got connected with the Apostle Paul the First Missionary evangelist of the church in his third missionary journey to bring a gift to the church. But ultimately he would be arrested there held it says and then a central part of God's plan to get him to Rome and Luke accompanies Paul back to Judea and why Paul is arrested for a couple years because this I witness are researching his story and he goes throughout the land and says Aria and all throughout Palestine interviewing people and then writing this account of who Jesus is and what happened his own words. The beginning of this book is I thought that I'd write an order the account so that you the reader might be assured of the certainty of the things that you believe. Are you sure. Play something like thanks be to God for Luke Wright Lucic would be certain of what you believe. Then he write this account. We have to split it into two bucks. He writes Luke and acts had to be broken into two Scrolls. Cuz he broke the law for how long is parole can be because how big it would get as he creates is kind of Tupac artwork called Luke acts and that's where I will pick up some of the answer today as Luke starts his double massive scroll testimony about who Jesus says he starts with 2 miraculous births at and most of us are familiar with the miraculous birth of Jesus least. That's the one that most readily comes to mind miraculous birth of the beginning of Luke Jesus, right? I even most non-christians of heard this story somewhere right there that read at least you sing the Charlie Brown Christmas special and Linus reads it. Look to right. So at least I realized most people are familiar with the birth of Jesus. But actually the first miraculous birth in the Book of Luke isn't Jesus. It's his slightly older relative John. I think John has teaches a few things this morning about how we would be prepared for the Lord. We gleaned just out of Luke chapter 1. I'm not going to say much about it. But that John was born to these very faithful parents Elizabeth and Zacharias. You been doing the Jesse tree with us. And if you don't know the Jesse tree as I don't have to pick up a guy back there, but the Arts coming out if you come and look this week, this is the art that goes with Elizabeth and Zechariah. We know that these parents wear from the important and Priestly tribe of Aaron that they were faithful, but they were childless. And that late in life kind of much like Abraham receiving his promise child late and life and Angel comes to tell because you're going to have a very effective Archangel Gabriel to come to say you're going to have a very special child. His name will be John and here's what it will do same angel that is going to make a presentation to Mary here shortly about her own baby naming John and he's going to have a singular mission is to prepare people for the Lord. Right, that's what he does and he's going to be like a miraculous birth with an angel declarate declaring with one job that he has to do and the thing is that he's going to be prepared and he is going to prepare others for Jesus who is coming soon now is lots of little curious bits that we won't be able to get in to hear. You haven't read the story before I certainly encourage you go to Luke's just me to read chapters 1 through 3 to pick this up but his father doesn't believe right away. So he struck deaf and dumb until he declares his name is John. This is really delightful exchanges between Elizabeth John's mother and Mary Jesus's mother and her wonderful example of how Luke picked up eyewitness testimony like how else would you know, what was said cuz he when he traveled there to talk to them account for you this To see this Greek physician writing this early account of these to Judy and women is fascinating testimony to the care that he took and riding the so I wish we can get it all that can't even unpack all of John's extraordinary life or even teaches about preparing the way for the Lord, but we can focus in on a little bit. The Bible is very clear that John was born for this distinct and singular purpose.
But he was to be a voice calling in the wilderness the Fulfillment of Prophecy. The one who was prepared and prepared the way for the Lord as we go through it today. Can you condemn begin if you got Luke open go to Luke chapter 1 again. This Lots were not going to get This is wonderful. I like a whole additional sermon in here about what it would mean to make the path straight. What I want to do is pick it up and verse 67. with Zacharias song again a parallel with Mary that here Zakaria who sings the song We already heard a little bit of the testimony and Advent sings a song about his son. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit saying more about him than he could have possibly understood but revealing to us who John is what John's Mission would be in how that would relate to Jesus. So if you're ready Luke chapter 1 if you had time to get there, let's pick it up in verse 67 together. It says his father Zakaria was filled with the Holy Spirit and us prophesied this. Praise be to the Lord the god of Israel. This is so many things. I would love to stop because he has come to his people and redeem them saying more than you could possibly know. He has raised up a horn and you can write if you want to a strong Kinghorn means power. He's raised up a horn of salvation for us. In the house of his servant David connecting everything that we said and Isaiah already. As he said through his holy prophets long ago salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us to show Mercy to our ancestors and to remember His Holy Covenant. The oath that he swore to Our Father Abraham to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear in Holiness and righteousness before him all of our days and looking at it sunny says and you my child will be called a prophet of the most high and you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.
I think if we consider already. How extraordinary the Declaration / John is one of the things that I want you to underscore about him. Right at the beginning is this is this is one of the most extraordinary human beings to ever been born. I his this is a this is a life as I defied his life or talked about. This is a life of extraordinary good. Like to be bored other than Jesus feel been born under this much of a declaration as far as I described it as the best life possible. I want you to keep that in mind as we discussed a little bit how much it cost him how he must essentially lay down in his life and a lovely sacrifice of pointing to the Lord. So if we move from chapter 1 / if you move your finger over to Luke chapter 3, you moved about 25 years there the Bible likes to do that. I would pick it up right at the beginning of his ministry says in the 15th Year and I love again. This is Luke to his story is locating it very specifically in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea Herod the tetrarch of Galilee his brother Philip the tetrarch of it Tamia and track an itis and lysanis tetrarch of Abilene during the high priesthood of an Ascend kayak. The word of God came to John son of Zachariah living in the wilderness. He went down into all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the Forgiveness of sins as it is written in the book of the words again, Isaiah the prophet a voice of one calling in the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord make straight paths for him. Every Valley will be filled in every mountain and Hill made low the Crooked Road shall become straight the rough ways smooth and all people will see God's salvation John the one sent to make a way to prepare people for the Lord and to help us got a better understand how we might learn from him about preparations morning to add a couple of more details just a little bit further on in Luke chapter 3 and then one from the Apostle John Eckhardt. I've John the Baptist if I move a little further on in chapter 3 remove Down 2 verse 3 15. It says that in that time when John he began his ministry. He's preaching in Galilee is baptizing people and during that time while he is out preaching it says people begin to wonder if John himself might be the Messiah they pick it up 315 right here. It says the people were waiting expectantly. Not remember a Tim and I appreciate Isaiah that king after King had failed to meet the needs, right? Nobody could stand and be the The King The King who bring peace and righteousness to also for 4 since Isaiah 700 years, but for thousands of years, they've been waiting this Messiah King that we talked about beginning with the stump of Jesse beginning all the way back in Genesis 3 15. So I love this waiting expectantly eager. Like is it you is it you is it you to somebody can some Possibly bear the weight of this OS John is beginning his ministry. He's clearly anointed by God to do this work as he's doing says at 3:15 as they were waiting and wondering in their hearts that maybe John might be the Messiah and I think that John's response we're going to read here in just a second is where we begin to get the most clues about what a unique human being he was and how he kept his heart prepared focused in One Direction some clues that he might give us this morning about being prepared for the Lord because I want you to read then his response together there in verse 16 So we go to verse 16 says now John answered them all and I want you to think about how tempting it would have been to answer differently. He says essentially it is not me if I might put in the words John Answer the mall I baptize you with water but one who is more powerful. I will come the straps of whose sandals. I am unworthy to untie he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fires another John says this isn't me. I'm not the one who is coming up and let me skip ahead again there awaiting to John chapter one as I was going to read out of the Apostle John's. So keeping John the Baptist and the Apostle John separate or worthwhile John record this time also and John the Baptist life and it says he comes under this questioning in his life about who he is. I'm going to pick it up and John 1 verse 19 it says Now this was John's testimony when all the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask again John the Baptist who he was. He did not fail to confess but confessed freely. I am not the Messiah. They asked him then who are you? Are you Elijah? And he said I am not are you the prophet and he answered? No, finally, they said who are you then? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself and John replies? You know, I'm not I'm not I'm not says I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness make straight the way for the Lord that way to notice something right away about John that he spends more time to scribing who he is not then who he is. Right in a moment where I've been tempting to say it cuz you could have easily said while I'm clearly somebody important. I was born, you know, an angel had to announce my birth my father saying this anointed over me. I would have been a great time to describe what a unique and special human being he was but instead he just say no. I'm not that important person that you think I am. Nope. Nope. I'm not them either. How about they are you this important person? I am just this one thing I am the one who's been sent to prepare away floor. Not Messiah Elijah. I'm not the profit. I am this if you were to move down to verse 29 and that same chapter. He sees them the next day and then again, he just point strategies does look there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world just as I saw the Spirit come down from heaven and a dove remain on him. I have seen and can testify that Jesus is God's chosen one. So the John's personal identity who he is and what he did in his mission were all fulfilled by not pointing to himself at all. The. Discussing himself at all, not discussing how special he was but everything was about pointing to Jesus when John's disciples ask him. What's going on? Who is this? Jesus person? You notice some of your disciples John or leaving you and they're beginning to follow Jesus John 3:27. John response again speaking of himself
a person can only receive What is given to them from Heaven you yourselves can testify that I have said I am not the Messiah. I'm just the one sent ahead of him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom the friend who attends the bridegroom Waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. It looks at his disciples who are worried that John is losing traction with people following me says this Joy is mine and it is now complete that I have pointed at Jesus. He says he must become greater and I must become less. Just think we could begin to learn here from this extraordinary character from John humility what Clarity he must become greater. I must become less stuff like that. It is only those who are confident in who they are trusting God's way have a Long View of life that can be is about him. Again. He said a person can only receive was given them from Heaven. I am not the Messiah but I am the one who is sent ahead of him and of all the things that I could teach on John, what does it mean to make a straight or how did his religious life help him set up or be prepared. I want to underscore one that I've never thought about before this time. And the way John was prepared the lesson that he might have the teachers is that John knows exactly who he is and who he is not and that is the very Clarity of his mission and understanding and Visions heart prepared and prepares the people around him. He never hesitates to make it clear that he is not any of the important people that you might think he is but that he only points to Jesus John is focused. On his god-given identity and then thrives within the freedom of those limitations. I want to know most leave that up for the whole. I won't believe he knows exactly who he is and even know who he is as extraordinary. He never highlights that He knows precisely who God has made him to be he understands the boundaries of that and he thrives within those limitations. I told remember that John was even Jesus is the greatest man born of his era but his life viewed from the outside might actually look like a failure. I mean, what did John ever enjoys outcomes oriented life?
Guido John that he was born in the Nazarite vow. So he lived in the wilderness wearing rough clothing and eating bugs and honey. Most of his ministry was about difficult conversations and conflict. He was arrested held and killed by a drunk King at the bequest of a girl from the outside. This does not feel like this wildly successful life. How do we say he was prepared or prepared others because from G's the standard and from my perspective his life was far from a waste. It was a precisely glorious one he knew exactly and he had joy and he thrived within the freedom of those limitations successful person not recorded in the Bible from the 2nd Century. It's hard to come up with his net. But here we are discussing this poor guy 30 don't lie live 30 years under these circumstances 2,000 years later. We are discussing the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias because of that singular focus on pointing to Jesus knowing precisely who he was and who he wasn't I think the greatest man of his era yet. All of you are greater still born in the era of understanding your identity in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Have you felt the focusing power of that singular identity who you are in Christ Singulair Ali how your life points to him Singulair Ali have you focusing power become the identity for you that keeps your heart prepared that's over and over must have been tempting for him to say. Enjoy life at any moment. I just been an important person. Instead of captify singularly focused on the outcome and lived again within the freedom of his limitations on freedom of limitations sound contrary. Right because we often think most of our culture is you are more free the fewer limitations you have that are obviously criminal until we decriminalize them write their essays. Usually you are more free based on being whomever or whatever you want to be that your freedom and John's testimony about preparation. As you are most free when you are exactly who you were made to be and Thrive within those limitations is fire better when it is unlimited. How about water like huge waves on the ocean or awesome huge waves on your house not so much. Buchheit like kites only Zig and zag and strain and celebrate flight when they are attached to the ground by a string. Right is that very limitation that gives them the freedom give the kite. It gives the human the freedom to be what it is John's life shows us that knowing who you are not is as good as knowing who you are. Are you consider that for a moment consider how much discontent in life how much distraction away from what is true how much loss of focus on the long range of Life of glorifying Christ loving the people around you and knowing who you are has come from comparing yourself to other people. Not just not knowing your identity, but confusing your identity with the folks around you in the very freedom of limitation and identity in Christ stands before you example, it would be very easy for me to be jealous of Tim nip embarrassing for him cuz he's right there.
He's brilliant and thoughtful and everybody loves them and me too.
I can want to beat him.
That wouldn't do either of us any good.
I can't beat him. It's not needed it would steal from both of us. And it would it would steal for me the opportunity celebrate who Tim is I thought it would it still for me the opportunity to be me. Knowing my identity is much about knowing who Christ made me to be staying focused and prepared as much about knowing that that's who I am but who I am not and I don't have to do like I just I meant to say is a couple times this morning. Here's the great gift from John for you as you prepare your heart. There is a ton of things you do not have to do. A people that you do not have to be things that you do not that you are not in a race to succeed at things that you must compare yourself to others to know whether or not you are living a worthwhile life John's life is defined. That way would have been a failure yet here is is precisely gloriously Goodwin prepared because he knew who he was and who he was not.
Remember when Jesus was with Mary and Martha. I'm not going to eat this whole thing. But you know Martha's working and Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and Martha comes up to Jesus and says, can you correct my sister, please and have her help me work a Jesus like Only one thing as necessary this morning and Mary's made the right choice. She's a laser-like focus like who I am what I'm doing and what is important right now and all the busy and all the noise and all the work and all the parties and all the Declarations. John is teaching is as Jesus and the identity he is giving us a people and places that he has places that is the place where we Thrive within those limitations without having to be anything out like teenagers immense pressure. You were under to be a zillion things. A good good children for your parents outstanding students that you have to maintain this entire facade on social media and then you got to maintain another social media where you're a little bit of an outlaw. So the people will think you're cool. And then you got to play sports and then you have to be in this production at school too. And then we asked you to be an advent reader like a zillion other things that you feel like you have to do to figure out who you are to keep your life aligned with Jesus and I think part of the message I've seen for johnas you don't have to be any of the things that he's not making you to be like a mom's mom had this morning in Jesus name. You don't have to make a perfect. Jesse tree and put pictures online. You're free right now. But are you thinking what I haven't done the Jesse tree and what's-her-name did and now we're lame Christian family.
Be free in Jesus name. From the perfect party from the perfect gift just to be in the spa and the place where Jesus is placed the end of look at it and say wait. These are my people. These are my thing. These are my these are my spots and I love them and I'm going to live my thrive in the freedom of those limitations. Cascais goes for all of us II could desire to be somebody else other than him to write desire. Another married person's life or a single guys life or I want to run away free and miss all the Glorious limitations of the church. My wife my kids my father like all of these limitations were meant for you to thrive in that zone know who you are and who you are not to live your Christ given identity. Enjoy the freedom the lovely freedom of limitation.
In the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia people raise their hand like if you read The Chronicles of Narnia, and then I am disappointed by that. We had a good college crowd.
I saw the last battle right against the house is about to make all things new. At a final king of Narnia is got all his friends gathered around this last fight before this going to false Christ and his Prophet April donkey if you haven't read it and it's the middle of it. There's this little tiny shed with an arrow door and has played the kind of terrifying mystery so far. Nobody knows what's in it's just terrified. It appears to be tiny bit. And his group are being driven towards this tiny shed the entire time and they're fighting for the narrow door into this tiny shed, and I think that's going to be the end. But as soon as they get inside the tiny limitations of the shed instead of fighting death, they find life instead of finding a tiny space which they think it's going to be this cramped. I'm stuck in here instead of that. They find this expansive land then the more they explore the land the bigger the more fast it becomes and they keep moving the land larger largest. What are the children's space where it's going to get smaller. I just rolls out until more expansive more beautiful and then this old friend. Mr. Tumnus the Faun comes up to explain is Lucy stands. They are trying to comprehend.
And the further in you go the bigger that everything gets. Inside is larger the outside. A limitation is greater than your so-called freedom. I think one of the things we might learn the season. From John about how to be prepared.
That he knew who he was and he knew he wasn't he knew where to invest and where to divest this morning. I just want to ask a question. How about you? Do you know who you are? And who you are not? Are you resting in that? It will provide for you and me space to celebrate. What is true in the season. I'm going to bite our worship team backup and as they come I don't want to leave you with three questions. If you have received a journal from a store you have a piece of paper. Would you take us to couple of minutes and work through these three questions?
How you might prepare your heart this Christmas number one to focus on Jesus, but answer this question. Where do you need to make some space in your life to adore him? Nice to work for him. but to adore him he began to write down some answers to that question.
How are you? Enjoy the people and places where God has put you. how to take a moment to consider Who has God made you to be? Where is a place you might write down a few things? I am that I am father to these children.
I am spouse to this person.
I am child of God.
Not worried about you to let some other stuff go this morning. Enjoy the freedom of your limitations.
Be Still For a Moment
Write down. Who are you not?
What do you not have to be? Freedom do you have right now? You can just say I don't have to but have to be anxious about that have to be that person. Don't have to live their life. I don't have to do that thing. I don't have to meet that objective. Going to be who I am in Christ. I got a point to him.
I live in the freedom of who I am.
Are they start? I'm going to take another 30 seconds to minute writing those down.
For Jesus will give you the freedom of our hearts. We thank you that we could have the singular focus on you and thank you for a season to prepare. We thank you for the example of John. Give people insight into their own hearts and mind. We praise your name.