Listening for Gods voice
Listening for God’s Voice
- Video: the shepherds
- It is not possible to go anywhere this Christmas season without hearing Christmas carols played in elevators, stores, dentist offices and everywhere else.
What I want to say: Do you hear God speaking to you about your connection with him, about your spiritual journey, or maybe a redirection of that journey? Like the shepherds who on that first Christmas heard directly from the angels and shared the good news that was for all the people, we should be careful to cultivate our relationship with Christ so that we are ready to respond to those around us with needs.
I. The Prelude: God is always at work (2:1-7; Micah 5:2)
A. God moves human events to accomplish His will (Micah 5:2)
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days. Micah 5:2 ESV
1. He moved the whole Roman Empire to fulfill prophecy!
2. Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem; the problem was, how would that come about?
3. God used Caesar (remember Mary’s Magnificat? 1:51-52) to accomplish His will
a) In Exodus we read that God raised up Pharaoh to accomplish His purposes
b) He put it in Caesar’s heart to take a census as a prelude to taxing the Empire
c) Luke notes that Quirenius was governor of Syria. Quirenius was a Roman Senator sent by Caesar to the province of Syria to which had been added Judea. He only included that information to point to a specific historic event.
4. A Roman census required people to go to their home town to register. So people living out in the outskirts would have to return to town. How many millions of people were inconvenienced in the Empire? How many lives were interrupted? God is Sovereign!
E.g. To this day there are those who resent God’s sovereignty. Everything that looks like Narnia is not wholesome. The movie, The Golden Compass, was released on Friday. It is no coincidence that it is released at Christmas time when families are looking to spend time together. It is also no coincidence that it looks very much like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which was released at Christmas. The two movies could not be more different. Narnia is the place imagined by C.S. Lewis where children learn of God’s working for good in this world. In the Golden Compass and its sequels, the adventure is to kill God who oppresses people through something called the “Magesterium” (familiar to Roman Catholics) an arm of the Church. The villains are not witches but priests. Parents beware lest your children are harmed by this rebellion against God.
5. God moves history! Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem and Joseph was a descendent of David.
6. God is moving history today. He has not finished. Governments are still doing God’s bidding – even against their will.
B. God exalts the humble.
1. Everyone wants to leave a lasting impact
a) Every one of you here wants to know that when your life is over, it will have mattered
ILLUS> I loved my grandmothers! But when I do a Google search, they do not show up. No one but a few people alive remember them but I will never forget them. They were nobodies to the world but they were kind and loving to me. They made a lasting impact on me. They mattered but they are unknown. God delights to use the “nobodies” of this world to do what the “somebodies” can’t or won’t.
Rd. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
2. Mary declared that God exalts the humble (cp. 1:52) and this narrative is proof – shepherds were the lowest
ILLUS> I was speaking with a man born in India this week and I asked many questions about India. We talked about the caste system which is organized in five levels – scholars, merchants, farmers, farm hands, dirty work. Even in that ancient culture there was no romance about taking care of animals. It was dirty, menial work and those who did it were looked down upon.
3. The shepherds were nobodies yet we are still talking about them 2,000 years later because God lifts up the humble.
4. What made the difference? God spoke to them and they listened
5. There will be people in heaven because of those lowly shepherds!
C. The pivot point of history was set at Christ’s birth (2:6-7)
1. The Messiah was born – in the most humble of conditions - in a stable
2. Had He been born in a palace it would have seemed shallow, cheap and distant
3. In two verses all of Scripture is brought to fulfillment. The plan of God becomes visible. The Savior of the world is born.
II. The Announcement: God has done what He promised! (2:8-14)
A. The message was delivered by divine agents: angels (:9-10)
1. You know the feeling: you go into a house and you think no one is there. Suddenly someone moves and the hair on your neck stands up.
a) The angel appeared suddenly – shocking them
2. He stood near them – it was an angel!
3. In the Bible, everyone who met an angel had the same reaction: terror!
4. We are far too careless about angels – they are awe inspiring beings.
5. Then, a multitude of angels – (Greek: Plethos [cp. Plethora] -- thousands? Millions) appeared. If one lone angel terrified them what were they feeling now? Did their hair turn white?
B. The message was even more awe-some than the angels
1. If this message of God coming to earth is just ho-hum, nice for the kiddies stuff to you, then you are living out of touch with reality.
2. The Messiah (Christ) had come! You now have hope! Man’s long hope was now reality.
3. Christianity is the only faith that has an answer for the sin question. Sinners need a savior.
4. Those who are saved from hell need a Lord to follow. This child is Christ the Lord.
III. The Response: ‘Going’ is the natural response to the Great News! (2:15-20)
A. Great news requires a response
1. The shepherds looked at one another in amazement – what had they just seen?
2. Since they all saw and heard it, they knew it was not a dream or mass hallucination.
3. There was no great deliberation – they knew what they had to do – they had to go to see this child.
4. When you are exposed to the gospel, a response is required. Neutrality is not an option. You must either accept or reject the message delivered to you. What you do next reveals what you believe.
a) Some of you today are in the place where you need to respond to what God has shown you.
b) If you are not born again, you need to trust Jesus without any more equivocating. Stop playing games with God.
c) Others need to get serious with God.
B. Great news requires action
1. They went. They told everyone they met about what they had seen. Their lives were changed forever. They, the lowest of the low, made an impact. And we still talk about them.
2. There is no one here that is too small to make a lasting impact on your circle of friends and acquaintances.
ILLUS> Last Sunday I told you of two statistics about our community that require the response of Christians: the Humboldt Park community has the highest occurrence of diabetes in the city; the Humboldt Park community has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the city. Since then some have asked me how we should respond to such large problems. Let me tell you about a man who was a part of GNBC. His name is Joey Perez. Joey made lifestyle choices that had two results: they drove him from God and they resulted in his contracting AIDS. AIDS became a blessing to him as he returned to Christ and was used by God to draw men from GNBC into obedience to Christ. He spent the last two years of his life serving God here at GNBC. As his illness progressed we began to care for him. Our people walked with Joey right to the gates of heaven. I learned something as we would go to visit him in the special hospital wings for AIDS patients: Although Joey had continual visitors, most of the others in that wing had few or none. If you want to do something in response to the needs you see, let me suggest that you visit someone dying of AIDS.
3. At the end of His time on earth, Jesus told the disciples “Go…make disciples”
4. You are not called to sit but to go.
5. In what way are you responding to the command to “Go”?
C. Life-changing responses take effort
1. Willow Creek church took a survey a couple of years ago and recently released the results.
a) It shocked them to discover that even heavy involvement in their programs did not affect spiritual depth.
2. We are no different – exposure to church programs does not automatically deepen your relationship with Christ
3. You are responsible for your relationship with God and that relationship will not happen by accident.
a) No amount of hours before a TV can bring you closer to God.
b) No amount of Christian music can make you know God intimately
c) Only a deliberate, cultivated relationship will make a difference.
4. Just as the shepherds encouraged one another in their individual choices to seek Christ, we need the community of believers to encourage one another to grow.
D. My proposal
1. I have noticed for years that whenever we, as a church study together, we encourage one another to grow spiritually. E.g. 50 Day Adventures
2. I thought, if reading a book together has that kind of impact, what might happen if the whole church is reading the same part of the Bible together?
3. Life Journals
a) I know that some of you will object and say, “I don’t like one-year Bible reading programs – they are too rushed.”
b) I agree. But for the sake of spiritual impact I am willing to put aside my preferences in order to grow deeper into Christ.
c) This will require time. This is no ten minute spiritual fix. You will need about 30 minutes a day
d) You will need grace – that is, some days you will not finish. Don’t beat yourself up. Make time to do it later in the week. But do it.
4. Beginning on January 1st, I would like to try a spiritual experiment. I’d like to have all of GNBC to be reading the same parts of Scripture at the same time and letting God talk to us.
5. These journals will be available to order today and we will place an order weekly.
- Impact comes from responding to God. You cannot respond to God unless you hear Him. You cannot hear Him unless you are hearing His word and praying.
- Responding to God is deliberate, not accidental. Will you take the challenge?