J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

A Time To Remember – Sermon Notes on Luke 1:76-79

Often, when an athlete injures them self, they have to relearn how to do the very thing that they were good at in the first place. You read these stories or see interviews on TV about athletes spending an incredible amount of time working out or relearning how to do certain skills because they have been injured. Now, none of us are professional athletes, but I’m sure many of us can relate to the whole re-learning process.

When I broke my right hand playing softball, I had to relearn how to hold a pencil without it causing me pain. And you know what? My handwriting did not get any better.

When I injured my knee playing football in college, I learned that my running style was incorrect, and so I relearned running so as not injure myself anymore.

The hardest relearning came when I hit my head and injured my shoulder diving into a swimming pool. I had to relearn how to sleep. My entire life, I had slept on my left side, but that was not possible anymore because it was my left shoulder that had to be repaired. Sleeping on that side meant I would wake up in excruciating pain. So I had to relearn to sleep on my right side.

Now, most of us need to relearn something at some point and time. And this relearning serves a couple of purposes. We relearn things because something is keeping us from doing them properly. And in the relearning process, we discover often that we had forgotten to do them correctly a long time ago. Relearning is pretty beneficial. It removes slowly growing errors while reminding us of the true intention of what we need to do.

That’s exactly what is going to happen in the passage that we are studying this Sunday. We are going to return to Zechariah’s song surrounding the birth of his son, John the Baptist. In doing that, we are going to see how the celebration of the birth of Jesus is really a good time to do a good bit of relearning. With that in mind, let’s try to answer this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question: How is Advent a time to relearn what so many have forgotten?

Last week, we spent some time talking about Zechariah’s song surrounding the birth of His son, John the Baptist. In that song, Zechariah sang about how the advent of Jesus signified the absolute defeat of the people of God’s enemies. Sin, death, hell, Satan, and the grave are all defeated. Practically, in addition to all of those things, we talked about how fear and shame are defeated. Through the work of Jesus, God does not intend for His people to live in fear or shame ever again. God does not intend for you to feel shame about what you have done or what has been done to you because the work of Jesus is that powerful. This week, we are going to pick right back up in Zechariah’s song in verse 76.

76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

Can you imagine singing this about your child at their birth? The angel, Gabriel, made several promises Zechariah nine months prior about his son, John. He promised that
• John would be great before the Lord.
• John would set himself part by his lifestyle.
• John’s ministry would lead to the return of many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God
• And then get this one. Gabriel promised that John would live and serve God in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Now what does that look like? What would it look like for John to serve in the power and spirit of Elijah? Well, the first thing I will tell you is if John has a ministry like Elijah’s then that means counting success very differently than the world counts success. That’s a lesson to us all in the church. So many of us talented in the work place, and in school, and in athletics. But we cannot count success like the world does: numbers and noses or money and people.

Look at Elijah’s ministry. Elijah’s ministry was marked with ups and downs. Yeah, He righteously opposed the idolatry of the day ultimately challenging the 850 prophets of Baal and God came through. Yes, Elijah was used to raise the Widow’s son back to life. But as soon as Jezebel threatened to kill him, he ran scared or as we used to say in Johnston County, “scart”. Without the preserving power of God, no one would have believed from Elijah’s ministry, but fortunately, 7,000 did. At the end of his ministry, the whole world would have looked at him and said, “You started well, but you didn’t finish well.”

John’s ministry will have similar success but in the world’s eyes may not be too impressive. You know why? In the end, John was beheaded by the very people that He called to repentance. The world wouldn’t see that as very successful. This is the promise of John’s ministry from God though. It will be like Elijah’s and God determines what true success is.

Zechariah says…John’s ministry is going to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. John’s ministry is going to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just And John’s ministry is going to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Now folks that is some mission. John’s ministry is going to make father’s better parents. His ministry will lead people to true repentance. And his ministry will as verse 76 says, “prepare the ways for Jesus.” That should sound a lot like what we are doing in this season of Advent but also what the church should do in and out of season. That would be a helpful reminder of something that is so often lost. These should be things we strive for in 2010.

SK needs to be equipping our men to train their children well. I want to see a more developed training through Fight Club, both from me and your elder candidates, and I also hope to be equipping parents better through a future teaching time prior to the worship services. Can you guys imagine a teaching time for adults and kids? I can envision a SK University and a SK Academy to do just that in the next year. Not a full blown school, but I easily see an intense training and teaching program for our parents so that they will be better equipped to teach their kids. Part of that could about before we get a new building, and it could flat out explode when we get a new building.

SK needs to be about turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. The foundational beginnings of SK started with investigative Bible studies at the now defunct Bushiban Coffee Shop. These studies that were populated with all strata of folks with the intention of introducing Jesus to them. I want us to regain the enthusiasm for taking the message of the Gospel in similar ways to areas like Swift Creek Coffee, Wake Tech, and the other places where the social tribes gather in our area. I would love to see our CE Groups lead the charge of investigative Bible studies in places where people gather.

SK also needs to be preparing the way for the Lord and His Second Advent. What that means is that we need to recapture an urgency for the work of the Kingdom. We can’t assume that there is someone else to do the mission. If you are in earshot of my voice, you need to assume the work of creating and engaging community is yours. God has blessed us immensely this year, but He is never going to bless us to the point that He does not call each and every one of you to work with all your might to the efforts of the Kingdom.

These things can be so easily forgotten if we are not careful. The promises sung in these songs are clear reminders to us to make sure that does not happen. Look at verse 77.

77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

One of the specific purposes of John the Baptist’s ministry was to proclaim the Gospel – the good news, the knowledge of salvation to the people that God has called to Himself. In that knowledge, God’s people will find forgiveness for their sins. When it comes down to it, people have to hear the truths of scripture in order to know how to be forgiven. The words that need to be proclaimed are about the tender mercies of God. John was to proclaim light and hope to those in darkness and the shadow of death so that people would have a guide for their feet.

Now practically what does that look like? When I think of John the Baptist, I think of a crazy looking man telling people to repent and making people so angry that they wind up chopping his head off. But one thing learned from the life of John the Baptist and this passage is that the only people who are going to respond to His message are those who are called to be God’s people. To those God called to be His people, they responded with repentance. Everyone else responded to John with hostility. That’s why His ministry was successful. Those called by God believed and those who weren’t didn’t. John was just faithful in the proclaiming.

As we consider John’s work, we should ask how we walk in that kind of ministry now in light of both John’s and Jesus’ ministry being complete? You know we cannot forget that this same mission is what you are called to, what your family is called to and what this church is called to. We own a ministry just like John’s. Now definitively, we are not John the Baptist. Our circumstances and our context are vastly different. But if we spend a few minutes looking at the scriptures, we will be reminded that the ministry of Sovereign King Church and you in particular is incredibly similar to Johns. I think that mission for us is expressed pretty well in 2 Corinthians 5.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

Verse 16 talks about how through Christ, we should have a new set of lenses by which we view the world. We aren’t to look at things as the world does. To look at the world through the flesh is to look at them in one way: personal gain. That’s what lust is and greed is and selfishness is: viewing others for personal gain. Lust says you only exist for my pleasure. Greed says you only exist for my benefit. One reminder for us this year is that we need to refocus our we view God, ourselves, and each other. You are a new creation so do not regard things according to the flesh.

Now when it comes to thinking about Jesus, we are thankful for Jesus but we should not look at Him for personal gain. Yes we are thankful for what Jesus has done on our behalf through His life, death, and resurrection. But Jesus is to be worshiped for who He is first and foremost: the son of God by which all things have been made. That is an incredible reminder to all of us. We should praise Jesus for His wonderful work. But Jesus deserves and demands our praise for who He is. A goal for 2010? Praise Jesus for who He is before praising Him for His benefit to you. It will change your worship and your devotional life. This is possible because of verse 17.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

If you have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then the old you has passed away and you live as a new creation.

• You now have the ability to praise God.
• You now have the desire to serve God.
• You can actually perform a righteous act.
• You can think Godly thoughts.
• You can resist temptation.
• You can look at people without selfish intent.
• You can call out to God and in His mercy, He hears you.

We don’t do that all the time because sin remains, but we must reminded that we are made new through faith in Jesus Christ. All of this enable us to have a ministry like John the Baptist’s. Look at verse 18.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

God reconciled and repaired the broken relationship between you and Himself. He did it through Jesus Christ. And in addition, God has given you the privilege and the responsibility to be a part of the ministry of bringing others to reconciliation with God. That is everyone single believer’s privilege and responsibility. That is in verse 19, Christ who is God repairs the relationship with the world to himself. He doesn’t count people’s sins against them because He took the payment of sin on himself by living and dying for sin. And He has given you that message. The message you are to deliver day in and day out is that Jesus repairs the broken relationship with God.

Imagine how many messages you deliver each day. Husbands, make a joke about your wife’s appearance and you send the message that you don’t think she is pretty. Wives, insult your husband and send the message that you don’t appreciate how hard he works. Kids ask their parents to play with them and parents say they are too busy reading emails and they send a message to their kids that email is more important.

There are also functional messages that we send every day. Those include vm’s, emails, texts, letters, tweets, facebook status, DM’s and the like.

We send positive messages each day as well. Fathers, tell their daughters that they are smart, pretty, and Godly and send the message to them that they don’t have to get that affirmation from the first boy who gives them a kiss. Children, obey your parents happily and send the message to your parents that you are maturing and might be able to handle greater freedoms.

Everything you do sends a message. Even when you are sending a message, you are sending a message. You might be as quiet as a church mouse but that sends a message to people as well. This passage speaks to the message that we have to proclaim. You should be reminded that if you called on the name of Christ and claim to be a Christian, you are a new creation, called, equipped, and responsible for the proclamation of the good news that Jesus reconciles sinners to Himself. You don’t get to hope that someone else is going to do it. 2010 is about your being reminded of this beautiful privilege. Look at how that privilege is details in verse 20.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Listen to verse 20. You are an ambassador for Christ. God makes His appeal to the world through you and you and you and you. I implore you as Paul does. Be reconciled to Christ. Call others to reconciliation with Christ.

Read verse 20 to yourself. Read it in the first person. “I am an ambassador in Christ.” “God makes His appeal to the world through me.” Here within this community, God makes His appeal in so many places.

• God makes His appeal in the legal community through the work of SK.
• God makes His appeal in the school system through the work of SK.
• God makes His appeal in the computer world through the work of SK.
• God makes His appeal to students through the work of SK.
• God makes His appeal in the financial world through the work of SK.
• God makes His appeal to the grocery stores through the work of SK.
• God makes His appeal to the police and EMS through the work of SK.
• If you are a stay at home mom, then God makes His appeal to all the stay at home moms through the work of SK.

In every relationship you have, your mission is to at some point and time to declare this. I implore you on behalf of Jesus to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, became sin so that in Him, sinners might become the very righteousness of God. Folks, here is what I think the scriptures want to remind you of today. God has given you the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. You cannot be loved less by God than you are right now and you cannot be loved more by God because of Jesus Christ. You are made 100% perfectly acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. God doesn’t hold your past against you because He has loved you from eternity past before you even had a past.

Because all of these things are true, you are God’s ambassador. God makes His appeal to the world through you. Every circumstance and relationship of your life is intended to be a platform by which you declare, “Be reconciled to God.” We can do these not because we are so righteous and perfect, but we can do them because God has make you a new creation and His righteousness has been given to you.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner. Read it there and help me earn a penny.

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December 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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