How Will You Respond To Jesus?

Although most nativity scenes show the wise men visiting Jesus alongside the shepherds the night He was born, in reality the Magi showed up much later. 

They came first to Israel’s capital city—Jerusalem—and went to the man who currently bore the title King of the Jews—Herod—with an odd question, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We’ve come to worship Him.”

The call to come to worship the Christ has always stirred different responses in people’s hearts. But I have noticed that the responses today aren’t any different than they were over 2000 years ago at Christ’s first Advent. 

Notice these four responses in the Gospel of Matthew:

  1. King Herodwhen King Herod heard this he was disturbed.

The word disturbed means an inward commotion, someone robbed of any calmness; someone who has become restless and agitated. 

King Herod wasn’t all that different from a lot of people today who have their personal lives organized according to their own plans. They have everything figured out. They are masters of their own fate. They know how everything is supposed to work. They are god of their own world. 

But inside it’s a different story. They may not acknowledge it to anyone else, but they are uneasy. King Herod was political, not religious. He knew how to play the games with the right Jewish leaders and Roman politicians to get and keep his throne. So when he hears, “Where is He who is born KING OF THE JEWS?” you can understand why he instantly becomes so agitated! He feels like his well-ordered world and best-laid plans are about to crash in on him! 

  1. All JerusalemKing Herod…was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 

The people of Jerusalem had a love-hate relationship with King Herod. If you were on his side, he could be quite generous with his gifts and favorable with his influence. But if you were against him, he could be incredibly cruel (just take a look at verse 16!). 

So when Herod got upset, you can imagine why the citizens of Jerusalem were as well. They all longed for the Messiah—the Christ—to come and set them free, but in the meantime they were trying to keep their options open. They wanted the Messiah, if they could have Him, but they didn’t want to abandon Herod yet, just in case the Messiah couldn’t follow through.  

  1. Religious leadersHerod…called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law. 

Of all the people looking for the Christ, you would think the chief priests and teachers of the law would be the most excited! When Herod asked them for the birthplace of the Messiah, they immediately knew the answer, but after they delivered this information to King Herod they aren’t mentioned again in this narrative. Bethlehem was only 6 miles away, but they didn’t do a single thing! The Messiah being born in such a lowly manner didn’t fit the image they had concocted in their minds. Later on, Jesus would challenge them on this (see John 5:38-40). 

  1. MagiMagi from the east came to Jerusalem. 

Whereas the Jewish religious leaders were only 6 miles away, the Magi that came from the east might have been anywhere from 400-800 miles away. They left the comforts of their home to travel perhaps as long as 4 months. But, Oh! the journey was so worth the effort! They got to see the Christ with their very own eyes! We read that they were overjoyed, and that they bowed down and worshiped Him and opened their treasures. 

What’s your idea about Jesus? 

  • King Herod wanted a Savior that would enable him to continue to run his own life, but he didn’t want a King that would call the shots. 
  • The people of Jerusalem wanted access to God’s power, but they didn’t want to give their full allegiance to Jesus. 
  • The religious leaders wanted Jesus to fit their mold, but they didn’t want to have to change anything about their own lives. 
  • Only the Magi accepted Jesus as both Savior and King, willingly laying everything at His feet. 

What about you? What’s your idea about Jesus? He isn’t just a Baby in a manger; He’s also King and Judge and Ruler and Lord. When you hear the call to come worship Him, what will your response be? 

The First Noël

romans-3-22When I worked in the business field, I was invited to be a teacher for a program called GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), where I taught a class on marketing. Then later on, I served as a reviewer as the students turned in their marketing plans.

One of the main points I tried to drive home to my students is a basic Marketing 101 principle which says—you can’t be all things to all people. You have to pick a niche market and then try to dominate that market. There are two general ideas here: (1) Make your product or service pricey and therefore exclusive to a select group, or (2) Make your product or service affordable and accessible for the mass market.

The Incarnation of Jesus totally violates this Marketing 101 principle. (Which goes to show you that God knows more than all the world’s so-called “experts”!)

First, there was a marketing message to shepherds (see Luke 2:8-11). This would have been the “mass market” as shepherds represented the every-day, working-class man. The first two verses of The First Noël carol addresses these “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.”

But then there is this appearance of a very exclusive group of Magi (see Matthew 2:1-2, 11). These men were highly educated and had gained great influence and affluence. Verse 3 of The First Noël references these “wise men…from country far” who could present such lavish gifts to Jesus.

God did exactly what I told my GROW students they shouldn’t do if they wanted to be successful!

The Incarnation of Jesus is one of those rarest of rare things that actually can be all things to all people! Why? Because ALL people need what the Incarnation of Jesus brings. That’s why the final verse of The First Noël calls for ALL of us to join in singing our praise to God because of the salvation Jesus had purchased for ALL mankind.

Here’s the reason—

  • ALL we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)…
  •    …and the penalty for that straying from God is death for ALL sinners (Romans 6:23).
  • But Jesus came to ransom ALL from that penalty (Mark 10:45)…
  •    …so that ALL who believe in Him will be saved (Romans 3:22)!

“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’ So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. … ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). It’s the story of how the vertical Advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal Advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us.” —John Piper

You have been rescued, now go be a rescuer. Take this Noël message to ALL … young/old, rich/poor, Black/white, educated/illiterate, healthy/sick, friend/enemy…. the message in the First Noël and every Noël is for everyone! 

Now What Will You Do With Christmas?

Now that Christmas is over, are you thinking to yourself, “Finally! I can get back to my normal routine”? For some people, the past weeks have been a hectic whirlwind of activity, and the days leading up to Christmas seem like a blur. So now what?

I guess it depends on your attitude about the season. Was it just a regular, it-comes-every-year Christmas for you? Or was it an exciting CHRISTmas: the time to reflect on the birth of Christ? For those in the second category, we cannot — we dare not! — go back to a “normal” routine.

For those that encountered Jesus on (or near) the day of His birth in Bethlehem, look how they responded —

The Shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God.

Anna broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.

The Magi were overjoyed, and they bowed down and worshiped Him.

My prayer for myself — and for you, too — is that our encounter with Jesus this Christmas was so real, that we will continue to glorify God, and worship Him with overflowing joy for the rest of the year. Let’s not just get through Christmas, but let’s make sure the reality of CHRISTmas continues to resonate throughout the year.

Nothing Left But Ashes

In the “Your Gift To God” series at Calvary Assembly of God, we have been following the pattern of the gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus as a pattern for the gifts that we, too, should give to God.

First, the Magi gave gold. The king of metals for the King of kings. They acknowledged that this was the Eternal King. Gold is a gift for a king.

The second gift is a bit of a head-scratcher gift: frankincense. This type of incense was used in the Old Testament in worship and sacrifices in the Tent Of Meeting. Incense is a gift for a priest. But would the Magi give a priestly gift to a king?

Jesus came as both King, Priest, and Sacrifice. The frankincense was used as the high priest went from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place to offer the sacrifice of atonement. But look what the Bible says about Jesus:

…Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

And because of what Jesus did for us:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.

When we offer a sacrifice of frankincense to Jesus our High Priest, we’re saying, “I trust You with this. I don’t want to carry this any longer. I give it to You completely.” That means what we offer to Him is completely consumed.

Yesterday our congregation wrote down their burdens and concerns and challenges on a slip of paper. Then we brought those concerns to Jesus and burned them up like frankincense in His presence. As I smelled the aroma, I could only imagine the incredible scent that Jesus detected.

All of the concerns people wrote down were reduced to ash yesterday morning!

I believe people were set free! The concerns were burned up like a sacrifice before our High Priest! No longer do they have to carry these heavy loads:

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

Your greatest gift to God could be all of the things that have burdened you for way too long. Give them to Him because He cares for you. Let them be consumed completely, and never pick them up again.

Live free!

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