The Awesome Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Comedian Brian Regan tells a story about people trying to one-up others with their stories. He explains that he has a “social fantasy” that he wishes he was one of the 12 people who have walked on the moon. How nice it must be, he says, that they can top any story!  

It’s one thing to read things, hear things, and even believe things, but it’s something completely different when you experience those things for yourself. 

The one with an experience…

  1. …is never at the mercy of the one with an argument 
  2. …gains the ear of others 
  3. …inspires others to desire a similar experience for themselves 

In the case of prayer, I feel bad for those who have heard that God no longer answers prayer, or no longer does the miraculous for His children. I have personally experienced God’s healing power as a direct result of someone praying for me. In fact, I’m alive today because of the prayers of my two grandmothers! 

When God answers prayer, it is awesome! 

The dictionary defines awesome with three main words: reverence, admiration, and fear. I think we can be a bit more specific with these definitions—

  • for saints: reverence 
  • for seekers: admiration 
  • for sinners: fear 

It is so important for Christians to personally experience the awesome deeds our God has done because we have prayed in the awesome name of Jesus! 

A.W. Tozer wrote, “There’s an awesomeness about God which is missing in our day altogether; there’s little sense of admiring awe in the Church of Christ these days.” 

I think this is because our prayers are too tame. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us about the powerful personal relationship we can have to Almighty God through Jesus Christ. His conclusion is, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:28-29). 

When Christians pray in the awesome name of Jesus, and God does awesome things in response, the saints stand in reverent worship of Him. God told Moses, “The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you,” and David exclaimed, “You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds” (Exodus 34:10; Psalm 65:5). 

These awesome answers that we personally experience gain the attention and admiration of seekers. Again, David said, “Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind!” (Psalm 66:5). 

But God showing up in His awesome strength will also create fear in sinners. The prophet Joel said, “The day of the Lord is an awesome, terrible thing” (Joel 2:11). The righteous judgment of God is awesome, but so is the love of God: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5). We need to use the awesomeness of God as a means to tell both sinners and seekers how they can know the awesome love of God.  

Remember that Tozer said “there’s little sense of admiring awe in the Church of Christ these days.” So I think we need to pray this, “God, forgive us for expectations of You that are too low.” 

I challenge you: 

  • Let’s pray bolder prayers this year to our awesome God. 
  • Let’s worship in reverence of His awesome deeds. 
  • Let’s create a sense of admiration in seekers which will lead them to reverence as saints. 
  • Let’s address the fear of sinners, and lead them to admiration as seekers, and to reverence as saints. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Sermon Prep 101

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you My message (God speaking to Jeremiah).

Jesus was masterful in using visual illustrations—common, everyday things—to illustrate the biblical truth He wanted to teach. God does the same thing with Jeremiah. 

God instructs Jeremiah to simply go to the potter’s house and watch. Jeremiah obeyed: “I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working” (v. 3). It was after taking in this scene that God could speak to Jeremiah a sermon illustration. Jeremiah says, “Then the word of the Lord came to me” (v. 5). 

Not only did God help Jeremiah prepare his sermon with a visual illustration, but God also prepared Jeremiah for the follow up conversation. God knew how the people would respond to Jeremiah’s message, and He again gave him the words to speak ahead of time (vv. 12-17). 

God knows His sheep better than we do. He knows what they need to hear, and how best to make His message stick. Jesus said, 

“I have never spoken on My own authority or of My own accord or as self-appointed, but the Father Who sent Me has Himself given Me orders concerning what to say and what to tell. And I know that His commandment means eternal life. So whatever I speak, I am saying exactly what My Father has told Me to say and in accordance with His instructions.” (John 12:49-50 AMP) 

We pastors and evangelists dare not try to prepare a message on our own! 

Samuel Johnson prayed something that I pray every time I sit down to prepare a sermon: “Almighty God, my Heavenly Father, without Whose help labor is useless, without Whose light search is in vain, invigorate my studies.” 

Seeking God’s help in our sermon preparation should be our very first action every single time. 

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The Supreme Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Last week here in wintry Michigan we had a couple of snow days (for those of you in non-snow states, that means the roads were too dangerous even for us Michiganders, so the schools were closed). Students and teachers too “work” very hard for snow days. By that I mean they try a bunch of tactics that are supposed to increase the likelihood of school being called off—like flushing ice cubes down the toilet, wearing their PJs inside-out, or even sleeping with a spoon under their pillow. 

But I’ve also noticed it’s not just praying for snow days where people employ some tactics they think will help things go their way. Like saying, “Pretty please with sugar on top” when trying to get special favor, or athletes not saying anything at all to a teammate who’s on the brink of something historic, or business people saying, “Wish me luck” before going into the big meeting. And even Christians who end their prayer with, “In Jesus’ name, Amen” to help make their prayer answerable. 

In case you haven’t noticed, just saying that phrase is not some magical, abracadabra formula for success (for some very notable examples of this check out Matthew 7:21-23 and Acts 19:13-16). 

But still, Jesus does specifically say, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). 

This is where context is king. In John 13-16, Jesus is giving His final instructions to His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. They are clearly anxious about His departure because chapter 14 opens with the words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” 

In this passage of John 14, Jesus is giving the disciples the basis for their confident hope in Him. He tells them that He is THE way to the Father (they don’t have to look for another path), and He is THE revelation of the Father (He will make the Father’s will crystal clear to them). 

Jesus tells them that He has been doing His Father’s work, which is verified by the evidence of the miracles—or we could say the answers to His prayers (v. 10-11). Jesus wants His followers to pray this same way, live this same way, and see even greater things done in His name (v. 12). 

So we can infer from this that praying in the name of Jesus essentially means two things:

  1. We pray in harmony with the character of Jesus. That means that we pray prayers that Jesus Himself would pray. If you cannot imagine Jesus asking for what you’re asking for, then it’s not in alignment with His character. 
  2. We pray in faith in the supreme authority of Jesus to do what we ask. Jesus is Supreme over everything else. To pray in His name means we look for answers from no other source.

I think the key to understanding this is found in the small preposition Jesus uses 12 times in this passage: IN. 

Jesus is IN the Father, the Father is IN Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is IN us. This means that we are also IN the Father with Jesus! 

Which means we don’t have to try to be like Jesus or to merely imitate Him, but we let the Holy Spirit sanctify us into the character of Jesus. 

When I talk to my Dad I don’t have to remind myself that I am his son—I just am his son. I don’t have to carefully calculate how I’m going to make requests of him. I know his heart, and I know my inseparable relationship with him, so I just talk to him. 

Have you ever noticed in the Gospels that when Jesus does a miracle, He doesn’t pray the way that we typically pray? When the man with leprosy came to Jesus, He merely said, “Be clean.” I think we might have bowed our heads, closed our eyes, placed our hands on him and said something like, “Dear heavenly Father, if it’s Your will bring Your healing touch to our dear brother. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.” But Jesus knew the Father’s heart was to heal this suffering man, so Jesus simply spoke the words. His statement was a prayer that resonated with the heart of His Father, and that prayer was immediately answered. 

The Holy Spirit is sanctifying you to pray this same way: 

  • He wants to mold your heart to be passionate for the things of the Father—John 5:17
  • He wants to transform your mind to think the Father’s thoughts—John 16:13-14
  • He wants to soften your will to be yielded to the will of the Father—Matthew 26:36-44 
  • He wants to settle your emotions to be at peace in the Father—John 14:1
  • He wants to even change your vocabulary to the very words Jesus would use—John 12:49

(read the above verses by clicking here)

When your heart, mind, will, and emotions are being sanctified, the supremacy of Jesus will naturally be at the forefront of everything you feel, think, do, and say. Then you will be naturally praying in the name and character of Jesus for God’s glory to be seen. 

Praying in the name of the Supreme Jesus means that we pray IN God’s will FOR God’s glory. 

To see all of the messages in our series called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, please click here. 

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Links & Quotes

“If a claim to spiritual revelation leads us to depend less on the once-for-allness of the historical Word that comes to us by Jesus Christ through the apostles (Hebrews 2:3), then that claim is dubious.” —John Piper

“God, change me today because I have spent time being exposed to Your thoughts in Scripture. As risky as it is, I want Your Word to cut away everything in me that doesn’t look like Jesus.” —Kenneth Blanchard (see Hebrews 4:12) 

A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand,
I march on in haste through an enemy’s land;
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long;
And I’ll smooth it with hope, and I’ll cheer it with song. —Henry Francis Lyte


Looking forward to beginning a new series at Calvary Assembly of God this Sunday…

Awesome

Jesus told us that we could pray in His name and expect amazing things (see John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24). This does not mean that simply adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name, Amen” to the end of a prayer unlocks a secret code. Rather, it means that the more we understand just how awesome our Savior is, and that He is the Key to God’s storeroom, the more we will being to align our prayers with the will of God. 

Jesus desires for His Father’s glory to be seen on earth through the answers to our prayers. The writer of Hebrews opens his letter by reminding us that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). 

We will be working our way through the Book of Hebrews to learn just how awesome the name of Jesus truly is. As we do so, my prayer is that your prayer life will flourish into something far greater than it has ever been before! 

Join us beginning this Sunday for our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus.

If you have missed any of the messages in this series, check them out here:

Year-End Review (2021 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. And nor just teaching, but reminding folks of whatwe have learned too. The apostles Peter and Paul both saw the value in this as well.

So here are all of the sermon series that I shared in 2021. Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Foundation Stones—Any architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise…[and] make no headway because they build without foundation.” We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but more than just having them listed there, it is important to discuss them.

Be A First Responder—There is a line in an old hymn that convicts me every time I sing it: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Why are we so slow to drop to our knees in prayer when trouble strikes? It seems we fool ourselves into thinking the problem is small enough to handle on our own, or we think God isn’t concerned with something that may seem trivial, or we’ve been-here-done-this before and know the way to go. But this isn’t what our Heavenly Father desires; instead, He wants us to come to Him before we try anything else. Instead of making prayer our last resort, why don’t we strive to make it our first response!

Confessions Of A Dying Man—In our justice system, rarely will a judge allow hearsay testimony to be introduced in court. But there is one notable exception: a dying declaration. A dying declaration is the statement of a mortally injured person who is aware he or she is about to die. This statement is admissible testimony in court on the theory that a dying person has no reason not to tell the truth. Jesus was nailed to a Cross. Mortally injured, unable to escape, He had no reason to lie. In His dying moments, struggling to get enough air in His lungs to be able to speak, Jesus choked out seven statements that still have a profound impact on us today.

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

X-ing Out Anxiety—Two brothers—one a doctor and one a pastor—addressed the prevalence of anxiety in our culture. They wrote, “A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” Anxiety can negatively impact our relationships, our ability to think creatively, our physical health, and even our relationship with God. Thankfully, one of the titles given to Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Join us for this freeing series called X-ing Out Anxiety, where we will be learning what God’s Word says about getting free from the anxiety that is robbing us of life, and replacing that anxiety with His peace.

People Will Talk—Sometimes celebrities and other people in the public spotlight will hire a publicist to help promote their cause, build their brand, or present them in the best possible light. If you wanted to stretch the terms, you could say that some of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament disciples could have been viewed as the “publicists” for Jesus. At least, that’s what critics might point to. But despite the best efforts and high salaries of publicists—both ancient and modern—they cannot control the “word on the street.” What people are actually saying about the one in the spotlight is usually the best evidence of who that person truly is. As we celebrate this Advent season, we are going to look at what the people on the street were saying about Jesus at the time of His birth. Before He ever performed a miracle or presented a parable—before any of His “publicists” could try to make Him look good—people were already talking. And what they said about Him is truly enlightening.

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2022, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

Graceful Christians

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our Advent series this year has been called “People Will Talk,” but we have one more person to learn from who says nothing. We have none of her words inside quotation marks, and yet Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit to share her story with us. Her wordless message speaks volumes, if we’re willing to listen. 

Anna, like Simeon, was one of the “Quiet in the Land.” Luke describes her as “very old.” The Greek phrase can either mean that she was a widow for 84 years after seven years of marriage, or simply that she was 84 years old. In either case, we don’t see her sitting withdrawn and inactive because of her old age, but we see her taking the initiative. She is the one who comes up to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. 

Luke also calls her a “prophetess.” Not someone bitter about her widowhood, but someone who truthfully and lovingly spoke God’s Words. Throughout the Bible, we see that a prophet or prophetess is less foretelling the future than they are forth-telling the promises of God. Of course the “-ess” at then end of “prophet” reminds us that Anna is a woman. As a woman she was excluded from certain parts of the temple, but instead of picketing or making a scene Luke says she spends her time worshipping, fasting, praying, and waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah.

I imagine that her mere presence must have changed the atmosphere wherever she went! 

I’m not sure if Charles Dickens had Anna in mind when he wrote A Christmas Carol, but the way the Ghost of Christmas Present added his blessing to busy people is what I imagine Anna’s role being in the temple—

“But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these poor revelers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!” 

Both Anna in the New Testament and Hannah in the Old Testament mean graceful. Or as I like to remember that word: someone full of grace. When she approaches Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, Luke says she “gave thanks.” This comes from a unique Greek word in the New Testament. The root word is usually translated confession, which means saying the same words as others. But the prefix Luke adds means “in place of.” This means that Anna was speaking thankful words in place of the other words being spoken around her. 

Anna spoke counter-culturally. Instead of being a cultural thermometer, she was serving as a thermostat to change the culture around her. This is the same kind of lifestyle that Jesus calls us to live. And it’s a lifestyle that Paul sums up in one succinct verse: “Let your gentleness [or we could say ‘grace-fullness’] be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). 

After Ebenezer Scrooge’s encounter with the three spirits, his life was transformed—

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.… He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. 

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. 

“…And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” 

As Christians, may both our actions and our reactions be so grace-filled, and may our gentleness be so evident to everyone all year long, and may we live so counter-culturally that people cannot help but see that we are grace-filled by the Spirit of Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this Advent series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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The End Of Our Struggle

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Christmas time finds me sampling a whole lot of delicious treats, and I’m not complaining at all! But I’m a pretty simple guy, so one of my favorite treats is just plain old peanut butter. I love it! Sometimes I stick my spoon right in the jar and eat a big spoonful. 

But then there’s the age-old problem: How do you get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth? You can use your tongue or try blowing on it. Or you can use your finger! 

But then there’s another problem: How do you get peanut butter off your finger? Blow it? Shake it? Or eat it! 

Hmm, now I seem to be back to the original problem: How do you get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth? 

Maybe you’ve tried to solve one problem, only to create another problem. And then when you solve that problem you find yourself right back where you started! Round and round it goes! 

The Israelites were facing much the same situation. They sinned, God punished them through King Nebuchadnezzar, they tried to rebel, they were taken into captivity, and then they were finally allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years. But they still weren’t in charge of their own fate. First it was the Babylonians calling the shots, then the Medians, then the Persians, and then the Romans. Luke begins the birth story of Jesus with the words “in the days of Caesar Augustus” (Luke 2:1). 

The Israelites were waiting for God to restore their Promised Land to them. Some people believed a miraculous champion was going to come on the scene (much like Samson of old), and some thought a new anointed king from King David’s line would appear and rally an army to himself. 

We can understand this because of one of the prophecies from Isaiah 9 that talks about a warrior and God’s zeal. 

That word “warrior” got people pumped up! As did the promise that “the zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this”! For many, this was their proof that God wanted His people to rule this Promised Land for themselves 

We’ve been going through a series called People Will Talk, and these voices of a miraculous champion or a new king from David’s line were loud voices to be sure. But interestingly, the Bible doesn’t record much of what these loud voices were saying. 

Also among the people of this time there was another group that were called “the Quiet in the Land.” These were people who didn’t talk very much, but instead they clung to the promise spoken by God Himself of the Messiah. One of these quiet ones was a man named Simeon.

He was called “righteous and devout” and someone “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Which meant he carefully attended to the prophecies of Scripture. The Amplified Bible says that Simeon “lived in prayerful expectancy [of] the Lord’s Christ. 

I left out an important part of that prophecy in Isaiah 9—something that I think the loud ones overlooked or downplayed too. In between those words about “warrior” and “God’s zeal” we read this: “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. The government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). 

What does the “Prince of Peace” have to do with a warrior? Quite simply, when Jesus the Messiah came, the struggle was over. Jesus was the Warrior King who defeated the enemy of sin that kept us out of God’s presence. 

The loud Israelites believed God wanted His people to rule their Promised Land for themselves. But God wanted a people exclusively for Himself. ALL people—Jews and Gentiles alike—regardless of where or when they lived! 

Jesus is the way into God’s presence. He told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). 

You can try to solve your own problems, but only Jesus can bring the ultimate salvation. In the Christmas carol Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, check out the lyrics of the second stanza:

Born Thy people to deliver, 
Born a child and yet a King, 
Born to reign in us for ever, 
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. 
By Thine own eternal Spirit, 
Rule in all our hearts alone; 
By Thine all sufficient merit, 
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

A relationship with Jesus means there is no more struggle of trying to solve our own problems, or figure out how things are supposed to work, or pushing down one problem only to have another one pop up. We come to the One and Only One who can raise us to His glorious throne forever and ever! 

Advent is a celebration of the end of our struggle because Jesus has made the way for us to have peace with God. 

And that means a very Merry Christmas indeed! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, you can find links to all of them by clicking here. 

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All Talk But No Action

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

What people were saying about Jesus from His birth—before He preached a sermon, performed a miracle, or stepped on the toes of religious or political leaders—was revealing the truth. I’ve already discussed the words of the Magi and King Herod the Great, but all of these men also interact with another group (Matthew 2:1-6). Matthew calls them “all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law.” 

This group was commonly called the Sanhedrin. It was an influential body of 70 + 1 leaders (Numbers 11:16), whose influence was felt in the temple in Jerusalem, in the synagogues in small villages, in King Herod’s throne room, and in the palace of the Roman governors. 

Notice that Matthew says “chief priests” in the plural. At the time of the birth of Jesus, Caiaphas was high priest and Annas his father-in-law was the former high priest. In the time of the early church, Annas is again called the high priest (Luke 3:2; John 18:13; Acts 4:6) 

Even under the Roman government the Sanhedrin held tremendous power…

  • they were experts in the Mosaic law and its application (Matthew 22:35) 
  • Jesus said, “the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses” (Matthew 23:2 NLT) 
  • Jesus also said they had storehouses of helpful knowledge (Matthew 13:52) 
  • they decided who would get to use their authority (Mark 11:27-28; 1:22) 
  • they were keepers of the traditions and became “indignant” when those traditions weren’t followed (Mark 7:5; Matthew 21:15) 
  • they were exorcists (Mark 9:14-17; Acts 19:13-14) 
  • Jesus said these leaders would be instrumental in His death (Matthew 16:21) 
  • they had their own armed guards and prisons (Mark 14:43; Acts 4:1; 5:18) 
  • yet they were afraid of the opinions of the people (Luke 22:1-2; Mark 11:31-32) 

(check out all of the above Scriptures by clicking here)

Jesus said they were “the official interpreters of the law,” yet they oftentimes interpreted the law to benefit themselves. 

When Herod asks them where the Messiah is to be born, they quote Micah 5:2 as saying, “a Ruler who will be the Shepherd of My people Israel.” But the word they use for “Ruler” means a leader with authority, or a governor (the same word is used for Joseph in Acts 7:10). Remember Herod’s violent temper and his insane suspicion? The word these religious leaders used gave them an “out.” They were almost saying to Herod, “When the Messiah does come, He will be a governor, which means there’s a good chance that He would report to you.” This “tame” interpretation was an attempt to keep them in the good graces of King Herod the Great 

But Micah himself uses the word for “Ruler” that means one with absolute dominion. Jesus will be THE Sovereign King. 

After hearing that this long awaited Messiah had finally been born in fulfillment of the prophecies, take a look at their response—

  • they said   . 
  • they did   . (even though Bethlehem was only 6 miles away!) 

How sad! 

But I think this is because they believed themselves to be “in” with Jehovah because they so carefully kept the rules. They didn’t need a Messiah to save them because—in their minds—they believed they were already saved from God’s punishment. 

Keeping religious rules doesn’t save anyone. 

Honoring age-old traditions doesn’t save anyone. 

Only coming to Jesus saves anyone! 

A key prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 9:2 says that the Messiah will save us from darkness and shadows. What exactly are these? 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the law and rules are merely shadows of the True Substance. God said through Isaiah that relying on the rules keeps us trapped in meaningless religious traditions. But Jesus came as the Light and as the Substance that set us free. His death and resurrection made it possible for our sins to be forgiven (see Hebrews 10:1-7; Isaiah 1:11-14, 18).

Rules don’t take us into God’s presence, but Jesus does. Not just talking about Jesus, but coming to Jesus as our Savior and Lord. 

People will talk about Jesus—even you may talk about Him. That doesn’t do anything. But when we do more than talk—when we come to Him to follow Him as our Ruler and Shepherd—then we find forgiveness and freedom. 

Let’s not just talk about Jesus, but let’s be actively obedient! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, you can find those messages by clicking here. 

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The Sovereign King

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What people were saying about Jesus right from His birth—before He preached a sermon, performed a miracle, or stepped on the toes of religious or political leaders—was revealing the truth. 

As the Gospel of Matthew’s account of Christ’s birth begins, Persian Magi came from Babylon, having been keepers of the Truth handed down to them for over 500 years from Belteshazzar the Chief of Magician. This was the Babylonian name given to the Hebrew exile Daniel. 

Daniel served under multiple kings, even as the regimes changed from Babylonian, to Median, to Persian. He never waiver in his adherence to the Truth that God had spoken. He fearlessly told these world leaders, “The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes” (Daniel 4:25). 

Most leaders forget this the moment they obtain power. Such is the case of the man the Magi met: King Herod the Great. Listen to how William Barclay describes this monarch: 

“Herod the Great was always despised by the pure-blooded Jews because he was half an Edomite; and we can see the importance that even Herod attached to these genealogies from the fact that he had the official registers destroyed, so that no one could prove a purer pedigree than his own. … 

“He had made himself useful to the Romans in the wars and civil wars of Palestine, and they trusted him. He had been appointed governor in 47 B.C.; in 40 B.C. he had received the title of king. … 

“But Herod had one terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had always been suspicious, and the older he became the more suspicious he grew, until, in his old age, he was, as someone said, ‘a murderous old man.’ … He murdered his wife Mariamne and her mother Alexandra. His eldest son, Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were all assassinated by him. Augustus, the Roman Emperor, had said, bitterly, that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son. … 

“When he was seventy he knew that he must die. … He gave orders that a collection of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem should be arrested on trumped-up charges and imprisoned. And he ordered that the moment he died, they should all be killed. He said grimly that he was well aware that no one would mourn for his death, and that he was determined that some tears should be shed when he died.” 

Lord Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. …  Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.” This is so obvious in Herod! So we can understand why the city of Jerusalem was disturbed when the Magi arrived! Whether Herod knew the prophecy of the coming Messiah or not, it’s inescapably true that his days and his legacy were numbered (see Isaiah 9:2-7). 

When King Herod heard the announcement from the Magi, his reaction was violent. Perhaps Herod lashed out so ferociously because these words of Truth from the Magi reminded him his end was near, his power was not absolute, he had to answer to The Most High who is sovereign over all. 

We are no better. Oswald Chambers defines sin as “my claim to my right to myself.” We want absolute sovereignty over ourselves, but Jesus will allow no rival to His throne! He is either King over all or else He is not King at all. 

Beware of your own reaction when the Holy Spirit convicts you of a rival to Christ’s throne in your heart. If you lash out like Herod, dismiss it, or try to justify it, that is proof that you needed to hear that word of Truth. Don’t delay: Repent and allow Christ to have His rightful throne.

Jesus came as a Baby and a Savior at his First Advent. He opened the way for us to enter the presence of The Most High God, but it will cost us something to enter. Oswald Chambers tells us: 

“Redemption is easy to experience because it cost God everything, and if I am going to be regenerated it is going to cost me something. I have to give up my right to myself. I have deliberately to accept into myself something that will fight for all it is worth, something that will war against the desires of the flesh, and that will ask me to go into identification with the death of Jesus Christ, and these things produce a struggle in me.” 

Christ’s Second Advent will be as the conquering King and righteous Judge of all humanity. We have precious little time to tell others the good news. People may react violently like Herod did, but that is simply proof that they needed to hear that Truth. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series People Will Talk, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

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