Tag Archives: Angels

The Fright of the Shepherds

12 Dec

shepherdCheck out the audio version here.

Last week we reviewed the journey that Mary and Joseph took to get from Galilee to Bethlehem and why they had to make the trip. We saw what must have been a difficult birth process with only Joseph attending to Mary and what did he know? This was his first child too. We left Jesus in the manger all wrapped up in the swaddling cloths. Let’s keep going and see how the other characters responded to the birth of Christ.

Read over Luke 2:6-20 to get an idea of the context of the birth of Christ.

Luke tells us that there were, “Some shepherd staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds are always part of the story. I want you to put yourself in the place of the shepherds. How would you respond if, “The angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them?” Have you ever suddenly appeared to your spouse? Your kids? They screamed. Do you think the shepherds would have done anything different? Of course not because the text tells us, “They were terribly frightened.” They were scared out of their wits. Frightened is the Greek word phobeo. What’s really interesting is the shepherds of that day were generally not the most well respected, wonderful folks in town. Why the shepherds? Why not merchants? Why not the elders of the city? The shepherds were generally dishonest, dirty, and smelly people. The shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks. It was dark and likely very quiet when all of a sudden, the angel appears.

The angel says, “Do not be afraid.” It’s a little late for that! They’ve just had the fright of their life and they’re already scared, but don’t you do this with your kids? They’re in their dark bedroom and they tell you they’re afraid and you tell them, “Don’t be afraid” and they’re supposed to respond by saying okay. The appearance of the angel is different. Your kids are afraid of what might be in the dark. The shepherds were afraid of what suddenly appeared out of the dark. You’d be scared too. The angel told the shepherds something very specific. “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The angel speaks directly to the shepherds so make this personal. The angel told the shepherds that the good news was for all people. That phrase good news is from the Greek word euangelizo where we get our English word evangelize. The good news is not only of Christ’s birth, but that there has been born a Savior and He is named. Don’t miss the fact that the Savior has been born for all people. All is an interesting word that means all, not a select number, not a few chosen ones, but all. A Savior has been born. In Matt. 1:21 an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the Savior, the long awaited Messiah, our Deliverer, our Redeemer, He is Lord.

In case the shepherds doubted the message, the angel of the Lord told them there was a sign. Really get this in your mind. An angel appears out of thin air and tells the shepherds that the Savior, the One that had been prophesied from the beginning of humanity, the Savior that has been talked about for thousands of years has been born and then the angel tells them how they can find Jesus. He’s in the City of David – Bethlehem, and He’s wrapped up tightly in swaddling cloths, laying in a manger. This is a very specific description to eliminate any confusion in case there was another new born baby in the town. They were given specific instructions on how to find the One. It’s no mistake that the angel appears to these lowly shepherds. Isn’t that the message of hope that we all need? Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous. After Jesus grew up, He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lu. 5:32) The angel delivers the life changing news that had been prophesied about from the beginning of time and they get to be a part of it.

What is the collective response to this incredible announcement? “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” Here’s the same “suddenly” that we saw earlier. Without warning, the angel of the Lord is joined by his heavenly colleagues. Multitude comes from the same word as plethora. It was the hallelujah chorus. Hallelujah means praise Ye Yahweh. Many people think of Handel’s Messiah. Handel was actually inspired by Rev. 19, but it still works here. Imagine for a moment that you are a heavenly being and you’ve also been waiting for the Messiah, not for yourself, but to see the plan they knew of in Gen. 3:15 come to fruition. There was a boat load of heavenly beings and they were, “Saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” I think it’s important to define the words we so casually say and sing this time of year. Glory comes from the word doxa which means splendor which means magnificence. When the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest” they were expressing God’s incredibleness, His awesomeness, His uniqueness, His majesticness, His greatness, and every other accolade you can attribute to a perfect, holy, righteous, all powerful being. In all of eternity there is none like Him and no one will ever be like Him.

“And on earth peace among men.” The only way to have true peace is to embrace Jesus as Savior. With Him, we can know true peace and it passes all understanding. That word peace means completeness or wholeness. Don’t overlook the significance of this message! If you don’t know Jesus, you cannot have peace. What the world defines as peace is not peace. Jesus provides the opportunity to be complete, to be restored to the relationship God designed for humanity, but it can only come through the gift that was found in the manger. Later in 19:38, Luke says, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And in Acts 10:36, “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” When confronted with the reality of who God is and what He has done there is only one response and that is worship!

In this message, we focused on the shepherds and the angels and there’s a reason for that. The familiarity of this Christmas story shouldn’t prevent us from learning something new each time. The shepherds were scared out of their minds when the angel of the Lord appeared, but the angel told them something incredible: a Savior had been born. The angel even gave them a sign on how to find the One. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ. Stay tuned for the next installment as we’ll see how the shepherds went from frightened to fascinated.

Can You Hear the Angels Singing?

14 Dec

AngelsYou can listen to the podcast here.

Take a look at the familiar Christmas story found in Luke 2:8-14.

Apparently angels are scary beings. The angel told Joseph, “Do not be afraid.” Gabriel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid.” And the angel told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” Put yourself in the shepherd’s place. All of a sudden, an angel appears and tells them that Jesus has been born. “And there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” The sky was filled with more angels than you could count. They were singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This is the way it typically happens. The key word in that text is the word suddenly. God always works in His own time and I think we wish there were more of these types of moments. Suddenly means without warning, it means quickly and unexpectedly. The angels weren’t there and all of a sudden, they were and they filled the sky. The shepherds were out in the field taking care of their flocks by night, but could the angels be seen in Bethlehem? What about in Jerusalem eight miles away? Did the angel’s praise reach across the miles? These are questions to get you to think. Of course, we don’t know the answers, but I can tell you one thing for sure: the angels filled the sky and the shepherds saw them.

Are angels real? Of course they are. 2 Ki. 6 tells the story of Elisha and his servant when the Aramean army surrounded them in the city of Dothan. Seeing the enemy on every side, the servant cried out, “What shall we do?”  Elisha responded by declaring, Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Ki. 6:16-17) The angels were always there, but the servant simply could not see them. When his eyes were opened, he saw what had been there all along. There are skeptics all around us so how should we respond to someone like that? It is a matter of faith. Just because you cannot prove something does not automatically disprove it. That was part of my journey to recognizing that God is real. There are things all around us that people take by faith, or I think a more applicable term is take for granted. How can you see the beauty of nature or the beauty of humanity and not see God? You cannot ignore the supernatural element of Jesus’ birth. Angels are a huge part of the story. An angel tells Mary she will give birth to Jesus. An angel tells Joseph not to dump Mary. That angel would then tell Joseph what was going on and that the baby would be called Jesus. An angel warns Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. An angel tells them when it’s safe to return to Israel. And in Lu. 2:11, an angel tells the shepherds that the Savior has been born and then the sky is filled with angels. Later, we have the mysterious star that led those far away Magi all the way to the very house where they found Jesus. And the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod but to go home another way. Angels and stars and dreams. Crazy supernatural stuff throughout this story. I think these are some things we know, but really have forgotten how incredible they are. When you reduce Christmas to good feelings and family time, you miss out on this incredibleness. This story helps us solidify that there is a heavenly realm. This world is not eternal. We look forward to the day when we join God in our eternal home. This world is not our home – that’s why we’re strangers and aliens here. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are pilgrims on a journey from this world that is passing away to a world that will last forever. We are looking for a city with eternal foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

The end is coming. What we know today will be gone soon. Those things that many feel are so important will pass away. 1 Jo. 2:17 reminds us that, The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” We are here today and gone tomorrow. Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) Rev. 16:18 says, “There was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.” That earthquake destroys all that we know. All the incredible architecture gone. The great masterpieces of the ages gone. All the earthly treasures held so dearly are gone. There is nothing we can do to save any of it including ourselves. Our salvation comes from another source. That’s why Christmas is so important. Miracles surround Christmas: the angels, the star, the dreams, the prophecies, and most of all, the virgin birth. But those miracles are just signs pointing to the greatest miracle of all. Since we get a play by play of events from Scripture, it’s only fitting that we look to the Bible to see why. Jo. 3:16 tells us that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Tit. 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” Gal. 4:4 says, But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.  Phil. 2:6-7, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.” One of my favorites is found in Jo. 1:14, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The birth of Christ is the incarnation of God. It is the unity of deity and humanity. The infinite became finite. The immortal became mortal. The Creator became the created. The omnipotent lived inside a young girl’s womb. The Almighty became helpless. The Deity was wrapped in rags. The King was born in a stable. The incarnation is essential in our faith. Without the incarnation, there can be no birth. Without a birth, there can be no sinless life. Without a sinless life, there can be no atonement for sin. Without atonement, there is no need for the crucifixion. Without the crucifixion, there can be no resurrection. Without the resurrection, there is no hope. Without hope, there is nothing.

I don’t want you to miss the main point. Having a biblical worldview is supernatural. When you take the supernatural out of Christmas, you’re left without the miraculous. You’re left without hope. You’re left in your sin. As Christians, why would we want to do that? The central point, the main thing, the primary focus, the theme, the moral of the story is all summed up in two words: “I am.” Christmas without Jesus is like a computer with no operating system. It’s like an iPod with no music. It’s like a phone that doesn’t make calls. It’s like cooking without food. It’s like Face Time with no face. Those things just don’t make sense.

Anytime we see angels in Scripture, I think they appear suddenly. Even though we might say we want God to work suddenly, I don’t think we really do. Especially when you consider how long you’ve prayed for lost family members and friends. Or when you consider that loved one that is dying. I think we often pray for more time. Right now we have some time, but who knows how long.

We have the time this moment to share the truths that the angels sang about that first Christmas. Today, we sing those same songs. Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King! If you listen with all your heart, you can still hear them singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased!” “Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled. Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies with the angelic host proclaim: Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

A Sinful Trifecta

28 Oct

CreepYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude gave us more proof that God is a God of His word. We saw the sin of Israel when they were released from bondage in Egypt, the sin of the angels, and those of Sodom and Gomorrah as Jude completed his trifecta of examples. The three examples of judgment serve as a reminder for us. We saw from v. 4 that the creepers turned the grace of God into license. This morning Jude talks about three specific sins of the creepers that will be judged by God.

Jude 8 says, “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.”

So what’s the connection? Jude is not haphazard in his writing. He connects this verse with the previous by the phrase, “In the same way.” That phrase connects the Israelites in the wilderness, the angels that left their domain, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember Jude is arguing that God will judge sin and the creepers are no different than the people in history. Jude is not saying the sin of the creepers is the same as the three examples: he is using an analogy. Jude goes on to say, “These men, also by dreaming.” Before we look at the three sins, we need to understand this phrase. Dreams play an important part in God’s plan. We saw the importance of dreams from Jacob and his 12 sons that included Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret dreams. Joel 2:28 says, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Acts 2:17 quotes the passage from Joel. In Matt 1:20, we see an angel of the Lord coming to Joseph the carpenter in a dream regarding the pregnancy of Mary.

Dreams are a part of Scripture, but like all good things, Satan provides a counterfeit to truth. If you can, I encourage you to read Deut. 13:1-5 and Jer. 23:25-32. Both passages provide some insight into biblical dreams. Just because someone may say I had a dream doesn’t mean that dream is from the Lord. Just like anyone who says, the Lord is leading me to_______ doesn’t make it true. We need to line it up with Scripture. “By dreaming,” Jude says. In other words, they make up things in their imagination. Their way of thinking; their doctrine is purely imaginary. So these men by dreaming do three things. Let’s find out what Jude says specifically.

Jude lists three sins of the creepers. First they, “defile the flesh.” Defile means to desecrate or profane. In the Old Testament, defile typically indicates sexual type sin. This certainly fits with what Jude said about the angels that left their own domain. It fits with what he said happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. The phrase is also found in early Christian writings describing sexual sin. The creepers pollute their own flesh. In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul said, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Our bodies are supposed to be holy.

Second they, “reject authority.” We need to keep it in context here and not go all crazy saying things that are not accurate. This phrase can only mean one thing – numerous applications, but it can’t mean more than it means. It would be easy to say this means human authority – the government, church leadership, parents, teachers, etc. The word translated authority never has that meaning in Scripture so it would be wrong to say that’s what it means. If that were to be accurate, authority would be plural, but here it’s singular. Most likely is that Jude means the authority of Jesus Christ especially given that v. 4 tells us the creepers, “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The creepers reject or dismiss the authority of Christ. Of course, this isn’t new and we still see it today. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I know what the Bible says, but,” they are dismissing the authority of Christ.

Finally they, “revile angelic majesties.” Of the three, this phrase is the most difficult to understand. We know revile comes from the same word where get blaspheme. Angelic refers to angels and majesties mean glories. So are these angels good angels or bad angels? Messengers of God or are they demons? I can emphatically say . . . I’m not sure. I have poured over the text and cross references and I am just not sure. So what do we do with this phrase? Let’s see what we do know for sure. These creepers are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they are like the angels that left their appointed place of authority, and they are like the grumblers that left Egypt. They are disobedient, rebellious, and doctrinally flawed. They are sinners that have not accepted the gift of God through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. They were marked out for judgment because they reject the authority of Jesus Christ.        If that weren’t bad enough, they are in the church and no one noticed.

Perhaps this will clear up when we look at v. 9 next week. The message for us is clear. We need to know the Scriptures so that we can recognize when people teach things that are not consistent with the Bible. If they do it out of ignorance, we can help correct it. But if they intentionally teach things that are not consistent, we need to deal with that in a different way. Always in love, but not compromising on the truth.

More Proof

14 Oct

ProofYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude reminded his readers that they need to remember the disobedience of the generation of Israelites that were delivered out of Egypt. Even after the miracles God performed, He subsequently destroyed them because they did not believe. That was Jude’s first example of God’s judgment; now let’s check out the second and third examples in Jude’s exemplarific trifecta.

Jude 6-7 says, “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

We saw Jude’s first example last week, now let’s check out his second example of God’s judgment. We covered this same event when we were in Peter’s second letter, but Jude attacks it from a different angle. Interest in angels has grown over the years. From movies like Angels in the Outfield and Heaven Can Wait to TV shows like Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven. We have the city of Los Angeles which is Spanish for the angels and is home to the baseball team called the Angels. We have girls named Angel, Angela, Angelia, Angelica, Angelina, and Angeline. We have angel tattoos and Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels. The stereotypical angel has rosy cheeks, is somewhat plump, wears a white flowing robe, carries a harp, has white feathered wings, and of course the real identifier is the golden halo. Angels are hugely popular, but Jude talks about some angels that did something they should not have done. Jude presents a parallel verse to the one we looked at in 2 Pet. 2:4 and says there are, “angels that did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode.” These angels were supposed to keep their own domain, but did not. They were supposed to stay in their proper abode, but did not. Remember Jude is explaining and reminding his readers by way of example why God’s judgment will occur to the creepers because they, “Were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” Jude and Peter came to the same conclusion about Gen. 6:1-4.  Let’s review what happened in Genesis. Here’s the condensed version. Sons of God refer to angels and daughters of men refer to women. These angels looked at the daughters of men and saw that they were beautiful. Beautiful literally means good. Sound familiar? It’s the same word used to describe how Eve felt about the fruit of the tree that led her to take it. So these angelic beings took humans as their wives and engaged in activity reserved for husband and wife. They crossed over the boundaries established by God. Just prior to this event in Genesis, we see a new character introduced by the name of Noah. So if you keep reading, you have the flood account; a story of worldwide judgment.

Back in Jude 6, the word “domain” is used. It means a sphere of influence or authority. The angels Jude refers to did not stay within the authority or sphere of influence God established for them. The angels, “abandoned their proper abode.” They left where they were supposed to be as ordered by God. As a result of their disobedience God, “kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” There’s more here than meets the eye. Don’t think of these angels as sitting in a dungeon somewhere waiting until the judgment comes. God created these angels to enjoy His presence. These angels were able to freely move about in the shining light of God’s presence. Now they are in darkness. While they have been judged for leaving their domain and abandoning their proper abode, this is not the final judgment. They have been stripped of the power and authority they once had. Are you ready for Jude’s third example? Many people have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah. Peter talked about the preservation of Lot who lived in Sodom. But Peter’s focus was on Lot’s salvation and not necessarily the judgment for Sodom’s sin although we did see that. Let’s quickly review. We saw from 2 Peter that these cities were reduced to ashes because of the ungodliness of the people living there. The details are found in Genesis 18-19. While this is a story of salvation for Lot, it is a tragic story of wickedness, ungodliness, and death for the rest. Gen. 13:13 tells us that the, “Men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.” If you go back to Genesis, you’ll see Abraham bargaining with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of the righteous. First for 50 righteous men, then 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. It is important to mention that Abraham was Lot’s uncle. For all the ungodliness and sin that was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah, God still made a way to deliver people committed to Him. Abraham prayed the city would be spared for the sake of 10 righteous and yet the city was destroyed. There weren’t 10 righteous people there.

Jude gives us a detail not included in Peter’s second letter. Look at v. 7. The clause, “just as” links the activities of the angels and the activities of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice that the cities around Sodom and Gomorrah were engaging in the same activities that brought destruction upon them. Deut. 29:23 tells us those cities were Admah and Zeboiim. They, “indulged in gross immorality.” Sexual sin was rampant but was not their only issue. Ez. 16:49 tells us that Sodom was arrogant and had abundant food, yet they showed no concern for the poor or needy. Jewish historian Josephus criticized Sodom for its pride and hatred of foreigners. Not only did they indulge themselves in gross immorality, Jude says they, “went after strange flesh.” This refers to the same sin that dominated Sodom. So why does Jude talk about Sodom and Gomorrah? Peter wanted his readers to know that God will always deliver His children. Jude wanted his readers to know that sin will always be judged. He concluded Sodom and Gomorrah are, “An example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” The people of those cities stood in opposition to the things that are right and godly and holy and pure and moral. Because of their behavior, judgment occurs. They behave in a certain way because they have no relationship with Christ. Not only do Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a historic example, they also serve as a prophecy of what will occur on that day. Jude is not saying that the creepers engaged in the exact same sin as that of Sodom, but we’ll see in coming verses that they did engage in activities reserved for husband and wife within the confines of marriage. Jude’s point is that sin will be judged. Just because the evidence of judgment may not be apparent to our eyes, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care. We’ve seen from John’s first letter that we should not choose to sin.

We’ve heard Jesus say that the proof our relationship with Him is in obedience to His commands. Jude is providing concrete examples where God does exactly as He says He will do. He judged sin then and He will judge sin today.