On the Way to Christmas by Pastor Don
This is a transcript of Pastor Don’s Sunday service – I did not get a chance to copy the video over for you, but this is a wonderful, timely message. I pray that you have a blessed Christmas! Remember, three periods is a pause, what is in the [brackets] is what the congregation says.
My goodness! There are many people that attack the Christian faith, but I think sometimes without thinking, how would you take the words of a carpenter, a nobody, coming from a nowhere town, and He would say this phenomenal statement: “The words that I am preaching to you right now are going to cover the globe and then the end of the world will come.” Who would even think that, I mean, do you know how many carpenters there were then? Thousands and thousands of guys and this one guy says, “Guess what, what I’m preaching to you guys now is going to be here when the end of the world comes.” It’s just, to me, that’s enough reason to believe that Jesus is Lord. Right there. Just that testimony alone because hundreds of thousands of other people lived and died and passed from the scene. And we don’t know anything that they said. And we have a handful of guys like Plato and Socrates and so forth, and most of their documents we’re not even sure that they say what they say.
And here, Dr. Luke has written to this guy, Theophilus, who has passed from the scene of history, but he’s given us this recorded account. I think that it’s really, really, really wonderful that when Theophilus got this book, written, not as a book but written as a correspondence, that Luke felt compelled, that since he was there from the beginning, since he knew all of the Apostles firsthand, up close and personal, that he would take the time to write down so that 2000 years later we could read it. Now in his account, he points out to us in verse 2 that he is talking about not heresy – He’s talking about people that were eye witnesses, eye witnesses. These people saw what went on.
And it’s phenomenally important for us to remember that most of these eyewitnesses were willing to die for the truth of the testimony. And most of them did. And a funny little thing that comes to us from the book “More than a Carpenter” Josh McDowell, says this, a lot of people, a lot of people will die for a truth but very few would die for a lie… A lot of people would die for a truth, but not many people would die for a lie. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, if He had not been seen by eye witnesses, why would you then be martyred for a lie?… Just some basic Christmas things to think about. [amen] And so when we get to this next passage, we’re going to see the announcements that were made to reliable people in the text, and I think we can gain some strength from it. The reason is because these Scriptures were written that we could draw strength, that we could draw an understanding, but more importantly, that we could become believers because of what was written.
So in verse 4 it tells us, I’m sorry, Verse 3, “…it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all the things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account...” So he’s going to give us an account that is orderly and in succession. Then in verse 4, “…that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” So from this we can ascertain that Theophilus had been instructed in the Gospel. And the reason Dr. Luke is going to clarify and put it in an orderly account was so that he could increase the certainty with which Theophilus already had instruction, had information, but he is saying, if we put this in an order, in the order that it happened, the way that it went down. Then he is saying, it should have a positive effect on lifting your faith…
That’s why we go to church. That’s why we go to Bible study. That’s why we buy Christian books and tapes. In order that we might what, build our faith, strengthen our belief system, so that in the difficult times of life, when difficulties come, we can still be strong and centered knowing that the account was done orderly, effectively, has not been corrupted or tampered with, and as a result of that, we can do this thing. Come on church, we can do this. We can do this. We can live the Christian life. We can walk this out. We can do this. We may not have suffered like Christ. We may not have been eyewitnesses to His account, but we’re eyewitnesses to the testimony of the truth of the Scriptures, for as time goes on, we continue to test what it says here. And we must realize we can do this.
Last Sunday I said something that just keeps reverberating through my head. And that is, that time is the enemy of our faith. Time’s the enemy of our faith. We want instant faith, instant manifestation, instant deliverance, instant healing. We want everything quick. We want the perfect marriage overnight. We want the perfect boyfriend overnight. We want the perfect financial plan overnight. We want, we want to just get in, get out, and have everything – boom! Just like that. But guess what? You wouldn’t be able to hold onto it if you got everything you asked for just like that. [Thank you Lord] You wouldn’t have the character to be able to stand through it, or to keep focused, or to hold on. And you wouldn’t be any good to yourself or to anybody else. So it takes time. The testing of your faith and the building of my faith is going to take time.
So, let’s see what God is willing to do here. God is willing to have, not just Jesus come, but He’s willing to have someone come before Jesus to clear the path for him. He’s not just going to have the Messiah come unannounced. After all, He is the King. And when a king comes, we announce Him. (trumpet sound) And they go, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Here comes the King.” And the other trumpets go (trumpet sound) “Hear ye! Hear ye! All asleep, wake up! Arise!” [laughter, amen] (trumpet sound) You can tell I love the trumpet thing, you know. Ok, you ready?
Verse 5, let’s see how it goes down. “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” So we know these guys are hooked up. “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” We need to get an understanding of that. Verse 6 is telling us they were keepers of the Law and the Commandments. That isn’t easy to do. You had to know when to wash dishes, what dishes not to wash. When to sit, when to stand. When to go out and when to come in. What do do, what to … dadddah daddah, daddah. The list was endless. There were over 660 laws that had to be maintained and kept. Alright, and so they’re both righteous, blameless.
“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.” You know, sometimes we get carried away with this, and we think that everybody ought to have a baby. And well, these were righteous people and they don’t have a child. Ok? So it’s not like you don’t have a baby, and it’s like you did something wrong. You know? Sometimes that’s just the way the DNA and the genes come together, and it’s not a good hook up. You didn’t know that when you asked her out… You know. But everything doesn’t work out in the womb. And I’m sure they were trying.
“So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell…” His lot, meaning that they chose lots to figure out which priest would serve at certain times, “…to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And while the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.”
Now before we go on to that, we need to explain something. Sometimes people have a hard time separating tradition from fact, and fact from spiritual things. We were at a dinner the other night, with some people that are friends of ours and all, and they started talking about church stuff. And you know, when people know I’m a minister and a pastor and all of that, they hedge their bets on what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it. And after he said what he had to say, I just said, “Well, wait a minute. We have to celebrate, we have to celebrate within the context of tradition is one thing, and history and archaeology are another.” It got a little quiet around the table. Cause people had to start thinking. The people at the table were predominately Roman Catholic. And so, I was very politely saying that all of the traditions that we participate in as Protestants and Catholics do not line up with the accuracy of history and archaeology. Anybody got what I’m saying? [yes] I’m not putting anybody down, or making a bad thing. I’m just saying that, you know, when the Easter Bunny jumped out, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Resurrection of Christ. [amen] The little red fat guy coming down your chimney in the ghetto would get shot. [laughter] you know, it’s just some things… Listen I’m not bah humbug about Christmas, I just feel I have a responsibility to Luke and Theophilus, that he went through all of that so that we have some things straight.
The Jewish priesthood by tribe had their responsibilities and those fell according to the Jewish holidays and according to the Sabbaths. So, all we have to do, I’m not going to do it now because it would just take too long, all we have to do is to look up and we can see when the tribe of Abijah was responsible for what was going on in the Temple. Cause they would move it around. That has never changed. They have kept that for over 3000 years. It falls the same, Temple worship, was decreed and established through the time of Solomon, and they haven’t moved that mess around. Even since the Temple has been destroyed, the Jews have kept reading the same scriptures at the same time, except for one change, and that was 1000 years after Jesus Christ, they didn’t want the Jews to identify that Jesus was the Messiah, according to Isaiah 53, so they moved that Scripture. Other than that, they still read the same scriptures every Sabbath and in Temples globally, worldwide.
So, all we have to do is ask Abijah, when did he serve? What was the time of incense and all? And we know exactly that. Then all we have to do is add to it six months, which was the time that Elizabeth is going to get pregnant and the next few verses and we know that Jesus was already in the womb at the time that she did that. You’d take the six and the nine months and we put them all together and we could figure out that Jesus was not born December 25, He was conceived December 25. He was born out of the womb, at between Rosh Hashanah and the Feast of Tabernacles, which is September, October. And if it was an early Sabbath, early Holiday, it might have been the end of August… So, we’re not guessing at this stuff. And then when we add to that the astronomy that we know, we know when that constellation that the Magi, these guys are not magicians, they’re astronomers, they are kings, they are wise men, they are following a major constellation that just moved in the sky.
Now, let me ask you a question. How many of you in the past week saw those two very bright stars, very close together in the sky? How many of us will remember that years from now? The brightness of them. The closeness of them. And they were there every night. And then they began to separate. We could have decided we’re gonna follow this one to the right and that one to the left and ended up in Hershey, Pennsylvania. [ha] I thought that was funny, ok. [laughter] So all of this is what you just saw. I just looked at it and I said, OK, Jupiter, the Lion of Judah, you know, and Venus are appearing in the sky bright and very close together. Which means to me, He’s coming soon. [yeah, amen] Love is coming soon. And there’s more and more. We will see more of this as it progresses.
What we have here happening is through the process of serving as the priest in the Temple, according to the order and the division, we realize that this great supernatural thing is happening in verse 11. “The angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” Can you imagine, you know, he’s making the incense, and you have to understand that he’s making it in a private place. He’s not making it out in a public place. And then all of a sudden, boom, there’s this angel materializes. Verse 12. “And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled and fear fell upon him.” The angel says, always trust an angel that says this, “…Do not be afraid….” [amen]
When the angel appeared to Mohammed in a cave, he told him it was time for him to be afraid and get on his knees and humble him and worship him or he’s going to kill him. I don’t think he was receiving the same angel of the Lord. Alright? And that’s the telling of the Muslim so you know, they can argue with that, but our, our angels appear in Old Testament and New Testament, and they don’t want you to be afraid of them. [amen] Hallelujah, huh? Just to think, a messenger from the throne of God doesn’t want you to be afraid. You’d better have some awesome fear and respect. I don’t know what’s happening, we’re runnin’ out of that. But we’re going to get that back in the name of Jesus. [amen]
And so he says in verse 14, I’m sorry, 13, he says, “…Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard;…” Everybody say, “My prayer is heard too.” [My prayer is heard too.] “My God hears my prayers.” [My God hears my prayers.] “And He answers.” [And He answers.]
And He says, “…and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of….” who? [Elijah] “…Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Wow! Isn’t that somethin’ huh? “And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” “And the angel answered and said to him,…” Oh, yo, “…I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But… behold, you will be mute and not be able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in your own time.” …
You know, we have this very dangerous teaching out right now, that God is not a God of judgment, He’s just a God of love. And we fail to realize that if you are a person of love, you have to have judgment. You can’t have love without judgment. That’s called letting the children run amuck… You cannot correct anything, or bring it into order if we don’t judge it and set it in order. Discipline is required of you. You have to discipline each other. We have to discipline ourselves. Why? Cause we’re learning something. We’re learning. We’re learning not only to obey God, but we’re learning how to control ourselves. We have to learn how to control ourselves. And then, when we learn that, we’re given more responsibility and then that responsibility means that we have to learn how to judge and discipline that. Everybody wants their own way. Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, everybody wants their own way. Everybody wants to do their own thing. But you cannot be held accountable to do the right own thing, given the freedom that you think you deserve without discipline, because you wouldn’t know what to do.
So Zacharias, serving in the Temple, should know God and should know when he’s in the presence of a Godly angel, right? But his flesh overcame him in a moment, now he has won the first Pulitzer prize of you can’t talk. [amen] (chuckles) His wife’s probably happy, you know. I won’t have to hear from this guy for nine months. I don’t have to hear from this guy. It is really funny, when you think of it. My wife and I are trying to develop a non-talking system of communication. Yeah, yeah, you got to have that. We’re trying to, besides making faces at each other, I mean you know, there’s some other things like, holding hands and being able to squeeze a certain number of times to communicate what you’re trying to say. [amen] You know, when we get it figured out we’ll let you know how to do it. You know, like 14 squeezes means [laughter] I left the refrigerator door open and the oven is on and please call me later, or something. We’re going to work it out.
But, Gabriel, this is an angel who stands in the presence of God, and I want you to understand something. He is an ambassador with the full authority of the Kingdom. [amen] He’s not sent as some little flunky here. He is sent as an ambassador. He has full responsibility for what is spoken by the God that he serves. And so when he brings his message, he’s to be believed. [amen] He’s to be believed. In the same way, [laughter] the pastors should be believed. [amen] We’re not just chopped liver. Evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers, if they walk in the righteousness that, and they perform their duties correctly, they’re to be believed. [amen] Not me, believe the office. Don’t believe me. Don Moore’s a shaky dude. You know, he’s from the Bronx. How much could you trust him? But in the anointing, you believe, you believe, believe. And act upon it. The Word of God says, believe God and what will happen? Anybody know? Believe God and you will [comment] no. Believe God and you will be established. [glory] Believe his prophets and you will prosper. [amen] That’s in the Word here.
So Zacharias, himself, missed a great opportunity. And so, his punishment, God is a God of judgement. You make mistakes, God’s going to straighten you out. Let me tell you this, is there any other Word that God is going to speak to Zacharias that he’s not going to believe? [no] Not after nine months of this. He’s going to remember every thing God said. He’s going to become a walking Bible here. So he says, he could not speak to them. So in verse 20, “But behold, …. you will not be able to speak until…” what? “until it’s fulfilled.” Verse 21. “And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long…” They wondered why is this guy gone so long. Well, he’s got problems. In verse 22. “But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.” I mean, he’s in the presence of Gabriel, when he came out of there he was like… [yeah, right, laughter] and nothin’s coming out of his mouth.
Whoah (clap) sometimes we need a Holy Ghost experience where we know we’ve been in the presence of God and it causes us to change. Our countenance changes, our mind changes, our ideas change, our thinking changes, and he’s been in that presence. “So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months…” Why five months? I mean, come on now, she’s an old lady. Her husband can’t talk and now she’s pregnant. How’s she going to prove who did it? Verse 25. “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel…” This guy’s busy. “…was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Actually it’s not Mary. Who knows what her real name was? [Miriam] Miriam, see there’s some things we should have just left alone. [amen] You know, Paul’s name is Saul, it should have stayed that way. We would have stayed tied to our Jewish roots, you know.
Anyway…”And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid…“” What he’s saying is do not be dismayed and there’s no need for fleshly fear, even though there’s some awesome respect that should be going on. “…you have found favor…”
The Word that she uses there for “favor” is grace or Charis. You have found empowerment. God is going to empower you to do something. You have found favor, you have found grace in God. Now, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name …Jehoshua…” Jehoshua is the actual name that is used there. So there’s no doubt she’s calling Him the Son of God. She is saying that You are God in Sonship. She’s calling Him God. And the name Jehoshua, means Jehovah, the Healer. Names are real important, boy oh boy. Yeah, you get the whole story right there, boom. You’ll go home. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I do not know a man?””
Now this is different from Zacharias’. Zacharias was saying, “Oh I don’t believe any of this can happen. How can this possibly happen?” She is saying, “Ok, I believe it can happen, but what about the sexual part?” Everybody understand that? She is saying, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” She means, intimately. I have not had intimacy with a man, so how am I going to end up pregnant? In other words, she believed the whole thing. [amen] She believed the whole thing… That’s why she is, phew, to be honored. High among women. Cause she was a believer… You know, she was a believer.
What a wonderful idea, just think… God looked down on the earth and found this teenage girl, that if God said it, she believed it. She just wanted to know, well what’s my part in it? I just believe it. God, if You say that’s what’s best for me, that’s what’s best for me. God, if You say that’s what’s going to happen, that’s what’s going to happen. I mean, Mary was exceptional. Does that make her, does that make her God? No. You know, should we put her on the same pedestal as Jesus Christ? No. No. Is she co-redeemer? No. But she is to be honored above women. For at a very young age, she was willing to give her life, because she believed what the angel said.
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