Lady Sings The News (Luke 1:46-55)

Jesus Refulsit Omnium
Corde Natus ex Parentis
Adeste Fideles

It isn’t tongues… I don’t have a brain tumor… It’s not from Parkinson’s.

These are not spells from Harry Potter. I’m not making fun of President Biden.

They are the Latin titles for what music historians consider the oldest Christmas hymns:

Jesus Refulsit Omnium translates to, Jesus, Light of All the Nations, written by St. Hilary of Poitier in the 4th century.

Corde Natus ex Parentis translates to, Of the Father’s Love Begotten. Christian poet Prudentius wrote the poem that inspired this song in the 4th century.

Adeste Fideles is the familiar, O Come, All Ye Faithful, from 1841.

Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing… These are probably what come to mind when you think about traditional Christmas carols. As classic as these songs are, they’re not old.

There is in the Bible the overlooked oldest of the hymns of Christ’s birth.

You might know it by its Latin name, Magnificat.

It is found in only one place, in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

The Magnificat is one of four hymns recorded by Luke in response to the birth of Christ. The other three are:

Zechariah’s Benedictus (1:67-79).
The angels’ Gloria in Excelsis Deo (2:13-14).
Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (2:28-32).

Luke presented Christmas as a musical; or at least having its own score.

Christmas is a time for song. I feel sorry for those who refuse to celebrate for one reason or another. They miss out on so much praise.

BTW: Have you been told that our celebration of Christmas has pagan roots? There is historical evidence that the opposite is true. One historian wrote,

The pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v#continue

Or Google Calculating Christmas.

We don’t want to ruin the Magnificat by picking it apart. Happily, it suggests it’s own three movements:

In verses 46-49, God’s calling upon her life draws praise from Mary.
In verses 50-53, Mary sings about the Messiah transforming the world.
In verses 54-55, Mary’s song finds its crescendo in God’s trustworthy promises and prophecies.

Let’s set the scene within which this song was sung. Finding herself pregnant after the angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, to see if Elizabeth was also pregnant like the angel had said. Elizabeth was visibly pregnant, being six months along in her pregnancy with John the Baptist. He went full Pentecostal, leaping inside her womb when Mary arrived. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth spoke a blessing over Mary.

Mary began to sing:

Luk 1:46 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
Luk 1:47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
Luk 1:48  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
Luk 1:49  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

Magnificat is Latin for “magnify.” In her case, Mary magnified God by rejoicing in Him.

The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth is implied in the Old Testament. It wasn’t revealed until later on, in the New Testament. No one in Israel was anticipating a miraculous virgin birth. The Jewish leaders would accuse Jesus of being illegitimate.

Mary was a young, betrothed girl, pregnant out of wedlock. Her condition was considered shameful socially and morally.

Mary chose to believe God and rejoice.

Do you believe God? Then choose to rejoice in your circumstances.

We applaud the person whose human spirit cannot be broken. William Wallace yelling, “Freedom,” while being disemboweled gets Mel Gibson an Academy Award. Why do the smallest things rob our joy as believers? Why does anything?

You’ll notice that Mary sang about things in the past tense as if they had already occurred. Scholars call this the ‘prophetic past-tense,’ meaning it hasn’t happened but it most certainly will because God has prophesied it.

Mary was 15 years old, maybe 16 tops. God has a habit of calling upon youth:

David was the youngest in his family, just a youth, when he slew the Philistine giant.

Daniel and his three friends were youths when taken captive to Babylon.

Jeremiah is thought to have been 17 years old when God called him.

A godly young man or woman, boy or girl, has the same Holy Spirit in them as an adult. God wants to use young people.

Mary was no theologian. Her song was spontaneous and inspired. She sang it with joy for an audience of three – two of whom were in utero.

There are two ways we can approach Mary’s song:

We can approach it intellectually by looking at its various parts.

We can approach it devotionally by taking it as a whole.

We are going devotional. Our understanding of ‘devotional’ is discovering what the Bible says to us without taking it out of its original context.

Looking at the Magnificat devotionally, we can say that it describes every servant God calls

Mary’s service was unique in the Christian story, sure. There are a lot of saints like that, whose names are known for a unique part they played.

You are an unknown. To people, that is, not to God. But you are no less loved or blessed than Mary or any other servant. It is impossible for Jesus to love one servant more than another.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Is God your Savior? If not, receive Him – right now!

Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, especially those who believe.

“Spirit” refers to the immaterial part of humanity that connects with God.

Human beings are souls. In its most basic sense, the word soul means “life.” It has been called the “life essence of the body.”

Humans are born spiritually dead, with souls blackened by sin. Believe Jesus and you are born again, born spiritually. You receive a new nature, and the Holy Spirit.

“For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”

A paraphrase of these words is, “God took one good look at me, and look what happened – I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten.”

God took one look at you. You were dressed in filthy garments. You were born with a sin nature and you were a sinner. There was nothing about you to commend you to God.

Mary looked just like that, too. There was nothing holy about her, nothing to set her apart.

You were just what He was looking for, to save and transform, to perfect you to meet the Father as His bride.

“All generations will call me blessed” doesn’t only apply to Mary:

Think of all the Bible’s hero’s and heroines whose names are upon our lips.

Think of all the ‘famous’ Christians not in the Bible we called blessed.

You are no less blessed, though you work in obscurity, no one ever knowing your name. (You might be better off).

“For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.”

Our God is “holy,” which in part means that on account of His perfection, He can do nothing wrong or evil. We can therefore trust that “great things” are happening in our lives as we walk with Him.

I admit sometimes I apply this wrongly by thinking, “That’s just great, Lord.” We don’t always recognize all things working together for our good, but we know they are because God is almighty and He loves us.

A new movement in the song begins in verse fifty:

Luk 1:50  And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.

From “generation to generation,” God oversees history. He has the watch. He acts providentially to fulfill His promises and push forward His agenda of redeeming the human race and His ruined Creation. No matter how much the plan of redemption seems to be in jeopardy, believers in every generation, “those who fear Him,” experience God’s mercy.

Luk 1:51  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
Luk 1:52  He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.
Luk 1:53  He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.

Throughout history there are “proud,” “mighty,” and “rich” individuals who hold earthly power. They always seem to be winning. They are not. Time after time, God has “scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” Think of Pharaoh and Moses and you get the idea.

The reversals listed herald the changes to come in the future Kingdom of God on Earth

Satan is the current ruler of this world. At one point in history he had a throne in the city of Pergamum. God had a church there. Believers may be “lowly” and “hungry,” but the church cannot fail.

I should rephrase that and say, “believers will be lowly and hungry (in need).” The Church Age in which we find ourselves is a time when we magnify the Lord in our weaknesses and sufferings. The apostle Paul wrote,

2Co 12:7  And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
2Co 12:8  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2Co 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God can and does heal. Healings are few and far between, if we are honest.

Either the church is failing, as many suggest.

Or we are living in a time during which having a thorn in the flesh is more a testimony then healing it would be.

The final movement of the Magnificat is about Mary’s people, the nation of Israel:

Luk 1:54  He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy,
Luk 1:55  As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

God determined to call out a special people for Himself, and through that special people He would bless the whole world with the Messiah. He chose Abram to be the father of that new people, the nation of Israel. He would later change Abram’s name to Abraham.

God’s unconditional promise included land. It was a specific land, an actual property, with dimensions specified, to be Israel’s forever.

Joel Richardson writes, “Among the most critical matters of urgency for the church in this hour is acquiring a biblical view of Israel. Exposing the spreading cancer of anti-Semitism, arrogance, and misinformation within the Body of Christ is one of the most important challenges of our day.”

If anyone deserved to be abandoned by God, it was Israel. Their history is full of rebellion and idolatry. God continually “helped” Israel, calling them His “servant.”

We serve an incredible Promise Keeper. If He has begun a work in you, He will complete it – despite your efforts to go your own way.

Think of your life as a musical, e.g., PG the Musical.

What is the audience experience as folks watch your musical? What is your score on Rotten Tomatoes? Because you can be sure people are watching.

Here’s a better way of thinking about it. Each of us, as believers in Christ, are writing our musical. Our thoughts, our actions, our decisions, all contribute to it.

Mary’s song was a Magnificat.

Our song, our musical, can likewise be a Magnificat as we choose rejoicing

Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Disbelief

Most popular non-Biblical Christmas story of all time?

I didn’t say your favorite. Most popular. And it’s not Die Hard. BTW: You die hard Die Hard fans – Do NOT Google Die Hard + Ambulance while you’re here. Do it later.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was an instant classic. It’s full title is, A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.

Published on December 19, 1843, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve. By the end of the year thirteen editions had been released.

In 1849 Dickens began public readings of the story, which proved so successful he undertook 127 further performances until 1870, the year of his death.

A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages. The story has been adapted umpteen times for film, stage, opera, and just about every other media:

There have been at least 23 motion picture adaptations.
62 theater adaptations.
4 operas.
29 television adaptations (with new ones every year).
5 graphic novels.

Then there are the radio performances, recordings, and straight-to-DVD’s. It’s almost impossible to count what are classified as ‘derivative works,’ where the storyline, or a character, are utilized.

For all its popularity, you almost never hear anything about what inspired Dickens.
There are good reasons to believe that Dickens had a Bible story in mind. But not one that most people would in any way think of as representative, or even appropriate, for Christmas.

It’s the story of the Rich Man & Lazarus. It is found in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Let me read it to you in its entirety:

Luke 16:19  “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
Luke 16:20  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
Luke 16:21  desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luke 16:22  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
Luke 16:23  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:24  “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
Luke 16:25  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
Luke 16:26  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
Luke 16:27  “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,
Luke 16:28  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’
Luke 16:29  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
Luke 16:30  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
Luke 16:31  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

Try reading that before opening gifts on Christmas. It will certainly set a mood. It’s reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yet this WAS Dickens’ inspiration:

First, there is the Rich Man – Ebenezer Scrooge – who sees his death, and there is a poor ‘man’ – Tiny Tim – who is going to die.

Second, it is made clear that like the Rich Man, Scrooge, beyond death is headed to torment in the afterlife.

Third, around the time A Christmas Carol was published, Dickens wrote a short biography of Jesus for his children, titled The Life of our Lord. The “Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man” was one of only eight stories that Dickens chose to include in that volume.

Fourth, a passage in a book titled, The Oxford Illustrated Dickens, mentions the Rich Man & Lazarus in a sentence together with Scrooge.

Fifth, and most significantly, the Sunday after Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, preaching on exactly this parable, spoke of Dickens as the “parabler” of his age. Stanley said that “By [Dickens] that veil was rent asunder which parts the various classes of society. Through his genius the Rich Man… was made to see and feel the presence of Lazarus at his gate.”

The story of the Rich Man & Lazarus is often called a parable. It isn’t. It doesn’t follow the rules of a parable:

For one, in a parable there are people or things that represent other things. In the Parable of the Sower, for example, the seed represents the Word of God; and the soil, the various conditions of the human heart. In the story of the Rich Man & Lazarus, everything is itself – not a representation.

For another thing, parables do not name their characters. If this was a parable, it was the only one Jesus told that used a proper name. Lazarus was a real person, and the description of him was his true daily life.
You may also have heard the Rich Man referred to as Dives, as if that was his name. Dives means wealthy. The ‘name’ was given to him by translators and commentators to further emphasize to readers that this is not a parable.

Jesus was talking with men from a sect of the Jewish religion known as the Pharisees. They considered themselves right with God because of their meticulous adherence to the written Laws of God. Their wealth was, to them, evidence that God was pleased with their devotion.

In one place we’re told that these guys were so meticulous about giving God 10% of their wealth that they gave 10% of their spices to God. Here is what Jesus said:

Matthew 23:23  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

You see where Jesus was coming from. For all their claim to scrupulously keep the Old Testament Law of God, they were not right with God.

Lazarus was beyond poverty. He had to be carried to the Rich Man’s gate to beg. He was covered in foul sores from head to toe. The household dogs had it better than him. They, at least, did get table scraps. With a little seasoning, I might add.

It was unthinkable to a Law-keeping Pharisee that such a person could be right with God. His destitute condition was, to them, a sign of God’s displeasure. He was getting what he deserved.

Lazarus wasn’t taken to a place of rest and refreshment because he deserved it. He was taken there because, in spite of his miserable condition in life, he believed God.

How can I say that? I can say that because he was greeted by Abraham, and the place was referred to as Abraham’s Bosom. We are told in the Old Testament that Abraham “believed God,” and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Not by works of righteousness that he had done, but by faith, was Abraham justified by God to be taken to his rest. All those taken to Hades, to wait with with Abraham, must have like-faith. They are there by faith, not works.

Hades. It is described as a temporary abode for a person’s spirit when it leaves the physical body at death. But not everyone is in the same part of Hades after death.

Luke 16:24  “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
Luke 16:25  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
Luke 16:26  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

The Bible is very informative regarding the afterlife. The moment you die, your spirit leaves your body. From the creation of the world until the coming of Jesus Christ, the spirits of all the deceased went to Hades:

One part is a place of bliss and comfort, called Abraham’s Bosom. It was called Paradise by Jesus, when He promised one of the thieves crucified next to Him that “Today, you will be in Paradise.”
The other part is a waiting room of unrelenting conscious torment.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His death on the Cross changed the population of Hades.

Jesus is described in the Book of Ephesians as having descended there, and evacuated those in Paradise, taking them with Him to Heaven.

Subsequently, when a believer dies, he or she is said to be immediately absent from their body, and present with the Lord, not in Hades, but in Heaven.

Jesus left behind in Hades all those who were not right with God by faith. They wait there until the final judgment.

If you’re not a believer – Death abruptly ends your opportunities to have faith in Jesus and be saved. There is no second chance after death. When you die, you will go to Hades to await your final destination, which is Hell. The Rich Man, Dives, is still there.

Luke 16:27  “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,
Luke 16:28  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

Among the many things we can glean from this is that the Rich Man understood that religion could not save anyone. It could not make a person right with God. He wanted his brothers to know that it’s “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Luke 16:29  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’

Reading the Old Testament, it is abundantly clear that works cannot save you. Think again of Abraham, father of the Jews. He believed. It was by faith.

The Rich Man wanted Lazarus to preach; but he had already been a sermon. He had been a living sermon, in his suffering.

Here’s how: The Law that these Pharisees claimed to obey talks plenty about helping the poor and needy. Earlier we quoted Jesus saying that they, “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

The Rich Man had left “mercy” undone. While he weighed out his spices, to tithe, a fellow Israelite lay begging just yards away.

The very presence of Lazarus, and his treatment at their hands, condemned them as law-breakers. It revealed them as self-righteous, void of God’s righteousness.

Lazarus was thus called to a very hard ministry. That’s right; ministry. Do you ever think of him that way?

The Rich Man had guests all the time. Think of all the other Pharisees and scribes and visitors who would come to dine sumptuously with the Rich Man, and be confronted with Lazarus as a silent sermon.

What was his text? It could have been any number of passages, e.g., “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you” (Leviticus 25:35).

In life, Lazarus was carried. In death, he was again carried – but by angels. Are all believers carried? Probably not. I think Lazarus was carried after his death to remind us that after a believer dies, every pain and suffering, every sorrow and trouble, is immediately left behind. His being carried in like was overshadowed by his being carried to Hades.

Lazarus would no longer need to be carried, but he was carried one last time as a kind of representation of a life well-lived.

It’s not unlike what Bob Cratchit says quoting his invalid son, Tiny Tim: “He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

Think of it as street theater. In the Old Testament, God frequently instructed His prophets to act out a scenario in public. Lazarus probably didn’t realize that he was a street theater Gospel preacher to lost Pharisees.

Luke 16:30  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
Luke 16:31  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

The Rich Man reasoned that if Lazarus returned from the dead, his brothers would believe.

In what classic Christmas tale does a man return from the grave to warn his partner? Jacob Marley does in A Christmas Carol.

A lot of people demand a sign from God. It seems like it would be effective. It’s not. Just a short time after telling this story, Jesus did raise a man from the dead, another man named Lazarus.

The result was that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of Israel began to plot more earnestly to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.

Ebenezer Scrooge sees Tiny Tim’s death, and his own death and destiny, and it stuns him to action. His reformation reminds you of the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes larger.

Here, sadly, is where Dickens falls terrifically short. Let me read to you from the end of his Christmas Ghost Story:

… to Tiny Tim, who did not die, [Scrooge] was a second father. 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. He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

BTW: The Total Abstinence Principle has nothing to do with alcohol or the avoidance of other vices. It is abstinence from being bitter, mean-spirited, angry, dour, greedy, grasping, self-centered, and unforgiving. It is moral self-improvement.

As he ended, Dickens kept using the word “good.” Be good; do good works. Improve yourself. In the sermon preached eulogizing Dickens, the minister concluded that his greatest achievement was that, “the Rich Man… was made to see and feel the presence of Lazarus at his gate.”

That was the extent of Scrooge’s reformation. Be good. It is what every religion, or philosophy, or psychology, tells you.

There’s a rhyme that puts this into perspective:

“Do this and live!” the law demands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
A better way the spirit brings,
He bids me fly, and gives me wings!

Without the indwelling spirit of God, we lack the power to be good, or keep a program like the Total Abstinence Principle.

Sadly, if Scrooge were a real person, he’d die to find himself alongside the Rich Man, in Hades. No amount of good works, or self-improvement, can save you.

Was Dickens a Christian? Historians disagree. He certainly had Christian influences that come through his writings.

If he was a believer, he didn’t feel the need to stress repentance and the Cross. A Christmas Carol doesn’t point you to Jesus. Scrooge wasn’t saved from sin, but from cynicism.

Scrooge needed Jesus. He needed a conversion; to be transformed by God, not merely to reform himself. He needed to be born again by repenting of his sin and believing Jesus saved him by dying on the Cross.

Why is being a good person not enough to get you into Heaven? Because no one is a “good” person; there is only One who is perfectly good, and that is God Himself. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible also says that the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23a).

God took action to save us. While we were in our sinful state, Christ died for the unrighteous (Romans 5:8). By His death on the Cross, He exerts an influence that draws all men to Himself. He is the Savior of all men; but not all receive His salvation. Only those who believe.
Salvation is not based on our goodness but on Jesus’ goodness.

If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9).

This salvation in Christ is a precious gift, and, like all true gifts, it is unearned (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8–9). The message of the Bible is that we can never be good enough to get to Heaven. We must recognize that we are sinners who fall short of God’s glory, and we must obey the command to repent of our sins and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Christ alone was a “good” – good enough to earn Heaven – and He gives His righteousness to those who believe in His name (Romans 1:17).

Most of you have had your wills freed by God’s prevenient grace in order to receive God’s indescribable gift of salvation in Jesus.

Rejoice. Your conversion and transformation are the better ending to the story.

No matter your condition or situation, you are doing street theater out in the world. Your life is a sermon.

If you have not received the Lord… It is our prayer that this year’s celebration of His birth will mark your new birth.

Crazy Rich Pharisees (Luke 16:19-31)

Ask someone what is their favorite Christmas movie, and most will answer with one of the classics:

Its a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
A Christmas Story
Home Alone
White Christmas
Elf
The Santa Clause

Inevitably someone will say, Die Hard. After all, it was Christmas when John McClain saved Nakitomi Plaza.

A lot of folks, however, object because they just don’t think of Die Hard as having the proper Christmas spirit.

Ask someone what is their favorite Christmas Bible verse, and most will answer with one of the classics:

Isaiah 9:6  For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Matthew 1:23  “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Luke 1:30 & 31 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

What if I suggested the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

If you’re not immediately familiar with it, let me read a portion to give you the gist of it:

Luke 16:19  “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
Luke 16:20  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
Luke 16:21  desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luke 16:22  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
Luke 16:23  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

I’ll bet none of your Christmas cards featured that parable. More than a few folks would object to that as a suitable text for Christmas. It seems to lack the proper Christmas spirit.

It might surprise you who did think of the Rich Man and Lazarus as an inspiring Christmas tale. None other than the man who wrote perhaps the most endearing Christmas fiction of all, Charles Dickens.

First published in 1843, it has never been out of print. There are umpteen dramatized or animated adaptations of it; there are new ones every year. I’m talking about, A Christmas Carol.

There is good reason to believe that the Dicken’s classic has its roots in the Rich Man and Lazarus:

First, there is a rich man – Ebenezer Scrooge – who sees his death, and there is a poor ‘man’ – Tiny Tim – who is going to die.

Second, it is made clear that Scrooge is headed to torment in the afterlife.

Third, around the time A Christmas Carol was published, Dickens wrote a short biography of Jesus for his children, titled The Life of our Lord. The “Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man” was one of only eight stories that Dickens chose to include in that volume.

Fourth, the Sunday after Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, preaching on exactly this parable, spoke of Dickens as the “parabler” of his age. Stanley said that “By [Dickens] that veil was rent asunder which parts the various classes of society. Through his genius the rich man… was made to see and feel the presence of Lazarus at his gate.”

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is, if you’ll pardon the pun, the Die Hard of the parables, in more ways than one.

From this day forward, every time you see, or read, a version of A Christmas Carol, it is my hope that you will think of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus that inspired it.

By the way: Many scholars argue this is not so much a parable as it is a true account. They point out that it is the only time Jesus used real names – Lazarus, Abraham, and Moses.

The first thing I want to say is that the parable isn’t about being rich; it’s about being right – specifically, being right with God.

Jesus was talking with men from a sect of the Jewish religion known as the Pharisees. They considered themselves right with God because of their meticulous adherence to the written Laws of God.

For example, in one place we’re told that these guys were so meticulous about giving God 10% of their wealth that they gave 10% of their spices. Here is what Jesus said:

Matthew 23:23  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

You see where Jesus was coming from. Their problem wasn’t that they were rich; it was that they were not right with God.

Behind all this is a fundamental biblical principal. It was stated most clearly by the apostle Paul when he said, “We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it – and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good” (Galatians 2:16 MSG).

Are you trying to be good? Do you think that if you do more good than bad that you will be accepted into Heaven when you die?

Then you are the rich man in this Christmas tale. You need to be rich in faith. If you’re not, you are the poor rich man.

Let’s meet the rich poor man. Lazarus was beyond poverty. He had to be carried to the rich man’s gate to beg. He was covered in foul sores from head to toe. The household dogs had it better than him. They, at least, did get table scraps.

It was unthinkable to a Pharisee that such a person could be accepted into Heaven. His condition was, to them, a sign of God’s displeasure. He was getting what he deserved in their minds.

It wasn’t simply that the rich man lacked compassion. His works-based understanding of God’s Law encouraged him to despise Lazarus.

This story is not about being poor, either. It is about being poor in spirit. Jesus promised, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5:3). Lazarus’ afterlife destination proves he was indeed among the poor in spirit – he was one who was rich in faith in God to save him.

We read elsewhere in the Bible, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The poor rich man and the rich poor man died and both arrived in a place called Hades.
It is a temporary abode for your spirit when it leaves your physical body at death.

Luke 16:24  “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
Luke 16:25  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
Luke 16:26  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

I find it interesting that the rich man knew Lazarus’ name. I doubt he knew it in life; but he knew it in the afterlife.

The Bible is very informative regarding the afterlife. The moment you die, your spirit leaves your body.
From the creation of the world until Jesus Christ, the spirits of all the deceased went to Hades – described for us here. It is divided by a chasm into two areas:

One is a place of bliss and comfort, called Abraham’s Bosom in honor of the father of the Israelites. It was called Paradise by Jesus.

The other area is a place of unrelenting torment.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His death on the Cross changed the population of Hades. He descended there, and took those in Paradise with Him to Heaven. Now when a believer dies, he or she is said to be immediately absent from their body, and present with the Lord in Heaven.

Jesus left behind in Hades all those who were not right with God by faith. If you’re not a believer – When you die, you will go to Hades to await your final destination, which is Hell.

Death abruptly ends your opportunities to have faith in Jesus and be saved. There is no second chance after death.
The poor rich man realized it, and begged for his family on the earth:

Luke 16:27  “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,
Luke 16:28  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

Is there really a place of torment? Is it forever? Speaking about Hell, John Walvoord wrote:

According to the Bible… Hell is just as real as Heaven. The Bible clearly and explicitly teaches that Hell is a real place to which the wicked/unbelieving are sent after death. We have all sinned against God. The just punishment for that sin is death. Since all of our sin is ultimately against God, and since God is an infinite and eternal Being, the punishment for sin, death, must also be infinite and eternal. Hell is this infinite and eternal death which we have earned because of our sin.

You don’t have to go there. In fact, God has gone to great lengths to keep you from going there. He has revealed Himself to mankind, and shown the way to Heaven.

Luke 16:29  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’

Abraham’s testimony was that God has revealed Himself sufficiently for a man to have faith in Him, thereby entering Heaven after death and avoiding Hell. To an Israelite like the poor rich man, He had supremely revealed Himself in their Scriptures – what we call the Old Testament.

Today we have even more. We have the New Testament as well as the Old.

What about those around the world that have no Bible? They have the witness of God’s creation to their conscience. In fact, in one place God said He was the one Who scattered men everywhere in the hope they would seek after Him, and find Him.

God is not willing that anyone should arrive in Hades, or afterward be consigned to Hell.

Luke 16:30  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
Luke 16:31  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

The poor rich man reasoned that if Lazarus rose from the dead, his brothers would believe.

In what classic Christmas tale does a man return from the grave to warn his partner? Jacob Marley does in A Christmas Carol. It’s abundantly clear that Dickens had this parable in mind as he wrote.

A lot of people demand a sign from God. It seems like it would be effective. It’s not.

Just a short time later Jesus did raise a man from the dead, another man named Lazarus.
The result was that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of Israel began to plot more earnestly to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.

Scrooge sees Tiny Tim’s death, and his own death and destiny, and it stuns him to action.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is meant to stun you to spiritual action.

The action isn’t to do more good works – like buying a turkey for the Cratchit’s. It is to realize that no amount of good works can save you, but that faith in the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, does.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Call upon the Name of the Lord.
Then talk to someone you know who has identified themselves as a Christian.

My Heartburn Will Go On (Luke 24:13-35)

In the rebooted Star Wars universe, the non-trilogy films Rogue One and Solo have the further descriptor, A Star Wars Story.

On Easter Sunday our Bible text ought always to be A Resurrection Story. We can hardly overstate the importance of the physical, bodily resurrection from the dead of Jesus. Among so many other things, it guarantees believers that they, too, will likewise be raised in a glorious, sinless immortal body.

The apostle John put it this way: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (First John 3:2).

No matter how much we talk about the resurrection of Jesus, however, there remains a great deal of confusion about Easter.

Maybe you’ve heard about the three blonde women who died and went to Heaven. In the interest of political correctness (but more so my personal safety), let’s call them three Italian men.

St. Peter told them that they could only enter Heaven if they answered one simple question, “What is Easter?”

The first Italian replied, “Oh, that’s easy! It’s the holiday in November when everyone gets together, eats turkey, and are thankful…”

“Wrong!,” replied St. Peter, and proceeded to ask the second Italian the same question.

He replied, “Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a tree, exchange presents, and drink eggnog.”

“Wrong!,” replied St. Peter, and proceeded to ask the third Italian the same question.

He smiled confidently and said, “Easter is the Christian holiday, that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and His disciples celebrated the last supper. Then the Romans took Him to be crucified where He was scourged and made to wear a crown of thorns, and was hung on a cross with nails through His hands and feet. After saying, “It is finished!,” Jesus dismissed His spirit. He was removed from the cross and buried in a nearby borrowed tomb which was sealed off by a large boulder.”

St. Peter smiled broadly, and was just about to open the pearly gates, when the third Italian continued: “Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out… And, if he sees His shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.”

In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke we find Emmaus: A Resurrection Story. It is about two disciples of Jesus who were confused about the first Easter.

Luke 24:13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.
Luke 24:14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

I just realized I didn’t tell you how the three Italians died. They were taking a walk in the country when they came upon tracks in the ground. The first one said, “Those must be deer tracks!”

The second one said, “No, stupid, anyone can tell those are rabbit tracks!”

The third said, “No, you idiots, those are horse tracks!”

They where still arguing ten minutes later when the train hit them.

Luke 24:15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.

We most often describe our relationship with God as a “walk.” There are numerous references to walking with God in the New Testament. In the Book of Ephesians, for example, you are told to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (4:1); you are told that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk (4:17); you are told that you should walk in love (5:2); you are told that you should walk as children of the light (5:8); and you are told that you should walk circumspectly (5:18).

Those, and the many other references, to walking with God are wonderful; but there is something behind them that we often overlook. The idea of walking with God should involve making progress, for sure; but it should mostly involve passion.

Lovers take walks. They don’t do it to get somewhere. They do it to be with someone. The progress that they make is not measured in distance, but in devotion. They spend time getting to know one another, deepening in their love. They usually arrive at the same location from which they started – but feeling very different about themselves, having made a romantic progress that puts everything in an entirely new perspective.

God loves to take walks with you. Right at the beginning of the Bible, in the third chapter of Genesis, God is described as being heard walking in the garden [of Eden] in the cool of the day, looking for Adam and Eve. It implies that walking along with them was a regular activity that God looked forward to.

Cleopas was one of the travelers; the other may have been his wife. We learn in the Gospel of John that her name was Mary (John 19:25). The thing that grabs you is that they did not recognize Jesus.

Luke 24:16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.

Somehow supernaturally they were prevented from recognizing that it was the risen Lord walking and talking with them. Scholars suggest a multitude of reasons why their eyes were restrained. I’m suggesting that it was because Jesus has a flair for romance.

In the many film versions of the tale of Robin Hood, he wears disguises, and even the woman he loves, the maid Marion, cannot always recognize him until Robin chooses to reveal himself.

Luke 24:17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
Luke 24:18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”
Luke 24:19 And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
Luke 24:20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.
Luke 24:21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.
Luke 24:22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.
Luke 24:23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.
Luke 24:24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

They had the Word of God, and witnesses, that Jesus had risen from the dead:

The Word of God is summarized in their reference to the “third day since these things have happened.” More than once the Lord had told His followers He would be condemned to death and crucified, but be raised the third day.
The witnesses of His resurrection thus far included angels, women, and at least two of the apostles – Peter and John.

Still, they did not believe. Perhaps they were restrained in seeing Jesus because of their expectations of who He was and what they wanted Him to do:

They expected a conquering Messiah; they got, so they thought, a crucified man.
They expected a politician; they got, so they thought, a prophet.
They expected the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; they got, so they thought, a meek lamb.

Your expectations of Jesus should be based on the following:

He’s the One who took your place as Substitute and Sacrifice on the cross at Calvary.
He’s the One who saved you from death and Hell; Who fills you with His Spirit; Who is building your home in Heaven; Who will return to take you there.
He’s the One who, in the mean time, is at work changing you day-by-day to become what you were created to be.

Luke 24:25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Luke 24:26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

Jesus appealed to “the prophets.” I’d be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not mention that God, in the Bible, makes incredible predictions, and then brings them to pass. No other religious writing, or religion, can boast of such fulfilled prophecy.

If you are not a believer in Jesus, and think all this talk of His resurrection is some sort of fantasy… What can you say to the mathematical impossibility of Jesus fulfilling just eight Old Testament prophecies? The odds are expressed as one in 10 to the twenty-first power.

But Jesus didn’t fulfill eight prophecies. He fulfilled at least sixty-one.
(You may have heard, and I’ve probably said, there are more like three hundred prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. One mathematician puts it this way: “There are nearly 300 references to 61 specific prophecies of the Messiah that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ… The odds against one person fulfilling that many prophecies would be beyond all mathematical possibility. It could never happen, no matter how much time was allotted”).

Cleopas and Mary did not have what might be called a theology of suffering. It was inconceivable to them that the Savior would suffer and die – even though certain of their Scriptures said as much.

Are you hurting in some way today? I have a word for you:

Heb 4:15  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Heb 4:16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Have you noticed that when people are hurting that they seek out others who can relate to their experiences? They find an individual, or a group, to ease the suffering. Jesus is the ultimate Person to seek-out, and to be comforted by.

Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

“Moses” is credited with writing the first five books of the Bible. Jesus gave them a systematic Bible study, starting with Genesis.

It’s interesting to note, in passing, that the very first Bible study the Lord gave after He rose from the dead was on prophecy.

It was arguably the greatest Bible study ever delivered:

Jesus undoubtedly told them that He was there, in Genesis, creating the universe.
That He was the promised Seed of the woman in the Garden of Eden Who would crush the serpent’s head, but be bruised in the process.
That when Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah it was a type of God the Father sacrificing His only begotten Son, Jesus, on the Cross on the exact same spot.
That the Passover lambs that were slain in Egypt and for centuries afterward were typical of Himself as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.

He may have described how each of the sacrifices in the Tabernacle represented Him; or how each piece of furniture in the Tabernacle pointed to Him.

Jesus probably reminded them that the words He spoke from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?,” were a quote from Psalm 22 – which perfectly predicted His death by crucifixion some 400 years before it occurred.

He undoubtedly mentioned Isaiah 53 and its predictions of the suffering Savior. We could go on-and-on.

I, too, wish we had the text of this study. But what I find fascinating is this: If you regularly attend a Bible-teaching church, you do hear this study.
And it’s as if Jesus Himself is talking to you, because it is God the Holy Spirit within you Who is teaching you.

Two disciples, walking along with Jesus – but they were restrained from seeing Him. Am I being restrained? Are you being restrained? It’s an important question to ask ourselves.
Our expectations (or lack of them); our culture; our prejudices; our preconceptions. Sin. All of these and more can restrain us from seeing the Lord.

Remember: This is a romantic story. Lovers understand what happened next. Jesus would have gone on further, but the two constrained Him to stay.

Luke 24:28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.
Luke 24:29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.

In a moment we will read that their hearts were burning within them as Jesus talked on the road. Having not seen Him, they loved Him. Jesus kindled their love and thus they constrained Him to remain with them.

Jesus said He would never leave you or forsake you. He is portrayed as your Bridegroom, and you as His bride.

Eliminate this passionate element and your walk will become stale. He remains with you; but you are not realizing it. Eventually He will say something like, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Luke 24:30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Luke 24:31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

This, by the way, was not communion. They were simply sharing a meal.

There was something about the way Jesus handled the bread, blessing it and breaking it, that was unmistakable.

It’s like that with lovers. Certain very common behaviors are done in ways that become endearing. Do you remember this line in a Beatles song: Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover. The song goes on to mention other common activities that become precious when you’re in love.

The idea here is the same, only it’s a far deeper romance because it is Jesus Who loves you, and it’s with an everlasting love.

Jesus vanished from their sight. They would see Him again. But better than seeing Him: He would ascend into Heaven and send the Holy Spirit to live within them, and among them. He would be more present with them than ever before.

Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
Luke 24:33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem…

They didn’t finish their meal. They didn’t clean-up after themselves. It was difficult and extremely dangerous to travel so great a distance after dark. Love makes you do strange things.

Luke 24:33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
Luke 24:34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
Luke 24:35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

Before Cleopas and Mary could give their report, the other disciples blurted-out close encounters with the Lord of their own kind. All of them talked only about Jesus. It was a sure sign of their love.

You can only really understand the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus if you factor in an element of romance. The way Jesus hid His identity from them, and then waited until they compelled Him to stay with them, are romantic elements in the story. Overlook the romance, and all you’ve got in this story is disappointment that the Bible study Jesus gave was not recorded for you. Factor in the romance and you realize that the Bible study is absent for a reason.

It’s absent because you are to discover it for yourself on a daily basis as you and Jesus walk along together.

All over the United States, and all over the world, pastors are finishing their Resurrection Story sermons by giving an altar call.
An altar call is when we call upon sinners who don’t know Jesus as their Savior to acknowledge their sin, repent of it, and receive the Holy Spirit.

We sometimes ask them to raise their hands… Or to come forward… And then lead we them in a sinners prayer.

I want to do something a little different. Altar calls are great, and biblical, but instead of an altar call, I’d like to do a roll call.

It’s simple: If you know that you are a Christian, who has received Jesus Christ as Savior, and have assurance that if the Lord came right now, or if you died, you’d be in Heaven… Raise your hand & keep it up for a moment.

If you did not raise your hand… What are you waiting for? We’ve presented a living Savior Who fulfilled Bible prophecy to a degree that is mathematically impossible. It is what we call evidence that demands a verdict.

The Bible warns you, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). There’s no question that you can answer at the Pearly Gates by which St. Peter will allow you entrance. Your destiny, and your afterlife destination, are determined in this life.

As we close with worship – come forward to be prayed for, and either rededicate yourself to Jesus, or receive the Lord:

Maybe you’re a believer, but your love has grown cold; come forward.

Maybe you’re not a believer; come forward, to receive the risen Lord.

40 Days Of Resistance (Luke 4:1-13)

“Are you with the Resistance?” This question was asked a couple of times to FN2187, later known as “Fin” in Star Wars 7.

Just in case you’re not a Star Wars geek, Finn was a Storm Trooper in the First Order. The First Order is the evil empire started by Supreme Leader Snoke, now led by Kylo Ren the once good Jedi who turned to the dark side. The mission of the First Order is to destroy the Resistance and rule the galaxy.

Finn because of his convictions left the First Order and escaped with the help of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. After Finn’s escape he became a vital part of the Resistance and enemy of Kylo Ren and the First Order.

That’s Finns story, how about your story? You might not know it, but you are with the Resistance. Let me take a moment and explain.

You and I were once Sin Troopers in the devil’s evil dark empire. Paul in Ephesians 2:1-3 says,

1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.
2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (NLT)

The unbeliever might not realize it, but they are not free, they are held captive by the devil to do his will. This was you and I before Christ.

Colossians 1:13-14 says but we were rescued from that evil empire by Jesus,

13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Christ pulled off the greatest rescue mission ever. God became a man, came down into this evil and dark world and rescued us. The rescue was accomplished through the cross. Christ now through His grace has made it possible for all to believe and be saved. Those who have put their faith in Jesus are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and placed in the kingdom of Christ as children of God.

The believer is also a vital part of God’s story of redemption. God wants to use you and I to rescue others from darkness. We do this by following the great commission, which is to go into the entire world and preach God’s rescue plan, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This brings us to our topic of spiritual warfare and resistance as seen in our text this morning.

While Jesus has defeated Satan and his demons at the cross and will ultimately defeat them at His second coming. Satan and his demons will continue to fight and oppose the work of God until the end.

Just as anyone who is associated with the Resistance becomes an enemy of the First Order in Star Wars, even so because of our allegiance to Christ and His mission we have spiritual enemies who will seek to oppose God’s work in and through our lives.

What are we to do? We can’t run or hide, Finn in Star Wars discovered that. Rather we’re to follow the example of Jesus and the New Testament Christians and join the Resistance.

In Luke chapter 4, we’ll see that Jesus at the start of His public ministry faces spiritual warfare and opposition from the devil for a period of over 40 days. Jesus remains on His mission and victorious by resisting the enemy and abiding in the word of God.

As we look at this account we will learn three things:

1. The Power Behind the Resistance
2. The First Order and Their Tactics
3. The Leader of the Resistance and His Example

First in verse 1 we see, The Power Behind the Resistance.

1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

The word “Then” links this verse back to Chapter 3. In chapter 3 Luke records Jesus’ baptism and genealogy. Both of these are significant as it relates to this passage.

The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of His public ministry as the Messiah or Christ. While Jesus was always filled with the Spirit, the Father nevertheless choose to give a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Him at His baptism. The Spirit came down upon Jesus in the form of a dove.

The coming upon of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism bore witness to all that He was the Messiah or Christ which means Anointed One.

The coming upon of the Holy Spirit at Jesus baptism also serves as a reminder that our lives and ministries are to be dependent on the Holy Spirit and His power.

This becomes even more clear because Luke follows that account with Jesus’ genealogy. Jesus’ genealogy in Luke traces His line through Mary back to Adam.

Luke makes it clear to His readers that while Jesus was fully God, He was also fully man. Jesus the God man set aside the independent use of His attributes and was totally dependent on the Father for His power, leading and authority.

We see Jesus’ dependency on God’s power at the beginning of chapter 4. “Jesus was filled with the Spirit.” Jesus is going to enter this period of temptation and testing, not on His own power, but empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus did this to demonstrate to all believers the power available to us as we face opposition and carry out our missions.

The same Holy Spirit that gave Jesus His power is the same one given to each believer by faith in Jesus (John 14:17). The same Holy Spirit that came upon Jesus at His baptism is the same Spirit that will come upon us and empower us to serve God (Acts 1:8).

Next we see that Jesus was dependent on the leading of the Father. “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”

The Holy Spirit is not a force or “The Force,” the Holy Spirit is a person. There is one God in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Jesus was not alone in the wilderness, He had the abiding presence of the third person of the Trinity the Holy Spirit who led Him.

The same is true for us! Jesus before He went to the cross, told His disciples that He was leaving to go back to heaven, it was to their advantage. If Jesus left He would send another helper, the Holy Spirit to come along side them.

The word “another,” is another of the same kind. Jesus during His three and a half year ministry taught the disciples and helped them. The disciples were dependent on Jesus. In the same way the Holy Spirit would come along side of us and walk with us through life.

The place that Jesus was led from was the Jordan River, to the wilderness. The wilderness is believed to be the barren dessert area northwest of the Dead Sea. Jesus will begin His public ministry with a period of over 40 days of temptation in the wilderness.
Does this seem like a waste of time? Why did God allow this time testing? It was not to see if Jesus would sin, Jesus is sinless.

God wants to demonstrate to the world that Jesus is sinless. Just as a dealership allows you to test drive a car to show it off, even so God allows all mankind to see this through the devil’s temptations. The devil is going to mean this for evil, but God allows them to reveal who Christ and His credentials.

Jesus is the promised, “Anointed One.” Prophets, Priests and Kings were anointed in the Old Testament, Jesus shows He is qualified to fulfill the role of all three.

First Jesus is “The Prophet” as prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy 18. Moses promised that God would raise up “the Prophet” who would led Israel into Salvation and establish God’s Kingdom. The way they would recognize “The Prophet,” is that He would walk and teach in line with the revealed law of Moses. Jesus is tempted and three times quotes from the book of the law, Deuteronomy.

Second Jesus is “The Great High Priest”. Hebrews 4:14-16 says,

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus will be tempted in every area of sin and yet come out victorious. He is therefore qualified to minister and offer help to those in need.

Third Jesus is the King. Adam in the Garden was given dominion of this earth, but he forfeited it to Satan when he fell into sin by disobey God’s word. Jesus the Last Adam will not make this mistake.

In contrast to Adam, Christ will not face this temptation on a full stomach in a beautiful garden, but in extreme hunger in the wilderness. Jesus’ temptations will be greater, yet He will resist and remain in the will of God.
This morning if you’re in a time of testing or you are facing opposition, look to Jesus. Just like Jesus God has given you the power and help through His Holy Spirit for you to remain faithful to your mission.

This morning if you’re in a time of life that feels like an ineffective isolated wilderness look to Jesus. Just as God worked through His life, in His time and His way and did a good job, God will work through your life. God ways are beyond our understanding, He is able to work through our circumstances and reveal Jesus to all the world.

Now we come to our second point in verses 2, The First Order and Their Tactics.

2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

Just as military personnel need to understand the character and tactics of their enemy so they can properly engage them, even so we need to know something about the character of our enemies and their tactics so we can resist.

The Character of our Enemy:

The devil was the one behind the temptation of Jesus during these 40 days. The devil is a created being, he is not the opposite of God, he is a fallen angel.

Before the devil fell be was a cherub who went by the name Lucifer. Lucifer will filled with pride and wanted be like God and be worshipped as God. God therefore cast him out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15 & Ezekiel 28:14-19).

When Lucifer fell, he deceived one-third of the angels of heaven to follow in his rebellion (Revelation 12:4).

The devil and these other fallen angels are now sealed in their rebellion, they are without grace and a means to be saved. The focus of these beings until their destruction is to oppose the people of God and the work of God.

The Tactics of the Enemy:

Here’s a brief list of how the devil and his demons oppose the people of God and the work of God.

He has attacked believers physical health (Job 1-2).
He accuses believers before the throne of God (Revelation 12:10).
He is behind the false teachings of the cults and world religions (1 Timothy 4:1)
He has deceived people by masquerading himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
He does lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians and Revelation).
He is a murder, Satan uses the nonbelievers to persecute and even kill believers.
He blinds the minds of unbelievers to keep them in darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4).
He plucks the word from peoples hard hearts, as Jesus says in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:19).
He seeks to hinder missionary endeavors (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
He tempts believers to sin (Genesis 3 and Luke 4).

Temptation is a tried and affective tactic of Satan, it worked in the Garden of Eden and it has worked throughout human history. Why give up now?

The two reasons why the tactic of temptation is so affective is revealed in the epistle of 1 John.

1John 5:19 says, We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.

1 John 2:16 says, For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

The unbelieving world is under the influence or sway of the wicked one. The innovative and new ideas that we see in the world to turn man from God and ensnare people in sin comes from Satan’s influence. These innovative ideas often fall into the three categories; lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.

It is important for us to be aware of this and the world in which we live. Living in the United States in the 21st Century, it is easy to think only scientifically or naturally. We must not forget that there is a spiritual realm that influences the unbelieving world in which we live.

Also don’t forget the fallen nature of mankind and the fact that you have a flesh. The born again believer’s sin nature has been crucified with Christ, we power over sin, but we still have a flesh. The flesh are those evil desires and propensities that remain in our physical bodies.

So who are our enemies? It’s the devil and his fallen network of demons who control the fallen world system. Must resist their influences and their appeals to our flesh. The way that we do this by following the example of the leader of the Resistance Jesus Christ.

Third in verses 3-13 we see, The Leader of the Resistance and His Example.

While the born again believer still has a flesh, Jesus did not have a flesh, He is the perfect God man. That being the case when Jesus was tempted, He had no sinful pull from within. Rather his temptations were similar to Adam and Eve who were tempted from without to use their free will to disobey God’s word and will.

3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

The first temptation focused on what Jesus felt. Verse 2 makes it clear that Jesus had been fasting for 40 days, at the end of this 40 day fast He began to experience extreme hunger pains. Some say that Jesus was at the point of starving. The enemy seeks to take advantage of this apparent weakness in Jesus.

The enemy said, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

This is not a question, the “if,” is better rendered “since”. The temptation is, since Jesus is the all powerful Son of God, He was to use His divine power to command a stone to become bread to satisfy His hunger.

There was nothing sinful in and of its self with Jesus doing a miracle to turn a stone into bread. Jesus would later multiply five loaves and two fish and feed the multitudes.

What made this sin would be for Jesus to operate in His own way and in His own will. Jesus was to remain in God’s will, it was the Father who led Jesus out into the wilderness and called Him to fast. To do a miracle as a result of the temptation of Satan would be sin.

4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD OF GOD.’ ”

Jesus applies the tactic of resistance. Jesus resists this temptation on the authority of the Word of God. It is written! Regardless if He was the Son of God, or if He had all power, He was to remain in the will and word of God.

The passage that Jesus quoted is Deuteronomy 8:3. In Deuteronomy 8:1-3 God spoke through Moses to the children of Israel who just came through the 40 year wilderness wandering.

Before Israel went into the promised land and experienced blessing, God reminded them of their 40 years in the wilderness, it was to humble, test and teach them.

God taught Israel to trust God and His word for their provision during this period. God was faithful, verse 3 says for 40 years their garments didn’t even wear out, nor did their feet swell.

Jesus applied this to His 40 days in the wilderness. God was allowing Jesus to be tested to teach us.

I am pretty sure like me, you have never been tempted by Satan to turn a stone into bread. The enemies not dumb, that is not an area of weakness that he can attack.

The areas of weakness in the believers flesh are different, but the temptation is usually the same, which is to compromise holiness for the physical feeling of happiness and satisfaction.

Just like Jesus we must resist that temptation from the enemy and understand that true happiness and satisfaction comes from obedience to God’s word and will. Israel would continue to experience joy and blessing in the land if they remained obedience to God, if they forgot God they would not.

Jesus said, “Blessed” over and over in beatitudes of Matthew 5. God promises happiness and eternal satisfaction for obedience to God’s word and will. Don’t forget that when faced with the temporary satisfaction through temptation.

5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.
7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

The second temptation focused on what Jesus could see. The devil took Jesus up on a high mountain and in a moment of time flashed before Him the luxury, authority and glory of the greatest world empires.

Satan was like Robin Leach from, “Life Styles of The Rich and Famous.” Satan said, “All this could be yours right now if you worship me.”

Could Satan really give Jesus all this? The devil is a lier, so its hard to say for sure. Notice Jesus did not debate the enemy on this point.

In Revelation 12-13 were told that the future antichrist will rule the world in power, glory and authority from the devil himself.
Just as with the first temptation, there is nothing sinful about Jesus ruling over all mankind in glory and authority. Revelation 20 says Jesus will rule as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

What makes this sin if Jesus gave in is the means and the time in which Jesus would rule over all the world.

Jesus’ right to rule was not come from his worship of Satan, but His obedience to His Father’s will which would lead to the cross. The slain lamb is the only one who is worthy to open the scroll in Revelation 5.

The scroll is the Father’s will and inheritance. Jesus is able to execute God’s will and receive His inheritance because He prevailed by going to the cross and rising again from the dead defeated sin, Satan and death.

Time in which Jesus would rule would be decided by the Father as seen in Psalm 110:1.

8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ”

Jesus will use the phrase “Get behind me Satan,” again when He rebukes Peter for correcting Jesus when He told His disciples He was going to the cross (Matthew 16:23).

Satan’s mission was to stop Jesus from going to the cross because he knew as predicted in Genesis 3:15 that the cross would be his defeat.

Jesus then applies the tactic of resistance. Jesus resists Satan’s temptation to bypass the cross for the crown by applying the word of God to His situation.

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13. The context of this verse was to remind the children of Israel that when they came into the land and experienced God’s blessings not to forget that it was God that brought them in and gave them this. Israel later forgot God and lost the blessings and received judgment.

Jesus knew that blessing could not be separated from obedience. Christ would rule and reign in glory as He saw at the end of Psalm 22. But before that time He obedience to the Father’s will must go to the cross as predicted at the beginning of Psalm 22.

Satan still uses the attractions of the eye to tempt believers to bypass carrying our cross for the glory of the world system. Satan is a marketing genius, he knows human weakness and crafts the world system and even situations to appeal to the weakness of the flesh, specifically through the lust of the eye.

Whatever those things might be don’t be deceived. Turning to sin and wordiness is to bow the knee to Satan. These things can’t bring lasting satisfaction that our soul longs for. Sin only leads to dissatisfaction and destruction.

Rather than being drawn away from God by what we see in the world, we’re to follow the example to those of the Resistance and keep our eyes on eternal things.

Think about Abraham. Lot saw the green pastures of Sodom, but they were detrimental to him and his family. Abraham walked by faith and was led by God looking for the eternal kingdom. Abraham was of those who Hebrews 11:13 says died in faith having seen the promises afar off.

Like Jesus and the godly saints of the past, we’re to resist temptation, looking ahead to the blessings that come from obedience to God.

9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.
10 For it is written: ‘HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE OVER YOU, TO KEEP YOU,’
11 and, ‘IN THEIR HANDS THEY SHALL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU DASH YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ ”

The third temptation surrounded Jesus’ authority as the promised Messiah.

Satan brought Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple which is the high area over looking the Kidron Valley. Satan then tempted Jesus to demonstrate His authority as the Messiah by throwing Himself down so God can rescued Him by His angels.

Jesus used scripture now the devil seeks to use scripture to accomplish his temptation. The devil quoted from Psalm 91:11-12. While this passage does refer to Messiah, the use of this passage is out of context.

When you read Psalm 91:11 you see that the devil left a part of that verse out which is, “To keep you in all your ways.” The Psalmist and Jesus knew that divine protection was available as they walked in the will of God, it was unthinkable to sin that grace might abound.

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD.’ ”

Jesus again applies the tactic of resistance. Jesus resists this attack by apply Deuteronomy 6:16 to His situation.

The context of Deuteronomy 6:16 is again God’s reminder to Israel to remember God when they came into the land. Israel was not to tempt God to respond in discipline for their disobedience of going after the gods of the Canaanites.

While Jesus had the authority as the Messiah, He would not tempt God by sin, rather He would remain obedient His will and word.

The enemy still tempts the believer to walk in pride. One way is to sin by walking in our own will and expecting God to follow along with us and continue to bless us.

While God is gracious and faithful to forgive us when we confess. We must not put God in the situation to act because of our pride and disobedience. We need to follow Jesus’ example of resisting temptation and abiding in the word of God.

13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

The devil offered to Jesus the types of temptations that mankind could face and He was victorious. Jesus therefore is the rightful leader and example for how to live the Christian life.

The Apostles and writers of the New Testament recognized this. When writing about the believers response to spiritual warfare they applied the principle of resistance they learned from the life of Jesus. Let me give you three examples:

Peter in 1 Peter 5:8-9 says,

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

The believer’s to resist the enemy and his attacks by being steadfast in the faith as revealed in the scriptures.

James in James 4:7 says, Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

The believers’s to submit to God’s will and word and resist the devil and his attacks. If you resist him he will flee from you.

Paul in Ephesians 6:13 says, Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The evil day refers to anytime the believer experiences spiritual warfare. The believer is to take up the armor of God which is to apply the principles of scripture to their life. Applying the scriptures will enable us to “withstand.”

The Greek word Paul uses for “withstand” is the same word that was translated “resist,” in the verses we read in epistle of Peter and James.

The Apostles and New Testament believers who have the same nature like us learned from Jesus that they could remain victorious in our mission resisting the enemy and abiding in God and His word. When we do the enemy will flee.

Luke 4:13 closes by saying, “The devil departed from Jesus until an opportune time.”

The Star Wars movies are predictable there are always going to be battles between the enemy and the Rebels or Resistance. Even so until we go to be with Jesus or He comes for us, our battles will continue. What ever the time or the battle, we can remain victorious by resisting the enemy and abiding in His word.