Advent – Luke Notes

By December 17, 2017 Sermon Notes

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  1. Intro:

Time is weird

If you were here two weeks ago, you were probably hoping I had moved on from my “time is weird” phase…but time is just so weird.

But since it is Advent season…a time to contemplate the coming of Christ past and future…I have been thinking about time.

I’ve been reading theologians, philosophers, and scientists discuss time…no one understands it.

There are many theories, but no consensus.

There are too many theories out there so let me just pick one and go with it.

A long time ago an incredibly dense and hot something exploded and space/time came into existence.

It has been expanding ever since and will eventually in the far, far future run out of gas.

Stars will burn out, and there will be no useable energy left and then the “Big bang” will become the “Big chill”…just dark, cold emptiness.

This is called entropy…if you put a cup of hot coffee in a room that is 72, eventually the coffee will also be 72.

If the “big chill” is max entropy…energy all spread out and used up.

No one understands why the universe had such “low entropy” at the time of the big bang.

Why was there something there that was so hot and dense to start with and then what caused it to explode into everything?

I can tell them, if they asked me…but lets stick with the theory we are on, not the facts of the matter.

What is the bottom line implication for those who believe the “big chill” is the final destiny of our universe?

All that happens on this planet and everything else in the universe is ultimately meaningless.

I live, I love, then I die…so what?

The earth begins, the earth revolves for a long time, then it dies…so what?

Everyone and everything is “so what?”

You can invent some “why” for your existence.

Its been called “existentialism”…there is no real meaning, so you must find your own, make it up.

But in the silent, cold, dark end of you and the silent, cold, dark end of the universe…all of our make believe “why” will really be “so what?”

No one to care, to remember…all that ever was…all of human history…every choice made…so what.

In all history there will have been no choice that was better or worse than another choice…all will have been equally meaningless.

The choice to save a life or the choice to take a life…equally meaningless.

Selfishness or sacrifice are all the same…they are all “so what” in that dark, cold end.

I read a number of people who profess atheism…that agree with this assessment.

They say…In the end…everything that has been…will be…so what?

They are rarely, if ever, able to live consistent with this view…but many hold it.

This thinking or some form of it explains how and why atheism (actual or practical) has killed or harmed the most people in human history.

Actual atheism is the belief that there is no God, practical atheism is the lifestyle of living as if there is no God (even though you may say there is one)

Actual and practical atheism explains the cause behind the current meltdown in Washington, Hollywood and Corporate America.

If there is no final meaning, no ultimate accountability…then if I help you or hurt you, use you or serve you, what is the difference in the end?

From the perspective of a life without meaning or accountability…it makes perfect sense to do whatever you want to do…even if it means to harm someone else.

I’m not saying every real or practical atheist is evil and hurts people…some want to help people and do good.

But they do so because they want to…not because it is ultimately right or because they want to honor God with their lives.

Because if there is no God…then there is no ultimate anything…including anything being right or wrong.

So either there is an external and fixed point of reference for our lives or there is not.

All people are navigating through time using a reference point of some kind.

It might be the shifting reference points of current culture, or of their own minds and emotions.

But this is like trying to navigate a ship across the ocean using the bow of the ship as the point of reference…it will be pointing in whatever direction the wind is blowing.

Occasionally, by luck, if the wind is blowing the right direction…you might head the right direction for a time…most often not.

Because for the most part…the winds of culture and of our own hearts…do not blow the right direction.

For the follower of Christ (whose belief actually shapes their behavior) they navigate through time using Christ as the fixed point of reference.

Advent…the coming of Christ is about life navigation…Christ has come, Christ will return.

Of course it is about salvation…but salvation is about how to navigate life…time.

Life with God, life with self, life with others.

Salvation brings us peace with God…and self…and others.

It is a fixed, external, eternal point of reference.

It is the opposite of “so what?”

Or as Solomon said during his days of despair “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless”

It is a life of “meaningful, meaningful, everything in the Lord is meaningful.”

1Cor. 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Notice, it not just “labor” in general is not vain, but labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The gospel is the fixed point of reference for our journey through time.

Navigating through time with the gospel as our point of reference is based on peace with God and leads to peace with ourselves and with others.

Notice what the angels and prophets tell us about real peace.

It is that God’s peace and God’s glory are inseparable from one another.

Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Is. 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

We must not try to separate what the angels declared as a single reality:

God’s glory and God’s peace.

Some may want the peace of God without submission to God…but it is not possible.

His peace results from his favor…his favor rests on those who acknowledge him as sovereign Lord.

  1. Peace begins with God

Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Justification (gaining peace with God) is not mere intellectual assent to a set of facts.

Salvation is a factual reality, and so it can be comprehended with our minds and expressed with words.

But there is no transformation in mere information.

Justification through faith means a transfer of trust from self to God.

Peace with God through Jesus Christ comes when we give heart allegiance to him as Lord and Savior.

The NT speaks of the Kingdom of God as a present reality (God reigns in the hearts of those who follow him) and a future reality in the sense of his full reign over all he has made.

When you live in a kingdom there is a King…you must operate under the authority of that King.

For now, some can choose to not give him what is due him.

But for those who do acknowledge his glory and yield to his rightful authority…his transforming power operates in their lives.

As we saw during our study through Romans this year…The peace with God through the gospel becomes the peace of God in our own hearts and in our relationships with one another.

  1. Peace with God…brings the Peace of God.

Phil. 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I understand there are many factors in our feelings of anxiety…we are complex beings.

We have brains (that run on electricity and chemicals) as well as on thoughts

We have souls, wills that make choices.

How this all works is another mystery…no one fully understands.

We can make choices that impact our brains…so that certain feelings, such as anxiety can become ingrained in us.

Whether, the reasons for our anxiety are complex…choices, habits, chemicals.

Or the reasons are very simple…we are just worrying about the future…and not trusting God.

There is something we can do to impact our anxiety level…to experience his peace.

Focus on the glory of God rather than on the things that make you anxious.

I say that easily, rolls right off the tongue…but I am not ignorant of the enormous difficulty of living that way when circumstances are tough and when the future feels uncertain.

I have not done well living that way at times the past myself.

But I am convinced it is true…that God gives his peace in place of anxiety…but our role is to set our minds and hearts in his direction.

Your own experience might cause you to doubt the validity of Phil. 4…but there are many things that are true that we do not experience fully.

The fact that it is true…means that our experience can change and improve if we move in the direction of truth.

You must not measure what could be true for your life by what has been true in your life.

If you do…you will never experience anything new.

Measure by what God has said, not merely by your own past experiences.

Your perspective on the future must be shaped by what God is going to do in the future…

Look again at that famous prophecy regarding the Savior:

Is. 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Then the next verse:

Is. 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

Guilt is past based, anxiety is future based…we can learn, over time to live trusting him with the future.

It will require having a perspective that aligns with what is true about the future…He is the Prince of Peace, his reign of peace in the future (government) will be without end.

Confidence that God has control of the future does not lead to passivity but rather activity without anxiety.

Anxiety can be a nagging nuisance…or a life-destroying monster.

But it is the “glorious God” who is the “prince of peace.”

We must turn away from all that robs us in our minds, hearts and lives of his glory…because those very same things rob us of his peace.

Peace with God leads to peace of God leads to peace with others.

III. Peace with others

Rom. 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This is realistic interpersonal peace.

It takes two to make a relationship; it takes one to break a relationship.

Our responsibility is to pay attention to our part, or role in interpersonal peace.

There are people who you cannot live at peace with and others you should not try because they are dangerous…they don’t want peace, they want to continue to harm you.

But this verse speaks to those situations when the possibility of peace is our court…when it depends on us.

I recently had an interaction with a man I did not know that did not go well.

I thought he was 90% wrong, I was 10% wrong. (I am usually pretty generous in my math when it concerns my own guilt)

I felt he had been much more wrong than I had in this situation.

But what is wrong with that math?

Even if I was 10% wrong…I was 100% responsible for my 10%.

I had the opportunity to apologize, and with the Holy Spirit’s strong push…I did.

We are probably not going to become buddies…but my responsibility is to take responsibility for my own part in peace.

It is not always possible to live at peace; it is always possible to be faithful with my part.

The gospel brings peace in relationships that were not there before.

It brings peace at a level that would not be likely apart from the Holy Spirit’s work.

In fact when there is ongoing lack of peace in relationships…there is clearly a lack of surrender (on at least one person’s part) to the Holy Spirit.

Because the gospel both in content (what it teaches) and through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power and presence work against the things that work against peace.

Things like: Pride, insecurity, holding grudges, lack of forgiveness, thinking the worst, self-serving actions and attitudes.

A single quality that would solve most relationship problems…if both parties possessed it is…humility.

Phil. 2…your attitude should mirror that of Christ…humility.

But again, you can only choose for yourself, not for others.

The gospel changes our hearts in the direction of the Lord Jesus…that is the direction of increasing personal security (we are secure in him) and increasing humility (we do not have to win, we do have to love)

When we fail…we can be wrong…get right…move on.

Peace with God brings peace of God brings peace with others

Important: The Christian faith is often turned into just a set of precepts, principles.

It can be described in precepts and principles.

Just like you could describe a nuclear bomb with a set of formulas…and those formulas would be accurate…but there is no power in a formula if they are not made into an actual bomb.

The most important thing is not to believe the right things…that is the starting point, not the end.

Believing the right things is merely a means to an end.

What is the end to having truth about God?

It is to be in relationship with God.

To become the right kind of person…a person whose primary goal is to glorify God.

The gospel is about a real thing so it can be expressed in real words…but the real thing is not just words, it is God’s power. 

1Th. 1:5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

The gospel came with words, but not just words…also with power.

The power of the gospel showed up in the way they lived.

How did they live? For the sake of others.

The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

-So that they may peace with God

-So that they may have the peace of God

-So that they may demonstrate the peace of God to others.

So why, is peace often elusive?

Before we talk about that I want to acknowledge what is true for many here.

Peace is not elusive for you…it is the air you breath.

This room is full of people whose relationships with God, self and others at one time lacked peace…but now those relationships are dominated by peace.

So don’t look for problems that are not there, or don’t miss the substantial work God has done in your life and relationships just because he is not done with his work.

Rejoice…if you are experiencing his peace…at whatever level.

But you might find peace elusive right now…and perhaps you wonder why?

I don’t know why…but let me tell a story (a true one) that might help you think through why.

CONCLUSION:

Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan…David’s best friend.

His name literally meant “from the mouth of shame” it was a derogatory name for the false God Baal.

Not sure why he would name his son that but it gets worse.

When he was five years old his father (Jonathan) was killed.

The boy’s nurse decided to flee probably thinking that those who killed his father would want to kill his heir as well.

In their rush to leave Mephibosheth suffered a fall and became crippled.

He ends up as an adult living in a town called Lo Debar…which means “place of nothingness”…no future, no hope, probably was a beggar there.

So a man named “shame” is a crippled beggar stuck in a town called “nowhere”

The story picks up with King David remembering his friend Jonathan, a man he had loved deeply and wondering if he could do anything to show kindness to his memory.

(2 Sam. 9:3ff)

David asked his servant is there was anyone left alive in the household of Jonathan?

servant answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.” 4   “Where is he?” the king asked. Servant answered, “He is in Lo Debar.” 5   So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, 6   When Mephibosheth came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “Your servant,” he replied. 7   “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” 8   Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” …he was given all of his grandfather’s land…and for the rest of his life he ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.

-The crippled beggar living in the middle of nowhere (destined to die there in poverty) was really heir of the King and has the possibility of peace and provision.

Questions:

  1. Did he not know what David had promised his father, was his continued misery the result of ignorance?
  2. Was he ashamed? Did he think he would be rejected? Was he embarrassed about his condition?
  3. Was he apathetic…stuck so long he could not move towards help?

Some real…but unnecessary barrier kept him from the presence and table of the King…and the peace that was there for him.

But here is what happened:

The king sent for him…came for him.

Mephiboseth with his “shame” responded in humility…he could have stayed where he was.

He received the King’s offer (was treated as a son) (gained peace and provision)

I don’t know the circumstances of all your lives…I know some of them.

You may very well have good reason (humanly speaking) to not have peace…some of you I know for a fact this is true…there many things that create anxiety for you…they would for almost anyone.

But you have a better reason to have peace…a point of reference that is fixed and eternal.

It is not dependent on your current or future circumstances…it is fixed in history past and history future.

Is. 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There is nothing about your life that is “so what” to him…nothing about your life.

He is great enough to be able to pay attention to the details of your life, and he is great enough to have affection for those details

But when our attention to him or our affection for him (revealed in obedience) strays…our ability to comprehend and to live in his peace slips away.

It is very important that you pay ongoing attention to him and nurture ongoing affection for him…his glory and his peace are inseparable.

You pay attention to him as you see him as the glorious one in everything you do and everywhere you go…you live a single story life…do not live with a double mind.

You nurture affection for him when you choose to obey him…you continually say “yes” and when you say “no” you say “I’m sorry” and then you say “yes.”

Are you living in Lo Debar…far from his peace and provision…you do not have to.

Are you at his table…enjoying his peace and provision…stay there and do not take his peace for granted…you will notice if it is gone…be sure to notice when it is present…be grateful.

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