24th December 2023

The Path from Unfaithful to Triumphant

Passage: Luke 2:8-20, Hebrews 10:23, 1 Samuel 12:24-25, Galatians 5:22-23
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

The Christmas theme that we're now into is a really deep and impactful one and generally speaking it's one where joy is mentioned. People say to me coming into the church that this season it's great to see the idea of joy being expressed by the church and our singing people have done that for us today in leading us and it was excellent and we thank you. And that's a part of why Christmas carols are so loved and utilised around the world even though there are things about the Christmas season in Australia like the heat, sometimes the rain, that doesn't really match the Christmas cards with all the snow and everything looking so sparkly. But this is a time of great joy and there was a very famous hymn that was sung about the joy of Christmas that that last song that we've had is a change on. Now I like the one that we just sang because it's capturing another point of the truth of why Jesus came. He came to bring an answer to a problem that we had and it's been a very honest worded song. Come all you unfaithful. And what's really interesting about it is that the original announcement that the angels made, if we put Luke 2 up, on the screen you'll see that the record of that in the Gospel of Luke tells us about how the angels spoke. And on the same region there were shepherds out on the field keeping watch over their flock by night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. The glory of the Lord shone around them. This is the scene of the original Christmas moment of the angel of the Lord and the glory of the Lord all being very visible. And they were filled with great fear, the shepherds were, and the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy. It's appropriate for Christmas time that we do have great joy. I bring you news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you. And it goes on to say, You'll find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude, a multitude of the heavenly hosts, all sorts of angels there, it was an enormous group, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace amongst those with whom he is pleased. Now it's really interesting that this idea of Christmas being a time of great joy, and yet the truth is that many of us this morning might have got up with all sorts of factors that were making it difficult for you. There are families who have sickness just now. Not all our number are here. There are some who are not well. But nonetheless, sometimes we come to a Christmas day, it'll be Christmas day tomorrow, but we come to a morning service like today, and we do not necessarily have that joy and every respect in our lives. And so the message that we're hearing is an unusual one. As a matter of fact, I got to thinking through about the record, or the Luke gives us, about the angels so singing, the shepherds certainly demonstrating their joy. But I wondered about Mary and Joseph, having come on that long donkey ride back to Bethlehem, whether they spent the time really singing beautiful choruses, or did they spend the time aware of how awkward it was for a pregnant woman to be riding such distances with a baby about to come. Or when they arrived, when they arrived and discovered there was no room at the inn and they had to take to be in the place where the animals were, with all the different smells they'd offered, and have a birth to happen amongst the donkeys, amongst the horses and the cows. And to think to be Mary that she had to discover what to do for a cradle, I guess that Joseph could help, but there the manger turned out to be where he could somehow pat out with a bit of hay and have to where to put the baby. That was a birth that was far from having, having the optimal of all the right presents there, and having all the helpers and the doctors and everybody making it a wonderful birth. The actual birth of Jesus was not one that was very filled with great joy at every all the factors being right. And Mary and Joseph, I don't think as they came on that donkey back, or was it a camel back, or whatever, however they rode, I don't think that they were praising God for how easy a trip it was, back to Bethlehem, they had to go by decree of the Roman government. And they had all the problem that had been in their minds about Mary being pregnant before she was married, and about the reaction of relatives, and not knowing how they're going to survive the whole scene. I don't think they were singing the original Christmas song that came from what we just sang then. As a matter of fact, I looked through our church, we've got a lot of old hymn books up the back that were used, that were once used, in this church, and they've actually got music in them, so you can sing the notes properly, if you can read music. And I looked up this hymn, to see how once, the one that we just sung, come all you unfaithful. And do you know how the wording goes? It's rather fascinating. The original wording that was penned by a man, it says here, it was anonymous, but there's three guesses as to who wrote it. And one of them was back in the 70s, the 1700s, and Bonaventure was his name. Another was a king of Portugal, and another was later some of the people involved in those monasteries. And some of the monastery movement came out at the same time, and so they considered this to be one of their songs. But the way it's worded here is, come all you faithful, joyful, and triumphant. And that word triumphant, you can see it there, we've got it on the screen, really hit me in the eyes. I don't think Joseph and Mary rode all the way on that donkey back, and were feeling very triumphant at all. What about you this morning, and this Christmas period? I won't ask you to put your hand up, but are there people here who've faced difficulties at this time? And even going to church is a pain, if you're not well. Or if some other factor has come in, or your loved ones are at distance, or something hasn't gone right in your business world, and you're at a period of time in your life when as far as the descriptors of what it is to be a Christian don't seem to be applying to you. And if we were to have everybody singing, and forced by those leading, thank goodness our leaders are more discreet than to do this, but forced by the leaders, come on, smile, I know there are some people here, I know there are some churches who will whip up you to have the right emotions, because you're meant to be happy. Happy and clappy sometimes, but that's what you're meant to be. But the truth is, at this period of time, sometimes when we sing the songs that are worded that way, we're feeling just the opposite inside. I imagine that Joseph and Mary, that's just how they felt. Especially when they couldn't find any room in the inn. And when they were last forced to choose to use the donkey's stable, the horses, the cows, with all the manure, and the smells. Do you think that they were very happy? It's a bit like when we go to hospital and there's not enough room for the ambulances, and there's not enough doctors to attend, and we sometimes let our annoyance at the hospital system out. I think they had every reason to be annoyed at the whole calling of a decree by the Romans, and everybody has to go back to the town of their background. And Joseph, being from the tribe he was from, he had to go to Bethlehem, and that long journey, and then find there's nowhere to stay. And after all, you'd think that they'd have a bit of... If I were that innkeeper, and I had seen Joseph and Mary arrive, and she was really about to have a child, I would have said, come to my house. Surely that would have been the Christian thing to do. And it's also true today. That there are many people who hear a snippet of the Christian message and somehow say, I can't quite associate with that. Are you like that this morning? Well, there's another aspect of the song that we did sing when we sing, Come All You Unfaithful, is also true. And that is that you've got to come to understand that we're not called on to be faithful out of our own resources. We're not called on because of our great victories in the Christian living, to be joyful and triumphant. That's actually what Christianity offers, not what Christianity demands as the entrance point. And some people who are in the community, they hear us sort of talking joy, joy, joy, but when they visit our churches, if they stay around long enough, they discover that we have all our hassles too. And just as sporting clubs sometimes have their arguments, so churches sometimes have their arguments, and sometimes have their differences of backgrounds of people. And it's the case that if you go around and look at all the different churches, some of them are appealing to this type of people and some are appealing to another type of people, and some have somehow bridged the gap, as I was talking about last Sunday, as the Spirit can cause to happen. But nonetheless, we don't always represent what our songs sing. And I think the Christmas season is one of those seasons where if you look carefully, you'll notice, but many people do not feel triumphant. At Christmas time, I'm asking you, are you one? Well, you know, there's something to be understood about the way Christianity works and how the Gospel comes to us that explains this, because both of these songs, as worded, come all you faithful, triumphant, and also the way that we had it sung, come all you unfaithful. It goes on to describe someone under the pressure of things not going right. Both of those have an element of truth, and I'm wanting this morning to spell that out and to how to go from one to the other. That's the purpose of this message. And it is here in Luke's Gospel all the way, and in chapter 2, that God is talking about that which He's providing by the coming of His Son. He's talking about a world that is in desperate need. He's talking about a world that is in rebellion against Him. He's talking about a world that back then was filled with violence and ignorance. It was filled with oppression. The Romans, taking over the world but using the sword, they had a terrible method of dealing with people who rebelled against them. Crucifixion was meant to be one of the ways that you subjugated the people of a conquered nation. You didn't subjugate your own people that way, but all the others you did. The cross was how they subjugated people. There were occasions when whole lots of rebellious slaves were put to death on crosses. People who weren't Roman citizens would be liable to have a heavy punishment like so. And when it came about that Jesus Christ, handed by the Jews over to the Romans, was taken to the cross, there happened to Him the worst of humanity's capacities to reject the very Prince of Peace, the King who was meant to come. Born King of the Angels, the positive song sings. Let us adore Him. But what happened in the story in Luke chapter 2 is just the opposite. How interesting that the people who came to recognise Jesus in His birth were not from the Jewish stock, they were not from Israel, they were not a part of the promises of God to Israel. They were from the East. They were Far Eastern Asians. But they'd seen a star. And the star they understood meant that something special had happened. They were readers of the meanings of the stars, whether they got it all right or not. In this case they did, they got it right. They took it to mean that there was someone very important born. And they traced that star to be about how long He'd been born, for when eventually they arrived and said, we're looking for the King of Israel. And eventually the man in charge here, Herod, he asked, how long have you been following and when did that star first appear? And they said, two years. He pretended, yes, you go and find where He is and come back and tell me and I'll go and worship Him too. You know, the word worship in our English language is not just that, that by which we recognize deity, by the way. But worship is what is often used when you've got a king in your presence and you say you'll worship. And sometimes it's just a recognition of the headship of the leadership of the nation that is using that word worship. And when they came and said, we've come because you've got a king and we've come to worship Him, they weren't recognizing His deity, or at least they didn't know they were. Their gifts sometimes reflected it, but I don't know that they thought it all out. But they were coming to recognize someone who was set up to be the king from heaven and a star was produced to mark His birth. This was a very important person that had come and they were there to come and find Him and worship Him and bring gifts to Him. They were doing the thing that is what is deserved by such a king. But the man who was the usurping, taking the role of king when he shouldn't have been, was Herod and he was trying to find out and he said, when did the star first appear? They said two years and so he determined what he was going to do and asked them to bring back the news as to where the baby was found and eventually he killed all the baby boys two years old and under in the district. What a contrast! What a contrast to human nature as it actually was and to human nature as we sometimes by our Christmas stories think that we are. Even though Christmas is a lovely season, even though there's lots of good things that happen when you have families together and where you have gifts that are given and where you have a fellowship in churches, it's a wonderful thing. And so the hymn properly does exhibit that something beautiful has come to the world but no, it didn't come just because we would turn into that by Christmas. Having happened, Christmas doesn't turn you into the person that you ought to be. Many of us seated here this morning have found that out for ourselves that even in the season called Christmas sometimes we have not been the person who really exhibits what it is to be joyful and triumphant. And you're evidence to yourself that just because you have a Christmas culture and just because you take on those things doesn't make the change itself. The shepherds came and they looked and they saw and were glad. The angels sang the song. Other people like the wise men came with their gifts but it didn't change how the world is because what's Christmas like today? Over in Israel, around the world, we have got so many wars that keep on going. We're not a generation that is ever thinking about the wars getting to be the last one like people thought of World War I. They said it's the war to end all wars. Funny joke. That was because World War II started so quickly afterwards. And when you look at the results of those two world wars, World War I had so many people killed. Millions and millions. World War II had an awful lot more. So the world wasn't getting better because of World War I. It just got something like ten times worse by World War II. And where will we be if there be a World War III? Human nature wasn't changed by Christmas in terms of the joy and the songs and the hymns and the religion. Christianity would only be changed by there being God having a long-range plan. And the long-range plan would be him to redeem the human race and eventually, as the book of Revelation tells us, there'll be a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem and there'll be a new living with God. But he's in the business of changing it in the long term and included in the first coming of Jesus, not to be necessarily apparently a triumphant but to be for him to come and do what was necessary to make the change and that was that he had to deal with the rebellion and sin. He went to the cross and took our sin. He died a cosmic death to deal with the rebellion of a human race. He did it to turn history around and he's certainly been doing that and will achieve that in the end which the Bible tells us that God is going to triumph in the end. And so the victory that is won by the first Christmas occasion is a signal of the victory that God will make in the end. O come all you faithful, joyful and triumphant is how you can be through Christianity but not until you've come by way of the cross, you've come by way of recognizing the need for Jesus to deal with your sins and how he did that was by paying for them in his own shed blood, his own death in our place on that cross. And it took the cross for God to continue his great plan to eventually bring about the joyful and the triumphant and all the rest. We do adore Christmas because of who Jesus was, is and was and is, is, was and is. We do adore Christmas because of how God achieved it. It's a wonderful time. I'm not taking away from the joy of recognition of what God was actually doing but I'm pointing out the fact that the reason why Jesus came was to begin or to continue that process of dying for our sins and then introducing us to a Christianity which would help us find that deliverance fed into our lives, step by step. I've got a few Bible verses to take us through and I want you just to follow. The second one I want us to look at is something that's going to talk about I'm touching on the connection between faith and faithfulness. And what sometimes a very shallow take on Christianity is, is that Christianity is about you learning to be faithful. Christianity is about you learning to be faithful but the method of learning to be faithful doesn't come by setting you to make a hard try. And those of you who've become Christians recently have already discovered that you make a step to belong to Christ and then you find you're very up and down and you often fail him at certain points. Well, across in the book of Hebrews it says in chapter 10 and verse 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful. Now what's going on here is about the connection between hope and faith between faith and faithfulness and where sometimes we stumble in our development when we become a Christian and gradually find it difficult to get on our feet and somehow to be consistent is because we need to understand something about what real hope is. The word hope in the Bible does not mean what we mean these days when someone says you're going to have a busy year and you say I hope so. You've got no idea whether you will or not but you hope so. We use the word hope to mean you're wanting it to be so but you don't know what to say whether it will happen. When the Bible uses that word it's using it in the sense of expectation of strong belief that it will happen and hope is actually faith trusting without any reasons but that God has promised. Hope is when you come to the promise and you rest in the promise and you leave it there even though the circumstances change on you. So it says let us hold fast the confession of our hope. There might have been a moment when somebody here came to know the Saviour. It might have happened when you were a child and you were told of Jesus and thankfully they told you of a wonderful person everybody should love and you decided to love him and you trusted him and as you learnt more of him through your Christian life you trusted him all the more and you had a hope that your life would work out. But then different things might have happened and there's many a person who's a Christian who then tells the story of the parent that died or tells the story of the event that happened that shattered things or the failure that occurred in some scenario in which they were involved and they dropped the lot and I don't know I might be talking to someone this morning and God has got you here because you're maybe a person who dropped the lot. Your hope can waver because you had trust that the Christian life was going to work out for you but somehow something hasn't happened or something did happen. Your hope has been wavering and don't be so surprised. I'm glad for the song that we did sing already about the come all you unfaithful because that's how many of us find ourselves being. We have hope that wavers. It's very human and very natural now don't let a theology come along that makes you think that's normal to the Christian life. It's not normal in the sense of what is being aimed at so you don't accept it as the ultimate but you look to God to help you through it but nor do you get put off because you feel yourself a failure when other people seem to have done better. Let us hold fast the confession of hope without wavering and when you waver it is because you stop believing in the promise. The promise is what will stop you from wavering. Find yourself a promise something that God has said. There's a verse that says all sorts of things about what God has promised and about the fact that He will give you the desires of your heart. The Bible tells us that if you give yourself to trust and lean on the Lord, if you give yourself to delight yourself in the Lord He will give you the desires of your heart. He sees those desires and He hasn't stopped promising them but hope without wavering means that you look at the promise and say I'm going to rest my case on that promise and if I get to heaven and He hasn't done it I'll be telling Him what went wrong with you but you know jolly well that He always keeps His promises. So you rest yourself in the promise. Our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful. And one of the things that happens in growing as a Christian when you go through some difficulties that you didn't expect when you find that the career that you wanted didn't come about or when you discover that some special thing that you were hoping in didn't happen when you go on trusting Christ that He's got your best in His hands. He will give you what you need. He will bless you. There's been many a Christian whose life is a story of how they believed God so well and then it didn't happen and they just had to rest in Him because He's the one that's made a promise and you rest in the promise. Jesus said I will never leave you nor forsake you. He says come unto me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and lean on me. He says for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. He's promised. And the way you grow as a Christian when things don't always turn out where maybe when you're the one that's done something to wreck it all but He won't ditch you. He's going to rescue you. That's what grace is all about. He loves you and He's promised to be faithful, delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. He will make the Christian life work out for you. Well that's Hebrews 10 verse 23 but we're playing with definitions here about hope. Hope is not just oh I hope so. Hope is when God has promised and when the devil comes along and says look at the big mess you haven't been really looked after at all. You just say I'm going to go on believing God. What did the apostle Paul say? When he was on the deck of the wreck about to happen the ship the middle of the night and the storm was fierce and everybody else was doing strange things and throwing things overboard. What did the apostle Paul say? He says I believe God. I believe what He's promised and He's told me that we're all to be saved. And He told them all although they had to get up in the drink and had to swim to the shore but they did. They got saved. God knows how to look after His own. The Bible says it a thousand times over and what we're called on to do is to have the hope that decides not to waver by going to the promise and resting in God to be faithful. Well the next verse I've got just two or three of these verses. It's not a long sermon this morning but I've just got a few more to take you through. But 1 Samuel 12 24-25 is an example in the Old Covenant days and what we've been dealing with in our church talking about Old Covenant being replaced by the New Covenant has some people wanting to know how much of the Old Testament can we trust or is it for us as Christians can we learn lessons from the Old Testament we surely can. But you'll discover that in the Old Testament this business of faith and faithfulness are linked. You end up being faithful in the first instance not by everything that you do right but by your trust your faith. Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. He wants us to be faithful in our service but where does it come from? Well what they were told back then this is Samuel talking to the Israelites he says, For consider what great things God has done for you. And they had a history of God doing great things you'd have to be impressed if you're an Israelite and you ended up with your back to the oncoming army out of Egypt and ahead of you is a whole ocean and you're trapped and you think you're going to become minced meat at the swords of the Egyptian army coming and Moses goes down there and puts that stick of his that one that he had into the water and the water parts and they walk through on the dry land and along come the behind them the people from Egypt the Egyptians and Pharaoh and his chariots and they come charging into the track made through the ocean but God chooses the moment for the waters to come back again and all the water getting there over the Egyptians and the bottom turning into mud and those wheels of the chariots all getting stuck and they all drowned and they went on from crossing the Red Sea having seen a wonderful wonderful escape that God gave one of the names I want to preach about next time I'm preaching which is tomorrow is about the words the names for God and the names for Jesus and one of those names is the name Wonderful come tomorrow morning I want to tell you why Jesus' name is Wonderful for those people those Israelites when they saw all the bodies of the Egyptians killed when they saw the freedom to go on and follow God because God stepped in they knew the one they followed was Wonderful and He's promised to be Wonderful for you too that's really going to be my message tomorrow I'll have to make sure it's sufficiently different for you to be worth it but tomorrow we're going to talk about His name being Wonderful but it says consider what great things He has done for you but if you still do wickedly you shall be swept away both you and your king that's in the old covenant days and their king Saul did indeed get taken away for how he led them wrongly and the Israelites themselves as a group got taken off into captivity because they did wickedly but they didn't have to and if they would have considered the great things that He's done for them it would have helped their faith and that's one way that you can move from being unfaithful to having faith to be faithful is when you consider what God has done for you and of course the greatest thing that He's done for you and for me is how Jesus on the cross bore our sins and we always have a forgiveness due to His grace that His death is sufficient for always to be forgiven again and the very word for love in the original languages is about the fact that God has this grace that He's made a payment for your sins and you're never going to out sin God that's the message of the Bible He loves you and His grace can cover your sins and when you know that and you take His promise I will never leave you nor forsake you then He helps you to go on walking with Him well one more final verse and it is in the book of Galatians I said I'll be short this morning the book of Galatians in chapter 5 and verses 22 and 23 why I'm showing you this verse excuse me I'm showing you this verse is because the Christian life is not only about forgiveness it's also about the provision of God helping you by His Spirit in your life that you might do the things that you couldn't do on your own and so the Bible talks about the gift of the Holy Spirit if you will repent of your sin the Gospel is if you'll come to Jesus for the forgiveness of sin He will give you the Holy Spirit to live in you and the Holy Spirit's first task in coming into you is to bring the indwelling of Jesus there's a mystery in this the connection between the Holy Spirit and Jesus He brings Jesus to live in you think about that the one that loves you who gave Himself on the cross for you He's brought to you because He didn't just die for you to get you forgiven and put a tick by your name yeah, you'll be in heaven that's one save no, He died for you on the cross because He loves you and wants to give Himself to you and when you come for the forgiveness of sins He by His Spirit is brought to your heart and you can say Jesus lives in me He says He'll never leave me nor forsake me well, that Holy Spirit produces results and the fruit of the Spirit enlisted here in the book of Galatians is love joy peace patience kindness goodness and I like the next one faithfulness and He can produce faithfulness gentleness self-control is your problem self-control? you may have the problem but the Holy Spirit can give you self-control against such things there is no law when the Holy Spirit's leading your life you won't break any of the laws of God you'll discover yourself keeping them not because you were faithful but because you had faith in His promise to help you with the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit is called an advocate He's called a counsellor He's called a helper a comforter all these things somehow seeking to express that in your life and mine He's there to help us live the Christian life we don't have the capacity really to be faithful but He does and walking after the Spirit keeping in step with the Spirit trusting in the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life is how you learn faithfulness to be yours you can be faithful and so it's been provided for by Jesus coming to the world but it's a long range plan of God for you to come to have the Holy Spirit letting you grow in your sanctification so that you end up faithfulness in His promise will lead to you having faithfulness in your life and that is a fantastic thing would you remember this so the song which has that we sang before come all you unfaithful the original words I was going to tell you all about the history of the hymn but I can tell you that another day but it says O come all you faithful joyful and triumphant O come you come you to Bethlehem and then the chorus runs yea Lord we greet you born this happy morning Jesus to you be glory given word of the Father now in flesh appearing come O come let us adore Him Christ the Lord and so both of those versions of the song are applicable and one will lead to our being able to overcome what's being described in the second let's have a moment of prayer Heavenly Father I thank you for the original writing of that song I thank you Lord for the facts that we can recognize ahead of time that in Jesus we have faithfulness provided not out of ourselves but by Him living out the promise and Him giving us a promise that if we trust Him for the forgiveness of sins He would come and produce the faithfulness in us that He would come and make us triumphant in the Christian life Lord I pray if there are people today who need to first of all trust Jesus for a forgiveness instead of trying to just earn it by good things themselves let that strike them as what they have to do is to trust Jesus for a forgiveness they cannot earn but one they can receive and simply ask Him to give to them and Lord others of us who find the ups and downs of life ones where instead of Christmas time finding us full of joy and triumph and we intend of instead sometimes of being grumpy and out of peace help us to discover the root back we pray in Jesus name and for His sake Amen.

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