Wired for the Kingdom of Light
The Light of the World
Wired for the Kingdom of Light
Luke 1:26-36
Open with youtube video of Christmas lights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F44d2IzCrKo
The light show you just saw was put together by the Holdmans of Pleasant Grove, Utah. For the past few years 1000s of people have driven by their home to observe the 15 to 20 minute display.
Wouldn't you like to have a display like that in your front yard? I would. But there are a few things that make that difficult for me.
#1 - I don't have the money.
#2 - I don't have the time.
But (pause) the most important reason I couldn't do that in my front yard is that
#3 - my house isn't wired for it.
The Holdman family has an on-line tutorial where they describe some of the wiring they've used. They have 22 dedicated outlets. Those outlets are solely used for this light display and each outlet was on a 20 amp breaker.
But even as well wired as their home is, they still have a problem. The entire display requires 470 amps of power but the maximum amount of electricity they can generate is about 300 amps.
That means if everything in their display were on at the same time - it would draw 470 amps.
So they have to be careful what they turn on at any given time because if they didn't, they'd end up blowing fuses and tripping breakers.
What the Holdman’s have accomplished is a beautiful and wondrous thing. They literally light up the night.
But my house isn't wired for that.
About 2000 years ago a beautiful and wondrous thing took place. Jesus, the Son of God, was born and when that happened God lit up the night with 1000s upon 1000s of angels who announced to the Shepherds that the Christ had been born.
Listen to how Luke describes that event:
Luke 1:26-36
Now, in our text this morning, we read that one of the reasons God lit up the night that evening was because this Jesus would "be great and (would) be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God (would) give him the throne of his father David, and he (would) reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom (would) never end." Luke 1:32-33
Jesus came to establish a Kingdom. And every Kingdom has citizens that belong to it. But what is this Kingdom that Jesus came to establish, and who would be the subjects in this Kingdom over which He would rule and reign?
That Kingdom includes God’s people from every time, nation and tongue.  That includes Old Testament saints and New Testament saints and Tribulation saints and Millenial saints. 
That is those in the past who’ve served God, those alive right now serving God and those yet to come in the future who will serve God. 
I had an interesting conversation just last week with a pastor friend who was teaching a doctrine study of the Baptist Faith and Message. 
In the section under “The Church”, there is included this statement: “The New Testament describes the church as the Body of Christ. This church includes all of the believers from throughout history. These believers come from every people group. They come from every language group. They come from all people from every country.”
He took that to mean the authors of the BF and M were saying the church included Old Testament believers and wanted to know my opinion.
I am a dispensationalist.  I believe everyone who is in heaven or ever will be gets saved the same way.  There is not an Old Testament way and a New Testament way.  There is only one way and that is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. 
However, that doesn’t mean every one is a part of the church.  The church is different from the Kingdom.  The church is described in particular terms, such as the body of Christ.  That doesn’t mean those saved outside of the church age are any less saved; they just aren’t a part of the church.
Now I say all of that to say this:  Jesus came to establish the church, but that wasn’t the sum total of all that God was up to.  The church is a part of the Kingdom of God. 
But the Kingdom is primarily Jewish in nature.  Look at verses 32-33 again.  He’s talking to Jews.  After all, Jesus is the Head of the Church but He is the King of the Kingdom. 
And we have the privilege as a part of the church, to be part of the kingdom.  He is the King and we are subjects in that kingdom. 
Colossians 1:13-14 says, “God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
And this Kingdom was so important to God that He lit up the night when Jesus was born. 
Now think about that:  God lights up the heavens when it comes to Jesus and His Kingdom. The question I want to ask this morning is this: are we wired for that kind of light?
What I mean is this: this Kingdom, this Church, is so important to God that if I'm going to be prepared for Christmas, I need to get serious about my wiring. If I really want to show Him I love Him I've got to put in more than just a half hearted effort into wiring my life for it
Now to be honest, I don’t get too excited about putting lights on the house. Over the last few years, we’ve done that.  We have 17 strings of those big C-9 bulbs that will go from one end to the other and outline all of the roofline. 
The boys are already asking if we can put them up again. But to be honest, many of the bulbs are burned out and broken and it’s almost impossible to buy them anymore since our president decided they are unhealthy for the environment and it’s a lot of work and time and it raises the electric bill, and to be honest, it’s not that important to me so I don’t generally put a lot of effort into it. 
And unfortunately, that’s how a lot of you feel about the Kingdom of God and His church.  It’s really not all that important to you so you don’t put much effort into it.  The truth is, it's only if something is important to me that I care how much effort I put into it.
It’s just too costly and what the church does and offers is not nearly as attractive as it used to be and it’s a lot of work and fuss to get up and go and follow Jesus and all of that.  And so we just don’t generally put a lot of effort into it.
But Christmas is a reminder that it needs to be important to us.  I mean if God lit up the heavens announcing the birth of His Son, and announcing the Kingdom and establishing the church then it must be a big deal! 
And if I need to be more serious about my relationship with God, then maybe I need to rewire my life to make it happen.
So, how do I do that? How do I prepare for this Christmas with the wiring of life? 
1. The Requirement
We began last week to look at the message of John the Baptist found in Luke 3.  You will remember that it was prophesied of John the Baptist that he would with a message instructing people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. 
That is exactly what happened.  John the Baptist was chosen to help people get ready for Christmas.  That was his job. That was what he'd been called to do.  He did with one simple message. 
Luke 3:3 tells us: "He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
And people literally came from all over the country to heart John preach and to be baptized.  And when they came he took the opportunity to tell them they needed to change. They needed to repent.  Now repentance is simply taking responsibility for your actions and then being willing to change them when they are wrong.
Repentance is a word that has lost much of its original meaning. Today it is usually thought of in terms of regret, sorrow or feeling bad because of a guilty conscience.
Repentance comes from two words: the first means to turn around as if you were headed in the wrong direction and then changed your course to head in the opposite direction.  The second word means to understand with your mind.  Together the words mean to change your mind or turn from what you were doing.
Repentance is turning away from your sins and back to God.  Now the call to repentance is very obvious.  But there is another invitation offered in his message that is more subtle and that is what we see in verse 8.
These Jews were prone to rely on their Jewishness.  , Some of them had the mistaken idea that God's promise to be faithful to the seed of Abraham guaranteed their salvation no matter what.
But John calls them sons of the devil (vipers, v. 7) instead of sons of Abraham and says: Yes God will be faithful to Abraham's seed, but your pride has blinded you to who Abraham's seed really are—they are not every single physical descendant, but are people who, like Abraham, repent and bear the fruits worthy of repentance.
God can create people like that out of these stones and leave you to judgment, and yet still be faithful to his promises.
And what we have there is a seed of what will eventually come to full bloom in the doctrine of God’s mercy. 
Paul would pick up that idea in the letter to the Romans and argues that the reason God promised a blessing to Abraham and justified him by faith before he was circumcised was this: 
Romans 4:11-12, 16-17
Later in Galatians 3:7 Paul says, "So you see it is men of faith who are sons of Abraham," and in verse 29, "If you are Christ's then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise."
So when John warns the crowds not to rely on their Jewishness and says, "God can raise up from these stones sons of Abraham," he meant God's mercy is so pure that he can make out of anybody a son of Abraham.
Jewishness is no guarantee, and non-Jewishness is no hindrance. The way to forgiveness of sins is open to all, Jew and Gentile, by the same road—the road of repentance. Which means anybody who turns from trusting in human accomplishments and depends on the free mercy of God alone will be saved from the impending wrath through the forgiveness of their sins.
Basically he is saying, “Everyone needs to be rewired!  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and no one is righteous.  It doesn’t matter how Jewish you are.  It doesn’t matter what a fine Gentile you may be. Everyone is in need of repentance!”
And evidently John's preaching gets through, and the people start repenting, turning afresh to God's mercy rather than their own race or works.
And the evidence is found in verses 10-20.  Now earlier, John had announced that they needed to repent, then produce evidence of their repentance.  In verse 8 he calls it the fruit of repentance. 
So the question arises, “How do repentant people live and act?  Is there a distinctive lifestyle that grows out of repentance and relying on mercy alone?
What sort of things does a person who has repented of sin and is trusting the Lord do and not do?
2. The Recipients
Luke gives Theophilus a few examples here from John's preaching and I want to start at the bottom and work my way back through them.
Verse 18
Now this is Luke writing to a friend named Theophilus so this is Luke’s assessment of John’s preaching.  And notice how he refers to it. It literally translates from the Greek like this:
“So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.”  
Luke calls John's message the gospel.  Now the gospel simply means good news.  That’s why I especially like the NIV translation of this verse:
“And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.” 
Now think about that.  John had just called the Jews a brood of vipers.  He had talked about how the axe of God’s judgment was about to cut them down.  He is all about repentance and judgment and warnings, but when Luke critiques the sermon he says, John went all over the place encouraging people by sharing good news with them. 
So what is the good news he’s sharing?  It’s the same good news the angels announced when they spoke to the shepherds. 
Look back to chapter 2:10-11
The good news then is still the good news today.  In fact, I think it safe to say you and I know more about the gospel than did John the Baptist.  John died not knowing about the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead and a whole lot of stuff that you and I are privileged to know.  But in spite of that, I don’t want to miss what he did know about the good news that was breaking into the world. 
For instance, John knew enough to know that
1) The Gospel Warns Those In Danger
It is good news when someone wakes you up and says, "Quick the house is on fire, but there is still time. I'll show you how to get out." The gospel must always contain a warning of God's wrath.  Notice what John says at the end of verse 17.
The good news announced to the shepherds was this coming Messiah will save people from their sins.  And if you will ever have any hope of being rewired to shine the Light of Christmas, you must heed the warning. 
John knew enough to know
2) The Gospel Offers Salvation to Everyone
It’s good news that whosoever will may come.  Can you imagine how terrible it would have been if John the Baptist had shown up with a message that said, “Jews can be saved, but not Gentiles or well-to-do people can be saved, but not poor folk or white people can be saved, but not Indians or black people.
You can be saved if on the judgment day your good works outweigh your bad works. All that would be bad news. But for John the way is open for everyone.  Did you notice verse 6
That’s not to say that everyone will be saved, but it does say everyone can be saved.  And it’s not dependent on our good works or our bloodline or lineage or how much money we give.  It’s all because of God’s grace and mercy. 
John also knew
3) The Gospel Changes Lives
Now why is that so critical?  After all, if salvation is a free gift, then why is how we live and what we do so important? 
There are at least two reasons: 
First, it assures you that you are saved. 
As we saw last Sunday night in our study of John 15, there is a kind of fruit that testifies to the health of a tree.  And when we know the fruit of our life is consistent with our repentance, we are reassured that we really do belong to God. 
The other reason is
It brings joy to your life.
Listen there is more joy and satisfaction in doing what God says than in committing all the sin in the world. 
Everything God commands us and instructs us to do is not to destroy the joy of our life and make us miserable.  Instead, it is to fill our life with joy and completion and satisfaction that we can never find any other way. 
So back to our question: “How do repentant people live and act? 
3.  The Results
In verse 8 John says, "Bear fruits that demonstrate t repentance," and in verse 10 the crowds asked, "What then shall we do?”
In these verses, John is showing his hearers the kind of fruit (or lifestyle) that inevitably grows on the tree of repentance. Genuine repentance is of the nature that it produces these sorts of attitudes and actions. And keep in mind what repentance is: a turning from reliance on human traits and works, to a reliance on God's mercy for our salvation, security, joy and hope.
First, notice the three groups which Luke refers to. The "multitudes" in verse 10, the "tax collectors" in verse 12, and the "soldiers" in verse 14.
Why not mention the fishermen, carpenters, lawyers, etc.? Surely in that "multitude" there were other professions. I can think of two things Luke was doing by choosing these particular groups.
First, these three groups were hostile to each other.
The "multitudes" were ordinary Jewish people for the most part, but the tax collectors were viewed as greedy Jewish turncoats who used their (already despised) relation with Rome to line their own pockets; and the soldiers probably included Gentiles, but in any case they represented the pagan Roman overlords.
But here they all are with the same question: "What shall we do?" They are all now on the same ground, and they are needy. That is a reminder that everyone stand in need of the same thing.  We need the change that only Christ can bring to our life.  It doesn’t matter how well you may think you are doing.  Only the fruit of repentance will demonstrate the life of Christ. 
The other thing Luke does by referring to tax collectors and soldiers is get Theophilus' ear. Remember Theophilus, to whom this gospel is written, is probably a ranking Roman official—someone like a powerful soldier or a wealthy tax agent.
And Luke’s comments are especially appropriate at Christmas time when everybody’s making their list and talking about what they hope they get and how much to spend and credit card limits and all the frustration of paying the bills. 
Luke seems to be intent on keeping the dangers of power and wealth before Theophilus. In 1:50–53 Mary had said, for example, "God's mercy is on those who fear him . . . He has put down the powerful from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away."
And now Luke describes what John has to say to the rich tax collectors and powerful soldiers. Now he has Theophilus' attention. So what changes when a tax collector and a soldier stop relying on money and power and prestige and start relying on God's mercy for forgiveness and hope?
Look at the three instructions John the Baptist gives to the three groups.
First is the multitude – verse 11
Next are the tax collectors – verse 13
Then, the soldiers – verse 14
When you think of all the hundreds of exhortations John could have given (and may have given) and all the exhortations Luke could have recorded, it is astonishing that in all three cases John refers to their possessions: their things and their money. Luke repeats that message over and over again through his gospel.  When you get rewired to shine the Light of the Lord it will change how you handle your money and possessions. 
There is one fundamental reason for that: "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:34). You can tell where a man's heart is resting by the way he handles his money and by the attitude he has toward his possessions. If his heart is resting in the mercy of the all-sufficient God, then he will have the lifestyle John is exhorting here in verses 10–14.  If he earned it by the sweat of his brow and it’s his stuff, then that will show in his giving and attitude as well.
Now I want to point out the difference between the word to the crowd on the one hand and to the tax collectors and soldiers on the other.
The crowds are told to give away part of what they have: if you have clothing and food and someone you can help doesn't, share it. But the tax collectors and soldiers are told not to take more than what they are supposed to. Be content with what you have.
Why the difference?  It is simply the target audience.  When addressing a crowd, you don't know what the specific professions represented and the temptations that go with them are; so you aim at the general opportunities for compassion and benevolence where all of us can bear the fruit of sacrificial generosity.
But when you are addressing a specific profession that is notorious for a specific abuse, you put your finger right on it and show them that it does not demonstrate repentance.
The temptation was the same for both professions, namely, to use their power to indulge their love of money by exploiting other people.  
And what we get from that is a two-pronged teaching.  When you repent and God rewires your life to shine the Light of God, the fruit that demonstrates that repentance on the negative side is the refusal to exploit anyone to get more money or things.  And on the positive side, we are willing to help people who have a need by giving what we have to meet that need. 
In the final analysis, how your life is wired makes a difference to God because how you are wired will influence the message from your life.  If you are wired for Jesus - you'll love others.  If you're wired for Jesus, you'll live your life for Him.  And if you're wired for Jesus, people will see and experience His Amazing Grace in your life
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnk0KjWxgMA
(A youtube clip of the Holdman house with another synchronized light display - this time featuring "Amazing Graze".
Let’s pray
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