I mentioned last week that unless the Lord changed my mind I would be preaching today on, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," which, of course, is the story of Jesus, particularly the birth of Jesus! You might think this is a Christmas story and in a sense it is, but for a Christian every day of the year is Christmas. Did you know that? Every day of the year is Christmas. You can just take that any way you want to and interpret it any way you want to and it's still true, for a Christian every day of the year is Christmas.
So we want to turn to Luke chapter 2. While you're finding that, referring back to this last song that we sang, number 371, as you were singing it I got to thinking. Sometimes that is not so easy to do, is it --- Do a little thinking? But I got to thinking about some of these words here in that song. Look in your book at number 371, where it particularly emphasizes this: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day."
As I read this, I thought back to the time when I was ambushed by terrorists in Rhodesia. And I remember this kind of thinking came to my mind, even when I was shot up pretty badly and hiding behind an ant hill with my one good arm ready to shoot my submachine gun to defend myself against terrorists in Rhodesia, I still thought about these things like this: "I know (in) whom I have believed. And I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day."
I couldn't use my left arm much (because my left arm had been hit, and broken, by a bullet right at the shoulder joint, and my left hand had also been hit by a bullet right at the base of the thumb) but I could still cock the UZI submachine gun with one hand by propping it on the ground. I had a hundred and eight rounds and I was going to use all of them, too! But I didn't have to, they never did find me and chase me down to try to finish me off. My buddies from the defense forces found me first and flew me in for hospitalization for six weeks. And now I'm nearly as mean as I ever was --- almost! (Laughter in congregation.) And getting uglier all the time, too. And a little bit more bald and all these things, but let's turn now to Luke chapter 2.
I remembered as you were singing this song about how I felt that day and it makes no difference what our circumstances, if we know that we've committed ourself unto Him, whether we're in a comfortable lounge at our home watching the telly or the idiot box, whatever you want to call it, or whether we're out there hiding behind the ant hill with the left side out of commission and cocking our submachine gun with one hand and waiting for the terrorists to follow us and try to finish us off, it makes no difference, does it? If we know whom we've believed and we're truly persuaded that He is able to "keep that which we have committed to him against that day".
Luke chapter 2, beginning with verse 7. Let us read together. "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (This fits in also with one of our songs, "Room For Jesus, King of Glory," doesn't it? There was no room for Him or for them in the inn.) "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
Let us pray. Father, we pray that You'll bless the reading of Your Word and the exposition that is to follow. Use us to be a witness for Thee. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
As we begin to think about this, "The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Birth of Jesus," let's notice here first this portion of our reading which we might describe or identify in this manner --- "Unto us a child is born." Now He was born for a special purpose. Millions of children have been born. Millions and millions of children have been born. In fact, we could even go so far as to say that several billions have been born, couldn't we? About five billion in the world today alive, living now. So billions of children have been born but this child is a special child born in a special way and for a special purpose.
If we turn over to Isaiah 9 and read verses 6 and 7, (this is one of my favorite passages that I preach from occasionally) and I may preach from it again some time, but not today, just using it in passing today. Isaiah 9:6-7, where it says this: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
As we begin to think about this passage in connection with today's sermon, "Unto us a child is born," let us notice first that word "child". "Child." What about a child? Well, a child is one young in years, isn't it? I don't think I could qualify for that anymore. Brother Kelly couldn't qualify for that anymore. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Till and Mr. Lind and Mr. Arnold, none of us could qualify as a child anymore. We're a little bit too old for that. But a child is one young in years. And we have quite a few of them here today. And yet, when we think about this, a child, one young in years, if we look at John chapter 1, what does it say about this child?
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." And then it goes ahead and speaks of the fact that He is the light. He's the light that lights men, all men, who come into the world.
This child here, one young in years, yet He was the Creator. He was in eternity with God. Thinking again about what a child is, not only is a child one young in years but a child is generally speaking one weak in knowledge, isn't it? You know, they haven't had the time and the opportunity to learn all those nasty tricks that the rest of us have learned. Weak in knowledge, aren't they? A child has not had all that time and opportunity to learn those nasty things that the rest of us have learned through the years. So a child is one weak in knowledge. And yet if you turn over to Luke chapter 2 and look at verse 46, we find that at a very early age, at only 12 years of age, Jesus made the doctors to marvel!
Reading verse 46: "And it came to pass, that after three days," this is when Christ had been left behind by His parents. They thought that He was in the caravan with their friends and relatives who were traveling in the same group and then they found after they were gone a days journey, that He was not with them so they went back looking for Him. And it tells us there in verse 46: "And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers."
So this child not only was He one young in years but He didn't fit in with this idea of one weak in knowledge, did He? At the age of twelve He was there in discussion with these educated and learned doctors of the law among the Jews. And they, it says, were astonished and amazed at His understanding and at His answers. So He was not just an ordinary child, He was not just another Wayne Lind, or not just another child of whatever sort but He was something different. He was something different --- He was the very Son of God!
Now some things that were said about the child as we go a little further in this greatest story ever told. We read to you already today some of the things that were said about this child. Of course, it would take many hours to tell you even a reasonable summary of the things that were said about the child. But some of the things that were said about the child we could repeat like this. Angels told the shepherds good tidings of great joy at the birth of the child, didn't they? And we read that to you already from the Scripture.
Let me read here in verse 13. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest" --- But we should go back up even further, to verse 10. "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy." The angels revealed this this to the shepherds, this good tidings of great joy at the birth of the child. The world had been waiting all this time for this event, and now it came to pass at the birth of the child, Jesus. This heavenly host also sang glory to God and said, "On earth peace, and good will to men," at the time of the birth of the Christ child.
There were many different reactions concerning the birth of this child. All kinds of reactions. We might mention a couple of them in passing. In the first place, King Herod was interested in the birth of this child, wasn't he? Yes, King Herod was very interested in the birth of this child. But he wasn't interested for a proper purpose, was he? He had an evil purpose in his interest in the birth of this child.
In Matthew chapter 2, verse 8, you may remember as the wise men went through on the way to seek the child, and reading now from Matthew 2:8 continuing: "And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also." Herod pretended, of course, a worthy interest in the birth of this child but his real interest was an evil one, wasn't it? The evil purpose which he had in mind was to destroy the child.
But the shepherds, they had an interest or reaction concerning the child which was quite different. The shepherds saw, they worshipped, and then they spread the good news, didn't they? They told others about this. Just the opposite purpose of Herod's reaction to it.
In Luke 2:17 it speaks of the shepherds in these words: "And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." So they went around spreading the good news whereas Herod's reaction was to try to find out about the child and then to attempt to destroy the child.
Now we've been thinking for a few minutes about this first part of our passage, "Unto us a child is born." Let's turn to Isaiah again, chapter 7 and read another passage there in verse 14. Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
This word "Immanuel" of course, means God with us, or God in our presence. And this is a passage, if you notice in all of the modern translations of the Bible, they always try to change that verse. And there is absolutely no legitimate scholarly reason whatsoever to change that verse. The only possible reason for changing it is for an evil, unbeliever's purpose. Because the teaching of the old reliable manuscripts that are available is clearly that a virgin shall conceive and bear a child, not just that a young woman shall conceive and bear a child. For a young woman to bear a child is no miracle --- they do it every day, don't they? Thousands of children are born every day to young women. But all these modern translations of the Scripture, that's the first place they go to try to change it is Isaiah 7:14. And they want to change that word virgin to read just a woman or a young woman.
But here a sign was promised in Isaiah 7:14. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign." And the sign --- there wouldn't be any sign if it was a young woman having a baby, would it? There's no miraculous sign in a young woman having a baby. There are millions of them all the time, young women who have babies. So there's no particular sign in that. So in order to be a sign at all it would have to be something miraculous. And here it speaks of the sign being the fact that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and that His name would be called Immanuel.
This sign of the virgin birth was promised to the house of David. It was not just promised to this faithless king, Ahaz, who happened to be the king at the particular moment of the promise, the king of Judah. But instead it was promised to the house of David, this promise of a sign. And it was fulfilled in the passage we read together in Luke chapter 2. This wonderful sign was fulfilled when a virgin gave birth to a son who was to be called Immanuel, God with us.
Peter spoke along these lines and in this manner over in Matthew 16. If we look there at Matthew chapter 16:16, Jesus asked the disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" That's in verse 13. And then they gave Him several answers of the common people around that didn't know Him and hadn't accepted Him as the Savior. "And some of them," they said, "believe that you're John Baptist and some believe you're Elias or Elijah and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." But then He asked a specific question when He said this --- Jesus speaking now --- "He saith unto them, ‘But whom say ye that I am?'" "Who do you say that I am?"
And I want to ask you that question today. Whom do you say that Jesus is? "Whom say ye that I am?" He said. And Peter had the right answer, didn't He? What did he say? "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." That's the only answer that really counts, isn't it? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter had the right answer. And that is the answer that every man needs to give to this question: "Whom say ye that I am?" The answer needs to be down deep in your heart, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
As we go on and look further, the angel Gabriel at the annunciation told Mary (in Luke 1, verse 32 it's recorded) the angel Gabriel speaking to Mary said: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David." And some day that's going to literally take place. He is going to have the throne of His father David. He's going to reign in a perfect kingdom on a wonderful earth for a thousand years. We call that the Millennium. And I don't see how it could be very far off from where we are today. But that is for another time and place to discuss that in detail.
We go on a little bit further into the book of John. We've been studying John, as you know, in our Sunday School. Brother Lind has been teaching the adult class in the book of John. If you turn to John chapter 1 and read verse 18, it says this: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." And then if we go on to John 5 and look at verse 22, it says this: "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son."
Now all these references, and there are many more, of course, that one could read and we will read another one or two before we leave this point --- all these references, as you may have noted, are pointing to one thing, that He is the literal, real, honest-to-goodness, as we used to say when I was a child, "sure enough" Son of God. He's really, literally, sure enough, the Son of God. Jesus, the Christ, the Eternal Son of the living God, THE ONE AND ONLY SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD!
If we turn again to John in chapter 8, we find another reference to the Son. In John 8:36 it says: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." You know, people talk about, they long for and they seek freedom. And yet, most of the world is in slavery today. In fact, most of the world is in several different kinds of slavery today. Much of the world is in political slavery. But even worse than that, most of the world is also in slavery to sin today. They're in slavery to the devil. They have no real freedom at all, either politically or spiritually. But it says in John 8:36 that if the Son shall set you free, then you shall be free indeed --- REAL FREEDOM! Not freedom from ever committing sin. No, that's not what we're saying. But freedom from the dominion and control of sin. That's what salvation is, isn't it? When the Son sets you free, you're free from the domination and control of sin and the eternal penalty of sin!
Jesus came for the purpose of setting the captives free, setting free those who are captive to sin. That was the principle purpose in His coming. The child was born for one purpose. He was born to be the Savior of the world.
In First John 4:14, we find these words: "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son (for what purpose?) to be the Saviour of the world." That is what He came for. He didn't have any need to come down here for any other reason. Think about it now. Before He came down here He was the very light of heaven. He shared the glory of God the Father, equally with God the Father. Ten thousand angels came and went at His beck and call. Even His name lighted up the glory of heaven. He created the world and all things therein, as the Scriptures teach. What need had He to come down here and become a child, and grow up as a man, and then die in agony on the cross? No doubt as He left heaven angels as the glorious One, the very brightness of heaven left to come down here, knowing His destiny as the song says, knowing that His destiny was the lonely hill of Golgotha, there to lay down His life for me, and for you. And I can imagine the stillness and the quiet and the angels weeping as He leaves heaven to come to earth to die for us!
As we just read to you from John 4:14, the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Now we want to go to I John 5:12 and show you something else. The Son was born to bring real life to men. That's what He was born for. You say, "Oh, we've got real life." Well, we don't truly have real life unless we have Jesus. We don't have that eternal life, that everlasting life until we have Him. We've just got this temporary human life unless and until we have Him. First John 5:12 says: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Oh, you may think you're really having a good time but without Jesus you don't even know what a good time is. You can't. You can't even know what a good time is until you know Jesus. There's nothing like it in the world.
Going a step further now. Though He was born to die, He was also born to be a King of kings and the Lord of lords. He was born to die, that's what He came to earth for, to die on the cross. But He was also born to be a King of kings and Lord of lords. And someday He will beso here on this earth!
In Isaiah chapter 6, you may remember the reference there to the beautiful vision that Isaiah had of the Lord. If you turn there to Isaiah 6:1 it says: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple." And he goes ahead and describes the glory and the majesty and the marvels that he saw. And then in verse 3: "And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." And he goes ahead describing it in verse 5: "Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." He had a vision there and saw the Lord!
On one occasion when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, a multitude of His disciples rejoiced. They rejoiced as He entered on the back of an ass and they said: "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord." That's in Luke 19. It is recorded very well there. And then if you go on down a little bit further in that same chapter of Luke, in verse 41, you find another interesting thing. They rejoiced as He came into Jerusalem, hailing Him as King and casting their clothing down before Him to be trod upon by the donkey on which He was riding. And yet, in that same chapter of Luke, we find these words, just shortly after He had entered in the triumphal entry: "And when he was come near, he beheld the city," (remember this was at the time of the triumphal entry) it says: "When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it." Jesus, as He's coming near into the city on this triumphal entry, He weeps over Jerusalem, knowing the things that are to come to pass when the city is to be destroyed. And He tells about it there in verses 42, 43 and 44 of the nineteenth chapter of Luke.
Let's read verse 42 as well: "Saying, ‘If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation,'" weeping over the fact that most of Jerusalem had rejected Him, although He was at that very moment entering on His triumphal entry into the city!
And, of course, if you've read any history, you know that this prophecy of the Lord came to pass in 70 A.D., when Titus razed the city, tore it down almost level with the ground, as the Lord Himself had prophesied would take place!
But even Pilate --- remember we're thinking about that though He was born to die He was also born to be a King of kings --- Even Pilate recognized Him as a King. If you turn to John chapter 19 again, you'll find that Pilate said: "And he," that is, Pilate, "saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!" I don't recall which verse that is, maybe I should look it up here quickly and it begins there in verse 14, this particular reference. "And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!" That is Pilate now speaking to the Jews. Even Pilate recognized Him as a King.
But the Jews, what did they answer? They said: "Away with him, crucify him." And then Pilate said, "Shall I crucify your King?" And the chief priests then answered and said, "We have no king but Caesar." (You find that recorded in verse 15).
If we turn over a little further now, still thinking about the fact that though He was born to die He was also born to be the King of kings, we see in Revelation 17:14 the fulfillment of this second portion of His work or His purpose in coming as a man! It says: "For he is Lord of lords and King of kings." And that day is coming! Men on the earth can shout and scream and shake their fist in God's face all they want, but this day is coming to pass when He shall be King of kings and Lord of lords! And no man is going to stop it or delay it or make any change in it. The only thing we can do is be prepared for it when it comes. Or if we should die before that time that we are prepared to go to meet Him and then to reign with Him when He comes back for the time when He shall reign as King!
Now the last thought we want to think about briefly with you now is this, not only was the child born to die and born to be King of kings but He was also born to be the Savior! He was born to be the Saviorof the world! For this purpose was He born. In Luke 2:11, it says: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David," what? It doesn't say a king, does it? Although other places tell us that He was also born to be a king. It doesn't say here though that He was born to be a king, it says, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
This purpose that He came to be a Savior, He accomplished! He Himself said over in John 19:30, just before He died these words: "It is finished," meaning that the great plan of redemption is completed. By His own life, by His own death and by His own resurrection He gave us the Gospel. And And the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, unto everyone that believeth, Romans 1:16.
All men everywhere need to know Him as Savior. And all men may come to know Him as Savior. There's not one anywhere whom He will reject if they come in simple, childlike faith to Him. Not one is denied who comes truly to Him in faith. All may come.
Matthew 11:28, 29 and 30 says: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
If we go to John 6:37, (and this is Jesus Himself speaking here) He said: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." It makes no difference who you are, what you have been, what you are now because He came to be the Savior of all who will come to Him. All who come may find Him! None can miss if they just come to Him!
John 4:42 says this, and this is the last verse I'll quote to you. John 4:42, "And saith unto the woman," now you may remember this is from the story of the woman at the well. The woman of Samaria at the well who came out to speak to Jesus or came out to get water and Jesus spoke to her and then she spoke to Him. He spoke to her and witnessed to her! She came to believe in Christ as the Messiah, even though she was one of the hated Samaritans she came to know Christ as Savior. But here Jesus said: "And said unto the woman --- He'd been speaking to the woman and these men who had heard her testimony had come out and also had heard Jesus and they said this, when they came out and heard Jesus and believed. "And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." AND HE IS STILL THE SAVIOR, THE ONLY SAVIOR!
I know many people like to think there are many ways to heaven and that just any of these ways that you want to pick, if you really believe in it, it's okay. Well, now, of course, that's not logical, nor is it Biblical. You could say, "Well, I really believe this is the way to Johannesburg," and start out this way and you wouldn't ever get there, would you? Even if you really did believe that was the way to Johannesburg, you wouldn't get there that way. You'd come to Benoni. You might finally come to Springs. You might keep on going and come to a lot of other places that we can't even know the names of them but you wouldn't ever get to Johannesburg that way even though you really believe that was the way. There is one and only one way to heaven and Jesus is that way. He's the only Savior, there's no other! If you come by Him, you have the way, you will be in the way and you will come to heaven. But unless you come by Him there is no other way to go. That is the way, He's the Savior, the only Savior!
If you today have not come to know the Savior but right now you'll take Him as your Savior, accept Him as your Savior, let Him be your Lord, commit yourself to Him --- Won't you do that now? He can and will save you! "Oh," you say, "well, I don't understand." Well, you don't have to understand, all you have to do is really commit yourself completely to Him and He'll save you. And then you'll begin to understand more and more as you study the Bible and as you live the Christian life. But you must commit yourself to Him as your only hope, there is no other way. Jesus is the way, the only way. There is no other Savior except Him. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, except by the name of Jesus. Just commit yourself to Him today and He'll save you. HE WILL GIVE YOU THIS ETERNAL LIFE AND YOU CAN'T EVER LOSE IT ONCE YOU GET IT!