Follow It Or Fight It

The Wise Men Remind Us To Follow The Light Of Jesus.

Tim Lundy
Dec 20, 2020    34m
Have you ever found yourself feeling drawn toward Jesus, but then you backed away because of fear that he wouldn't accept you? By studying the story of the wise men following the star, we can be reminded why we should follow the light of Jesus. The wise men were far away from the laws of God, yet he led them to Jesus, and their lives were changed forever. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy: 00:06 Well Venture, this is our last weekend before Christmas Eve and Christmas, it's hard to believe that it's here. But before we get into the message, I just wanted to take a moment and just thank you, thank you for the way that you've responded, thank you for the way that you've engaged. You know, we put together 4,000 gift boxes, 4,000 candles, invitations, and we asked you to come pick them up. And last weekend you picked up all of them, all 4,000, on Saturday and Sunday. People were taking 20, 30, I'm getting videos and emails from people, you're delivering them across your neighborhood. And it's so exciting, we send them out, and some of them went out and they were in Mandarin, some in Korean, some in Spanish, but the thousands have gone out to our community. And then in return, you brought over a thousand toys, and we were able to bless The City Peace Project and families that were in need, and city team, and families that are able to give their kids toys this year, that weren't going to have the resources otherwise. In all of this, I'm just excited to see the way we're engaging and reaching out as a church.

Tim Lundy: 01:19 And I just remind you on Christmas Eve, all day on Christmas Eve, because it's a live stream, you can get on any time. And so I encourage you to set a time for you, your family, friends, whoever you're gathered with, make sure you have your candle, it's a key part of the service. And on Christmas Eve, we'll engage together in that service. I think it's going to be a service you'll look forward to that. We have a lot of fun in it, but likewise, we talk about not just that Jesus came, but why he came, and so it's a great service to invite people to as well. Christmas morning, we've got a little devotional and a little time of worship that's on the website, so if you're looking for something on Christmas morning, make sure you engage there. But in all these ways we want to serve you, and more than that, we want to serve our community during this time, because we believe God's doing something in the world and people need it this Christmas.

Tim Lundy: 02:13 Hey, will you take a moment and just pray with me. Let's just lift up our services, lift up what God's doing, and then we'll dive into this message. Father, I thank you, I thank you for Christmas, I thank you for what it means, I thank you for Venture, I just thank you to see our church family respond and pick up these boxes and give them away. I pray for each person that receives one, would they not only see that it's a candle, a gift, but really see beyond it, that it's an invitation, and that it would point to you because you're the light of the world, and you're why we celebrate Christmas. And so we come before you now, we lift up this full season, and we pray this in Christ' name. Amen.

Tim Lundy: 02:59 Well, this year we have framed this whole Christmas series around the Light of Christmas, and some years you need more light, and some years the light means a little bit more. You know, I'm reminded of a story Robert Russell would tell, of years ago. When he would pull into his neighborhood, one Christmas, there was a house right at the beginning of the neighborhood that was covered in Christmas lights, and he loved seeing it during the Christmas season, but then Christmas came and went. And he went into January, and he'd pull in, even in January, the lights were still on. It went into February, he'd pull in, the lights were on. About mid-February, he told himself one day as he's pulling in, he's like, you know, if these people are lazy enough to leave their Christmas lights on the house, the least they could do is turn them off, but they stayed on until about mid-March. And in mid-March he pulled in and not only were the lights on, but there was a big sign that said welcome home Jimmy. See, this couple had a son, Jimmy, who was serving in the military in Vietnam, he was part of the war. And they were determined that they had made a commitment, we're going to leave the lights on until Jimmy comes home.

Tim Lundy: 04:14 You know, some years, the light means a little bit more, and I think this is one of those years, with all that we've gone through in 2020. And that's why I think it's so important as we celebrate not just Christmas, but the reason of Christmas, and we've been looking at who Jesus is. If you remember in this series, probably the key verse that we've been looking at is John 1:4-5, where it says, "In Him, in Jesus, was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." I love that he says, Jesus is the light in the world, and in him is the life that we're looking for. And he shines in the darkness, and it doesn't matter what kind of year it is, it doesn't matter if it's a 2020 or not, he shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn't overcome him.

Tim Lundy: 05:08 But I think the key for us is, how do we respond to the light? Not just that he is the light, but what's our response. You know, I love in Christmas and the Christmas story, God uses a light as a key feature in one of the stories. You probably know the story I'm talking about, the story of the wise men. If you've got your Bibles, you can turn to Matthew 2. In Matthew 2 starting in verse 1, look at this, it says, "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem." So this is after Christmas day, in fact, some scholars think it may be a year up to two years after that time, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is He who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star, we saw a light in the sky, when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him."

Tim Lundy: 06:12 Let me give you a little background on it, because this is a pretty dramatic story actually. You've got this group of wise men, and all it says is they're from the East, they're probably from Persia or Babylon, they're these scholars, these wise men. I know in our tradition, we say we three kings, there's nothing to say that they were kings themselves, and there's nowhere that it says three. We only use three because they brought three gifts, and I think that's all that could fit on the nativity set, so they just chose three. We don't know the number of them, here's all we know, and this is fascinating to me. You've got these guys they're living over in Babylon or Persia, and in that time period, they mixed two different disciplines that we don't mix today, they took astronomy and astrology and mixed them together. They were famous for how they studied the stars, they studied the planets, they knew the movement of it. But then they took it a step further, and said that the movement of these planets and stars also control our lives, and so they would worship it, and they would make decisions off of it, much like people who would follow astrology. In fact, it's fascinating to me that if you read through the Old Testament, that God and the prophets, they often condemn those who are astrologers, they call it demonic, they call it false god, it's idolatry. They're worshiping the creation itself, instead of God, it was condemned by God.

Tim Lundy: 07:43 And so here's this group way far away, and they are wise men, astrologers, pagans, committing this idolatry. And yet, what does God do? God decides to shine enough light to get their attention. God decides to shine enough light, to make them be curious about it, and to step out and to follow it. I love this, because it shows the heart of our God, it shows who he cares about. You know, we would do well to take a page out of his book, notice how he does it, he doesn't go blast them with all the light that they need. You know, I don't know if you've ever been in a really dark room for a long time, or maybe you've been asleep. I'll have to do this to my kids every so often. You need them to get up, so what do you do? You turn the light on, and they immediately, the light hurts their eyes, it's just, it's too much too fast in that.

Tim Lundy: 08:45 In the same way, I think sometimes we see people and their lives are so far from God, and we're determined, we've got to dump a flood light on them, of everything we know with that. But now this is what God did with them, he doesn't floodlight them, he doesn't come blasting in and go, you astrologers, man, this is false, you're an idolater, give up your wicked ways, you're on a highway to hell, you better turn. No, he doesn't start there, does he? He meets them where they are, and he gives them light in a way they could understand, in order to draw them to take the next step closer to him. I love this picture of it, that these wise men are willing, by faith, it's a pretty ignorant faith, they don't know much, but they know enough to pursue it and take the next step. They come into Jerusalem and they start asking around where's the King, where's the King? We've seen in the sky about the King, and Herod the Great, who was the king of the Jews. And even as I say that, I say it loosely, he's very disturbed.

Tim Lundy: 10:03 Let me give you a little background on Herod. Herod the Great, you can tell what a narcissist he was. And he really was, that he titled himself Herod the Great, because he was so determined to control his legacy, and he wanted everybody to think of him great. The problem is, the people didn't, the Jewish people hated him. The main problem being, he wasn't a Jew, his family was of Arab descent. And so his father had gotten in pretty tight in Rome, especially with Julius Caesar when Caesar was coming to power, so his father was able to attain power and then Herod was named king. Now he's an under king, under Rome, so it's just an underling roll with it. But he's the King of Judea, and he was named about 36 BC.

Tim Lundy: 10:53 And the thing you need to know about Herod is, he's really smart, he's really crafty, very ambitious.
Like I said, he wanted to control his legacy, he wanted to control and power, he wanted to be respected. He would kill people in a moment’s notice, that's part of the reason that the leaders hated him. He found himself in a difficult place, if you know Roman history, you remember after Julius Caesar was killed, and you had the two people that came together, Mark Antony and Octavius, Caesar's nephew, they joined forces and they overthrew Brutus, and Cassius, and the others, who had killed Caesar. And so these two are rising in power, Mark Antony and Octavius, and everybody could see we're about to have a problem because only one of them can be in control. And Mark Antony started expanding his empire, especially because he had a girlfriend who was named Cleopatra, and so he was able to expand into Egypt as they got married. And Octavius, had the army behind him. And as they came to a head, they finally battled, and if you know, history, Octavius won and he was renamed Caesar Augustus. He's the Caesar who's in power when we're reading this story, he's the Caesar who called for the census when Joseph and Mary had to travel.

Tim Lundy: 12:15 Now, here's the problem for Herod though, this is a few years before the Christmas story. See, Herod had been really close to Mark Antony, he had given all of his allegiance to him. And so when they started having the civil war, he put all of his chips on this side, he bet on the wrong horse. And so when Mark Antony was killed, everybody looked at Herod and said, you're in trouble. You're either going to be killed, or you might want to go ahead and get a head start and run, run for your life. Now I told you he was smart and ambitious, do you know what he did? He got on a boat, he went to the Island of Rhodes, where Caesar Augustus was. He announced himself, they were all shocked. He went into the court, he went to Caesar Augustus, and he stood before him. And he said, I'm here before you today to declare to you that I am a loyal man. When I make a commitment, I stick to my commitment. And I made a commitment to Mark Antony, I made a commitment to in the beginning and I stuck with it till the end. And so you can know today, Oh, Caesar, as I make a commitment to you, I will be loyal to you. And everybody was quiet, and Caesar loved it. I mean, he loved just the strategy, he loved the confidence, he loved that he came directly to him. And so he sent Herod home and actually gave him more land, gave him some area in Damascus, he expanded his empire.

Tim Lundy: 13:59 Herod’s this crafty guy, but as he got older, he started to get more paranoid. He had 10 wives, 14 sons, changed his will three times. Every time he felt like he was being threatened, he'd have people killed, his wives included. He killed his favorite wife, even though he's in love with her, because she started to get so popular with the people. He would kill the next in line, sons that were next in line, when he thought they were going to threaten him, and he'd rewrite the will accordingly.

Tim Lundy: 14:35 When we pick up this story, he's about 70 years old, he's done everything he could to win over the Jewish people. He built a huge Seaport at Caesarea, named it after Caesar, built the aqueducts. He did the one thing he thought the Jews love him the most for, he rebuilt the temple in all of it splendor, but they never respected him, they never loved him. And as he's 70 years old, he had a kidney disease, so he started to be in constant pain and the paranoia grows. And then suddenly these wise men show up in the city and they go, hey, where's the new King? And notice what it says in the line, all of Jerusalem, the last verse with it, "All of Jerusalem was troubled by it." All of Jerusalem was troubled by it, because they knew if Herod went into another one of his rages, everybody pays for it.

Tim Lundy: 15:36 The story continues, "Suddenly all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him in Bethlehem of Judea for, so it is written by the prophets. 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” So he calls the chief priests together, he says, hey, does anybody know about this King that was to be born. And they all kind of rolled their eye,. I could hear him kind of snickering, oh, Herod the Great, doesn't know anything about Jewish history. And they kind of speak up and they go, yeah, this is kind of Jewish prophecy 101, the Messiah is going to be born in Bethlehem. And they quote to him from Micah, because Micah had written 700 years earlier, hey, this is it exactly where the King would be born.

Tim Lundy: 16:31 And so, as he continues on, "Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly, and ascertained from them, what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem saying, go and search diligently for the child, and when you've found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." Now again, see he's working it, he's crafty. So he pulls them aside, notice he says, secretly, he didn't want anybody to know his plans. He says, now, tell me exactly when the star appeared, he's doing the math, he's trying to figure out how old could this kid be. And so once he knows when, and then he telling them where, and then he kind of does his last deception, oh man, when you find him, I want to worship him too. Yeah, this is the guy that kills his wives and his own sons, what do you think he's going to do to a King like this?

Tim Lundy: 17:28 Notice the wise men continue on in the story, "After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they'd seen when it rose went forth before them, until it came to rest over the place where the child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy and going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and they worshipped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." This expensive treasure. I love this part of the story, I love how you watch how God took these guys who were so far away. And when I say far away, I'm not just talking about distance, I'm talking about a whole belief system, but he gives them enough light, and he leads them along the journey.

Tim Lundy: 18:20 And if you look at their journey, it's not any different than any of us. Their journey starts with this general revelation of light, God uses the creation itself to draw them. And the psalmist said, the heavens declare the glory of God. Paul said, in Romans 1, "You can look at the universe and there's something in you that goes, there must be a God." He's using the general revelation to draw them, and then it leads to specific revelation, he uses the Bible, he uses the verses from Micah to point them and direct them. See, it goes from a general revelation to a specific revelation, but you know where it ends, it ends with a personal revelation of Jesus himself. When they come face to face with Jesus, and notice what it said, it said they worshipped him. They didn't break out into song, they didn't start singing We Three Kings of Orient Are, whatever we would think they would do. The term worship here is just, you're bowing down your life in reverence, in awe. There's this recognition that there's one greater than us, and they give him these gifts, this gold, frankincense, myrrh, as a sign of submission and recognition. I love how God used the light to bring them.

Tim Lundy: 19:46 But what happened to Herod? "And being warned in a dream to not return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way." God warned them, hey, don't go back there, and he redirects them. Look what Herod does, "Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he became furious. And he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem, and in all that region, who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men." See, he did the math when the star showed up, so in his mind, the child could be no older than two, and Jesus probably wasn't. But notice how he responds, like any despite before him and since him in history, life is very cheap when he's trying to protect his own life. So he goes through that region, and he kills every male under the age of two. Do you know how horrifying that is? I mean, I've got grandchildren now, they're in those ages, little boys, I can't fathom how horrible it would be. But it gives you this window of this man who's raging, this man that will do anything, this man that had worked so hard to protect his legacy. This man who had worked so hard to be Herod the Great, and yet how's he remembered, he's Herod the Horrible. I mean, he scripted it to be the hero, and he ends up the villain. And I think what would drive him even crazier is that ends up being a footnote, a footnote in human history, in the story of the baby that was born in a stable just five miles away from him in Bethlehem.

Tim Lundy: 21:56 Guys, you've got two different groups here, two different responses. Here's the light that has come into the world, and what do you do with it? You know, a lot of people, maybe they're not as evil as Herod. In fact, if you read through the New Testament, it's interesting how often this theme of light comes up, and the response to it. And it's not always evil rulers like Herod, but there's a lot of people, you know, they fall into the first category like him, you know what they do, they fight it, they fight it. God's shining this light, and they fight it with everything in them, hey fight against it. And maybe you're fighting, maybe as we talk about this story, and I talk about the light, and we've been talking about who Jesus is each week. And you talk about these ways that God keeps kind of revealing himself to you, maybe he gives you that kind of that nudge or that time when you wake up in the night, maybe you've been away from it for a long time, and there's something in you that can't shake it. But as soon as it comes up, you fight it.

Tim Lundy: 23:03 Let me tell you what that looks like. So when you refuse to give up control of your life, I mean, there's that sense of maybe I'm not a king of a big kingdom, but it's my kingdom, it's my life. And you know, as Jesus is moving in, you know as God starts shining the light, you know, it means he has to have control, and you don't want to let it go. And it may not be out of bad motives, some of you, you're working so hard to control your life, you're working so hard to control your finances, you're working so hard to control your family, you're just working so hard to control your circumstances, and it always feels like just a little bit more than you can control. And here God comes, he says, hey, give me control, let me have a look at it. And there's a part of you that wants it so bad, but then another part immediately grabs it. You go, no, I can work it, I can do it, and you refuse to give up control.

Tim Lundy: 24:16 The second way it does, is when you refuse to recognize what God has clearly doing, you refuse to just see this as a God thing. Whether I like it or not, this is God moving and God working. You know, you see this clearly in Jesus's life, in John chapter 8, another passage of light. Jesus stands up and all the religious leaders, they refuse to recognize the light, they refuse to give him control, they refuse to see what God is clearly doing. Jesus says to him, he says, I am the light of the world, he who walks in me will never be in darkness again. Do you know what their response was? Oh, you're the light of the world? Who's your dad? They immediately start mocking him about his birth, about where was the father at your birth, they immediately start questioning him. And if you go to the end of the conversation, they get so angry because Jesus always has the right answer, Jesus is clearly doing what God's called him to do, by the end of the chapter they want to kill him.

Tim Lundy: 25:25 In the next chapter, John chapter 9, he finds a blind man and he gives him light, he gives him sight. And then instead of recognizing, oh man, this guy must be from God, look what he did with this blind man. You know what they did? They grabbed the blind man and they questioned him, they questioned his parents. They start grilling him, when did he heal you? When did he do this, did he do this on the Sabbath? Did he do it on the wrong day? See, they're totally missing the whole point of it. And at the end of it, the blind man finally looks at them and he says, here's all I know, I was blind, and now I see. Here's all I know, this has to be of God, because God's clearly doing something. What about you? Is God working in your life? Does God keep bringing people into your life? Does God keep bringing enough light in your life, and everything in you is just fighting, because you don't want to see it.

Tim Lundy: 26:34 You know the third thing that we do, you refuse to face your fear of exposure. You're refuse to face the fact that if I step in the light, everybody's going to see me, especially God. There's another story of Jesus with one of those Pharisees who came to him at night, because the guy didn't want to be exposed, he didn't want people to know he was listening to Jesus, talking to Jesus. And he meets with him, and in the course of the conversation Jesus has with this man named Nicodemus. Jesus tells him, he says, you've got it all wrong. I was sent into the world to bring everlasting life, I wasn't sending to the world to condemn the world, that's why you don't have to be scared of the light. But then he makes this statement to him, it's an interesting one. He says, "The light has coming into the world, but people love darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. And everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed." It's interesting that he points this out to a guy who didn't want to be exposed, so much so, that he had to come see Jesus at night in the dark. Jesus looks at him and he says the lights come into the world, the light that brings forgiveness, the light that brings salvation, the light that changes everything, but there's a lot of people that they refuse to come into the light because they're so scared that their lives will be exposed. He says, what they don't realize, is yes. I came to expose it, not to judge it, but to deal with it, to forgive it, that it could be done.

Tim Lundy: 28:40 Maybe you're hearing this, and as you hear, and you think about it, and maybe this whole Christmas season, you feel God's light, but a part of you is fighting it. Could I challenge you, instead of fighting it, why don't you go and do what the wise men did? Why don't you follow it? Why don't you follow it? And here's all that means.

Tim Lundy: 29:03 Look at the first thing, choose to respond to the light that you have. Choose to respond to what God's given you right now. Maybe you don't have all the answers, maybe you don't know everything out there, don't let that deter you. I know some people that get so hung up on complex theological problems, or issues that are out there, or they can't see all of it. Until they can see every step, they don't take one step. Hear me, if God's loved you enough to give you enough light, choose to respond to the light you have.

Tim Lundy: 29:43 And in doing so, choose to take the next step with God. You don't have to take every step, just take the next step. Take the next step he's placed in front of you. And maybe it's a next step of praying to him for the first time in a long time, if ever. Maybe it's the next step of just recognizing within yourself, you actually believe he exists, you actually believe he's out there, you actually believe he cares. Maybe it's the next step of reading the Bible for the first time, of actually seeing what this general revelation leads to special revelation. You know, as a church, we're going to go on a journey this year, starting January one, we're going to do a reading plan, where we read through the New Testament together. Because we want the light of God's Word, that's what he calls it, to guide us, and maybe you want to take that step. Maybe it's the next step of just reaching out to someone. And if you text Venture Connect to 75787, 75787, just text that to us, and somebody could answer a question or help you take that step.

Tim Lundy: 31:05 The final part I would say is, choose to experience life in the Light of the World. Choose to experience life, and notice I put a capitalize here, because we're not talking about light, we're not just talking about like this general truth, we're not talking about like this spirit of the universe, or truth that's out there. Here's what the Bible points out, when it talks about light, The Light is Jesus. See, in him was life, and the life was the light of men. He's the Light, and he shines in the darkness, and the darkness can't win, the darkness can't overcome it. The darkness in the world, and even the darkness in your life.

Tim Lundy: 31:51 You know, as we conclude this message, I don't know where you are, but I think God's dealing with some of you. Some of you, maybe you've known him, but there's some stuff in your life that needs to come to light and you need to trust him with it. Some of you, maybe you've been far from him, really far away. And maybe you'd say that you'd go, Tim, I've been too far from God. Hear me, you're no further than the wise men. They started their journey both physically and belief wise, a lot further away, and God had light for them. Maybe you look at it and you go, Tim, I've done too much, I've done too much in my life. If you knew the junk that's inside, if you knew the things I did...Here's what I promise you, you've not done more wrong than Jesus did right. And so no matter what you've done, he paid for it, his death covers it. Maybe you hear this and you go, I wish I'd heard it too long ago, it's just too light. Hear me, it's never too late with God. I love that we have a God who sent the light into the world, and he leaves the light on because it's never too late to come home. Follow him, stop fighting it, follow him today.

Tim Lundy: 33:34 Let's pray. Father, I thank you, thank you for the light of Jesus. And thank you for how you came, and you took these guys that were so far from you, and in your wise plan, you led them on a journey that led them to Jesus. Lord, I pray for anybody hearing this today that needs to follow that same journey, that needs to trust you. Lord, I pray that they would believe that you are real, that this story's real, and that Jesus changes everything. Lord, we thank you for giving us light, we thank you that we get to be lights in the world. And we pray this in Christ' name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
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