Archive for July 28, 2013

The Search for Jesus

 

Since the beginning of time, man has had an awareness of a creator, or something greater than themselves.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that there’s a piece missing deep within our souls.  Therefore, we begin to search for that missing piece.  In the process some have sought the comfort of material things.  This could be in the form of pleasing other people, sex, drugs, money, and the list goes on and on.  The main problem with this humanistic pursuit is that these substances which substitute the missing piece eventually fail to give us lasting gratification and real peace.  This cycle of searching will continue until we’ve found the one true missing piece.  That missing piece is Jesus Christ!  Once we’ve found Him, or have been found by Him then everything in life is complete, because He is the source of true life and lasting peace.  Many things that were confusing and out of sync suddenly make perfect sense.  At last, the search is over, for our hearts have found their home in Christ.  Our text for this message reveals a true life account of such a search.  This account is recorded in Matthew chapter 2 verses 1-12 and reads as follows from the New American Standard Bible:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.  And when Herod, the king heard it, he was troubled, an all Jerusalem with him.  And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born.  And they said to him, in Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, “and you Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.”  Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.”  And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.  And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for the own country by another way.

From this passage the following three points deserve a closer look.

Number one – Searching for Jesus

Number two – Worshiping Jesus

Number three – Changed by Jesus

If we’ll consider these three points as we study this passage they’ll help us find the freedom in Christ we so desperately need and have been searching for.

I.  Searching for Jesus – verses 1-10

As this passage begins we find the Magi searching for Jesus, first by His star and then through the religious leaders.  They began traveling from the east to Jerusalem to find Him.  While no one knows exactly how far they traveled we can imagine that it was quite a distance and involved a sacrifice on their behalf. The text says they saw His star in the east and came to worship Him.  It seems apparent that they had a word form the Lord with specific instructions.  They were told that this was His star and following it would lead them to Jesus.  It’s a known fact that no one seeks for God on their own as Romans 3:11 clearly states.  It’s only when the Lord puts a desire in our hearts that we follow through and begin searching for the Lord.

The question asked by the Magi, “where is He who has been born King of the Jews,” was answered when King Herod called a meeting with the religious leaders of his day to inquire about this King of the Jews.  They were told that they needed to go to Bethlehem to find Jesus.  Sometimes God uses what we may perceive as unconventional ways of leading us to Christ.  If we’re looking for Him to come through the front door and he comes through the roof we might miss Him. Therefore, we must be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit or we may miss out on the blessings of the Lord.  The Magi may have thought, “why couldn’t God just lead us to Bethlehem simply through His star?”  After all, it had worked fine up to this point.  The fact of the matter is He could have done it any way He wanted to, but He chose to use these religious leaders as well.  Although we may not understand all of God’s ways at the moment we can’t allow ourselves to second guess God.  It’s important for us to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and let God be in control of our lives.

God’s plans always include more than just our particular situation, for they often effect many people at once.  Therefore, it’s our job to follow His leading, and not try to understand the mind of God from a human perspective.  As they traveled towards Bethlehem the star reappeared in order to lead them to Jesus.  When we seek Jesus it’s a faith walk.   Paul said we walk by faith and not by sight in 2 Corinthians 5:7.  Therefore, once we obey the first command more light and direction will be given.  This concept teaches us to trust in the Lord with all of our heart, and not to rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Even though our own reasoning may seem right, it may not be the Lord’s will for that particular situation so we have to set aside our will and follow the direction of the Lord.  That’s what we see happening in our text.  As they followed the Lord’s direction in the form of a star, He gave more direction until they reached their appointed destination.  Once they had found Him they were filled with such joy since they had finally found Jesus whom they had searched for.  We can hardly imagine what it must have been like for these men to have searched so long and traveled so far to find Jesus.  I can only imagine the adrenaline coursing through their veins as they approach the house where Jesus lives, the adrenaline must have turned to pure and overwhelming joy at the prospect of seeing Jesus for the first time.  Simply put, they were over-joyed!!!

II.  Worshiping Jesus – verse 11

After having found Jesus, and entering the house they did the only thing they could do.  In fact, the only thing all of mankind must do when confronted with Christ, they fell to their knees and worshiped Him.  Philippians 2:9-11 teaches that God has given Jesus the name which is above every name, and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  The one truth we cannot escape is that we must confess that Jesus is Lord.  We can confess Him now and meet Him on that day as our Lord and Savior, or deny Him today and meet Him as our Judge.  The truth still remains that we must bow the knee to Jesus and confess Him as Lord.  The question we must ask ourselves is, will we meet Him as Lord or as Judge?  The choice is simple, but the choice is ours to make.  What is your choice?  Why not choose Jesus as Lord and benefit from a rich and intimate relationship with the God who hung the stars in the sky?  Not to mention having the assurance of spending eternity with a loving God who gave His only Son to die for our sins.  It would have been enough if God would have had many Son’s and gave only one of the many to die for our sins, but He gave His only Son to die for our sins.  It’s a bit overwhelming to realize that God loves us that much!!

When these men came into the house they offered gifts to Christ which carried with them a deep sense of symbolism.  The first gift they offered was gold.  The gold symbolized His deity and glory.  Jesus is God in the flesh who came to die for the sins of the world.  The scriptures refer to Jesus as Immanuel which means God with us.  The proof text for this can be found in Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14.  God loves us so much that He left His throne, and wrapped Himself in human flesh to live among us, and offer Himself as the ultimate sin offering once and for all time.  Therefore, He wants to be involved in every area of our lives personally.  This can only happen if we confess Him as Savior and Lord.  God wants to have a personal relationship with each of us.  He called each of the Apostles personally, and he calls each of us personally.  However, we have to answer that call by confessing Him as Savior and Lord.

The next gift offered was frankincense which symbolized the fragrance of a sinless life of perfection.  Throughout Christ’s life on earth He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22).  The scriptures point to this fact from the old testament to the new testament.  In fact, Hebrews 7:26-28 brings out the truth that Christ was unlike the human high priests who first needed to sacrifice for their own sins before they could offer the sacrifice for the sins of the people.  Christ was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins because no sin was found in Him.  Although He was tempted in all ways as we are He never gave in to sin.  Since He was tempted as we are He can sympathize with how temptation feels although He never once gave in to sin.  Therefore, He was and is the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-34).

The last gift offered to Christ was Myrrh which symbolized the suffering He would endure in bearing the sins of the world.  In 1 Peter 2:24 the Apostle states that Christ bore our sins in and upon His body.  This seems to indicate that Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world as it pertains to the physical realm.  While the physical aspect of Christ’s death was horrible, for he was tortured in ways that we can only imagine.  It’s said that the average man would have never made it to the cross, for the torture alone would have killed Him.  As horrible as the physical torture was, this was only one aspect of His sufferings for us.  While on the cross He cried out in agony from the separation and abandonment of the Father (Matthew 27:46).  He had to endure this agony so we could be eternally united with Him.  No greater love can be seen than this eternal picture of Christ being sacrificed for the sins of the world.  Through His sufferings Christ accomplished several things for those who have confessed Him as Savior and Lord.  For starters the writer of Hebrews said that Jesus brought a new or better covenant which could only be established with the shedding of His blood (Hebrews 9:12-15).  There are several things which the old covenant could not do that were established with the new covenant.  For example, the old covenant provided a temporary solution for man’s sins.  It dealt with the outward man covering our sins with ceremonies that prepared one for worship.  The new covenant provided a permanent solution for man’s sins.  It dealt with the inward man by putting away his sins in Christ and giving him a new nature with a clean conscience and erasing the guilt and shame of our sins.  Under the old covenant we were unable to approach God.  With the new covenant we are encouraged to boldly approach His throne of grace, in fact, James 4″8 encourages us to draw close to God and He will draw close to us.  Under the old covenant blessings were promised for obedience and curses for disobedience.  It required righteousness but didn’t provide the ability to produce it.  The new covenant was based on grace.  It imputes, credits, or grants righteousness where there was none by teaching people to live righteously and empowering them to do so, and rewarding them when they do.

It’s important to remember that the new covenant was bought with the blood of Christ which established eternal redemption for those who come to Him by faith.  He became the mediator which bridged the gap between God and man.  By accepting His sacrifice we’re given the gift of an eternal inheritance with Christ.  The gifts the Magi offered were an expression of their thankfulness to God for sending a Savior to die for their sins.  an even greater expression of our thankfulness is a life surrendered to God, which gives glory to Him for all He has done to deliver us from our sins.

III.  Changed by Jesus – Verse 12

The Magi were warned by God not to return to Herod, but to return home by another way.  Anyone who experiences a life changing encounter with God cannot go home the same way.  Just one touch from the Master’s hand will change your life forever.  I believe these men had such a profound experience with God that their lives were never the same again.  Think of it, God led them by a star in the sky, and through the known religious leaders at that time.  God was teaching them that He could be trusted as they obeyed Him each step of the way.  When the time came for them to got home they not only traveled another way geographically, but I believe they went home another way in terms of their spiritual condition.  They had met the Master and their lives were forever changed.

I remember a time in my life when Jesus touched me in this special way.  He healed my foot that was crippled due to a drug overdose, but more than that He healed a soul that had been darkened by sin and mastered by Satan.  He taught my heart to believe that day in a Savior that will never leave you or forsake you.  He’ll forever be true to the one whose heart is open to the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  When I walked out of Church that day I knew a few things that I hadn’t known before.

For example, I knew God loved me because I felt His powerful love.  I knew He healed because He healed my crippled foot.  I knew that every word in the Bible was true even though I didn’t understand it all.  I just knew deep in my heart that it was all true, because the God that had touched me was true, and the Bible was the book that taught all about this great and loving God I wanted to know more about.

As I left the Church building that day, I knew my life had been changed because Jesus touched me deep within my soul.

What about you?  Have you experienced His touch?  His love?  His healing power today?  If not, you can just by calling out to Jesus from right there where you are.  Ask Him to forgive you and make you brand new from the inside out.  Just pray something like this:

Jesus, I want to live for you.  I believe everything the Bible says about how you died for me and rose from the grave.  I ask you to forgive me for all of my sins and take control of my life and be my Savior and Lord.

If you’ve prayed this prayer you too can say with the Magi and so many others that you’ve gone home a different way, because Jesus has changed you from the inside out.  Your sins have been forgiven and you’ve been made new in Christ.  Jesus died to make all things new, so take advantage of what He’s done for you personally, my friend.  You’ll never regret it and you’ll have all of eternity to thank and praise Him for His free gift.