Gospel as treasure

The story of the birth of Jesus is often brought out of the attic along with the tinsel and Christmas trees and nativity scene figurines at Christmas time. But it is so much more than that! It is a story of God’s redemptive plan to save His people, set into motion. It is a story of God in all His glory, coming to Earth for the benefit of us- a sinful people.

Some people may have heard this story so many times that they have become numb to its significance; numb to the mind blowing details surrounding our Saviour’s birth. We encourage you to look at this story through a missional lens.

As we consider the story of the birth of Jesus, think to yourself how this applies to the work NZBMS is doing overseas. How does this story bring hope and life to people who are broken and in need of a Saviour?

The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is a dramatic read. It definitely has the makings of a good A lister movie storyline: romance, encounters with angels , a medical miracle, evil villains in powerful places, a dramatic twist and of course the birth of the much awaited Son of Man amongst the animals.

But other than it being an entertaining story, what makes the birth of Jesus a story to be treasured and held in high regard?

It is through this story that God enacts His redemptive plan.

It is through this story that we see how much the God of the universe loves the people of this world.

It is through this story that we see a ray a life-giving light enter into the darkness and corruption of this world.

The world as we know it is in turmoil. There is poverty and injustice, violence and unrest, and alienation of people in their own homelands. The prisons are full. The number of broken families is at an all-time high, and people are less trusting of one another than ever before.

The papers are filled with the doom and gloom, the hopelessness of the future of mankind.  The daily grind and the unfairness fills our lives, and the lives of so many around the world.

This is the world we live in. And I do not want to belittle the hardship that some New Zealanders encounter in this country, in this suburb. It is real and it is painful.

But the attitude of people in Invercargill toward the planned immigration centre here suggests we have not embraced the pain of the world at all. We have it sweet, but we seem to have little compassion for those fleeing the pain and injustice in their own birth countries.

That deeper pain is the world NZBMS is working within. A world almost out of our understanding of what it is to be in pain.

Surely this situation either here or there is not what God intended when He created the earth. In Romans 5:12, Paul states “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”

The world is in turmoil because we are a sinful people who live in a sin-filled world, and the consequence of sin is death. Both physical and spiritual death. Sin is not from God, and as a result, through our sinful nature, we are separated from God.

To be reconciled to God, as we were originally intended, we need a Saviour. Jesus Christ is that Saviour. The birth of Jesus is an important event in history because it marks the handing down of God’s gift to the world. Jesus is a precious treasure who lived life perfectly without sin. It is through His perfection, and God’s gracious and loving heart, that the work of Jesus on the cross was possible. 

Romans 5:14-17

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.  If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Praise God! This is why the message of the Gospel should be shouted from the rooftops and shared to all. Through Jesus we have been made right with God. This is the message NZBMS are sharing to those who are desperate for a Saviour, and in need of restoration and reconciliation. 

Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesy. Jesus is the Messiah people had been hearing of and waiting for, for centuries. The ruler of Israel who will do what is ‘just and right throughout the land’. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, so too did these prophets prepare the way years before. Their prophetic words both served as a warning to those who had turned away from God’s laws, and an encouragement to those who were eager to see God’s chosen people redeemed.

By sharing the message of what is to come, these prophets input truth into the lives of those they encountered and informed them of what the future held. Likewise, we are called to prepare the way for Jesus with those we come across who are in need of a Saviour- and let’s face it, we all need a Saviour!

The very fact that the prophesy surrounding Jesus’ birth was fulfilled should give us confidence in God’s plan to bridge the divide between us and Him from the very beginning.

Luke 1:32

you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a kingdom that never ends? As believers, we have all been invited to enter into God’s kingdom- but some people need a little help opening the invitation!

If we believe that Jesus is the hope of the world, what does it mean for us as individuals and as the church family, that Jesus is a king whose kingdom will never end? How does that impact our call to share the Gospel with others?

As children of the God, do we find joy in sharing with others the forgiveness, hope and salvation Jesus offers to us through His work on the cross? 

The theologian D L Moody wrote: I would not give much for a man's Christianity if he is saved himself and is not willing to try to save others. It seems to me the basest ingratitude if we do not reach out the hand to others who are down on the same pit from which we were delivered. [1]

Karlene challenged us last week to consider the plight of the lost generation of youth who have no hope and are in the middle of an epidemic of suicidal ideation, of the at least 3 youth referred to CAFS each week who have attempted or are seriously considering suicide.  Do you know that more people die of suicide in NZ than those killed on the roads?  That is the extent of the hopelessness in NZ now.

Yet we know of the hope that defeats death – through the birth and death of Jesus Christ.  In light of that knowledge of hope, how are we preparing the way for people to encounter Jesus?

 

The theologian Tim Keller writes:  The Gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves that we ever dared to believe, yet at the same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.

How can we make that truth of God simple enough for others to understand? What can we do to be more creative in sharing the message of Jesus to others?

Through his humble beginnings, Jesus showed that he could relate to people from all walks of life. Having walked in our shoes, he understands the troubles and hardships of this world, and has compassion on us.

As the King of Kings, Jesus knows the needs, wants and expectations of the wealthy and those who are greatly honoured, but through his birth can also relate to very ordinary people.

Jesus can relate to people from all walks of life in 2017 just as he had 2000 years ago.

To those of you who are in positions of responsibility and can sometimes feel the weight of the world on your shoulders- Jesus can relate.

And to those of you who feel they have absolutely nothing going for them right now- Jesus can relate.

And not only does he understand what you are going through- he offers a way to get through. He invites you to immerse yourself in his incredibly overwhelming love, mercy and grace. He has overcome the world- who better to align yourself with?

We believe in a God who can relate to us. A God who came to serve the people of this world and meets you right where you are, knowing your needs and wants at any given time. A God who shows through the birth of Jesus that he is accessible and approachable- you cannot get any more non-threatening than a baby in a feeding trough.

This is the message NZBMS are sharing to the people they are serving overseas. To people who have lost hope. To people who are trapped in spiritual darkness. To people who wake up each morning unsure of where their next meal will come from. To people who sit in positions of authority and need direction. Jesus can relate to them all, and in turn offers hope and courage in those situations. At his birth, Jesus humbled himself so that he could demonstrate the message he would later preach during his ministry.

Matthew 20:16

16 … the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

This verse is a bubbling spring of hope to those who have been treated as ‘the least’ for their whole lives. This verse gives confidence and courage to those who believe in Jesus and understand that this life is not the best life on offer. By faith, we are saved and through Jesus, we are heirs to the Kingdom of God. Praise the Lord!

Who in our community would we consider to be the ‘least’? How can we show them the love of our Lord and Saviour? What does it mean to you personally that God can relate to all that you have gone and will go through?

The pastor C J Mahaney wrote: Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is the life permeating, world altering, universe changing truth. It has more facets than a diamond. Its depth we will never exhaust.”

The Gospel is too good to keep to ourselves. The mandate to go out into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone is not just for designated evangelists and missionaries, although they are included in the list. We are all called to go out into our world and preach the Good News.

Charles Spurgeon described evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.

I have been and still am that beggar needing bread. I need to keep going to the source, the Bread of Life, and then to show others where our bread comes from.  We can’t wait until we have got it all together, because that will not happen this side of eternity, so we have to do it now.

Spurgeon again: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

 

 

 

 

Karakia Mutunga (Closing prayer)

Kia tau, ki a tãtou katoa Te Atawhai o tõ tatou Ariki a Ihu Karaiti Me te aroha o te Atua Me te whiwhingatahitanga ki te wairua tapu Ake, ake, ake Amine

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ And the love of God And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit  be with you all Forever and ever Amen

 



[1] D L Moody The Overcoming Life 60