Christmas is only a little over a week away. We’re continuing in our message series “Christmas Stories.” The stories of Christmas have so many layers of meaning and application that they never grow old. These stories are about people just like you and me. People who have struggles in life, people who are sinners, people who have chosen to believe God.
James 5:17 (ESV) Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
Elijah was a prophet who saw God move in supernatural ways through prayer. Yet, he was a man with a nature just like ours. So, we can learn from people in the Bible like Elijah. Last Sunday, we learned from the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Today, we’re going to learn from the lives of the wise men, whose names we don’t know.
Our message today is entitled “Eye on the Goal.” When I was a boy, my father taught me how to hit a softball. The key was not to watch the pitcher or the bat or anything else, other than the ball. Since the goal was to hit the ball, I needed to learn to keep my eye on the ball. In life, there are many things that vie for our attention. Some things are good things and some things are bad things. Yet, we need to learn what the real goal of life really is, so that we can keep our eye focused on it.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
God’s Word likens our life as a race. A race that has a beginning and an end. According to this verse, our goal in life is to run the race of life in such a way that we receive the prize at the end of the race. So, what is the prize we are to focus on?
Acts 17:26-27 (ESV) And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
God created people, including you and me with a primary purpose and goal in life. That goal is to seek after and find God. To find God is not just to intellectually know about Him, but to enjoy a relationship with Him. God is not far from anyone, yet we must seek Him, in order to find Him.
1 Chronicles 28:9b (ESV) … the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
God’s Word promises us that if we seek after God, we will find Him. God wants us to find Him, He is not hiding Himself so that He cannot be found. Today, we will be looking at the Christmas story of the wise men found in Matthew 2. It is an amazing story of a quest over hundreds of miles to find and worship a baby born to be King. As we look at this story, we will discover five lessons from the wise men that apply to our lives today, in Christmas 2018.
Matthew 2:1-2 (ESV) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
The wise men were Magi, a famous class of astrologers and dream interpreters from Persia. Their journey from Persia was around 900 miles and took a number of months. A journey of that length would have taken a good deal of planning. Undoubtedly, the magi would have been accompanied by a number of servants, guards and supplies. Why did they choose to make such a journey? What was their goal? The Magi had seen a new star that rose in the night sky. They determined that the star signified a newly born king of the Jews. The appearance of a star announcing a King of Israel was prophesied in …
Numbers 24:17 (ESV) I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
There was a widespread expectation throughout the East that a ruler would arise in Judea that would rule the world. They were coming to worship this new born King, perhaps out of devotion to God and to make sure they were friends and allies of this new powerful King. The Magi had made a decision to be seekers after this new-born King.
There are many things that you could seek after in this life. Everyone seeks after something or someone. In fact, we learn the important lesson from the Magi, that whatever you seek after, you will worship, it will be your God. Some people seek after money and wealth and it becomes their idol. Others seek after fame and power and that is what they worship. Yet others seek after happiness and pleasure and that becomes their god. You become a slave of whatever you seek after and worship. All of the things that most people seek after are created things that can never fulfill their lives.
The wise men were seeking after the Creator God and His Son Jesus, who are uncreated. God desires for you to seek after Him. Jesus said in …
Matthew 7:7 (ESV) “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
God wants you to find Him if you seek after Him with your whole heart. As God is infinite, finding Him is a journey into the infinite that will last an eternity. Yet, as we’ll see today, there is a goal to the seeking, a time and place where you find the King and begin a relationship with Him. God calls each of us to seek Him and keep on seeking Him for a lifetime.
Matthew 2:3 (ESV) When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
Herod the Great was the king of Judea and had been appointed by the Romans. He was not a Jew, but an Edomite, who were perpetual enemies of the Jews. Herod and the Jewish leaders were troubled by this report of a new-born King, because he was a threat to their power. Herod wanted to find this new-born King and put Him to death. So, he asked the Jewish scholars where this King was to be born. They found the prophesy in Micah 5:1 which said that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. So, Herod instructed the Magi to find the child and report back to him. Herod said that he wanted to worship the child, but intended on killing him. So, Herod was pretending to join the wise men on their quest, but was actually seeking the exact opposite end result. Not everyone is seeking to worship Jesus.
As we seek to find and grow in our relationship with God, there will be opposition as well. This opposition occurs on the individual level, on the church level and even in the political level.
2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV) Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Desiring to live a godly life in Jesus is seeking Him. Circle the word all. All who seek to know God will be persecuted. Persecution is simply opposition toward those who are living godly lives. In many countries of the world today, persecution involves political powers and can result in imprisonment or even death. Thankfully in America, persecution is currently milder. Persecution here can involve ridicule and loss of friendship. It would involve loss of job on rare occasions. There is increasing peer pressure to not speak of Jesus or be a witness for Him, which is a form of persecution.
Expect and be prepared for opposition at every stage of your spiritual seeking. You will receive opposition when you become a believer from those who aren’t. You will receive opposition for being part of a Bible believing church like Life Church. And, as you continue to seek and grow in God, you will face opposition, sometimes from other believers, whose spiritual growth has stopped. Don’t give up, don’t stop seeking. As we’ll see, God will make a way for you to reach your goal.
Matthew 2:9-10 (ESV) After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
After meeting the king, the magi left his presence. As they traveled to Bethlehem, the star that had seen back in Persia when it arose appeared again. The Magi recognized the star as the one they had seen before and rejoiced. This time, the star guided them and stopped over the house in which the child was.
There has been much speculation as to what this star was, such as a comet, supernova or a conjunction of planets. However, as we look carefully at God’s Word, clearly the star was not a natural astral phenomenon. The fact that the star guided the Magi to a specific house rules our natural causes. The star was supernatural in origin and was undoubtedly an angel of light. Angels are referred to as stars multiple times in Scripture. God, through supernatural direction, guided the Magi to the goal of their quest. In order to reach their goal, they had to keep their eyes on God’s direction.
God still gives supernatural direction today to those who are seeking Him.
Psalm 32:8 (ESV) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
We need God’s supernatural guidance. It is impossible for finite human beings like all of us are, to make the right decisions in life with His guidance. Only God knows all about the complexities of life. Only God knows His plan for our lives. Only God knows the opposition that we will encounter and only God knows the future. Most likely, God will not guide you through an angel, but He might. God usually guides us through His Word, through the Holy Spirit speaking directly to us, through godly counsel or spiritual gifts and through circumstances. God has a detailed and daily plan for your life. He wants you to follow it to have the best and most effective life you could possibly have. Continue to seek Him and His direction and you will find it.
Matthew 2:11a (ESV) And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
The goal of the quest of the wise men was to find this new-born King, baby Jesus. The angelic star guided them to the house and going in, they saw Jesus. The goal of the Magi was not to visit Jerusalem, it was not to have an audience with King Herod. Their goal was to meet and worship Him. When they saw Him, they fell down in worship, they bowed before a baby, knowing that He was destined to be their King. In the Bible, neither men, nor women, nor angels are to be worshipped, only God. As the Magi worshipped baby Jesus, we see affirmation that Jesus was and is God incarnate, God in human flesh, fully human and fully divine.
People search for God in many wrong places today. Contrary to popular opinion, the true creator God cannot be found in all religions. In fact, Jesus taught that the only way to find God was through Himself. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. The goal of life cannot be found in Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Mormonism or even in many so-called Christian denominations that have strayed from biblical truth. The goal of our seeking, the goal of life is found only in Jesus.
Philippians 3:8 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Paul here clearly states that the goal of life is to know the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, we should give up the pursuit of every other goal that we may gain Christ. Once we find Jesus and give our lives to Him, we continue to grow in our knowledge and relationship with Him. The visit of the Magi to worship Jesus shows us that Jesus came, not just for the Jews, but for people of every culture. He invites everyone to seek to find Him and to …
Matthew 2:11b (ESV) Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
The worship of the wise men involved more than simply bowing before Jesus. They had brought expensive gifts with them on their journey from Persia. Gifts fit for a King. These gifts represented parts of their lives that they give to Him. Gold represented wealth, which they gave to Jesus, the King. Frankincense was the incense burned on the Jewish altars and represents worship of Jesus, the son of God. Myrrh was an expensive incense that was used in the embalming of the dead and represents the death and burial of Jesus, the Savior.
The Magi gave what cost them a great deal to honor and worship King Jesus. As they gave the resources in worship, they were giving part of their lives. They could have spent these treasures on themselves or their own pleasure, but they willingly choose to give it to Jesus. Warned by an angel, the wise men left Bethlehem without informing King Herod of Jesus’ location.
Our natural tendency is to think of ourselves first, which really means to worship ourselves. You can see the tendency of selfishness in young children. They have to be taught to share and think about others. So, God calls us to give our lives in worship of Him, rather than seeking our needs first and foremost.
Matthew 6:33 (ESV) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
In this passage, in Matthew 6, Jesus shows us that God is aware of all our needs. He warns us that unbeliever’s primary goal in life is to meet their own needs. But we, as believers are not to be like them. We are to seek first God’s kingdom, we are to seek first to please Jesus in our lives, that is what worship is all about. Worship is not just something that we do on Sunday mornings, worship is seeking first God’s kingdom every day of the week. When we do that, Jesus promises that He will provide everything that we need in life. That’s a good deal. Give your life in worship.
The wise men reached their goal, they came and worshipped King Jesus. Many of us have found Jesus and given our lives to worship Him. Yet we all know people who are not seeking or have not yet found Jesus as their Savior and Lord. This Christmas, many people are just waiting for an invite to a Christmas service. They won’t come unless someone invites them.
Who will you bring to Jesus this Christmas? We have a special Christmas service next Sunday with the message “Seize the Moment.” The Life Kidz will have a special Christmas Party “Follow the Star” with activities and prizes for all the children. On Christmas Eve, we will have a special candlelight service at 6 pm. A time of Christmas carols, candlelight and a short message. Pray about who God would have you invite.