Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jesus - The Ultimate Christmas Gift - Director's Cut

The following  post is a kind of "director's cut" of a sermon I had the privilege of preaching earlier today.  It's not a verbatim transcript of what I said, but it is a kind of a write up, followed by the power point I used.

Good afternoon, Evangelist Temple.  Merry Christmas! We say that  “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. The truth is that Jesus is the reason for everything. What we want to do today is to scratch the surface of what that means. Everything points to Jesus including mathematics, science,  and history.  

On December 14 we just saw that a man walked into an elementary school and shot killed over 20 children and 6 adults! We have people shocked and amazed. The question on people’s minds: “How could God allow such an evil thing to take place? Why were some people spared and some people were not?” Some conclude that there couldn’t be a God because there is no good reason for such a thing to happen and blame God. The reason why the subject we are talking about today is so important is that you’ve got to wonder over the course of history how many such inexplicable things have happened. Such things in your own lives have happen that left you scratching your head – with differing levels of despair. Just like God has guided everything for Jesus to come at just the right time to save us, God directs everything even when we don’t understand where things are going and why. This is the good news that Christmas rests on. God is in control and He loves you  - and you can hold on that even when the unthinkable happens.

Given that Christmas is just in a couple of days, let’s take a closer look at Jesus.  Starting at Colossians 1:15-20
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Jesus is the Son. He created all things and put all things in their place. Everything that makes God what God is is in Him. It is through Jesus, that we are redeemed from sin and death.
I’d like to spend some time looking at how History and science come together in Christ. And they come together in prophecy. The Old Testament points us to Jesus. The Old Testament scriptures are full of prophecies that points to Jesus Christ. There are over 300 of them.

Here are 8 of  them

Old Testament Prophecy
New Testament Fulfillment
Christ to be born in Bethlehem
(Micah 5:2)
And Herod asked where Christ had been born ... they answered Bethlehem
(Matt 2:4-6)
2.8 x 105 or 1 in 280,000
Forerunner of Christ
(Malachi 3:1)
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ
(Mark 1:2-8)
1 x 103 or 1 in 1,000
Christ to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey
(Zech 9:9)
Christ enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey
(Matt 21:4-11)
1 x 102 or 1 in 100
Christ to be betrayed by a friend
(Psalm 41:9)
Judas betrayed Jesus
(Luke 22:21)
1 x 103 or 1 in 1,000
Christ to be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver
(Zech 11:12)
Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver
(Matt 26:15)
1 x 103 or 1 in 1,000
30 pieces of silver casted down and used to buy a potter's field
(Zech 11:13)
30 pieces of silver used to buy a potter's field
(Matt 27:3-10)
1 x 105 or 1 in 100,000
Although innocent, Christ kept silent when on trial
(Isaiah 53:7)
Jesus kept silent when questioned
(Mark 14:60-61)
1 x 103 or 1 in 1,000
Christ crucified
(Psalm 22:16)
Jesus was crucified
(John 19:17, 18)
1 x 104 or 1 in 10,000

Think of how probable for one human being to just fulfill one of them let a lone all of them in a single life time.  Any one person that would fit that many prophecies must be the messiah. It’s like a fingerprint. No one before Jesus or after Jesus would be able to say this.
No one else could have done this and nor would anyone ever be able to fulfill these.
Paul wrote:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:6-8
So let’s look at just how probable it is for a single person to fulfill just eight of these prophecies. The chances of a single person fulfilling eight of these prophecies are 1 in 1 x 10 to the 28th power. Here is a little bit of math and science. 1 times 10 to the 28th means the number 1 with 28 zeroes after it. That is huge. That is more people who have ever lived on earth. Our best estimates are that there are just under 8 Billion people on earth right now and that there are more people alive now than who have ever lived. Put it into perspective: The more digits that number has, the bigger the number is. 1 Billion means 1 with 9 zeroes. 9 is a lot smaller than 28. If you think just fulfilling 8 of these is such a low probability, what about 16 of them? 32?  300? This is real quantifiable evidence that Jesus is who Jesus said He is.

When you are asking about the odds of something, a visual aid could help.  What we are saying is that one person fulfilling those eight prophecies is like the following:
Filling the state of Texas:

With Quarters

1 x 1028 quarters would fill Texas to  height of 2 ft, marking one of these quarters, using bull dozers to mix them all up, and then blind folded picking the marked quarter at random. We are talking about one quarter out of 1 times 10 to 28th quarters.

We could use all kinds of examples of how God has acted throughout history but I don’t have enough time, so instead we are going to focus on one particular example. Let’s put this in a larger historical context with cultural relevance.

Remember the movie “300”?

 It was the story of King Xerxes of Persia  (the same King in the story of Esther I the Bible) invasion of Greece. The movie is fictionalized and stylized, but it is based on true events.  It even contained some direct language taken from the historical account.  The story of King Leonidas  - when few stood against  many  - is dated to 486 BC. Although the Greeks lost that battle (sorry for the spoiler)  they set the stage for a larger Greek victory not long after that. If you want to see a good documentary on what happened and why and how history is really different than the movie I’d recommend watching the History Channel’s Battle of Thermopylae - Last stand of Leonidas & the 300 Spartans

It is available on YouTube. Anyone who wants to know more please let me know I’ll make sure you get the link.

 Thermopylae sets the stage for Greece to become unified world power. They finally defeated the Persians under Alexander the Great. By this time, you may be wondering what does all this has to do with Jesus? Everything!  Alexander standardized Greek as a  language and a culture and spread it out all around the known world. Greek became the language of commerce, politics, literature, and diplomacy. If it was important and from the Greek or Roman Empire chances are it was in Greek.  When the Romans conquered the Greeks, they kept much of their technology and culture and just incorporated them with their own – including the use of Greek. Because Greek was the dominant language in use even before Jesus, the Old Testament had been translated into Greek centuries before Jesus. All of the New Testament was written in Greek and because the Romans wanted to be able to be able to deploy their professional army anywhere in their empire and beyond, they built roads.  Roads that were also great for commerce – and God had them in place for the Gospel to be spread throughout the Roman Empire quickly. 

What I’m saying is that Jesus birth, death, and resurrection was not a coincidence.  It wasn’t an accident.  Goad wasn’t just crossing His fingers hoping that all of this would work out. God sovereignly put everything and everyone in their place according to what HE wants to do.  Fortunately, He wanted to save us.  Jesus came to do exactly that. He died for us in our place to atone for the sins of His people. If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, you are one of God’s people and your sins are not counted against you. This is the point of Christmas.  Jesus is the ultimate Gift – at the right place and at the right time.

At this point, I really should give some attention to potential objections and why they offer nothing against the point that God worked through History and we can see that in the fact that Jesus fulfilled prophecies that were given centuries before his birth.

Objection 1: The messianic prophecies are so vague they could describe anyone. Anyone telling you this does not know enough about what the prophecies are. For example, the prophecy that the messiah would be betrayed by someone close to him, the place the messiah would be born, and many other details make it impossible to claim that the prophecies are vague.

Objection 2: The prophecies were not really written by the men tradition says they were. Some claim that Isaiah's prophecies were not really written by the prophet Isaiah or during the time the Bible says that Isaiah lived. They claim that the majority of scholarship backs up their conclusion. Don't buy it. Not in the slightest. Most people who come to this conclusion think that  because they are looking for a reason not to believe that. Even if you grant that them the point ( and I would not) the entire Hebrew Bible predates Jesus by almost 400 years. So the point is moot.  The prophecies and their fulfillment still evidence that God is behind History.

Objection 3: Jesus purposely fulfilled the messianic prophecies so that he could take credit for being the messiah. Not much of an objection. Think about it.  It's assuming that Jesus prearranged not only his being baptized by John the Baptist but also that he pre-arranged  his birth in Bethlehem. Why stop there?  That means if he could do that then he could also arrange a virgin birth. If Jesus did that is that a problem if you are Christian? Nope. That is exactly what we are saying - Jesus did arrange it - all. But of course, wouldn't he have to be God in order to do all of that? Duh! Exactly what we are saying. Making this objection actually concedes the argument. Thanks.

There are two last things I’d like to cover today. 

How do we talk to people about who Jesus is? Dr Ravi Zacharias had the opportunity to speak to one of the leaders of Hamas. When Dr Zacharias had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders of Hamas during a Middle East peace negotiations, he made the most of it. And centered the brief time he had on Christ.
Here is what he said

Jesus is that gift. God’s Word, love, and forgiveness personified.  I want to end with a video that Pastor Stewart showed us 4 years ago. We need to remember and celebrate Christ – all year round.  He just wasn’t a baby in a manger. Jesus is far more.  Let’s end with Dr S.M. Lockridge asking the fundamental question: “Do you know Him?” And then he answers the question by telling you who Jesus is: “That’s My King”.

Here is a video of the slides

Here are slides served from slideshare

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