Great Things in Review
The angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Messiah. This was big news. The Jewish people, the children of Israel, had been waiting for centuries for the Savior’s birth. Many had given up hope and were saying that things had continued without change for centuries and would continue without change. They had ceased looking for the Messiah and they had ceased hoping in the promises of God.
In our day and age, it is much the same. Many have ceased looking for Jesus to return. They say that everything has continued without change since the beginning of time and will continue without end.
We are closing out 2019. This means that 2019 years ago (give or take 5 years) Jesus was born.
When I was in retail, closing out a year meant taking inventory. For many of us, the end of the year is a time for reviewing the year, taking inventory if you please. A lot has happened over the course of the year. Babies have been born, friends and family members have passed away, couples have gotten engaged, goals have been reached and all of us have gotten a year older. For some, it may have been just another year among many. Any one of us can develop the attitude that says, “everything has continued without change since the beginning of time.”
As I was considering the shepherds, it struck me that we can learn a lesson from them. They were eyewitnesses to one of the greatest events in history. Word of this event was announced to them by angels.
As they were watching their sheep, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to them. They were terrified! The glory of the Lord shone about them, and the angel said:
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. ()
The big event of Christmas came with life-changing force into the lives of the shepherds, and the big events of 2019 have come with life-changing force into our lives.
The biggest event in all of our lives is when we meet the Savior. It may not come with angels singing or with an announcement like the shepherds heard, but it changes us forever.
The shepherds’ reaction to the events and what they did following provide us with an outline of what we must do with the big events of our lives, of Christmas and of 2019.
Immediately after the angels left, the shepherds went to see what the angels had announced to them. They went and confirmed the news they had been told.
This is the first thing we must do. We must confirm the things we have seen and heard. Experience is not enough to lead us and to teach us. We must review and confirm the meaning of the things we experience.
For example, we have been told that the Savior was born in Bethlehem 2019 years ago. Have you confirmed this for yourself? Have you read the historical record provided by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Have you read the prophecies and promises of His coming from the Old Testament? Or, have you, like so many, been satisfied with the cultural picture of a manger scene?
Too many of us are satisfied with a cultural Christianity, and we have a form of godliness but lack any power or spiritual life. We have our experience and we have what we hear in church, in school and through the media we listen to whether that be music, news, radio or television. However, not many of us are like the Bereans of whom it is said:
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. ()
We need to change our focus. If one is always looking down, he will not notice the sky or the clouds, and will develop a downward perspective. This is what happens when we start thinking things will always continue as they have. But God calls us to have a higher perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 says:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. ()
“Raised with Christ” in this passage is speaking of what happens when we meet the Messiah. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you have been raised with Christ. This is not talking about the resurrection of our bodies from the dead, but of our being born again when we meet Jesus.
Being born again is the biggest event of any person’s life. Ephesians 2:1-9 tells us that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “You must be born again.” There are two points at which we receive life from completely outside of ourselves. One is when we are born physically. This gives life to our mortal bodies. The second is when we are born spiritually. This gives us spiritual life. From our physical birth, we gain a physical perspective. We gain physical senses by which we experience the world. From our spiritual birth, we gain a spiritual perspective. We gain the life of the Spirit by which we comprehend the spiritual world.
This spiritual perspective, given by God, must refocus our lives. Here in Colossians 3, the Scriptures say we should start looking up. Stop looking down. Our focus should be on things above.
Therefore, when we encounter big events down here, we should view these events with an eternal or heavenly perspective. We should confirm what God has told us in His word and prayerfully consider what He is doing. Instead of accepting what the media, our education and culture tell us about what these events mean, we should confirm what the word of God teaches us.
If we consider what the Scriptures teach and what the shepherds did, confirming is just the first step. We must also confess.
First, let’s consider how we see this in the shepherds.
Luke 2:17-19 tells us:
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. ()
The shepherds “made known the saying that that had been told them.” There are times when it is appropriate to remain silent, and there are also times when we must speak.
For example, if one knows of a threat to someone’s life, then that person is obligated to speak. There is no excuse for not telling the person whose life is in danger. One must be careful how one does this. An example would be the cliché of yelling fire in a crowded theater. When we speak of what we have seen and heard, we must do it in such a way that we do not lose our credibility. At the same time, if we say that the person who does not believe in Jesus will not stand in the final judgment, which is what the Bible says, then we lose our credibility if we do not warn the unbeliever.
This idea of confession is so essential to our faith that the Bible says:
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ()
If you don’t confess it, you don’t believe it. With the exception, it is possible that you have not confirmed it sufficiently, and therefore, do not yet understand it.
Confession is an essential part of our salvation, and it is also an essential part of our spiritual growth, our discipleship. God teaches us some things He does not intend for us to share, like Paul speaking of revelations that man is not permitted to speak. However, God teaches us other things that He intends for us to pass on to others. The shepherds were told of the Savior’s birth so that they would tell others. Your trials, your blessings and the events of this past year have taught you things that the rest of us need to know. This is what it means to be a body or a family.
How are we to fulfill Galatians 6:1, if not by sharing what we have learned? Galatians 6:1 says:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. ()
In confessing or speaking what we have seen and heard, we share encouragement, lessons learned and build each other up. Such confessing keeps us from losing hope, and losing hope is at the heart of a downward perspective and thinking that everything will continue as it always has.
This leads us to the third thing the shepherds did. They confirmed. They confessed. And, they continued.
In this case, I am not talking about continuing as we always have. I am speaking of living in the hope and life that the great things God has shown us have brought.
Let’s review something. God is doing great things. The great things God is doing did not end with the birth of the Savior. God is doing great things in your life and in mine. I can guarantee it. I know it. This is not just my opinion. This is the promise of God. Look at what Philippians 1:6 says:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ()
Let’s just translate the “good work” God has begun as “great things,” because God does “great things!”
Let me speak to those who have experienced painful things in 2019. First, God knows your pain. He truly does. This is part of the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross, so that He can identify with us in our sorrows. Death is a horrible thing. It is in our world because of sin, and this is why sin is so bad. We all sin. I am not saying you are worthless or hopeless because you sin. If you are human, you sin. However, God understands the pain and sorrow this brings into our lives, and He uses death to bring life and salvation. He takes away the sting of death and gives victory. He is with us and comforts us in our sorrow, and our loved ones are in His hands, which is better by far.
This is why I say we must continue. Another way of saying this would be to say, “We must persevere.”
We find the shepherds continuing when Luke 2 says:
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. ()
They returned to their sheep. They returned to their families. And, they returned as changed men. They glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen.
I am now going to give you perhaps the strongest warning that I have ever given.
As believers, it is essential that we “continue.” We must never give up our hope. Jesus is coming back, and it is apostasy of the worst kind to say He is not. If you want to consider an example, consider Judas. He gave up hope that Jesus was the Messiah and became the traitor that sold the Savior for 30 pieces of silver, not even gold, silver. He traded eternal life for a little bit of nothing.
If we do not continue in the hope of the great things God is doing, we too will trade eternal life and the riches of heaven for a little bit of nothing.
As we review the great things of 2019, let’s remember to: