We have a great privilege to be able to look into the Word together; so why don’t we pray, and then we’ll go ahead and get started tonight.
Father in heaven, we humble ourselves before You now. We come to You empty-handed. We come to You, Lord, without anything to offer to You. We need Your grace, and we believe that You are a gracious God, that You give good gifts, that there’s no shadow in You, no change, no variation. Father we pray tonight, please give us bread from heaven. Feed us with Your Word. Lord, this world has nothing; this world is a barren wasteland. We need You, Lord. In Your Word there is life, in Your Son is everything that we need. I pray and ask You tonight, Father, for those that are outside of Christ, that You’d give them ears to hear. Help them to understand what Your truth is, what Your Word says, who Your Son is, who they are. Father I pray that You would be present; I pray that You would give power, and love, and the manifestation of the truth for Your people, Lord. I pray that You would keep them from being confused or distracted. Let Your Word be clear that even they could rejoice and grow in the knowledge of Your Son. Would You assist me, Father I pray, be with my mouth now as I would speak Your Word. Guard this time from any error or any thing of the flesh. We wait on You Lord, our eyes are on You. Thank You, thank You Lord, in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, praise the Lord! When we are hungry for God, God is very faithful to feed us. When we come with a longing, God is very faithful; and my desire is that for every one here, the Lord would say something, the Lord would speak. And maybe your need is different than someone else’s, but if you want to hear from the Lord, the Lord is very willing to speak. And now we’re about to open up His Word, His Truth. There’s nothing like what we have right here in the Scriptures.
Let’s open up to Luke chapter one. We’re going to read a prophecy that was spoken right at the beginning of the New Testament, right around the time of the birth of John the baptist. We’ll read from Luke , but before we do, I want to explain a little bit about what’s going on, just so we have in mind why we’re gonna read this, why it is important, what it is about. This prophecy is really amazing in a way because at the very beginning of the New Testament when Christ was about to come, when He was about to arrive, there were several prophecies saying that all of the Old Testament, all of the expectation, all of the older prophecies, were finally going to be fulfilled. And now was the time. And so, in a way it’s a prophecy about all these older prophecies coming to pass. And in a way it’s a summary of the whole message of the Bible. So if maybe you felt like, “I don’t really understand what the Bible is about. What does it mean to be a Christian? I never grew up in a Christian home, I didn’t go to church, I’ve never read the Bible, I’ve definitely never read the Old Testament. What is this all about?” These are good verses; and that’s what we’re going to look at here tonight.
John the baptist is being born, this prophecy comes, and we can understand what the big picture is in life. You know, I ask a lot of people, “What is the meaning of life?” And most people don’t know. They don’t know why they’re alive. “Why am I here? Where am I going?” Well, hopefully the Lord will show us tonight.
Let’s read. Luke 1:57, “Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.” Now this is going to be John the baptist. He is born as a little baby, and the time had come. “Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her. And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, ‘No indeed; but he shall be called John.’ And they said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.’ And they made signs to his father.” So the mum said, “Call him John,” and they didn’t trust the mum’s words, so now they’re asking the dad’s advice. But he can’t speak, so they’re using sign language or some kind of communicating with him.
“They made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John.'” So his dad has already has his mind made up: this was all from the Lord, this is a special child. “‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.” What happened? When God told him he was going to have a son in their old age, John the baptist was going to born, he didn’t believe Him. And God took away his ability to speak, until the child was to be born. And so now, he got the picture, he knew this was of God, he knew what was going to happen, he did believe; and he said, “His name is John.” And at this point he got his ability to speak back. “And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.” Before that, he couldn’t say a word. And now, as soon as his mouth is opened, he begins just praising God. It’s a miracle.
“Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, ‘What then will this child turn out to be?’ For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.” They had been waiting for 400 years and hadn’t heard any prophecy. They had all these promises in the Old Testament that one day a Savior would come. And then it was like everything went silent. And they were waiting and waiting and waiting. And now the miracles were starting again. And there was a child that was going to be born, and he was going to be a prophet. And so the word started to spread. And this is the beginning, but now look at what happens; now we get a detailed look at what the father said. When his tongue was loosed, when he began to praise God, we get a detailed look of what he actually said.
Verse 67, “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying…” What we’re about to read is not the words of a man. This is God speaking through a man. This is prophecy. This is the Holy Spirit sending a message to the earth. That’s what we need. If we want to find the meaning of life, you can’t find it on your own; but God can reveal it to you, He can speak from heaven. Here’s what he says: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel (the Jewish nation), for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant– as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old– Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us.” Who’s that? The Romans? No. “To show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. ‘And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.'” And that was the end of his prophecy. “And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”
Well, Amen! This is the word of the Lord. So now let’s look at it, piece at a time, and just try and get a picture for what God is doing in the world. What is the message of the Bible? What were the Jews waiting for? Those hundreds and thousands of years while they were waiting, what were they waiting for? Because here, at the very beginning of the New Testament, it’s all coming to pass. Let’s look back up in Verse 68, it says this: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us.” He has visited us – this is the first thing. God has visited us. Now this is in past tense, which is interesting, you wouldn’t expect that. You would think he’s about to say, “God will visit us.” But it’s like this: sometimes when something is right… (because Jesus hasn’t been born yet, Jesus isn’t the one in the picture. This is John the baptist), but when something is about to happen, when something is right up on the edge of taking place, it’s like everything is about to spill over. It’s like the whole avalanche is about to fall. All of these promises have been stacked up and waiting and waiting and waiting. And now with the birth, not of Jesus, but with the birth of John the baptist, this is like the beginning of the end. This is when everything is going to rush in – the kingdom of God is going to come in a powerful way. And now, now that John was born, he said by the Holy Spirit, “God has visited us.” Now it’s taking place. Now it’s begun.
What does it mean for God to visit us? Has God ever visited you? You know, some people say, “I had this dream, I had this vision; and I saw God, I saw Jesus Christ.” Sometimes you really question some of those people when you get to know them. They’re not really spiritual people, they’re not really godly people. They say they had these visitations from God, and it makes you think, “Mehn, don’t talk like that.” But in another way it is true, that to be a Christian means you’re visited by God. This is what we want in life. We want to know God. We want to meet with God. We want to experience God. I can remember when I was a new Christian, there was a book being passed around, I never read it, but just the title grabbed at me, just laid hold of me. The book was called Experiencing God. And I just thought, “Wow, that’s amazing!” It’s possible to know God. Some people feel like, “Where is God? Why can’t I see God? Why don’t I know God?” But it is possible to know God.
But here’s the thing: you can’t go up into heaven and find Him; He has to come and visit you. And that is what He does. God is a God that loves to reveal Himself. God is a God that is willing to show up and speak. The dangerous thing is, sometimes people say, “God, where are you?” And then He shows up. He is a Living God, He is the One True God. To know God is the greatest blessing. This is the greatest treasure in all of life. Adam and Eve, what was it that they had that was so great? Was it fruit? We have fruit. Was it Paradise? You can take a vacation to the Bahamas or Palm Springs or wherever. What was Adam and Eve’s blessing? The blessing was that they knew God. They were in the presence of God. It says in the Bible that Adam and Eve, that God would walk in the midst of the garden in the cool of the day. The Lord would visit them. That was Adam and Eve’s treasure. And that’s what we’ve lost. That’s why the world is so empty. That’s why the world feels like such a cold place, not just because of our own sin, but because God, who is the source of all life and all blessing, is absent. That is the big problem. Where is the Lord? We’ve lost what Adam and Eve had.
Here’s the thing: People will place their treasure in all these other smaller things that don’t really matter. For example, there is a famous verse in the Bible (Jer. 9:23) that says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom.” People will boast in their knowledge and their wisdom. “Let not the strong man boast in his strength. Let not the rich man boast in his riches.” None of that really matters. Whether you’re wise, whether you’re smart, whether you’re beautiful, whether you’re strong, whether you’re tough, none of that really matters. And the world just pursues this. Instead of searching for God, what does the world do? It finds a different treasure. “I’ll get this degree. I’ll get this career. I’ll get this money. I’ll get this girlfriend, or I’ll get this boyfriend.” And that becomes the treasure. And they get really happy if they get it, and really broken and sad if they don’t.
Most people, when you meet them, they say, “Mehn, my life is just falling apart. I’m just so broke and I’m so empty.” And you ask them, “Well, tell me about it, what’s going on in your life? Why are you so sad?” And they start to tell you about all their troubles, you know, “Well, I’m having a real hard time with my wife.” Or, “I’m having a real hard time raising my kids.” Or, “I’m having a real hard time at work.” Or, “Nobody likes me at school.” Or, “I don’t have any money.” They mention all these smaller things that really are not the main problem. The main problem is this: Do you know God? because the end of that verse says, “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD.” If you know God, you have the greatest treasure that anybody could have. Some people in this room know God. Do you know God? Has God ever visited you? Well that’s what He came to do.
I had a friend when I was a little boy; I can remember I was in 6th Grade. And this friend, I don’t know if he was a true Christian or not, I was not a Christian at the time; but even though I wasn’t saved, he stood out to me. He would always wear these Christian t-shirts to school. I went to public school, and in 6th Grade nobody wore Christian t-shirts to school. I can remember he had one shirt on, that had a little heartbeat monitor, you know, like at the hospital you see the little blip on the heart screen. It had a heartbeat, and it was like flat, and then it started beating again. And it said “Christ alive,” like He died and rose again. And he would wear shirts like that, and I remember I just thought, “He’s so strange. Why is it always about God with that boy (his name is Timothy)?” And one day we were out on the playground, and there was a group of girls. Nobody liked Timothy, because he loved… well, he at least outwardly was wearing these t-shirts, following God, whatever. Nobody liked him. And I walked up and heard this group of girls mocking him. (We were all 6th graders). And this one girl started mocking him, she said, “Huh! Yeah, Timothy, he doesn’t have any friends, only God is his friend. Only God is his friend.” And all the girls laughed. And when they laughed, I recoiled on the inside.
Even as a lost boy, when I was only years old, I knew that was wrong. To laugh about somebody having God as their friend, that did not sit well with me. If God is your friend, that’s nothing to mock a person about. And I saw that as such a great sin, and it is! If you have God as your friend, you’re the most blessed person in the world. Wouldn’t you trade anything you have to have God as your friend? Wouldn’t that be worth anything? Abraham, in the Bible it said he was the friend of God. He was God’s friend. Moses, it said he was the friend of God. God talked with him like friend to friend, face to face. Isn’t that what you want in life? Or are you still boasting in all the other things? Are you still placing your treasure in all the other realms of pleasure and satisfaction? That’s not where it’s found. We need to be visited by God.
Okay next phrase, Luke 1: , “He has visited us (or, He’s about to, He’s right on the verge of breaking in to our world), He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people.” Accomplished redemption. This is good news. Why is it good news? What does redemption mean? You guys remember, few weeks ago Joseph was here, he was teaching on this. Redemption: what does redemption mean? Somebody want to volunteer and answer? What is redemption? [Audience]: Redemption is the recovery of something taken.
Recovery of something taken; yeah, you could put it like that. Think about it like this: redeem. Sometimes we don’t use the word ‘redemption’ outside of church, but we use the word ‘redeem’. Like if you get a coupon, or you get some prize or something, you’re going to redeem it. So you’re going to get something that you didn’t have. But, specifically, when you really want to talk about redemption and redeem, it revolves around a price, like a ransom; a price that is paid to get something, to set something free, to get something back. Something that was lost, or something that was enslaved, you get it back. So if someone is in slavery you can redeem them out of slavery, you can buy them out of slavery. If you were a slave, wouldn’t it be nice if someone came along and paid the money for you to go free? That’s what redemption is. Someone that’s in bondage, being brought out of that. A price has been paid for them, now they’re free. And even more than that, now they have a new owner.
So, here it says, “God has accomplished redemption. God has visited us and has accomplished redemption.” God has come to set people free. This is the truth that you find in the Bible, that men owe a great debt and are in bondage. They’re debtors. We sing songs about this: “A debtor to mercy alone” – like I’m a debtor. I owe God. What do we owe God? Do we owe God money? It’s not like a money debt. It has to do with the way we’ve lived our life. Because of sin we owe a debt to God. We ought to have lived righteously, but we’re in the bondage of sin, and we’re under sin’s curse and its guilt. Now here’s the question: If someone is a slave to sin, or if someone is guilty because of their sin and they’re a debtor, can they pay the price? Can you pay the price to God, pay off your debts? Sometimes people talk that way, you know, “I’m just gonna straighten up. I’m gonna turn over a new leaf, gonna live a new life, gonna pay off my debts.” There’s a big problem in the Bible. The Bible’s problem is this: you cannot pay off your debts. You don’t have any ability to. Imagine owing millions and millions of dollars, and you make minimum wage, how are you going to pay that off? Some people will get credit cards and they’ll just rack up debt, huge amounts of debt (they have no way to get out of debt). But spiritually speaking, every person is born that way in such a huge pile of debt. They can’t get themselves out.
Let’s look at a verse on this, Psalms 49:7-9, “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him– for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever– that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay.” You hear what it’s saying? Nobody can pay your debts before God. And you can’t pay your own debt. And you might as well just give up–he should cease trying forever. It’s too costly. It’s too expensive. You’ll never be able to pull yourself out of the mess, out of the pit. The problem is, we’ve sinned against God– sinned against Him so much and in such a vile way– that no amount of trying or doing good works will ever erase the problem or pay off the debt. Just give up.
You say, “What then, I don’t have any hope? I just give up and that’s it, that’s the end?” Well, no, because this verse says He has accomplished redemption. God can pay off your debts. That’s real good news – God can forgive our debts. That’s even in the Lord’s Prayer, isn’t it? It’s really good if you’ve got some rich uncle that can just come in and pay off all your debts with one stroke. God can do that. No other man can do that–in this life there’s no friend, there’s no priest, there’s no uncle, there’s no politician, no president or king, that can save you. But if God acts, there’s nothing God cannot do. He can accomplish redemption. Only God can save. Only God can set a person free. Only God can pay the price to save your soul. He is the Savior. He’s not going to let you save yourself, because then you’d boast. He’s not going to let anybody else save you, because then you’d praise them. He is going to save you, so that you’ll praise Him alone. He’s going to be the One. He’ll be the Champion. He’ll be the Savior.
Let’s look at the next verse, jump down to Luke 1:71, “Salvation from our enemies.” Good news! The Kingdom of God has come; God is visiting us; He is here; He is paying off our debts; He is accomplishing redemption; He is saving us from our enemies. What does that mean? Salvation from our enemies – okay, question, who are the enemies in this world? What kinds of enemies exist in this life? You guys want to give some answers? What are some examples of an enemy?
Satan. Well, that’s the one; we’ll talk about that. What about just in the normal life, not in the spiritual realm?
Yeah, riches are kind of like an enemy, they can work against you in a way. But what about people? Does anybody have any enemies here, or does everybody love you and everybody is your friend or just a stranger? Or do you actually have people that are out for your harm? You have people like that? Who are they? Some people have a lot more enemies than other people. What are some enemies in this life? [Pause]. You guys just must be really well liked.
Okay, terrorists, there’s an enemy. On a national level you’ve got people from a different country, different set of beliefs, and they’re out to do harm against a group of people, maybe America or some other country. They’re out to do harm, they’re out to blow people up. That’s an enemy. In the time of war… you see, right now we’re in a time of peace, in terms of nobody is invading our country; it’s not like World War II. But if you lived few decades ago, you could real quickly start spouting off some enemies: “Well, this country, these soldiers, this general; they’re our enemies, they’re trying to kill us.” But it doesn’t have to be a man with a gun, sometimes you just have people that have a grudge against you. And it’s like, that guy at work, he just does not like you. You guys heard Brother Matt talking about this the other day. He had a guy at work, who just didn’t like Matt, who just was against him, always trying to cut him down. Or maybe even in your family you can have enemies. Your own family can turn against you. People on the street – you see some guy and he threatens you, and he says, “The next time I see you, I’m going to knock your lights out.” You’re going to get terrified: “I’ve got an enemy!”
I can remember in high school one time, a guy grabbed me by the collar of my shirt after Gym class, pushed me up against a wall, with his three buddies around me (they’re all Seniors; I was this tiny Sophomore), and I just realized, “I’ve got enemies.” It came out of nowhere. But here’s the thing: Even the worst enemies in this life – the guys with guns, the people that have strength in numbers, the people that can work against you – that’s nothing, compared to the real enemy that the Bible talks about: and the Brother said it – Satan. The devil.
You know anything about the devil? The devil is real. Satan is real. He’s not just a force, he’s a being, a fallen angel. And he’s powerful. And the Bible says the whole world is in the hand of the devil. Can you imagine that? “Does the Bible really say that? I thought the whole world was in God’s hand.” Well it is, including the devil. Every thing is in God’s hand. But this world, (not the heavens, the heavens belong to the Lord), but this earth He has given to the sons of men, and the devil is ruling over it. Like a master chess player, he moves people in place to do his will, to do great evil in the world. Have you seen the evil that is in the world yet, or do you still think the world is just kind of a nice place? It’s not. This world is under the power of darkness. The devil, and demons, and powers, and principalities, they are at work. It says that “they waged war in heaven, and God cast them down to the earth; and woe to the earth, because now the devil has come down to the earth, and he knows his time is short, and his wrath is great” (Revelation 12). And he wants to destroy people.
The devil, what is he trying to do? why does he want to destroy your soul? why does he want you to go to hell? why does he care about that? It’s not about you, it’s about God. The devil hates God. And you were made in the image of God. And your soul is valuable to God and precious to God. And the devil is gonna just, in rage, make war against the people of God. And if someone is not a Christian, they’re locked up in the devil’s power; and that’s their greatest enemy. Whether they realize it or not, the greatest enemy of their soul is Satan. And he will tempt them, and he will lie to them, and he will try to deceive them. And he has many weapons – he will even try to kill them if God lets him, if God allows him.
In Revelation, talking about these demonic powers, it says, “In their tail was the power of death.” The devil, he is seeking to wipe people out. This is the enemy of our souls. God is not our enemy; at least He ought not be. We make Him our enemy. We make war with God. But we really do have an enemy – the devil. And even when you become a Christian, he’s not gonna just change his mind. He is out to destroy.
But, good news! “Salvation from our enemies.” Saved from the devil. Maybe you realize the devil is at work in your life, do you want to be free? Do you want to be outside of his control? Do you want to be saved? It’s possible! God promised in the very beginning, even to Adam and Eve, even when they sinned and were cast out of the garden, God said, “I’m going to crush the serpent’s head. The seed of the woman, the serpent will bruise his heel, but he is going to crush the serpent’s head.” God promised from the beginning that the devil would be crushed. Salvation from our enemies.
There’s strange stories about the devil and demons. Actually I was just talking the other day with a brother about this. There’s a missionary in China, when he would go and preach the Gospel to people, they would say, “Oh great! Praise the Lord, we want to follow Christ and become Christians.” They would become Christians, at least outwardly, and then you know what happened? As soon as they became Christians and stopped worshiping the idols and false gods in China, some of their family members would get sick, or die, or things would just start going wrong – demonic problems started in their home. And they said, “Woah! We didn’t know it was like this. If this is gonna happen forget it, I don’t want to be a Christian. I’ll just go back to worshiping the idols. We’ll put the idols back on the shelf, we’ll put the food out at night for the idols.” They are appeasing the spirits. The devil was after them, he did not want them to follow Jesus Christ, and he turned up the heat when they started to believe, when they started to throw away the idols.
There is a lady in Japan, when she started getting around Christians, all these demonic stuff started happening in her life. She would lay on her bed, and her bed would be shaking. There’s nobody in the room, but her bed would start shaking. She was terrified, asking the Christians for help, “Help me! There’s some kind of evil spirit in my house.” The devil is an enemy of Christians and the Gospel. He does not want people to be saved. He does not want people to become Christians. But you know what his greatest weapon is? It’s not somebody getting sick. It’s not your bed starts shaking. You know what his greatest weapon is against souls? What’s the way that he attacks? What’s the way that he actually destroys people? It’s through sin.
He does use lies, but let me say it like this, and actually Brother Tim was saying this the other day: Can the devil destroy your soul in hell? No. The devil himself is going to hell, God is going to put the devil in hell, in the lake of fire. The devil is not the king of hell. But what is it that causes a person to perish and to be judged and to go the lake of fire? It’s sin. And the devil is going to tempt you to sin, and then he’s going to try to keep you away from Jesus Christ so you don’t get forgiveness. That’s his objective. “I don’t care if they go to church, I don’t care if they do a lot of things, I don’t care if a Bible is in their house.” He’s not afraid of holy water. All those things that people say or you see in the movies, that doesn’t matter. The only thing he cares about is, he doesn’t want you to be forgiven, he doesn’t want you to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. And he’s going to try as hard as he can to just keep throwing sin into your life, keep you guilty, keep you on the road to hell.
But there’s salvation from him if you want to be free. Do you want freed? Some people think they can bargain with the devil. Some people think they can come out ahead by serving the devil. The devil doesn’t have any allies – he doesn’t make any friends. C. S. Lewis said, “The devil breaks all of his tools when he’s done using them.” It’s true. I remember when I was a young boy I used to have these nightmares. And I had a nightmare one time it was terrifying. I felt so disturbed when I woke up, do you want to know why? Because in that nightmare, this time when the evil monster was coming at me, I made a deal with the monster that I would serve him and kill other people alongside of him, so that he wouldn’t kill me. You can’t make deals with the devil like that. If you serve the devil, you’re going to be judged right along with him. You don’t want him as a master. The world is not your friend. You’ve got to get free from the power of Satan. And you can.
Alright, the next phrase, Luke 1:73, “The oath which He swore to Abraham our father.” It says that God is going to have mercy, He is going to remember His holy covenant, and He’s going to remember the oath which He swore to Abraham our father. What is this? Who is Abraham? What’s so special about Abraham? What’s the oath to Abraham? Anybody? What oath or what promise did God make with Abraham?
Audience: “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
“That all the nations will be blessed in you. Through your seed, I will bless all the nations. The whole world will be blessed through your seed.” And now, right at the beginning in the New Testament, they say, “It’s here! It’s finally coming to pass. What we’ve been waiting for, that promise that God made so long ago to Abraham, is finally coming true – the whole world is about to be blessed.” Now what is that about? God made promises to lots of people, why does everybody always talk about Abraham? Have you figured that out yet? It’s kind of strange; anytime the people would get in trouble in the Old Testament, they would cry out, “O Lord, remember Your promise to Abraham. Remember Your mercy and what You swore to do to Abraham.” They were always going back to that promise that God made. They didn’t say, “O Lord, remember the Law that You gave to Moses.” That’s not really a happy subject; the Law of Moses can’t save you. They didn’t cry out about that.
But God made a promise to Abraham that was percent promise. There wasn’t any stipulation on it, He just said, “I’m going to bless the world through your seed, through your descendant.” And it was true. The curse that began with Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve sinned; and the curse spread to the whole world. Everybody is guilty because of Adam and Eve. You may not like that, but it is true. You may not like the fact that you’re born with a heart of sin. You say, “That’s not fair! I want to be born with a heart of righteousness.” I’m sorry, that’s not true. You were born with a heart of sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s guilt and transgression, death has spread into all the world, the curse to every nation, the curse to all peoples. But then with Abraham, God said, “But, through your seed, I’m going to bless every nation, I’m going to bless the world.” What was lost with Adam and Eve is going to be gained again. What was broken and destroyed there, is going to be restored. The blessing to the whole world; the return to the Garden of Eden; the return to Paradise; all of the promises coming true, coming to pass.
Alright, Luke 1:74, “To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear.” To grant us that we might serve Him. Now here’s a question: Why does God save people? Why not just wipe them all out in the flood? Why not don’t send Christ, don’t send a Savior; and just let them go on and sin, judgment day comes, and it’s over – Christ comes to judge the earth, and everybody is destroyed. Why not do that? Why does He save people? Well you could give a lot of different answers. You could say, “Because He is loving. Because He’s going to glorify Himself.” But you know what this verse says? It says He is doing this, He is fulfilling all of this – setting us free from Satan, redeeming us from our sins and our debts – that we might serve Him. Do you serve God with your life?
Now I want to clear something up. A lot of people say, “We’re saved to serve.” You guys ever heard that? “We’re saved to serve.” In the Baptist church it’s kind of a slogan. I grew up hearing that and I didn’t really like it. When I began to read the Bible I thought, “That’s kind of cheesy.” Why? This is why, this is my problem with that: In a way we are saved to serve, but it depends on what you mean. God doesn’t need any service. God is not weak. He is not served by human hands. If He was hungry, He wouldn’t tell you about it. That’s what the Bible says. He doesn’t need anything from you. It’s not like church and Christianity just means you go somewhere and you’re trying to help God or do Him a favor. God doesn’t need any favors. He is just fine on His own in who He is. God is not lonely, God is not sick, God is not weak, He is not sad. He is full of joy, full of life. He is the source of life. He is the source of love. And before this world even existed, that’s the way He was. So God is not served by human hands. But what does it mean to serve God? Well, another way that you can talk about service in the Bible, many times in the Bible when we read the word ‘serve’ or ‘service’, it’s the same word, the same idea, as worship. That we might worship Him.
To serve God. If someone is serving the Lord, if someone wants to be in the service of the Lord, a big part of what that means – it doesn’t mean they’re helping God out – it means they’re worshiping Him. They are giving Him glory: “Lord, You’re wonderful. God, You’re beautiful. Lord, I praise You, I love You, I delight in You.” Do you do that? Does God make you happy? Does God fill your soul with joy? Do you just want to praise Him? Do you sing? I know a lot of people, they go to church, they never sing. They never open their mouth at all. Like, “I’ll just sit here, everybody else will sing.” That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says, “Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord.” Some people are too ashamed, they don’t want to open their mouth. And their life is not even about that – “That’s not why I’m alive. That’s not why I’m doing what I’m doing.” What are they doing, they’re living for themselves. They worship themselves, they worship their car, they worship the sports stars. They worship all these other little gods that are no gods at all.
But the reason why God saves people is because He wants to catch them up and involve them in this worship of Himself. What is heaven all about? Heaven is about worshiping God. In heaven, even right now as we speak, there are myriads and myriads of angels worshiping God, praising God with loud voices that shake the temple (they’re so loud). And they never cease, day and night, to say, “Holy, holy, holy.” They don’t grow tired of worshiping God. That’s their life, that’s their joy – it’s to worship Him. It’s like Keith Green said, “If you don’t learn to worship God now, why would you even want to go to heaven?” That’s what heaven is all about – to worship the Lord. We were made to worship Him. This is why God made you.
The greatest sin in life is not murder, or adultery, or all of these other sins, child abuse or whatever; it’s not the great wars that happen when people sweep through villages and kill thousands of people because of the color of their skin, or their tribe, or the language they speak. That’s not the greatest sin. The greatest sin is when man, who is made in the image of God, who has such faculties and abilities and powers and gifts and talents, they look up at the sky, they see the sun, the moon, and the stars – the works of God’s hands – and they don’t praise Him, they don’t worship Him, they don’t love Him. They don’t even search for Him! They don’t even seek for Him! They’re not even interested in knowing God. That’s the greatest sin. The greatest sin, the thing that offends God the most, that the heavens are appalled at when they see, is they can watch a world with no worship. Does it ever strike you as strange, you walk down the streets and people are just going about their day, going through the rat race, going to work, paying the bills, eating dinner, watching TV. It’s just like life moves on and there’s no purpose. What has happened to the world? Worship – the reason why we were made – has disappeared.
Heaven is a place where all the beings that are there, are in the presence of God. And they see Him, and they know Him, and they commune with Him, spend time with Him, and they love Him. The way one Puritan said it, he said that heaven is a world of love – love to God.
What does Islam say heaven is? “Heaven is paradise, where you get all the good food, all of the sweet drinks, and women.” That’s what they teach. That’s what is written in the Quran. Is that why you want to go to heaven? Is that your idea of heaven? That’s not the Bible’s idea of heaven.
Heaven is not about sports. I say that because I actually thought about that when I was a kid. I thought about going to heaven, and I thought, “If it’s to last forever (I was lost, I didn’t know any better), how could it be any fun at all?” And you know what I came up with? Now I loved sports as a kid; I thought they were great, but I was terrible at sports. And I thought, “Maybe in heaven God will make a sport that kind of suits every person, and one person will be the best at their sport.” Like, “God is really smart, so He can just make a bunch of different kinds of sports. And maybe He can make one for me that I’m the best at, and I’ll be the champion.” That was what I thought as a kid. What is that saying? I worship myself.
What is your idea of heaven? He saves us that we might serve Him, that we might worship Him; and that we might serve Him without fear. Look at Verse 74 again, these two little words “without fear.” Without fear – what does that mean? Well it’s true, without fear from our enemies, because He said that. “Salvation from the hands of those who hate us.” The devil hates you; but God can save you from that, protect you from him. But it’s talking about something else, too. We can worship the Lord with no fear. We’re not afraid He’s going to put us in hell anymore. We’re not afraid He’s going to cast us out anymore. We’re not afraid He’s going to slap us around. Some fathers on earth, that’s how they treat their children, they slap them around. The heavenly Father is not like that. He is a good Father. And when you come to know Him, when your debts are paid, when you’re set free, you can worship God and you don’t have to be afraid of Him at all. In a word, it’s peace. To have real peace. Do you have any peace in your life? Do you know peace?
Now be careful, there’s two kinds of peace. There’s God’s peace and the world’s peace. I’m not talking about the world’s peace. Jesus says, “My peace I give to you; My peace I leave with you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” The world will give you a kind of peace. That’s not the kind you want. It’s a deceitful kind of peace. It’s not true peace, it’s a false peace. In the Old Testament, the prophet said, “They go around saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ and there is no peace.” They deceived the people, they tricked the people. They tell them there’s peace but there is no peace. The Bible says “there’s no peace for the wicked, no rest for the wicked.” The world, where does it get its peace from? When everything is going right; when money is in the bank; when their checkbook is balanced; when all your kids are at home and everything is going well between husband and spouse; and everybody likes you and you’re still young and beautiful; then you feel peace. “I’m making the grades, everything is going just fine. It’s like the world is my spinning top.”
But then what happens? The famine hits. The disaster occurs. The hammer falls. Your world comes crashing down. And all of a sudden you realize, “I don’t have any peace. What was my peace in my life? I was trusting in all these things like a shaky stool that I was standing on.” It’s gonna fall. Your peace in this world will be stripped away from you. But a Christian has true peace. They don’t have to have any fear anymore, they can rest. Peace comes from the Holy Spirit; joy and peace in believing; and you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. Do you have peace, Christian? Where does your peace come from? Does your peace come from yourself? Does your peace come from your pastor, or friends, or your church? Does your peace come from whether or not you’re surrounded by pleasant things? That’s not where peace comes from. Peace comes from Jesus Christ – He’s the Prince of peace. He can take away all your fears. It’s like being in the eye of the tornado, all the winds just rushing around you, everywhere you look is chaos and destruction; and it’s just still, and peaceful.
A Christian is the one that can go through all the trials in this life, and they’re not afraid. Their heart is at peace, stedfast, trusting in the Lord. The Christian is the one, like the child, you know, some stubborn child; you spank them, and they just smile. They don’t want to cry, they don’t want to let on that anything hurts them. The Christian is just like that. It doesn’t matter how many times they get hit, they just keep smiling. The Christian is the one that can sing in the fire, that can sing when they’re put in prison, like Paul and Silas. The Christian is the one, after they get beaten up they go home rejoicing. That’s what we want, that’s the peace that comes from God, right? That’s our birthright. That’s promised to us. We can worship the Lord and have no fear. If God is for you, who can be against you? It’s amazing, we were kinda watching this testimony today, and there’s been people that have been converted in terrible circumstances, with all kinds of enemies, and all kinds of wickedness all around them. But it’s like when God is for you, it doesn’t matter if everybody hates you.
Now think about this: Jesus brings peace, but in another place He said this: “Don’t think that I came to bring peace on the earth.” He’s the Prince of peace; and then He says, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace on the earth.” What is He saying? He is saying this: In our relationships with other people, Christ brings division – “A man’s enemies will be the members of his household. I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. I came to bring division” (Matt. 10:34-36). Sometimes when you become a Christian everybody is going to turn against you, all your friends are going to leave you, all your family is going to misunderstand you, going to slander you, going to hate you; the other people in the village are going to hate you, the other people in your work are going to hate you. That happens. But He does bring peace between man and God. He doesn’t bring peace man-to-man, He brings peace man-to-God. And if your relationship is right with God vertically, then it doesn’t matter what’s going on around you horizontally. Do you have the peace that surpasses all understanding: Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins, freedom from the devil? If you do you’ll know it, you’ll be so happy.
I mean, sometimes when you see a new Christian, it’s like they can’t hardly contain their joy. They’re just bubbling over, just so thankful, because they know that God loves them. Now a lot of people say real cheaply, “Smile, God loves you; God loves you.” And it’s cheap. But when it’s real, when you know it deep in your soul, “God loves me,” that will hold you through anything. To be loved by God.
Alright, next thing, Luke , “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.” So now, picture this: John’s dad, Zacharias, his mouth has been opened, he got his voice back; and he’s praising God, full of joy, full of the Holy Spirit. And he picks up his baby boy, picks up his son, and he says, “You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.” John was a prophet. And that’s good news, because the Old Testament said before the Savior comes, this one final messenger, this one final prophet will come and prepare the way for Him. So now, everything is coming to pass, Jesus is about to come into the world; and here is His herald, here is His messenger, here is the prophet. And this is good news, why? Because he says this, Verse 77, “To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” So he’s going to go around preaching. John was a voice. John wasn’t a lot of things, but one thing he was – he was a voice. He probably had a loud voice. He’s out in the desert preaching; he was a voice: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” And he was telling people about the knowledge of salvation and the forgiveness of their sins.
This is what you need to understand; this is the message of the Bible: You need to be saved! God made you, you sinned against God, you’re under judgment. You need to be saved. You need to be forgiven of your sins. And that was John’s job, to go around and preach to the people, and tell them, “Forgiveness of sins is available, it’s possible, it’s right around the corner. It’s coming. You can be saved!” And I’m doing the same thing tonight. I’m telling you that if you are guilty, if you are a sinner, you can be saved, you can be forgiven. You don’t have to be judged by God. You don’t have to be dirty anymore. You don’t have to be guilty anymore. Do you want to live a dirty life, a guilty life? Is that what you want? You don’t have to be that way. You can be washed totally clean! You can be whiter than snow in God’s sight. That’s the message of the Bible. Every sin forgiven, not half of them forgiven. Every sin forgiven – the worst sins forgiven. That was his job and that’s what he was doing. The forgiveness of sins.
Now listen, John wasn’t the Savior though. And I’m not the Savior. And even your best friend, the person that is witnessing to you and sharing the Gospel with you, they’re not the Savior. Who are we? We that know the Lord, that are speaking on behalf of the Lord, that are speaking from the Bible, we’re only servants, only messengers. Man cannot save you, man cannot help you. There’s no priest who can. You need God Himself. Even if you have a prophet, the prophet cannot save you. That’s why Islam is totally false. I don’t need a prophet. I mean, great, okay, somebody can tell me what God thinks. Alright I’m guilty; well, great, now I know what God thinks. I don’t need a prophet, I need a Savior!
Imagine a man has fallen into a pit, and a guy comes to the edge of the pit. And he’s down there 30 feet in the pit, and the guy is telling him, “Hey, you’re in a pit and if you don’t get out of here you’re going to die.” It’s like, “Well thanks, throw me a rope, I need out of here!” I don’t need someone to stand up on the outside and give me advice, you know, “Climb higher; try harder; try stepping on that rock over there; dig your way out.” I don’t need advice. I need someone to get down in the pit and boost me out. I need a Savior. I don’t need good advice, I need forgiveness. I know I’ve already blown it; I know I’m not worthy to go to heaven. Is there anyone that can save? Is there anyone that can take the worst sinner and forgive him, and make him totally clean? There is. But it’s not John, John was the prophet. Who do you need? Who can pay off your debts? Only God.
The prophet of whom? The prophet of the Most High. You read that? Look again, Verse 76, “You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the – who? – the Lord to prepare His ways.” Who is coming? Jesus. Who is Jesus? The Lord. “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight.” The King of glory; The King is coming. The Savior; God’s Son; He who is one with God. The Son and the Father, there’s no difference between Them. Jesus said, “Whoever sees Me sees the Father.” In Their character, in Their essence, They are the same. The First Person of the Trinity; the Second Person of the Trinity; but They’re the same. “I and the Father are one.” God became flesh. The Word, who was God, became flesh. Who is coming to save? Who is the only person that can save this world? What’s the only hope for this world? If God comes down. If God would come down and visit the earth, and become a Man, that’s the only way people are going to get any help. And that’s who He is – the Most High.
A few days after this, or I don’t know how many months or whatever, just in the next chapter; (here in Luke 1, Zacharias is picking up his son John, and he says, “You, child, will be called the prophet.”) But if you look over in chapter 2, there’s an old man, Simeon, a righteous man; and something very similar happens to him. Luke 2:25 says, “There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this was a righteous and devout man, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” And then it says this, “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.'” He picks up the baby, and he says, “Lord, my eyes have seen Your salvation. I have seen salvation.” What was he looking at? he was looking at a baby! Salvation – who is the baby? Jesus Christ. Very different from John the baptist. John the baptist was picked up – “A prophet!” Jesus was picked up – “Salvation!”
Jesus is the Savior. He is the only One. Don’t trust in people. Look, even if you have good Christians around you that are trying to pray for you, trying to be an example to you, trying to help you, they can’t save you. You need God. You need the real medicine.
I heard a story one time; it’s a true story I guess. A doctor was trying to help a sick man, a sick patient; and the man wasn’t real bright. And the doctor wrote him a prescription, “Here’s the medicine,” and he gave it to him; and the man took it home. A week later he came back, and the doctor said, “Well, how did it work for you?” The man said, “Well, I’m not any better at all.” And he said, “Well, what’s the problem? Did you take the prescription?” He said, “Yeah, I took it, and I ate that paper you gave to me.” He ate the prescription. That’s what it’s like if you trust in your friends, if you trust in some pastor; they are nobody. All they can do is point to Jesus Christ. Don’t look at me; the answer is not in me. Don’t even look at the Bible itself: there’s a way to read the Bible, and you’re actually trusting in your own knowledge, and you’re trusting in how well you know the Bible. That’s not salvation. The Bible points you to Jesus Christ. A good preacher will point you to Jesus Christ. You need Jesus Christ. You have to come to Him and meet with Him. He came down to the earth, and He can save you.
What did He do? What was the price that He paid? We said that He accomplished redemption. He paid a price to set you free, to pay off your debt. What did He do? What is the most important thing that Jesus did? Jesus said this: “The Son of Man came to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” What price did He pay? He gave His life. The most precious thing that He could give. He didn’t pay for you with silver or gold. Look, if someone said, “Can you donate some of your blood?” “Well, yeah, I suppose I could do that. How much do you want, a pint? Okay, no problem.” Jesus gave all of His blood. He poured out all of His blood until He was dead. He was giving His life. Why was He doing that? Why did He die? The Bible says this: “The soul that sins must die!” If you’ve commited even one sin, you must die. And there’s no way you can pay back that price, unless you yourself die. Are you gonna go to hell? Jesus Christ came and gave His life. He died so that you might live. He died so that you wouldn’t have to. The Law says, “The soul must die,” and Jesus said, “I’ll die. I’ll be the One that dies, let them live. Father, forgive them. Father, save them. Take My life.”
Have you trusted in Christ? What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means to believe that God’s own Son came down to this world (He who is the Lord, He who is God Himself), and He gave over His life to pay for my sins, to pay for my penalty, so that I wouldn’t be destroyed. That all the demands of the Law, all the threatenings and warnings of the Law – “You’re going to die!” – all of that He took away. He took away all the fear. He brought peace through the blood of His Cross. That’s what He did. Jesus Christ gave His life so that you don’t have to die, if you will believe in Him, if you will turn to Him.
God is preparing to make a way. That’s what He says here: “Make a way, prepare His ways for the Most High.” Most people never get prepared. They’re just wasting their time, passing their life; their life is passing them by. But the good news is, even when people don’t have a clue how to save themselves, and it’s not even a thought in their mind, God is nowhere in their thoughts, a Godless life; at the same time God is working, and He is preparing to save them. Maybe you’ve never taken one thought even about your soul, never had one consideration really of how to escape judgment and be forgiven, but God has had many thoughts about this whole thing and He has prepared it all, He has accomplished it all. The Cross happened 2,000 years ago; it’s all finished, it’s all done, it’s all prepared. Everything has been made ready. Now you must turn from your sin and you must believe; you must run to Christ and believe in Him; and you’ll be saved. The one that calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Why? Because it’s all ready, it’s all prepared. It’s free! You don’t have to pay anything to God, you don’t have to work… I mean, if it was something (we were talking about this on Sunday), if it was something difficult, wouldn’t you do it? If it was like, you really had to pray five times a day, let’s say for ten years (let’s say God had a contract: Pray five times a day for ten years, and you’ll go to heaven), wouldn’t you do it? But the Bible says, No works. “To the one who does not work, but believes…” Faith – in a moment, in an instant – a free gift to be received by faith if you’ll believe in Christ and trust in Him alone.
The last phrase, and our last verse, Luke 1:78-79, “Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” The Sunrise from on high. This is like the shining of the sun, shining into the darkness, shining on those sitting in the dark, sitting in the shadows. And the sun breaks through the clouds, and the light shines from heaven; and it shines on those that were just in complete black. And now all around them is light. That’s salvation. That’s what God can do in your life. Are you in the dark? Are you confused? Are you stumbling around? Are you lost? You don’t know the way? “I can’t see the way, I feel like I’m in the dark. I feel empty. I feel sad. I feel sorrowful.” Are you in the dark?
When someone becomes a Christian, when someone trusts in Jesus Christ, God floods light on their life. Jesus says, “I’m the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life. He’s not going to stumble in the darkness. Follow Me: I am the Light. Come to Me. Come to the Light, don’t sit in the darkness.”
Jesus is the Sunrise. Jesus is like the sun shining in the sky. It’s amazing, you guys ever think about this, the way God designed our Solar System? The sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, the earth revolves around the sun. At the center of everything – just like God, just like Jesus Christ – at the center of everything is this big ball of energy and fire and heat and light. And it’s so huge, it’s like it doesn’t run out; it just burns and burns and burns. It’s like this never-ending source of energy, almost. I mean, our physical sun is not that way, there would be an end to it. But it’s almost like that. It’s like we’ve been here thousands of years, and it’s just as hot as when we first started. It’s amazing! And everything revolves around the sun. Jesus Christ is the same way – all of life revolves around God. It’s all about God. You’re not the center of the universe. All the source of life – why do the plants grow? why does the rain fall? why does the breeze blow? why does everything happen? – it’s the power of the sun. The sun is the source. No sun, no life. They say, “No water, no life,” but it’s, “No sun, no life, too.” I mean, you’ve got to have light, you’ve got to have heat, otherwise nothing is going to move, you’ll just be in the dark.
Listen, before God created the world, what was it? Darkness. And it’s the same way, before God does a work of a new creation in a person’s heart, before they’re saved, it’s just darkness. And then one day, God speaks and says, “Let there be light.” And the light just shines in. It’s like all of a sudden there’s light, there’s life. God sees the light, He sees that it’s good; He blesses it. That’s what it’s like. I know, if you go around and ask the true Christians in this room, what are they going to tell you? They’re all going to say, “Look, I love being a Christian. It’s like every day it gets brighter and brighter. There’s more and more joy, more and more glory, more and more strength, more and more faith, more and more love; brighter and brighter, like the shining of the sun. Like the sun, it starts in the morning, and there’s starting to be light breaking into the darkness; and then a couple of hours later it’s getting even brighter; and then the full day, where there’s not a shadow around.” That’s where we are headed in the Christian life – the upward call – brighter and brighter, the light of God.
Do you want that? You say, “I’m too far gone. My life is too ruined. I’ve committed too many sins. I’m totally ignorant of the Bible, I don’t know anything.” You can be saved, because He came for the worst, and He came for the lowest. He came to shine light on who? On the ones that already had light? No. He came to give light to those who are sitting in the darkness. If you’re down in the dumps, if you’re in the darkness, if you’re in the midst of all the sin and all the sorrow and all the despair, that’s perfect opportunity to be saved, to turn to Jesus Christ. Well, Amen. Let’s pray.