Matthew 25:40, 45
On Christmas Eve we talked about the marvelous appearings of the Lord and His angels, and that we are to openly tell about what we have seen and heard.
This morning, we are going to pick up on that same theme, but this time we're going to carry it to the point of a life commitment to serve the Lord.
We're not told much about what happened to the shepherds after they went and told those gathered around the Christ Child, about the vision they had experienced.
All we are told is that they "went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them." (Luke 2:15-20)
One thing is certain: they would not forget what happened that night, and they probably told others.
And here is where the problem often begins.
What happened if others didn't believe them?
Would they continue to tell their story, or would they be afraid and stop?
If we stop telling of the wonders of being a Christian, in the true sense of the word, simply because others don't believe, there will be few wonders to talk about and fewer people to listen.
But the more the story is told, the more people there are to speak of these marvelous events and the more people who come to the Lord.
And that is exactly how this story of the shepherds got to be told to us.
But many a time we become aware of something going on around us that is not Christian, that is not being done in love.
The very fact that we become aware of it, and know that it is wrong, is the same as the Lord speaking out loud to us.
And because we know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, we also know the words to say and the action to be taken in order to challenge the wrong being done.
And because we know the words of the Lord, we are to speak out the truth, even if others don't listen, and even if they make fun of us for speaking out.
The truth of the Lord has gone forth, nevertheless.
But if we fear to speak out, the evil gets worse.
We are to do the things that are necessary, even if others don't do them and they think we're crazy.
And remember, that if we fail to speak out, if we fail to act, we are also in no position to complain about the evil around us; for part of the reason it is so strong is because we failed to speak out and act as we should in the first place.
Do you remember what Jesus said? (Matthew 25:40, 45)
That whatever we do to help someone in need, we also do it to Him.
Likewise, if we fail to meet the needs of others, we also fail to do it to Jesus.
This is what being a Christian is all about.
In Isaiah's time there was a lot of evil going on, and the Lord and His angels appeared to Isaiah and Isaiah realized that he, too, was part of the problem.
And the Lord forgave him.
Then when the Lord asked who would go for Him to tell the people all that He had to say to them, Isaiah said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Here I am, Lord. Send me!
At the time, relatively few people listened to him, but he spoke out nevertheless.
They made fun of him, but he continued to speak out.
Finally, because they couldn't keep him quiet, they killed him; but they couldn't stop his or the Lord's message, for the words were already out and in the hearts and souls of those who would carry the word forward, as it is to this very day.
Listen to part of what the Lord says to do (Isaiah 1:16-17):
16. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17. Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless;
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
This doesn't say to keep quiet.
To reprove or plead requires us to open our mouths and speak forth the truth with authority, with the authority that comes from the Lord.
And what we say will not be believed unless it is seen in our own lives.
And if we live in the love of the Lord, there should be no fear of speaking forth the truth.
No one is going to throw us into jail for speaking the truth, as they did with Paul.
As long as we speak the truth and do it in love, the law of the land, as well as the law of God, protect us.
Thus, there should be no fear.
But even from prison, Paul never stopped speaking the truth.
Listen to what Paul said before King Agrippa in the presence of Festus, about the change that took place in his life while he was engaged in persecuting the believers in Jesus Christ, and the reaction his testimony had upon the king (Acts 26:12-29):
12. "While thus engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,
13. at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.
14. "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
Paul was a strong believer.
He also had a hard and ungodly side to his character, that could kill another human being, even in the name of God.
Nevertheless, he knew that this vision was from God.
He didn't fight against it.
He sought an answer:
15. "And I said, 'Who art Thou, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
And even this, Paul didn't question.
Even though the message was against everything he had been taught to believe, because it didn't violate the words of the Bible he meditated upon it.
He didn't dismiss it.
Thus the Lord says to him,
16. 'But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;
17. delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,
18. to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
This is similar to the message given to Isaiah, isn't it?
So Paul continues,
19. "Consequently, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision,
20. but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
We don't know all that Paul said or thought during those three days while he was blind and meditating upon the words he heard and the vision he had seen.
At some moment during this time, Paul came to realize that Jesus was in fact his Messiah.
And at some point during that time he must have said, "Here I am, Lord. Send me."
Thus being sent, he spoke forth the good news, causing some to accept Jesus and bringing consternation to others; as Paul says,
21. "For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death.
22. "And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;
23. that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
Note carefully that Paul says that everything he speaks of is in accordance with the Bible.
And when the truth of God is spoken forth, it makes sinners and unbelievers uncomfortable:
24. And while Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad."
25. But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.
26. "For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.
Paul gets even more pointed in his presentation of the convicting truth of the Gospel:
27. "King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do."
28. And Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian."
Even though people try to hide from the truth, they know it's the truth nevertheless.
29. And Paul said, "I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."
And this is where each of us comes in.
Isaiah, Paul, and others, and the Holy Spirit have left us an inheritance in the books and letters of the Bible; and in these writings is the truth to be spoken forth, that others may inherit it, too.
Jesus says, "I stand at the door and knock." (Revelation 3:20-21)
When someone knocks at our door, isn't it a signal for us to open the door?
Likewise, when someone knocks, isn't it because they have a reason?
Jesus' reason is that we would become one with Him in love and peace.
He is calling to us to serve in the ministry with Him, even so far as to dine with Him and to sit with Him on His throne.
And all we have to do is truly believe and desire to be with the Lord forever and ever.
All the time I hear from Christians, who are carrying the burden of peace with them, who say they feel the unction of the Holy Spirit telling them to make a stand against violence, war, capital punishment, abortion, and the horrible way wild and farmed animals are treated.
They know the truth, but they feel they are only one person and thus powerless.
But like Isaiah and Paul they are not. They can and should do something.
It is then that we should say, "Here I am, Lord. Send me."
And then go forth spreading the Gospel of Peace.
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