Today is the beginning of the four week season of Advent. People respond to the season in different ways. Some are enthused, some depressed, some become active, others cheerful.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas we are going to look at the different ways people in the Bible responded to the birth of Jesus.
Herod . . . . responded with hostility
Shepherds . . . responded with Worship
Wise Men . . . responded by giving gifts
Angels . . . . . responded with songs
Christmas Eve Eve . . . the most appropriate response of all
This morning we focus on King Herod. He ruled as governor of Galilee from 47-37 BC then promoted to rule as king over all Palestine from 37 to 4 BC. He was famous for building cities, fortresses, and for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. He was also known for being a little crazy.
Herod saw that first Christmas as a time for getting angry. He responded with hostility. It would be tempting to think that this was an isolated instance but I hope to show you that this kind of attitude is much more prevalent than you might think. Perhaps you will detect some of this hostility and resistance in your own life.
People Respond with Hostility Because Jesus Demands the Position We want for Ourselves
This is not a new Phenomena. Check out these examples
-Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:5) were tempted to “be as God”
-Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12) wanted to ascend to the level of God
-Nebuchadnezzar (Dan.4:30-32) was sent to live as an animal because he exalted himself rather than God.
-The “Man of Lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:4) will set himself up as God at the end times.
These are illustrations of those in the Bible who sought to have the position reserved only for the Lord. The same thing is going on today. The difference is that this process is much more subtle. Here are three ways people try to “overthrow” God today.
- Overthrow God’s Truth
The idea is simple: If what God says is meaningless…..then He is meaningless. We see this happening when we hear people tell us that “truth is relative”, or “there are no absolutes”. Translated this means: “God doesn’t have a right to govern my behavior. I am free to do so on my own.” We are living at a time when an increasing number of people are trying to affirm that there is no room for value judgement. . . we must just “do what is right in our own eyes”. This is exactly the sin that was taking place in the day of the Judges.
- Overthrow God’s Influence
The goal Here is also simple…..Make God irrelevant to daily life. If God has no practical meaning then we do not have to be concerned with Him.
-In Government. The phrase we hear most often is the importance of maintaining the separation of church and state. Yet, those words are not found in our constitution. Have you read the 1st Amendment? You can now:
Amendment 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Dr. D. James Kennedy, in his book CHARACTER AND DESTINY points out that most people interpret this amendment to protect the state from religious involvement. In fact, (read it again) it is the other way around. The amendment recognized the corrupting nature of power and wanted to protect the free exercise of religion.
If you applied the other parts of the amendment the way the courts are seeking to do with religion it would mean a newspaper reporter could not say anything about the government, people could not sue the government, you could not protest government action. After all, you have to maintain the separation of press and state!
The law that was written to keep the government from restricting the exercise of our faith has become the very law used to restrict our faith!
-His influence in the schools
Dr. Paul Blanchard who wrote a book on the separation of church ad state said,
“Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is sixteen tends to lead toward the elimination of religious superstition. The average American child now acquires a high-school education, and this militates against Adam and Eve and all other myths of alleged history.” (Quoted in Character and Destiny p. 57)
The government has told us that a teacher cannot place a Bible on their desk, schools cannot allow prayer unless it is student initiated, you cannot teach Creation as science but you can and must teach the theory of Evolution. The government even seeks to control what teachers are taught.
The goal seems to be to leave no room for God
- Overthrow God’s Uniqueness
Simple premise: God is not a threat if He is like everyone else.
We are hearing increasingly that “we are all climbing the same mountain.” “Every religion is valid”. You have to choose the faith that is right for you. The problem is that these faiths teach contradictory truths. They both can’t be right!
Just a week ago Cardinal Bernadin from Chicago was buried with an extravagant service. What troubled me was the part of the service where the Moslem monks chanted! This is a case of mixing religions. When you mix faiths you dilute them both. When you dilute Christianity you rob it of its power.
We see this in the approach to school “Christmas Programs”. You can mention Jesus in a Christmas program only if you make it a multi-cultural experience and include other religions as well. It is the best program of all if you keep the focus on the secular aspects of Christmas and leave Jesus out of the whole thing. But, I ask, doesn’t it cease to be a “Christmas” program when Christ is not on center stage?
People React with Hostility toward Christ because He reveals their sinfulness
Jesus made a tactical mistake when he came to earth (I’m smiling at such an absurd notion). He would have done better to tell us to do our best . . . He’s proud of us ….. He’s grateful for the progress we’re making. However, He came and told us that God has a standard we must uphold. How dare He imply that we are not living correctly.
In John 3:19….. Jesus says men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil
In John 7:7 Jesus tells us that He is persecuted by the world because: “I testify that what it does is evil”
It’s like a child that lives in a dirty environment. They don’t know they are living in dirt until they get into the light with people who are not dirty. We are more than content to measure ourselves by those who are like us. The problem comes when one who is superior, like Christ, comes into our world. The contrast makes us shrink with shame.
The biologist, Sir Julian Huxley, was once asked on a British television show why the theory of evolution was so readily accepted by the scientific community. “I suppose the reason we leaped at The Origin of the Species,” the scholar replied, “was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.” (Kennedy p. 46 CHARACTER and DESTINY)
If laws prevent thieves from stealing, then thieves will want to get rid of the laws or to ignore them. And if the Bible declares that “the wages of sin is death,” then the sinner wants to declare the Bible false, or at least make himself believe that it does not apply to himself.” (p 45)
It’s sad but true
We prefer denial than the truth. We would rather spend our time with those less than us than admit that we are not what we think we are.
If we see a lack in ourselves we would have to admit a weakness. This is not “cool”. Our world urges us to be omni-competent. Weakness stinks.
Admitting a need means we need a Savior. If we need a Savior then we are not self-sufficient. If we are not self-sufficient then we are dependent. We don’t want to be dependent.
So, we can either confess, submit and be saved or we can seek to silence Christ. We can let the light show us where we need to change or we can try to turn out the light. Herod choose the later course. Many in our day do as well.
Key Choices This Christmas
- We can spurn Him or listen to Him
- Can Fight Him or submit to Him
- Rationalize our Sin/Justify Ourselves or Repent
- We can Undermine the Celebration or Join the Celebration
- You can gripe and complain..You can get caught up in the superficial. You can do nothing as others “trash” His day
- Or you can turn the spotlight on Jesus every chance you get. You can make Christ the beacon of your home, the center of your gift giving, the motivation for your joy. One things for sure, if we don’t turn the spotlight on Christ . . . . no one else will.