Letting the Good News Impact You

Steve Viars December 24, 2010 Luke 2:8-20

 

- The day after tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters in modern history…

- On December 26th, 2004…the third largest earthquake ever to be recorded by a seismograph occurred in the Indian Ocean…

- it also had the longest duration ever recorded….lasting nearly 10 minutes…

- it literally caused the entire planet to vibrate, triggering other smaller earthquakes in places as far away as Alaska…

- as is sometimes the case, the earthquake produced a tsunami…which in layman’s terms is like a massive tidal wave that can result in massive devastation when it hits the coast…

 

- Tsunamis are very hard to predict for a variety of reasons including the fact that they don’t follow a universal pattern…

- sometimes an earthquake begins the process but not always…

- many times there is an earthquake but no resultant tidal wave…even a scientist would say that it’s not an exact science…

 

- however, many of us learned this six years ago if we didn’t know it before…frequently what precedes a tsunami is the tide receding much further than normal…in other words…you have a whole lot more beach…

- that’s exactly what happened on December 26th…in some places, the water receded as far back as 1.6 miles…people were being sent a message…the only question now was, were they going to listen?...

 

- the results were devastating…many people actually ran out onto the sand and began gathering sea shells and stranded fish…while an unprecedented wall of water was heading their direction…

 

- there were a number of delightful stories though of people let the warning impact them properly…

- there was a 10 year old British tourist named Tillie Smith…

- she had studied tsunamis in geography class at school and she recognized immediately what was happening…

- she and her parents began running up and down the beach warning people of what was happening and many lives were saved as a result of this little girl heeding the warning and doing something about it…

- Then there was John Croston---a biology teacher from Scotland---he too recognized the signs and encouraged an entire busload of vacationers and locals to seek higher ground and they were saved as a result…

- one story I loved the most occurred on the Indonesian island of Simeulue – which was very close to the epicenter of this event…

- the folklore on the island included a retelling of another tsunami in 1907 – nearly 100 years before…

- the islanders looked at the signs…remembered what they had been told even though it was 100 years old, and evacuated to higher ground…

- there was another group of people nearly 2000 years ago who also were given a warning…an announcement…incredibly important news…

- and they had to decide how to respond…

 

- and just like Tillie Smith, and John Croston, and the islanders of Similelue…they got it right…

 

- and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about this evening…Letting the Good News Impact You…

 

- Doc Smith read part of our passage…I’ll re-read a section and then take the story to the next step…

- read Luke 2:1-20 (or 8-20, depending on time)…

 

- we’re talking tonight about Letting the Good News Impact You…

- with the few moments we have together, please think with me about three3 keys to responding well to the gospel.

 

I. Understand that the Good News of Jesus Christ is Available to All People.

- the Lord is trying to get our attention tonight, and every time this part of the story is told, when He chose to announce the birth of His Son to a group of shepherds…

A. The significance of the shepherds.

- Luke 2:8 – In the same region there were some shepherds staying out n the fields…

 

- that would have stunned the people of this culture…but then many of the details surrounding Christ’s birth were the polar opposite of what we would have expected…

- but shepherds?...

- you couldn’t get any more common than that…

- many people looked down on shepherds because they were perpetually unclean according to the rabbis because of their occupation…

- their testimony was not allowed in court because so many of them were liars and thieves…

- if you were bringing your fiancé home to meet your parents – you wouldn’t want to say – he’s shepherd…

 

- but on purpose, God chose this particular group of people to announce the birth of His Son…

- part of all of this is…

B. The beauty of the contrast.

- Luke 2:8-9 - …keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…

- can you imagine them on that dark hillside…when all of sudden the glory of the Lord appears?...

- we don’t know with certainty the spiritual condition of these men, but based on their reaction, it is highly likely that they knew what the Old Testament prophesied about the coming Messiah…

- and this nation had not had any visible demonstration of the glory of God since it departed from the temple because of the sinfulness of the people…

- and now the glory of the Lord appears to them in the middle of the night…

- no wonder they were – as the KJV used to say it – “sure afraid…”

- by time this part of the story is over, the Scripture says that…Luke 2:13-14 - And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

- think of it – a multitude of angels…

- you say – how many is that?...a lot…(that’s in the original Greek…like, a lot)

- but can you picture the contrast…these common shepherds in the middle of the night being visited by a multitude of angels revealing the glory of God…

- something big is happening…like 1.6 miles of beach has suddenly appeared where the ocean had just been…

- why all the fuss?...it’s because of…

C. The centrality of the message.

- Luke 2:11 - for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

- every aspect of that news is important…

- this one who has been born is the Savior…you wonder what passage or concept from the Scripture came to their minds first…

- that’s one of the beauties of the Word of God.. the way it all fits together…

- even the smallest of Jewish children were taught that sin demands a sacrifice…

- Isaac said to his father Abraham as they were walking up the mountain – father, we have the wood, and the fire…but where is…the lamb?...

- maybe they thought of Isaiah’s incredible prophecy…

- Isaiah 53:6-7 - All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.

 

- but He wasn’t only the Savior – He was the Messiah, and the King…

- this child was the fulfillment of the OT promises, and He was capable of being their king…the One on charge of their lives…

 

 

- and what must have especially impacted the shepherds was when the angel said…Luke 2:10 - But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

 

- the notion of someone being able to pay for your sin and then taking charge of your life – that message is available for all the people…even…shepherds…

 

- but here’s the important point…

II. The Message is not Just Something to Hear, It is Something to Act Upon.

- and the good news is, that’s exactly what the shepherds did…

- Luke 2:15-16 - When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

- these shepherds were like Tillie Smith, and John Croston, and the islanders of Similelue…they didn’t just receive the message/or memorize it, or tip their hat to it..

- they acted on it…they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph…

 

- friend, do you know one of the great tragedies of Christmas --- a lot of people confuse having heard the message…with having acted on the message…

- people tell me all the time…well, I believe in Jesus…

- but what they frequently mean is – I know the story…I could recite the facts…

- my response is often something like this (if I have some kind of relationship with the person so I can say something shocking without offending them)…

- congratulations…now you’ve reached the spiritual status of the devil…

- and if you know your Bible, you know what verse I’m alluding to…

- James 2:19 - You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

 

- see, there’s a difference between knowing facts, and truly embracing a message in such a way that you are staking your life and eternal destiny upon it…[cf. the difference between believing in communism, and believing in communism…]

 

- now, you might say – why would someone be familiar with the Christmas story – but never really act upon it?...

- that is a very important question…and I can think of at least 2 answers…

- either they don’t believe they need to, or they don’t believe they can…

- let’s take them in reverse order…

 

- I wonder how many people will come to these services tonight believing in their heart that they are too far gone...

- I was born in a dysfunctional family…

- I’ve made all sorts of wrong choices…

- I could never get my life on track…

- you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…

- Christianity is only for the beautiful people…blah, blah, blah…

 

- are you listening to the message?...on purpose, this was proclaimed to the shepherds…

- this is good news…of great joy…for all the people…

 

- and friend – if you think you are beyond the ability of God’s grace – it’s obvious that He has a different message for you tonight – you just have to decide if you are going to act upon it…

- Christian friend – are you still amazed tonight that God is willing to save shepherds…and people like you and me?...

 

- what about the other reason?...it is incredible how pervasive this is in a community like ours…

- a Savior – why would I need a Savior?...I’ve got…me…

- the average person in our culture believes that everyone is going to heaven, or that they can earn their own way…

 

- if that’s possible – then why did we have to have Christmas?...and why do we need a Savior?...

 

- friend – one of the greatest disservices I could do tonight is give anyone the impression that everyone goes to heaven…

- God has made it possible to go…but you have to decide if you are going to act on the message (to repent, and believe)…

- (cf, a church member who was recently at a funeral – the pastor said that God has made it possible for all of us to spend eternity in heaven, and left it there, as if no decision has to be made…

- that would be as callous as allowing people to stay on the beach when the pending tsunami was approaching…

- here it is as clearly as I know how to say it – you need to decide…now…what you’re going to do with this message before it’s too late…

 

- now, where does this ultimately lead?...

 

III. Accepting the Good News will Change the Way You Live Today, and Every Day.

- Luke 2:20 - The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

 

- that’s the other tragedy of Christmas…the number of people who say they have heard the message, and have accepted but the message…

- but it has certainly not made any demonstrable change in the way they live every day…

 

- whatever that is – it’s not biblical Christianity…

 

- 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

 

- the gospel message was intended to impact you every day…

 

- the way you order your private world…

- the way you communicate …

- the way you relate to your spouse…

- the way you raise your children…

- the way you work…

- the way you spend your time…your money…

- your values, your goals, your dreams…

 

- so here’s the question tonight --- Have you let the good news of Christmas impact you?...

 

- are you like the people who saw the sign of the tsunami, but who walked out in the sand and collected sea shells?

- or are you like Tillie Smith, and John Croston, and the islanders of Similelue…

- you heard the message, and you responded well…

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987.  He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and they have three children. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church.  He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of Vision of Hope and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video