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Watch 2022 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Birth of A King

Andy Stanley - Birth of A King


Andy Stanley - Birth of A King
TOPICS: The Day After Christmas, Christmas

Most of us have some Christmas traditions that we either haven't thought about yet, but we're about to or we're already gearing up to. Certain foods, certain people make that special dish. You know, we have a couple of those. Christmas traditions around who shows up when and where do we do this? And how do we do this? And you know, the travel and just those things that have become traditions. And then as time changes, some of those things kind of get interrupted, but we just, you know, you love the Christmas traditions. I know we do. So one of Sandra's brilliant Christmas traditions that she started when our kids were super young, was on Christmas Eve, we had pajama night and the point of pajama night was they would open their pajamas that she wanted them to wear the next day. It was kind of a trick. And they're like, "Oh, we love these". "Well why don't you put 'em on? Why don't you sleep in em? And then we'll take pictures in 'em tomorrow". They never knew what was happening. But then we kept doing it.

And this is kind of embarrassing. And there won't be any pictures. We still do pajama night like we all get pajamas. And we do not take pictures the next morning in our pajamas. The other one that our kids actually started is that the week before Christmas, we have three children, two boys, and our youngest, Allie, and the kids would sneak into one another's rooms and take things and wrap them and put them under the tree. Do your kids do this? It's like, "Oh my goodness. I have one of this, fact, it is the one I have". Anyway, so then the boys one year, took this to a whole new level. So this is a picture of Allie opening her portrait that's been hanging in the dining room for 10 years and she opened it, she's like, "I've seen that before for 10 years".

Anyway, so you have your own Christmas traditions. Those are a couple that you can steal. Just wait a few, maybe a couple of years and you get to claim them as your own. And then I don't know if you... You don't have to raise your hand or admit this. This is a little bit dark. But do you have any day after? Like the day after Christmas traditions? We had one for a long time and some of you do this and as I just will admit, I never got this, but for years the women, the girls, you know, as we would gather for Christmas, the day after Christmas, they would go to the mall. I know. I'm like, "Why are we"? Anyway, and so, and it was kind of, they were together and they'd have coffee and they would return gifts, right, and exchange gifts, you know, which I get that. And then online shopping came along and took all the fun out of that.

So now here's what we do, we just gather around the day after Christmas and we print return labels. It's so much fun and go look for original packaging. And I go out in the garage and take all those flat boxes and put 'em back together and put tape on 'em. And then we exchange everything. Anyway, and then kind of the darker, darker side, since I'm being a little bit transparent, is Sandra and I, for those of you who are into Enneagram, we're both Enneagram ones. So we're super organized. It looks like no one actually lives in our home. And so not exactly, but anyway... So we love Christmas. I mean, we so love Christmas and we start early. In fact, every year, it seems like we start a little bit earlier and earlier, and I'm all for that, we love Christmas. But when it's over, it's over.

And I hate to even bring that up 'cause we're just getting started. But you know, so the day after Christmas, we're ready to get back to normal. And I just, I will ask you to raise your hand, anybody here, you feel like on the day after Christmas, it is time to take down the tree and just, let's just get the house, yeah. A few... Yeah. Godly people like us. I know it's like you just... 'Cause it's kinda you know, and again, it's a little bit dark, but we... Now others of you, I know it's like go to January, first twelve days of Christmas, all that sort of stuff. So it's all, you know, everybody has their thing. There's no right or wrong, but that's kind of our thing. We are just so ready to get back to normal. And that brings us to what we're gonna talk about for the next few weeks. Because on the day after the first Christmas, the entire world was ready to get back to normal because in an effort to sort of systematize and modernize and kind of get an up-to-date idea of who should be paying taxes and how much taxes they should be paying.

As you know, Caesar Augustus had decreed that the entire Roman world, we have no idea how they pulled this off. I mean, it's difficult now to do a census with modern technology. Imagine doing a census, you know, in the first century. He had issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was to find out who's still alive. How many people should be taxed and what should our tax base be? And the way this worked is that everybody had to go to their hometown, where they were actually born to register, to let the Roman empire know, "Yep, I'm still around, and yes, I should be paying taxes. And here's what I'm doing. And here's where I live".

So if you lived in the town you were born in, this wasn't a big deal. But if you had moved or even some of your family had moved, you had to get up and you had to travel to your place of birth and you had to register in your place of birth. And this was all about, you know, raising more taxes, which of course this journey to, you know, where people were born is what set the stage for the very first Christmas. But in those days, and this is really important, for the next couple of weeks. In those days, there was no Christmas. There was just, honestly, there was just chaos, because travel was expensive and travel was dangerous and people were ready to get home and to get back to normal. But unbeknownst to them, things would never be normal again, because in the chaos of the census, a child was born. A child whose birth would have geopolitical implications, not for a generation, but for generations. And yet it was like, in some ways it was like a page out of Greek mythology. It was like something that only a storyteller could fabricate because with the birth of this child, the divine had come to earth. The divine had become flesh and had made its dwelling, his dwelling among us.

And here's the interesting thing. And this is what history has born out. That every single person, every single person whose lives intersected with this child, from the time of his birth to the time of his execution, every single person whose lives intersected with his life would become a footnote in his story. Peasants, governors, Kings and even Caesar because unbeknownst to everyone, except for a very small group of people, on that night, a king had been secreted into the world. Not a religious figure. That's where we go wrong. A king. A king who would disturb and reverse the order of things. A king who would lay down his life for his subjects instead of requiring that his subjects lay down their lives for him. A king that would then say to his subject, you are to lay down your lives for one another. And if needs be, you are to lay down your lives and your rights, even for your enemies. And he would turn everything upside down and he would do so not as a religious figure, not simply as the savior, but as a king. And the kingship or the lordship or the right to ruleship of Jesus is often lost on us.

And it's lost on us because of what culture has done to Jesus. But unfortunately, it's lost on many of us because of what the church has done to Jesus. That for many of us, and maybe this is your experience, that Jesus has been reduced to, you know, call a friend, you're in trouble, call a friend. I've got an emergency, call a friend. Jesus has been reduced to kind of a backup plan, a conscience reliever. How do I get rid of this guilt and this shame, or even a comforter, a spare tire. But while Jesus' right to rule your life and right to rule my life and right to rule as a king was lost on us, it was not lost on Mary. And it certainly was not lost on Joseph because when the angel appeared to Mary, to describe to her the nature of this child that she was about to have, it was none of some of that, but it was certainly more than all of that. Listen to what the angel said, how do we miss this? "But the angel said to her," said to Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God and you will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus," which is the English version of a Latin name that came from a Greek name, that came from a Hebrew name, Yeshua, which means Joshua or leader. In some cases, warrior.

The angel goes on to say this. And he, the son that you're gonna have, "He will be great. And he will be called the Son of the Most High". This was royal language. This was a royal title. He would be the son of the Supreme King. And if there was any doubt about his royalty, listen to this, "The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David". Israel's second king. "And he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever". That Mary was giving birth to a king, a ruler, a command giver, a law-giver, a judge, no mere forgiver of sins. Certainly not a mere point of reference. A king. And what the angel says next, what the angel says next is what you see roll out and play out throughout the gospels and throughout the book of Acts and actually throughout human history. The angel concludes with this, "And his kingdom," the kingdom of your son, "And his kingdom will never end". The Greek text, it's a little bit more stilted, but I feel like it's a little more powerful. The Greek text literally reads like this, "And of his kingdom, there shall not be an end". That your son will always be a king. He will always have a kingdom, which means Jesus is still a king.

And the question that I have to wrestle with every day, and this is kind of the, you know, the framework or the template through which I read the New Testament and the question that any of us who call ourselves Christians, should wrestle with every single day. And I mean, every single day, when we rise in the morning, as we decide what our lives are gonna look like and the decisions we're about to make and how we're about to spend our time and our money and how we're gonna prioritize. The question that we should wrestle with every single day that we should at least answer honestly to ourselves and decide, maybe especially this time of year, is this question, "Is Jesus my king," or have I followed the path of culture? Have I followed the path of maybe the tradition of the church I was raised in? And have I reduced Jesus to a conscience reliever? Have I reduced Jesus to someone I call on just in case of emergencies? Have I reduced Jesus to an icon? A cross around my neck? A tattoo on my ankle? Have I reduced him to a last resort?

And the unsettling thing about Jesus and the unusual thing about the fact that he is a king is this, that he is the king, who allows us, to decide. He is the king who invites. He rarely intrudes. But here is the gotcha, when you choose or when I choose not to follow the king, you choose. And I choose not to participate in his kingdom on earth as it is reflected in heaven. That regardless of what I believe, and regardless of what I think about the fact that he's forgiven me of my sin, when I choose not to submit to the king, I choose on that day, not to participate in his kingdom in this world, which means when I opt out, I miss out. And when you opt out, you miss out as well. And you know what happens when we do that? Faith is reduced to doctrine. Our faith is reduced to religion.

You'll be a Christian in the modern sense of the word. You will not be a Christian in the original sense of the word. Heaven will not meet earth like a sloppy wet kiss. Because those two realms will never over lap. You will say your prayers to an invisible God, you will ask for forgiveness to an invisible God, you'll live your life. You'll live your life even with the assurance that somehow you've been forgiven, but you will miss out. And I will miss out, on what comes only to those who choose to participate in his kingdom and to submit to his rulership, his lordship, his kingship. So on that first Christmas, in the midst of all the chaos, which was actually a diversion, a distraction, a distraction from the main event, a king had been secreted into the world. And it was a perfectly executed plan, perfectly executed. And if not for this sincere, but somewhat confused magi, Mary and Joseph's secret would have remained a secret, probably, for the next 30 years.

Here's what happened. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the time of King Herod". We gotta pause here, this is Herod the great, you don't know much about Herod, unless you studied first century history. But Herod the Great really was great. He rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. He was an extraordinary architect. He was an extraordinary military strategist. He was an extraordinary general. He was brilliant and he was ruthless and he was absolutely committed to preserving his legacy and preserving his legacy and his dynasty through his children. In fact, his plan was that one day his children would also be kings. The story continues. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east, came to Jerusalem". These were probably best that we can tell, court advisors from different kingdoms, probably from either Persia or Arabia, or perhaps even both. These men studied ancient texts and they studied the sky and they studied the movement of stars and they studied the movement of planets looking for divine messages.

Now, unlike the song that we sing, they were not kings. That was a third century thing that, you know, popped up in the third century that somebody just fabricated third century legend. We don't know how many of them there are. We celebrate the fact that there were three, because there were three gifts, but there could have been 30, we don't know. And we don't know their names, and this is really gonna burst your bubble. So you'll wanna come back for part two. they were not following a star, which explains why they showed up in the wrong town. So they travel for hundreds of miles and they show up in Jerusalem. And when they get to Jerusalem, nobody seems to be talking about or concerned about the fact that there was the birth of a king. And so the text says they get to Jerusalem. And they asked, that is they ask around and eventually they make their way to the temple. And here's the question that they begin to ask "Where"? Where? "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews"? It was not lost on them that somehow, something extraordinary had happened. A king had been secreted into the world. A king had been born and it was a Jewish king.

So of course, where do they go? They went to Jerusalem. They're saying, "Hey, where is this king that was born because we saw", this is how we know they didn't follow the star, "We saw his star when it rose and we've come to worship him". We saw the star, a brand new star, and we knew this star signals the birth of a king. We believe it was a Jewish king. So they came to the logical place, Jerusalem. And they began asking around and nobody knows what they're talking about. But, word spread quickly. And, "When king Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all of Jerusalem with him". Why? Well, we shouldn't be surprised. I mean, the birth of a rabbi, hey, lots of rabbis. The birth of a teacher, lots of teachers. The birth of a religious figure. Oh, they come and they go. The birth of a prophet, there've been so many prophets. But the birth of a king? The birth of a king signaled a regime change. The birth of a king could signal an insurrection. The birth of a king often led to civil unrest or even civil war. And for Herod, the birth of a king threatened his dynasty. It threatened his legacy.

And if you know anything about King Herod, he was not one to sit idly by just to see how things worked out so he could respond. In fact, he maintained power for over 40 years because he was proactive, because he didn't just react and he was ruthless. And so he did, what he'd always done. But what he does next, tips us off to something about Jesus that most of us, unfortunately, miss. Here's what he did. When Herod who was so disturbed about this. I mean a king. I mean, this is a threat. "When he had called together all the people's chief priests and the teachers of the law. He asked them where," this is huge, all right? "He asked them where," they're looking for a king. A king has been born. The king has been born, the king of the Jews. He asked them where the Messiah was to be born. So he gets all the religious people, all the smart people, the priests together and he says, "Okay, you've heard the rumor. I've heard the rumor that a king has been born. And not only is it a rumor, the stars in the sky have proclaimed that something significant has happened. And it could only be one thing. So tell me, all you smart bookish people," he said to them, "Where is the Messiah prophesied to be born"?

Now, why did he insert the term Messiah? They were just asking about a king. Because Messiah is the title and was the title for God's final king. Messiah is Hebrew for the phrase or the idea of, anointed one or the anointed one. The Greek equivalent that shows up in our Greek New Testament is the word Christ. This is very important. Christ is not a name. Christ is not a nickname. Christ isn't just a descriptor. The term Christ is a title. It's the title for God's final king. In fact, the Greek text looks like this. Here's what the Greek text actually looks like. He inquired of them, he inquired from them where the Christus, the Christ would be born, not a Christ, the Christ. Where will the Christ be born? Because as they gathered around his table in his court, he was saying, "Apparently the Christ, the Messiah, the king, the final king, the anointed one of God, has finally touched down on planet earth. It's been prophesied. You smart people. You tell me where it was prophesied that this was going to happen". A king. This is amazing. A king had been born. But unlike us, they did not know his name.

Now, here's why that's important. Unfortunately, and this is nobody's fault. It's just the way life is. Unfortunately, we have allowed, we've allowed the person to define the term. Here's what I mean by that. If somebody talks about Christ or Christ, you go, "Oh, I know who that is. That's Jesus". And when you say, "Christ", and when you hear the word Christ, you think Jesus, when you hear the word, Jesus, you think Christ. Christ Jesus, our Lord, Jesus Christ, right? I mean, it's almost like we've reduced Christ to a last name. We've allowed the person to define the term rather than allowing the term Christ to define the person. Because Christ is Jesus' title. It means Jesus, God's anointed one. Jesus, King. A king had been born, but not just any king, the king. Anointed, not by another king, anointed, not by a prophet or a priest. A king anointed and appointed by God, the Father, the creator of all things. Appointed by God to establish, as we read the gospels, and as we read the book of Acts, a kingdom that was not of this world, but it was for this world. A kingdom, not of this world, but it was in this world. A kingdom, an upside down kingdom that would be characterized as an others first kingdom.

And Herod suspected it. And he was right to be threatened by it because he knew what we miss. When a king is born, when a king is born, people, must choose. When a king is born, people must choose. Years and years ago, I ran across this tiny little book. It's really almost like a pamphlet, written by CS Lewis from some radio talk that he did. It's called, "The Case for Christianity". It's very difficult to find it. It's a bit like "Mere Christianity," but it was radio talks, so they reduced 'em to this very, very short book. And when I got to the end of this very, very short book, what I read had an extraordinary impact on me personally, because CS Lewis in his creative way goes to the impetus and goes to the focal point of what we've said. It really takes us right to the Christmas story and the idea of the authority of Jesus. And it's challenged me so much.

I don't know how many times I've read this, but it continues to even be emotional for me because I'm like you. It's easy for me, regardless of, even in spite of the fact that this is what I do, to reduce Jesus to something less than the king. To reduce him to less than something that he came to be. That is so clear that once you hear a message like this, when you begin to read the New Testament, it is everywhere. Every single time a person says Jesus Christ, whether in reverence or without any reverence, they are proclaiming Jesus King, Jesus King, King Jesus. And when a king is born and when a king shows up, people have to choose. Here's what he writes. He says, "I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when he does". Because this is, what we want is this. We want God to fix that, fix that, fix her. No, I don't wanna get any on me. None of this. No, no. Don't mess with me. I want you to fix her. I want you to fix him. I want you to fix that. And he asked a magnificent question. Do you realize that God is not gonna come in an aerosol form? The God's not gonna show up in a little bitty space and time and do something little.

He says, I wonder if people who've actually read the New Testament understand that when God shows up, what it's really gonna be like. He says "When that happens, it is the end of the world". "When that happens it's gonna be the end of the world. When the author walks on the stage, the play is over". He says, don't worry. "God is going to invade all right. But what is the good of saying you are on his side then"? What is the good of saying we're on his side then? He says, what is the good of saying, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm for you. I've always recognized you as my king". When you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream. And something else. "And something else, something it never entered your head to conceive, comes crashing in, something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others, that none, that none of us will have any choice left"? I love this next line. "For this time, unlike the first time..." "For this time, it will be God without disguise".

Not a baby in a manger, not a teacher on a hillside, not someone who stops and bends down and cares for the weak and the suffering. Not one who seemed to be easily intimidated and avoided certain situations while moving into others and confusing people. None of that, he says, this is no longer a man who can be bound and flogged and crucified. Next time he shows up as king, it will be without disguise. Something he says, "So overwhelming, that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature". Why? Because in that moment, those who didn't choose to follow will wish they had. And he says this, "It will be too late then to choose your side. Because there is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing. It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not". When a king comes, you have to choose. When a king is born, you have to choose.

So here's what CS Lewis says at the end. He says, "Now". "Now, today is the moment". "Now, today, this moment is our chance to choose". And then reaching into something Peter wrote in one of his letters, he says this, "God is actually holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it". On Christmas, a king was born. The question is, every single day. The question is for those of us who believe, "Is he my king"? Is he your king? have you submitted to the king? Have you accepted his invitation? Don't miss this. Have you accepted his invitation not simply to believe, but to follow? Herod believed. In fact, when Herod had called together all the people's chief priests and the teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah, this God's final king, would be born. And they said to him, well, in Bethlehem, everybody knows this. "In Bethlehem, in Judea, they replied". That's about six miles from here. We're so close. "Then Herod," you know the story. "Then Herod called the Magi secretly, just, you know, just however many there were of them. And he found out from them the exact time the star had appeared".

Why the exact time? Because he wanted to know the age of the infant king. And once he discovered the age of the infant king, he would act accordingly. Because unlike some of us, he believed a king had been secreted into the world. But one thing was for certain, he was not about to bow his knee to another king. He would not surrender his will. He certainly wouldn't surrender his legacy. He would have his way. So he sent them to Bethlehem to discover the location of the birth of a child king, whose kingdom it would turn out would not be of this world, but it would be for this world because in this king, heaven met earth in a way that only storytellers could imagine. That God became one of us to dwell among us. Not simply so we could know we could go to heaven when we die, so that we could experience in this life, and on behalf of other people, the kingdom values of God, the upside down kingdom of God, where God cares about the people. And God cares about those over whom he rains and over whom he is sovereign. To come into a system, infused and informed by the kingdom values of this world, where might makes right. Where those with the gold makes the rules, where if you have the power and the resources, you leverage and I leverage my power and resources for my own benefit so I have more power and more resources.

And into that world, was born a king, who came to reverse all of that. And the invitation, a few years later was extended and is extended today, "Will you follow me? Will you surrender to me? Will you acknowledge me as more than a sin forgiver? More than a conscience cleanser? More than a good luck charm? More than a last resort? More than a call of friend. And would you acknowledge me as your king", and if you do, you will be invited to participate. Not simply believe in, to participate in the kingdom of God and wherever people have taken that invitation seriously, that portion of the world becomes a better, safer place because the kingdom values of our king are lived out in such a way that people see themselves through the lens of their heavenly father and their king who came to die for them. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a king. The question for me, tomorrow morning when I wake up, and start my day, tomorrow when you wake up and start your day, if you're a Christian, is, "Is he your king"?
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