Sunday, December 14, 2014

The First Witnesses

(Luke 2:8-17 NIV) “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. {9} An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. {10} But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. {11} Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. {12} This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." {13} Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, {14} "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." {15} When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." {16} So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. {17} When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."

On the night Jesus was born, God sent an angel to some shepherds with a message: “A Savior has been born to you.”

Shepherds were the transient, minimum wage workers of their day. They were considered “unclean” by the religious elite. They were the "rabble" and unwelcome in the best of church circles. But, God came to them first with the good news of Christ’s birth. In fact, the angel told them that the reason God came to earth was for them. And so these despised shepherds became his first witnesses. We can take some lessons from this.  

First, we can believe God. The shepherds believed God. They responded to God’s invitation. In a display of faith the shepherds decided to “go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15) 

They were just following in the faith footsteps of their ancestor Abraham.

(Hebrews 11:8 NIV)  "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."

Abraham was called to go and he went. He believed God. So did the shepherds. They believed. They went. That’s biblical faith. That is "believing" God. When the bible speaks of believing, it means a belief that is big enough to change the direction of our life and produce actions of faith.

Just “believing in God” is not what the bible considers faith. The devil believes in God. But “believing God” changes the direction of our life.   

Second, the shepherds made a move to find Jesus. We should too. They believed God had come to them and so they went to him. We should too. The bible teaches we are “saved by grace through faith”. God came to the shepherds. That’s grace. They went to him. That’s faith. Jesus came for us. That’s grace. When we come to him… that’s faith. 

Third, the shepherds didn’t procrastinate. Neither should we.

(Luke 2:16 NIV) “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

The shepherds hurried off to find Jesus. They didn’t put it off. We should all be so wise. Many put off receiving Christ, saying “I’ll do that later”… but “later” never seems to come. On that day when we all stand in front of God, many will be saying, “I was going to do that later.” That won’t be good enough. There is no "later" in eternity. Don’t procrastinate.   

Fourth, the shepherds went public with their faith.  

(Luke 2:17 NIV) “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."

These unclean, unshaven, un-showered shepherds went out and started telling people what they had heard and seen. They simply told their story. They went public. In these days of “privatized faith” we need more witnesses like this.   

So today, in the spirit of Christmas, believe God and make your move toward Jesus. Stop procrastinating and go public with your faith. If the shepherds did it… so can we. 

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