Christmas is the place that this whole faith in Jesus thing began. I love Christmas because it's a reminder of what we know is true all year long but it takes on a more powerful meaning at Christmas - that Jesus came to be the center of our lives. And as the center of our lives he came to build a foundation of faith in our lives. He came to show each one of us that we can trust him, we can trust his love, because he came to die for us.
I remember when Christmas took on a different meaning for me. Jennifer and I were dating and I drove to her grandparents for her family's Christmas. At some point they stopped and papa Roberts stopped the celebration, pulled the adults together, pulled the grandkids together, and invited everyone there to listen to the birthstory of Jesus. And I had heard the story numerous times, I had grown up in church, I was studying the Bible in college. But at that moment it dawned on me, that Christmas is here to remind us that this whole faith journey began with Jesus coming to show you and I a greater way to live life - a life of faith. And just as Papa invited each one of us to pause and listen to the birth story of Jesus, Christmas is about Jesus doing the same for each one of us. Its an invitation to put everything on pause and take a step into a Life that is Greater that is built on Faith in Jesus.
Faith - Faith is an Intentional and Consistent Trust
· Intentional - Its purposeful. Its deliberate. You follow faith on purpose. Its intentional in the sense that if we determine to trust in Jesus, there’s a plan for our lives that follows that decision. There’s the goal to be more like Jesus.
· Consistent - Its done everyday. Its doing the actions that back up our choice of faith every day.
· Tension: Choosing to be intentional with your trust, choosing to be consistent with your trust when you’re surrounded by such darkness. Choosing to give your trust to Jesus, when so many other things are looking to control your time, and trust. Choosing to follow Jesus with your actions, when some times it’s a little unsafe. The tension grows in us, should I choose to trust in Jesus, or trust in my own path? Should I trust that Jesus is love, or trust that the world is a harsh place that rarely offers love. Should I trust that Jesus offers freedom, or trust that the things that control me are too powerful?
· We wonder: Is what Jesus offers me true, can I trust it? Is this true, can I trust this?
· And you know this. I’m not telling you something that you don’t know.
· But for many of us, the tension has been so great that we’ve decided to Trust with our words, but not our actions. You’ve found that to be the solution to the struggle of faith, but you can’t solve this tension with Words only. When you try to solve this struggle of faith with your words you end up living lie.
· And what I want to do the next few moments is show you a few folks from the New Testament and how they dealt with the struggle of putting their trust in something they couldn’t see. But in the end it changed everything.
No where is this more evident than in the book of Luke.
There are 4 gospel stories that share The life of Jesus. Each one taking us a little deeper into the life and death of Jesus.
The book of Luke, is a little different than the others. See Matthew, Mark and John were all apostles. Jesus reached out to each one of them personally and said follow me. But Luke is a little different. Luke, became a follower of Jesus when one of the disciples invited him live a greater life with Jesus. Luke was led to Jesus by an invitation from a disciple. And Luke who had to be so grateful to be invited to this life with Jesus wants to share this invitation with world. So he begins writing down the stories that he heard from the other disciples, and from Jesus’ mother. And imagine how many times the disciples had told these stories of all the things that Jesus had done. Luke decided that these stories needed to be shared so that others would know Jesus. So when he sits down to write his account of the life of Jesus he starts at the beginning - with Mary.
⁃ Intro to Luke
1. Luke - Mary
Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
· Pause – Luke shares with us the tension that Mary faced. Israel was a nation that was once a powerful kingdom. They ruled their own land. They had a king from their own people. They even for several years were the talk of the world. But all of that had changed when we get to Mary. For 700-900 years the nation of Israel had been invaded, its people made slaves and carried off to distant lands. They had many rulers who treated them harshly. And the only thing they knew was darkness and chaos. And here Gabriel the angel tells Mary that she’s gonna have a baby, and he’s going to be the next King and put an end to the darkness that has existed for almost 1000 years- She responds with…
34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
· Gabriel, don’t you see that we’ve lived in darkness. We’re slaves. The Romans are too powerful, too cruel. How will this be?
· Furthermore, Gabriel if you didn’t know know there’s a process to this having a baby. And that process has begun, I’m not even married yet. So everything you’re telling me sounds great, But can I trust this?
· This is the tension that we each face, it’s the tension we face around Christmas. Amidst all the darkness that we allow into the world. And all the things that hold us captive. And everthing that fights for our attention. Jesus interrupts all of that with an invitation to a life that is Greater. A life of Faith.
· And the tension surrounds our battle to let go of the darkness, to let go of the hurts, to let go of the things that hold us captive and say yes to Jesus.
35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
· This is Mary’s story. In the midst of darkness, in the midst of the cruelness that surrounded her. IN the midst of everything that fought for her attention she decided to put her trust in what she couldn’t see and believe that she could live a life that was greater than her current situation.
· She chose to intentionally trust in who Jesus would be. She chose a life that was greater.
· And don’t you think that everyday after that moment she wondered, Is it true, Can I trust this? Is it true, Can I trust this? And God gently showed her that she could trust.
· “I am the Lord’s Servant.” I will follow. I can’t see you Jesus, but I will follow. I don’t understand how you’ll bring change into this dark and chaotic world, but I’ll follow. My family is falling apart, but I will follow you Jesus.
· This is what Jesus does, at the moment that our lives seem to reach their darkest, he interrupts with an invitation to Trust a different plan.
· That’s what faith is, its intentional, its consistent. Its walking in the darkness of the world, but knowing that Jesus came to bring light. It’s facing that battle with the things that fight for the things that hold us captive, that keep us from a Greater life with Jesus, and letting go and telling Jesus that I am your servant. I trust in you.
· Because Faith is the intentional and Consistent Trust you can Give to Jesus.
· But Mary wasn’t the only one who faced the tension of faith in Jesus.
2. Peter’s walking on Water - stops and wonders “Can I trust this?”
· The Gospel of Matthew takes us to Peter. Peter was a fiery guy. He was a fisherman by trade. When he did something, he gave it every bit of passion he had. He was loud, he spoke his mind. He was always the first to talk. He often spoke before he thought it through.
Matthew 14:27-29 But Jesus immediately said to them:“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,”he said.
· There’s Peter and the other disciples in a terrible situation. Its dark, their lives are in danger. Their only hope of survival was to hold on to the boat. But Peter does a crazy thing. In the midst of darkness, and storm he asks Jesus to call him out of the boat.
· Peter’s trust connected Him to Jesus in a way his doubt never could.
· Peter’s trust allowed him to push away the darkness, to put the fear in context, to put his life in the hands of Jesus who was already walking on the water in the storm. His trust was intentional. He decided that fear wasn’t going to hold him captive. That the idea of living a safe life wasn’t worth it to what Jesus was offering him. And he got out of the boat.
· But something happened on the water that happens to all of us. Although we may have initially put our trust in Jesus and began to act on it. We face the tension of faith once again. We once again ask Is this real, Can I trust this? And Peter got out of the comforts of the boat and began walking dangerously on the water. But a few waves surprise him. The salt of the sea became to strong his mouths and his eyes, distracting him momentarily. He begin to wonder, can I trust this? I know what he said, but can I trust this. I saw him calling me, drawing me further out on the water. And then the waves distracted him and created a wall between him and Jesus. And he wondered, where did Jesus go? Maybe he didn’t call me. Was it me? Maybe it was me. Maybe in my excitement and hope, I believed something that wasn’t totally true. Maybe I believed he was calling me out. I don’t know that I can trust this.
· And if you’ve started the journey with Jesus, eventually because of the darkness that takes place in life, because of the things in life that want to control us and hold us, because of fear or worry you face the question, “Can I trust this?” Will I continue to back my Faith up with the Intentional and Consistent Trust. Will I continue to follow Jesus, when I’m afraid, when I doubt.
· Is it real? Can I trust this?
· And Just as Peter’s fear was on the verge of overwhelming him, Jesus steps close to him and helps him back in the boat. Back to a life of safety. Back to a place that calmed his fear.
· But it we’re honest, after the excitement of living dangerously with Jesus and walking on the water, who would want to go back in the boat?
· But that’s what fear does to us. That’s what happens when we allow darkness to control us. That’s what happens when we allow our hurts and struggles to bind us. We retreat to a life of safety. To a life in the boat.
· All the while Jesus invites us to a life that is greater. A life of faith.
- But Peter isn’t the only follower who wondered if he could trust in Jesus. One of the disciples doubted Jesus and will forever be known not as Thomas but as Doubting Thomas.
3. Doubting Thomas - Jesus says, Blessed are those who can’t see and trust the way.
· One of them is even called Doubting Thomas because even when Jesus was raised, he refused to believe.
· But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
· Thomas had been hurt. And in his hurt and fear, he retreated to the darkness. He had put his trust in Jesus, and when Jesus died, so did his faith. And when the disciples come to him with news that Jesus was alive, Thomas does what everyone of us do when we’ve been let down, He Raised the Bar and allowed doubt to control him. Its not enough for me to simply follow him, If I’m going to give my trust to Him, I’ve got to see his Wounds. Don’t we all do this? God if you really want me to follow you again you’re going to have to make everything better. You’re gonna have to fix my family. You’re gonna have to bring back my loved one. You’re going have to fix this situation. But what Jesus does, he doesn’t fix everything that happened in the past, he simply shows up in a peaceful way to show us that He’s been there all along.
John 24:26-29 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
· You and I do this. We’ve been hurt by church people. You gave your all to a church and you were overworked, rarely thanked, taken advantage of, gossiped about. And you walked away and immediately raised the bar on your trust. No longer is it enough to simply follow Jesus and trust him. Now, in order to trust him, I’ll need a sign. I’ll need something big.
· But then Jesus shows up, and Thomas suddenly can trust again. And Jesus says, Blessed/Happy are those who can’t see, but still trust.
· Then Jesus invites you and I to a life of happiness, where we can’t see the end result, but choose to trust the path anyhow.
· I’m going to trust this.
· Every disciple was standing there, looking at Jesus, who days earlier believed they couldn’t trust him, but here he is. They couldn’t see into the future, that one day people would name their kids after them, and build humongous churches in their honor. They couldn’t see that this simple decision to trust in Him would create a movement around the world called Christianity. But they trusted.
· And then there’s Mary - In Acts, we see her standing with the rest of the followers. There’s Mary, years down the road, watching her Son who was dead, now walking, breathing, moving through walls. And she thinks back on that moment when Gabriel looked at her and said, “You’re gonna have a son, name him God with us.” She thinks back on that moment when she said, I can’t see the end result, but I am your servant. I will trust in You.
5. You’ll never know what you’re decision to trust in Jesus will do to the future
· Imagine if your parents had trusted Jesus in this way– Imagine what a difference that would’ve made for you.
· Imagine if your grandparents had trusted. Imagine if your husband, or your wife had put their whole trust in Jesus in this manner. Imagine what that would’ve done for your marriage.
· And what about you. Imagine what may take place in your kids lives if you would trust. Imagine the legacy you could live if you intentionally and consistently chose to trust in Jesus. Imagine. Because your trust in Jesus has the power not only to change things for you, but also for everything around you. It has the power to change your marriage. It has the power to change the future of your kids. It has the power to leave a legacy that one day far down the road, your kids, your grandkids, your family, would say, “I’m so glad mom, dad, grandpa, grandma chose to trust in Jesus, her decision, her choice changed everything.”
· And that’s why faith is greater.
1. Those who’ve trusted with Words. Your words say that you Trust in Jesus, but you didn’t realize that Trust is about Actions not Words. And you say that you trust in Jesus, but you still live as if you trust in your own plan. You act as if you trust in your fulfillment. You act as if you can’t trust in Jesus’ promised end result for your life. For you, your biggest step is Trusting in Jesus with your consistent actions.
2. Those who had their Trust Broken. Your definition of Faith has been shaken. You got out of the boat, you began to trust that God had a plan for your life. You began to trust that He wanted to bring change in you and make you into someone who would change the world. But then the waves began to hit, the taste of the salt became strong and you wondered, “Can I trust this?” For you, God is calling you to trust the plan even when things get tough - when you begin to focus on the wind. To stay consistent in your trust even when your environment is chaotic.
3. Those who have not Trusted. You’ve put trust in numerous other things in your life and realized that each one of them was lacking. Yet, you haven’t yet tried to put your trust in Jesus. For you, you need to put your trust in Jesus