New Hope Notes
The Shepherds' Response
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, Pastor Jon Burgess
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro (video from Eugene, Oregon):
Good morning and welcome! Today, I want to talk to you about shepherds that God used and orchestrated many years ago.
The Bible says, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:8-14).
The shepherds in the first century were generally scorned as beggars looking for handouts. They also grazed their flocks on other people's lands, were slightly dishonest and crafty, and their aroma was quite similar to that of their "furry" friends; therefore, a shepherd was a despised occupation. They weren't the pleasant Hallmark faces seen on Christmas cards; yet, God chose these despised group of shepherds to announce the birth of the Messiah through angels! Why did God do it that way?
1. The Uninitiated Are Now _ Included__________.
Through the birth of Jesus, we discover the heart of God and the meaning of the birth of this Child. God did not send the angel to the rulers and religious elite of the world, but to the lowly outcasts, the despised shepherds who were just doing their everyday ordinary routines of life. It's about God meeting us everyday in our pain, loneliness, frustrations, and anger. He wants to be a part of our lives every day. The birth of Jesus is about God meeting us on ordinary days, in ordinary places, in an extraordinary way--not just on High Holy days!
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she was to give birth to Jesus, he told her that Jesus would be called Emmanuel, which means "God with us." God immersed Himself into the squalor and chaos of this world and came to the uninitiated so that we could know Him and experience His love and know Emmanuel.
Pastor Jon Burgess:
2. The Unconvinced Are Now Convicted__________.
Pastor Wayne mentioned that the shepherds were uninitiated but are now included. Luke 2:15-17 says, “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.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this Child…”
The shepherds at this point are unconvinced, as are many of our friends and family. Their response was, "Let's go and see if there's something to this. Let's investigate and find out if what the angels said is fact---actually true."
(We must all seek God for ourselves. God doesn't have any grandchildren, only sons and daughters. We can't get into heaven based on someone else's faith.)
When the shepherds found Mary, Joseph, and the baby just as the angel had said, they believed and spread the message of the angel. All of a sudden, the unconvinced are convicted because what they had heard is what they saw.
The unconvinced become convicted when the convicted become convinced that God wants to use them just the way they are, not the way they will be one day.
If during this Christmas season, you want to see your friends and family step over from being unconvinced to realizing that God is alive, let God use the "paper bag you," not the pristine and polished you. The world is looking for authentic Christianity lived out in real?time. They don't want the hype of religion. They want the hope in real?time. The authentic you is beautiful, imperfect, amazing, filled with the glory of Jesus (just as He was in that manger) not with airs, playing religious games. You are showing them the real Jesus in your life with all the hurts, pains, and hardships of life and they will want to know Him because of the day?in and day?out faith you walk out in real?time. You are not a false advertiser of "fake" news; the good news of Jesus that you profess is lived out in the authenticity of your life.
James 1:26-27 says, "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and the religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
The shepherds were not interested in what the priests were doing in the temple. They were not looking for the Messiah. They were totally outside the system but they provided thousands of sheep the priests used for temple sacrifice to absolve the sins of the Jewish people.
Before the sheep could be sold for sacrifice to the priests, the Levitical law was that every sheep must be perfect, without spot or blemish. Therefore, as soon as a lamb was born, the shepherd would investigate and make sure it was spotless, without blemish. The perfect lamb would be put in a category as "Brand?new lambs for sacrifice. Ready for the temple."
It is very interesting that the God of the universe would decide that the shepherds who were outside of the religious system, bypassed by their own culture and at the bottom of the economic ladder, would be the ones to inspect the Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of the world.
The shepherds saw with their own eyes baby Jesus in the manger exactly as the angels had described and they attested, "He is perfect. He is without spot or blemish. He is the holy Lamb of God."
Whether that settled in on the shepherds at that time, we don't know. What we do know from the scope of scripture is that God in His goodness says those that are outside are now inside. Those that had nothing to do are now in the middle of God's plan to get the word out. They are fully involved in what God is doing.
Luke 2:18-20 says, “…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
The first evangelists of the good news of Jesus Christ were not the priests, Pharisees, or the royalty in the palace; the first evangelists were the shepherds, the down and out, the rough and tumble, the very raw!
People are looking for authentic Christians (not the perfect ones) that God is using to share His story to bring families and friends to Him. If you are afraid and intimidated thinking, "I can't invite anybody to Christ because I'm not a perfect Christian and sometimes I don't even go to church." May I encourage you that God is not looking for the polished, religious, who looks good on the outside but is empty on the inside. What is great about you is that you love Jesus and that makes you the best possible evangelist. God wants to use you!
I was in Costco when I saw a guy with a funny hat named Wally selling Cookie Kahuna. He said, "Hold on! Hold on! You got to try these cookies." I said, "You know, that's okay." And he said, "No, no, you really do." So eventually I said, "Okay, all right, I'll try one." He looked for my reaction and I said, "You know what, these are surprisingly good."
And before I knew it, I'm walking away not with one bag but two because he said, "You're going to need a bag for you and a bag for your family." The samples in Costco are for guys like me that are unconvinced! I'm now convicted that I want more people to try these cookies because I've tried them. I went home and told my boys, "You guys have got to try these cookies." What happened? I've now become a Cookie Kahuna evangelist!
Evangelism is really easy when you're convinced because you've tasted and seen how good God is. You're not making anything up. You're just sharing the goodness with somebody else. Evangelism is that simple.
Wally was so convinced that these were the best cookies on earth. He convinced me when I tasted it, and now I'm telling all of you about them.
I'm talking about Christ, the only one who can save our friends, family, and neighbors, and turn around our islands and country to righteousness. I think about the Cookie Kahuna when I think about evangelism. I realize if this guy can be this passionate about cookies, how much more passionate about Christ should I be? He came to earth in the form of a baby, became a man, and died for my sins.
We are passionate about a lot of things, but wouldn't it be great if we were passionate about Jesus and no longer ashamed to tell people about Him?