March 26, 2006
INTRODUCTION – While I am not an expert by any means in reaching the lost for Christ, I have been involved in that work to some extent for over 30 years. Not only have I been personally involved in this work, but I have read as much as I could about others’ experiences reaching the lost, or coming to faith in Christ. Two conclusions I have come to over these years can be seen in a very familiar story in the Bible that most of us know, but perhaps – we have not seen all that God wants us to see. So if you would – please turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 2. As we look at the first 12 verses of this chapter, I want to focus on two principles regarding evangelism that are crucial for us to understand and believe – if we are going to be increasingly meaningfully and effectively involved in this great work.
I. Potential Worshippers are often not the people we would expect –
Who the Magi or Wise Men were:
A. They were intellectuals –
B. They studied stars and planets for the meaning of life – “Magi were wise men – originally a respected Persian priestly caste – whose practices included observing the motions of the stars and interpreting their meaning, a combination of both astronomy and astrology as we define those terms today.” Parade Magazine – a few years ago – published an excerpt from David and Wendee Levy’s book “Cosmic Discoveries” published in 2001.
C. They probably were well to do – judging from the extent of their trip and the value of the gifts they laid at Jesus’s feet
D. They had political clout – article pg. 34 from the Zondervan Pict. Encly. Of the Bible
E. They probably were Arabs – Jon Culver
1.Dr. Jon Culver’s research – “Jon’s research has revealed evidence that they were Arabs, descendants of Abraham through Ishmael.
So here you have at least two and perhaps three or four or five Gentile, well educated and well heeled men with political clout from Arab descent – coming in great humility and sincerity to worship a recently born King who happens to be a Jew.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised when King Herod huddled with those chief priests and scribes – the top Jewish leaders of that day – if they were absolutely astounded and perplexed at why such men would give a flip about some little Jewish boy in some remote Jewish town.
But you see – what they didn’t understand – and what I’m not sure we really understand or believe sometimes – is that God the Father – as Jesus said in John 4 to the Samaritan woman – truly is aggressively seeking people all over the face of the earth to be true worshippers of Him and His Son. And the more they defy the expectations we in the church have about what kind of people will respond to Him – the better.
Examples of unexpected conversions: Neon Deion Sanders; Chuck Colson (Richard Nixon’s hatchet man) – brilliant lawyer; C.S. Lewis – brilliant writer and philosopher; Hugh Ross – brilliant astro physicist; Fuz Ranale – brilliant biologist born and reared in a muslim family;
II. Potential or Future Worshippers often find Christ through means we would not expect
A. the star – David Levy’s article in parade – – whatever it was – it was not just any old star – – it was obviously a supernatural phenomenon that God used to guide these men and to get their attention.
B. the city – Jerusalem – this is the city where most people in that day would assume would be the one place above all others where someone who wanted to worship God could find out where He was and how to worship Him. But in fact – Jerusalem at that time was spiritually in a deep coma. None of them had a clue that nearby in a little town called Bethlehem their long awaited Messiah was born and possibly already a year old or so by now. Even when the religious leaders – in response to the inquiry of the wise men – put their collective heads together and agreed that the Messiah according to Micah 2 was to be born in Bethlehem – there was no expectation that He had been born, and no apparent desire to travel with these Magi to see if indeed He had been born.
C. the impromptu theology session with evil King Herod and the chief priests and scribes. I’m confident that was the first and last time such a discussion happened with King Herod.
D. orders from a very unlikely source (Herod as a person and King) cunning, cruel and highly paranoid and insecure
E. the dream – vs. 12
F. Their responsiveness is truly remarkable from a human standpoint.
In summary, God used a star to guide them to Jerusalem – knowing that that phenomenon perhaps more than any other would grab their attention – being the star gazers that they were; He used a highly improbable and unbelieving team of Jewish scribes and chief priests along with King Herod to determine from the scriptures where the Messiah was to be born; He used orders from an evil King with evil motives to get them on their way; and He used a dream to protect these worshippers from harm and to deter King Herod from killing the true King of the Jews.
1. We need to pray with faith and confidence for the lost – knowing that God is the initiator of evangelism; and that He has a million means to draw people to Himself. Just as God the Father back 2,000 yrs. ago delighted in leading these Arab aristocrats called Magi to Bethlehem to reveal His Son to them, He delights today in leading people of all stripes and labels and pedigrees through a variety of creative means to encounter His precious glorious Son.
2. We need to ask God to deliver us from pre-judging people as to their potential to be worshippers of Jesus Christ. God told the prophet Samuel,… “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Please bear in mind that it was in the context of a discussion about rich men being saved that Jesus said to His disciples, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
3. We need to learn to spot seekers – all over the earth God is drawing people to Himself. Jesus saw Zaccheus, and knew He was a seeker – even though he was a greedy unethical tax gatherer. He saw the sexually immoral woman at the well in Samaria (John 4) as a potential worshipper, when others would not have gotten near her. And it was after His long conversation with her, and her increasing responsiveness to Him that He exhorted His disciples, “Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”
Thursday afternoon as I was meditating on these principles I sensed God telling me to take a walk; as I began my walk I prayed “Lord if you want me to see a certain man that I have been seeking to build a relationship with (in the neighborhood in which I was meditating) and who so far has shown no interest in spiritual things, let me see him outside….(normally if I see him – it is in the mornings – because he takes a long walk every morning)……
Elders leave to pray for Mike; congregation prays here