Christmas! A Good Time To Get Your Hopes Up

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Today we know the news of the birth of Jesus Christ as good news because we know what went on to happen. But it wasn’t good news to the people who heard it for the first time. In fact, it terrified everyone.

At the first Christmas, everybody was afraid. Every one of the main characters had to deal with a different kind of fear. What’s interesting is we still deal with these same fears today. But the message of Christmas is this: Do not be afraid.


Five Fears in the First Christmas

  1. Mary faced the fear of inadequacy.

Mary was a teenage peasant girl planning to get married. But an angel interrupted her plan by telling her that she was pregnant with the Son of God.  She’s engaged to a guy named Joseph. She is told that the child is going to be the promised Son of God? The government is taking a census, her fiancé has to go to his birth town. So while pregnant, she has to go on a long journey with him. There’s over a dozen reasons to feel worried and inadequate.

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:29-34 NLT

2. Joseph faced the fear of disapproval.

Imagine: Your fiancé tells you she’s pregnant and you know you’ve never had sex with her. Then she claims that God made her pregnant and the baby is the Son of God. Imagine the ridicule, the shame, the gossip, and the criticism heaped on Joseph.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18-20 NLT

3.  The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change.

Put yourself in the shoes of the shepherds. They’re out lying on the grass and tending their flock of sheep. Suddenly, they have life changing news and the sky lights up with stuff they’ve never seen before

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Do not be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:8-10

When God shows up, it can be unsettling. But God doesn’t want to scare you. He says do not be afraid.

4. King Herod faced the fear of losing control. 

Herod was the king of the Jews. He’s was actually king of Judea and he was hated by the Jews because he wasn’t a full Jew. He ruled with a heavy hand because he was paranoid of losing his throne. He was so paranoid that he had his brother in law killed for fear of him taking over his throne. He had his mother killed, had his wife assassinated, and had his two sons assassinated.

So, when he hears that Jesus “the king of the Jews” is being born he freaks out, yet again. He orders the death of every baby in Israel under two years of age to try to prevent Jesus from growing up. And Mary and Joseph are warned in a dream. They take Jesus to Egypt.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn  king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King  Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. Matthew :1-3

5. Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed.

Zechariah’s wife was named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the cousin of Mary. Elizabeth and Zechariah were older and had prayed their entire life for a child. They finally give up hope because they were past child bearing years. They were afraid to hope because they’d been disappointed so many times.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for years and years to have a baby, but it hadn’t happened. When Zechariah found out Elizabeth was pregnant, his first instinct was disbelief. He was afraid to get his hopes up.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. Luke 1:11-13

Zechariah had been disappointed so many times he just didn’t believe it. He would go on to say, “How can I be sure?” He wanted God to prove it to him because he didn’t want to hope again. Some of you can relate to the fear of disappointment that holds people back. By the way, Zechariah’s long awaited son, you may have heard of him. He grew up to be called John the Baptist. And John the Baptist was the forerunner, kind of the announcer of the Messiah who said, he’s coming; get ready.

Which of these five fears are holding you back?

If any of these five fears ring true in your life you really need the message of Christmas. Because if we’ll do what God told Mary and Joseph and everybody else to do, we’ll conquer our fears.

How to Defeat Your Fears

1. Surrender your life completely to God every day!

Start the day saying, “God I’m full of fear. I’m giving you the good, the bad and the ugly of my life right now.” Mary overcame her fear of inadequacy with this statement:

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 NLT

Have you ever said that to God?  Have you ever opened your mouth and said to God, “God, you’re my Creator and whatever you want to do with my life, I want to cooperate with.” Have you ever done that? If you have not, you are living in constant tension.

God’s going one way and you’re going a different way and this tension creates fear in your life. We hit dead ends all the time with our plan, but God’s plan does not have a dead end. Your confidence becomes in Him and not in yourself.

2. Stop listening to the voices of fear.

Fear is contagious. You’re going to have to change what ideas you allow in your mind if you want to move out of fear. What you watch and what you listen to.

Would you agree that we’re in a pretty negative culture? It’s easier to just be against stuff and negative and fearful. And sometimes those voices are inside you too. And you have to stop focusing on yourself. We need an objective outside source because we often get it wrong.

Many of us would agree with the prophet Jeremiah, who hears God’s call on his life and out of fear says,

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” Jeremiah 1:6

We’re focused on our inadequacies and the approval of others. But, God doesn’t respond with, “No, Jeremiah! You’re not young, and you do know how to speak! You’re capable and talented and you can do this!”Instead, he tells him not to focus on himself.

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 1:7-8

God doesn’t respond to our fears of inadequacy with reassurances of our strength but with a reminder of His strength.

Stop thinking about yourself, stop listening to voices of fear, and start listening to God.

3. Fill your mind with music that praises God.

Because when you’re scared to death, all your attention is focusing on you. To get rid of fear you’ve got to get the focus off you and get it on God. When you turn your focus on God, that’s called praise. That’s called worship. One of the best ways to get this kind of focus on God is through music.

Do you know what Mary did when she was so frightened about the job that God had given her? She sang about it.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47,49 ESV

Worship holds so much power and helps you get the focus on God. It is no accident that Christmas is the most musical of all holidays. Why? Because at the first Christmas everybody sang. Mary sang. Elizabeth sang. The angels sang. The shepherds sang. Even Zechariah wrote a song. You should learn from them and make faith filled music a part of your life.

4. Base your hope on the promises of God.

In the Bible there are promises from God to you about your finances, sex life, relationships, and career. About your past, present, and future. Promises about forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

But if you don’t know them you can’t put your trust in them. If you don’t trust them and surrender to them, you can’t claim them. They’re like gifts that you’ve never unwrapped.
They’re like somebody writing you a check and you never cash it.

It’s time to base your life on the promises of God. This is what gave Mary confidence. Elizabeth noticed this. And in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth said to Mary: “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’” You believed God will keep his promises.

That’s what gave this young peasant girl enormous confidence in an incredibly fearful situation. She believed God would keep His Word. When you start doing that you will be blessed too.

The Greatest Promise

We must remember the most important promise. It’s the promise that when you die you can go to heaven if you trust in the Son that he sent at Christmas. That’s called the promise of eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

That’s the greatest promise. Jesus Christ came to earth at Christmas to die for your sins so you don’t have to pay for your sins. But Jesus didn’t just come to earth to forgive your sins. He didn’t just come to earth to get you into heaven if you trust in him. He also came to eliminate your fears here and now.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15

Have you believed so that you might have eternal life?


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “A Good Time for Good Times.” How has that message and conversation helped to keep your Christmas perspective and joy from being robbed this Christmas?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Today, we know that the Christmas story is Good News—God became flesh in order to save us from our sins. But for those who experienced the Christmas story firsthand, the news scared them to death. When you read through the Christmas account, you’ll find that the characters faced five familiar fears

  • Mary faced the fear of inadequacy. (Luke 1:29-34)
  • Mary faced the fear of disapproval. (Matthew 1:18-20)
  • The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change. (Luke 2:8-10)
  • King Herod faced the fear of losing control. (Matthew 2:1-3)
  • Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed. (Luke 1:11-13)

If you’re facing any of these fears, it doesn’t mean there’s something defective about you, and you can defeat them! How?

  • First, surrender your life completely to God every day. (Luke 1:38)
  • Second, stop listening to the voices of fear. (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
  • Third, fill your mind with music that praises God. (Luke1:46-49)
  • Fourth, base your hope on the promises of God. (Luke1:45)

Hope can’t be based on what you think. It’s based on what God promises. Memorize the promises of God and lean on them when you’re afraid. The greatest promise? John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Now, if you haven’t already, spend some time in the Word. Read Luke chapters one and two.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message?
  2. Is there a time in your life you’ve ever struggled with one of the five fears?
  3. What does it look like to surrender your life completely to God every day?
  4. “Fear is contagious.” How have you seen this to be true?
  5. What are some things you need to stop listening to in 2020? With what could you
    replace it?
  6. In this message, we focused on basing our hope on the promises of God. Specifically, the promise of salvation and eternal life for whoever believe. (John 3:16) What are some other promises from God we can claim? Prayer Focus: Thank God for his promises and ask God to help you listen and trust him more than any other voice, even yourself.

Tell Someone Else

With whom could you share this message of Christmas? How could you be a voice of hope and peace, rather than fear.

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“So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NIV/NKJV

Those who are in Christ, they believe in Jesus Christ as the way the truth and the life. If you are in Him, you may be in a place of danger and temptation, and may fail in many ways, but the Lord Jesus has redeemed us.

Old things have passed away. Now that we have trusted Christ. We no longer identify with Adam. We are no longer bound to sin. We are no longer people of the world. We were born into a sin nature, that has passed away.

We are a new creation.

Too many people have never approached God with the concept of “new”. Most have resigned themselves that God will just improve their messed up sinful life. The New Year is a reminder for Christians that we are defined by newness.

So this New Years weekend, let’s talk about the new things that we have when we become a Christian, when we are in Christ.


A Christian is Defined by Newness

1. NEW BIRTH

Jesus was having a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a deeply religious man. What he was looking for was someone powerful enough to overthrow Rome and build a kingdom.

“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  John 3:3 NIV

Jesus interrupts Nicodemus to tell him, you don’t know about the kingdom I’m building. I’m not here to overthrow a government, I’m here to overthrow what’s condemning you. God doesn’t intend to change the old nature. It can’t be changed.

God isn’t in the self-help business. He’s in the new life business.

New birth is necessary because we need a new nature. Why try to patch up an old life when God can give you a new one? Just like you didn’t have anything to do with your physical birth, only God can give you a new birth.

2. NEW HEART

Some of you used to have a hard heart. God doesn’t only soften your heart, he gives you a new heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

3. NEW LIFE

The hardest thing to give someone is something they don’t know they need. God says, “I want to give you a new life.” We don’t think we need a new life, because we have a life. God says, “I’m saddened that you call that living.”

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  Romans 6:4 NIV

The believers power over sin and the ability to lead a new life, stems from identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. From God’s perspective, Jesus’ death to sin is ours as well. His rising to new life means that we also begin to lead a new life. And in the future our bodies will also be raised.

This is why the New Testament commands to baptize by immersion, to be buried in the water. Baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old way of life. Coming up out of the water symbolizes resurrection to new life with Christ.

If we think of our old sinful life as dead and buried, we have a powerful motive to flee from sin. We can choose to treat the desires and temptations of the old nature as if they were dead.

4. NEW DESIRES

Isn’t it amazing how after you identify yourself with Christ, just naturally, things that you were okay with, you’re no longer okay with?

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24 NIV

You have new desires. This passage in Galatians talks about walking in the Spirit. We learn to walk by trial and errorPeople want more & more seminars on the Christian life; thinking the more they learn the less they’ll fall. You’re still going to fall. You need to step out and lean on the Spirit of God and fulfill the new desires. Get up and start again.

5. NEW FAMILY

When you give your life to Christ you have a new family. God created everything so he could have a family. Now when I say that, I’m not saying God was lonely. Before God created anything, there was God existing three in one. The trinity. God wasn’t lonely. He had everything He needed. It was so good, He decided to create the Church to share that connection.

Jesus: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35 NIV

In God’s kingdom, one’s true relatives are determined not by blood, but by a faith relationship. God’s family is accepting and doesn’t exclude anyone. Although Jesus cared for his mother and brothers he also cared for all those who loved him. Jesus did not show partiality; he allowed everyone the privilege of obeying God and becoming part of his family.

6. NEW FOES

When you get close to God, some people will not like it. You might get treated differently or get laughed at. They’ll treat you like Jesus. Some people will not like you. They’re going to say weird comments. They’re going to say offensive things.

Jesus: “Everyone will hate you because of me.”  Luke 21:17 NIV

In this passage, he’s telling his disciples that you’ll even get killed, but in the end not a hair on your head will perish. By standing firm you will win your souls. It echos of David in the Psalms saying, what can man do to me?

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”  Psalm 118:5-9 NLT

7. NEW SERVICE

We serve from a new motivation. Before, under the law, there was no joy. The flesh had no desire to follow the law.

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”  Romans 7:6 NIV

We’re joined to the living Christ. We are to serve Him, not on the motive of we must do this or ought do this, but on the motive of wanting to please Christ. We’re set free and in love we give ourselves to Jesus. We serve him because we love him.

When Jesus talked to Peter, do you love me? Peter said, you know I love you, but you know what a failure I am. Jesus said, you’ll bring forth fruit, feed my sheep. Peter is the man who opened the door to the Gentiles and preached the first sermon at Pentecost.

God has a lost world, what will you do with Jesus who died for you? You can serve Him.

8. NEW STRUGGLE

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”  Galatians 5:17 NIV

Your old nature is going to want to do things. You can’t get rid of your old nature this side of heaven. John says if we have no sin we deceive ourselves. We have two natures. The flesh warring against the Spirit and the Spirit warring against the flesh. They’re in conflict. Have you experienced that? You know that hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” Do you ever feel it?

We’re prone to wander and we’re prone to worship. But praise God for the struggle. Some aren’t struggling today, they’re fine with wandering. They’re fine with doing whatever they want.

Freedom isn’t doing whatever you want. Freedom is being able to do what is right. Freedom is the choice to do what is right.  It is not doing whatever you want, because there is no guarantee that what we want is good.  Freedom is the choice to do what is right. To do what is good.

9. NEW MERCIES

His mercies are new. You can’t outrun, they never tire or become old.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”  Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT

Jeremiah was down when he wrote this, but he saw one ray of hope, the mercy of God. Maybe you are down and you think God’s grace and mercy has run out on you. You can’t exhaust the mercy of God. It’s a new season, it’s a new day.

10. NEW HOPE

God’s not in the escape plan business, He’s in the restoration business. In fact, in the end we don’t escape earth and go to heaven. God is going to purify the earth with fire and bring heaven to earth. The earth will be perfect.

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  2 Peter 3:13 NIV

What are you looking forward to? We can joyously look forward to the restoration of God’s good world. Whatever limitations you have on your body, you will not have those forever. Whatever sickness you’re fighting, you will not fight that forever. We have a new hope, the return of our king, Jesus Christ.


Grow Your Faith in 2019

In the next couple of days we’ll start making resolutions, goals, plans and budgets for 2019. What’s your plan to grow in your faith? If you want to grow in your faith, Rock Brook has a plan in place to help. 

KNOW GOD  |  WEEKEND SERVICES

Everything begins with a knowing relationship with God. That you Know God. We want you to have a real encounter with a real God. That’s the goal of our weekend services, to help you Know God, and if you already know Him, that you’d know Him better.

FIND FREEDOM  |  SMALL GROUPS

Once you know Him, He wants to help you with areas that hurt so badly. Areas of addiction. Areas, that don’t only disappoint God, but they disappoint you. Areas where you feel trapped and hopeless and the old things haven’t passed away.

Some people have this inverted, they think they need to get it all together before God will ever accept them.

You don’t change your life to get to God, you get to God to change your life. He accepts you just the way you are. Once you know him, the power of God comes in your life to Find Freedom.

This is why we love Small Groups. They’re not mini-bible studies. Not mini-church services. You’ve already had that, it’s an opportunity for you to connect, encourage and grow together. You need people that can help you and you need to help others.

Life change happens in the context of relationships.

DISCOVER PURPOSE  | GROWTH TRACK

You can’t see what your life is about because all you see is the old. Once you settle that, the lights come on and you see the new. Yout can stop looking through the lens of yesterday and start looking through the lens of tomorrow. You begin to realize you’re here to do something.

You’re not an accident, no matter what narrative your parents or someone has put on your life. Growth Track is a great way to help you with this. We can begin to connect the dots of your personality, gifts and passions to find out your purpose here on earth.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE  |  DREAM TEAM

Do something with your life that brings about the new. You can make a difference in Jesus name. Many people want to make a difference, but it only lasts if you do it in Jesus name. One of the most fulfilling things you’ll do is help someone. You cannot do what you do, on your own. That’s why we have the Dream Team, where we serve together.

Here’s the issue:

When I don’t see God’s vision for my life, I’m in danger of settling for an earthly counterfeit.

Everything God does, the devil creates an earthly counterfeit. It makes some promises, but never delivers. The devil will offer you everything and deliver you nothing. He offers you a counterfeit to God’s vision. It looks something like this.

Instead of Know God, I want to Know MeI’m going to make it about me. I just need to find myself. I just need to live my best life.

Instead of Find Freedom, we want to Find Fame. We build our own name. We want to be famous in this building or this company.

Instead of Discover Purpose, we want to Discover a Platform.

Instead of Make a Difference, we want to Make a Dime

It’s a promise that is so empty. We don’t want you fall for the counterfeit. We offer ways for you to take these spiritual steps.

Lean in this year and see where it takes you. See if 2019 is your best year yet.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on Restoring Joy? How did trusting God’s plan, letting go of resentment and following God’s light one step at a time affect your Christmas joy?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: 2 Corinthians 5

Too many people have never approached God with the concept of “new”.  Most have resigned themselves that God will just improve their messed up life, but they could never be their best. The New Year is a reminder for Christians that we are defined by newness. A Christian is defined by newness.

  • New Birth (John 3:3)
  • New Heart (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • New Life (Romans 6:4)
  • New Desires (Galatians 5:24)
  • New Family (Mark 3:35)
  • New Foes (Luke 21:17)
  • New Service (Romans 7:6)
  • New Struggle (Galatians 5:17)
  • New Mercies (Lamentations 3:22-24)
  • New Hope (2 Peter 3:13)

Application

  1. Which of these ten things that are new, stood out to you the most?
  2. Have you identified yourself with Jesus Christ through baptism? (For more information about baptism, visit rockbrook.org/connect/baptism)
  3. Do you feel the struggle that Galatians 5:17 describes in your life? How so?
  4. How have the people in your life responded as you’ve started growing closer to God? Have they been supportive? Have they been perplexed or frustrated? Discouraging?
  5. Where is your hope today?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message? Who needs to hear about the new life that Christ offers?

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