How many people stop and think about how the New Testament opens? I don’t think too many people actually read the beginning of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the gospels which tell us about Jesus Christ. The funniest thing about it is that it opens up with a genealogy, of all things. And that’s the way the New Testament opens. You know an opening book or a gospel or something is supposed to open up with a wow, you know? I was always taught you want to open big and end big. People remember the beginning and they remember the end. You ever heard that before? So concerts try to do that, anything that’s going to try to entertain people, that’s what they do. They try to open up with a great big opening and a great big ending.
The gospels failed to get that lesson. It opens up with this genealogy and so and so begat so and so, who begat so and so, who begat so and so, who begat so and so and you almost fall asleep before you get to the good part. And then you get to the good part, which is very fascinating. The very first verse where we start hearing about the birth of Jesus Christ, we hear a new entity coming in to theological circles that we’re not familiar with. The angel talks about a holy spirit. The very first verse talks about a holy spirit. Interesting thought, this holy spirit thing. And the holy spirit is something that comes and really wrestles with emotion, creation, and new life and new birth. In this particular case, it is the holy spirit that gives birth to Jesus Christ in Mary. And the next time we read about the holy spirit, Jesus Christ is being baptized. And immediately following His baptism it says “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove.” And we hear about the Holy Spirit.
And then the Holy Spirit is referred to by Christ as He talks about the comforter who will come and bring comfort and peace into our lives. And then it is the book of Acts is where the Holy Spirit really comes into play, we see its power being displayed as it is ingested into the minds and the hearts and the lips of all Christ’ apostles. From Pentecost day, these apostles received this gift to be able to speak in a foreign language. And they did. They went out in the streets of Jerusalem, against the threat of death. They had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And they knew that their lives were in jeopardy, in fact almost every single one of them, with the exception of one, lost their lives. But it was the holy spirit of God that gave them the conviction, the power and the ability to go out and to communicate the message of Jesus Christ in a way that people heard. And they called it the gift of tongues. And they spoke in these weird languages, many of which today no longer exist. The people heard the message.
And what was the message they heard? Let’s go back to where I started from. The birth of Jesus Christ, the angel comes and says Mary is conceived by the Holy Spirit. And you will name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. And that was the message that the apostles of Jesus Christ gave to the world, and literally it spread around the world, never to be extinguished again because the Holy Spirit was there, the Holy Spirit filled their hearts and their minds with the reality of what was taking place. And the world was changed. It was changed because their sins were revealed, their sins were repented, and their sins were forgiven. And today when we look at the birth of Jesus Christ, we see that His name will be called Jesus because He’ll forgive them their sins, that reality and that truth continues to this day. Yet we fail to always hear the message. We always want to trip back into the sins that keep us from experiencing the fullness of God’s love for us.
And today I want you to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, conceived of the Holy Spirit of God, who wants to come and relieve us of our sins. Because our sins make us slaves. They make us slaves and when we can be free from our sins, we are freed from the slavery of sin and we are free to experience the joy and the goodness of not only Christmas, but of our entire lives and our entire year. I don’t think this church has ever heard it said better than when they heard it said from Evel Knievel. Listen to what he said:
I know that there’s more to life than what I’ve had. I wrote a book called, “Evel Ways.” I said I’ve had a life better than any king, any president or any prince. Hog wash. I didn’t have Jesus Christ in my life. I was talking about the Rolls Royce’ I had, five of them. The Ferrari’s I’ve had, five of them. The Stetsons, the Lamborghini’s, the jet airplanes, two of them. I flew one alongside of the other so I could read my name on the side of it. Yeah! Evel Knievel. My dad said, who you going to impress at 40,000 feet at 600 miles an hour? Why don’t you go down and buy a truck, drive it along the freeway. I just.. the diamonds and the gold and the racehorses and the women and the booze, I want to tell you something: I’d been a sinner; you’re looking at a real sinner, but not anymore. You’re not looking at a sinner anymore, and I’ve had everybody; You’ve got to believe; oh you’ve got to believe in Jesus Christ. It’ll give you, I don’t know how many of you here have felt what I have felt, let me see you raise the hands of how many of you have the feeling that I am telling you that I feel. Oh, God bless you. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling? Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to say I have a God that I can believe in?
Most of you know that Evel Knievel passed away. What you don’t know is that Evel met one of our employees here, a guy by the name of Kyle Stevens. He’s one of the people who helps us book all of our guests and makes sure that all of their arrangements are made and their hotels and other accommodations are taken care of. And so he helped Evel with his accommodations here, and Evel got to know Kyle a little bit, just enough to know that he was somebody he could call. And from April 1st, till just a couple days ago, he would Kyle almost every day. He’d call Kyle and he would ask him a question. He’d have some kind of a Bible question that he couldn’t answer. And they were simple things, the kind of things that we learn in Sunday school. But he knew one place where he could go and find the answer and he’d call Kyle, and he’d ask Kyle, so how many disciples were there? And who is this guy named Paul? Today we know that Evel was able to fill the void in his heart that he had felt from the time he was born. And it wasn’t filled with his Ferrari’s or his Lamborghini’s or his jet airplanes. It was only one thing that could fill that hole in his heart, and it was Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ comes and He forgives our sins. When Moses led the people out of Israel, he led them from an area called Goshen. Now Goshen was actually on the east end of Egypt. You can imagine this little area just, if you can picture the Mediterranean Sea, it makes this kind of a sideways U shape or a backwards C shape. Israel is at the far end of the sea. And in the bottom corner is where Goshen was. So it’s only probably a two or three day walk at most to get to Jerusalem. It’s not far. I’ve taken the drive from there to Egypt in a day. I’ve driven from Jerusalem all the way along the Mediterranean to Cairo. I’ve done it twice. It’s fabulous drive. It’s amazing. It’s actually kind of amusing because you go through these beautiful sand dunes, and you’re on the Mediterranean Sea and you can see the waves breaking about a mile away through the sand. And there’s so much sand that the sand dunes actually are blown across the highway so when the bus sees this sand dune that’s blowing across the highway, guess what he does: he picks up speed! And he goes as fast as he can so he can fishtail, have enough energy to fishtail through the sand until he gets to the highway onto the other side, and then he keeps going. It’s a fun trip. I mean it’s an e-ticket. Now you have to be old to understand that one, don’t you?
So you drive along this coast and it’s not unusual to see, for everywhere as far as you can see, you see nothing but these gorgeous sand dunes. They almost look like pieces of modern art with the shadows across them and all. But then all of a sudden you’ll see a palm tree with a camel and an Arab squatting next to this palm tree. It’s amazing sight to see. But anyway, Moses could have easily, when he left Egypt, he could have taken the people of Israel from Egypt to Jerusalem in a matter of three or four days. How long did it take for the Israelites to get from Cairo to Jerusalem? Forty years! What’s the matter with that guy, anyway? Has he got lousy directions? Couldn’t he figure out that all you have to do is follow the Mediterranean; it’ll take you right there. How could you possibly ever get that lost? Where you’re lost for 40 years!
He never got lost. He made a right turn instead of a left turn, he went down into the Sinai and he went down into the Sinai for a reason. And the people of Israel had to stay in the desert and in the wilderness for 40 years for a very good reason. The reason is they all believed that they were slaves. They were all raised as slaves. And they were convinced that they weren’t any value at all except to be slaves. And not until you can get out of a slave mentality can you ever be brought to the Promised Land that God has for you. And we wonder why we’re stuck in the rut of sin and slavery, why we’re in the wilderness. And the reason is we haven’t filled the hole with the grace and the love of Jesus Christ.
When we read the birth of Jesus Christ we realize that it starts with the Holy Spirit. Continues with He shall save His people from their sins. And it concludes with the fact that He shall be called Emmanuel. Because God will be with us no matter what journey’s and pathways we take, God will be there with us and there is nothing or nowhere, anything you can do that God won’t be with you carrying you through and helping you through.
And so this morning I’m inviting people to realize that God is in this place. That Jesus Christ is real today. That He was born 2,000 years ago. But that was just His physical birth. He has continued to use the Holy Spirit to birth Jesus Christ into the hearts and minds of people who will listen to Him and let go of this sin that enslaves them. And walk to the Promised Land and accept the blessings that God has for you today. That’s walking in your own shoes. Because being a success isn’t a matter of having a certain amount of wealth, it isn’t a matter of having a certain amount of plaques on the wall, it’s not a matter of trappings that we see in society that society wants us to experience. Success is finding freedom in Jesus Christ. That’s what it’s all about.
So I want to invite anybody who wants to fill their hearts with the love of Christ, to come forward and receive the forgiveness of sins. And the Bible tells us to repent and be baptized. Jesus was in the wilderness, the Bible says and He was calling people to repentance and baptism. John the Baptist was doing the same thing. The apostles did the same thing. Christ will forgive your sins and He’ll fill that emptiness in your heart, because that’s what it’s all about.
Dear Heavenly Father we thank You that Your Holy Spirit is here. That You’re touching lives with the reality of Your goodness that as the Holy Spirit gave the life of Jesus Christ to Mary so the Holy Spirit Himself gives the life of Jesus Christ to every single person here today. And so we open our hearts to You that You will fill our lives with Your presence and Your goodness. And so we love You Lord for freeing us from the slavery and the thinking that has trapped us in the wilderness today. And so lead us to that Promised Land in faith we pray, Amen.