Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Matthew 2:1-9, Deuteronomy 18:10-13, Philippians 2:12-16 Downloads & Resources God's World: Are You a Spiritual Guide for Others? Dr. Jon Morrissette - 12/14/2003 The second chapter of the gospel of Matthew tells part of the Christmas story. Matthew 2:1-9 (NIV) says, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.' When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born." " 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' ' Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.' " "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." Matthew mentions that the Magi were searching for Jesus. The Magi were pagan astrologers, probably from Arabia or Persia. They were widely respected in the Greco-Roman world for their divinatory skills. By any measure, the Magi were spiritual seekers. They looked to the heavens for answers. They searched the skies to find a deeper meaning to life and creation. They gained wealth by making predictions from month to month based upon the planetary movements and the stars. They would offer advice on par with what you would find in modern day horoscopes or on a psychic hotline. Their star reading practices were explicitly forbidden in the Old Testament. In fact, by the standards of Old Testament law, God’s law, their practices were detestable! In Deuteronomy 18:10-13 (NIV) we read, "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults with the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God." The Magi were among the first to come searching for Jesus Christ. The Magi were considered pagan not just because they violated God’s laws, but because they were Gentiles. They were outsiders. They were non-Jewish. They did not know the specific prophecies about Jesus Christ. They did not know for example, that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. Yet oddly, they were among the first to come searching for Jesus Christ. There isn’t any group in our culture that is particularly contemporary to the Magi. But just as in Jesus’ day, there does seem to be a heightened interest in spiritual things. Like the Magi, people are looking in every direction for spiritual insight. Today's people are just as apt to look to the stars and horoscopes for guidance. They look to angels. They look to mysticism. They look to psychics. They look to witchcraft and ouija (weegee) boards. They look for signs and interpretations and predictions. They look to religious icons of every faith. They conduct séances. They probe New Age spirituality. They experiment with transcendental meditation. Despite the heightened interest in spirituality our culture lacks any real moral center. In Jesus' day the Magi pursued practices explicitly forbidden in God’s law. Because they were free to interpret the stars as they chose, they defined their own morality. There was no overarching moral standard to embrace. They didn’t grasp God’s character and holiness. They didn’t understand the consequences of their sin, their need to submit to a Lord, or their need for a savior. Because of these reasons, the Magi were considered outsiders to the Jews. I don’t normally listen to country music. That is one of those detestable practices. But in a moment of weakness, I couldn’t resist. I saw a country music video by Toby Keith called "I Love This Bar." His song is a celebration of the bar as a place where sin is celebrated and laughed at. The video features a bar loaded with personalities deemed outsiders by the Church. There are winners and losers, chain smokers, and boozers in the bar. There are yuppies, bikers, and thirsty hitchhikers. There are the girls next door dressed up as movie stars, cowboys, truckers, broken-hearted fools, and suckers. There are hustlers, fighters, early birds, and all-nighters. There are veterans who talk about battle scars. There are short skirts, hot chicks, blue collared boys and rednecks. In the bar there are lovers, lookers, dancing girls, and hookers. There are people who love to drink beer from a mason jar. All of these folks are in the bar. Basically, the people in the bar are people who disobey God’s laws. People who lead impure lives, who are outsiders, who do not know the love of Christ, who have not yet found a deeper meaning and purpose for their lives, and who do not have a meaningful connection with God. People who, like the Magi, must somehow get connected with Christ and establish a moral foundation to guide their lives. Of course, it wasn’t just the outsiders who needed Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus came just as much for the insiders. He came for the religious and spiritually informed. He came for those of us who think of ourselves as good, moral people but who in reality struggle with hypocrisy. He came for those mired in religious activity, who worship regularly, who give, who study the scriptures and memorize the law, and who think they have it all together. He came for those saturated with God’s wisdom and truth but who cannot find the inner willpower to live for God as they know they should. As in Jesus' day, our whole world seems poised to receive Jesus Christ. Like the Magi of old, people today are peering into the darkness of the night sky searching for meaning and purpose. They want answers. They want direction. They want some connection with God. They want hope. They want a moral center. They want forgiveness. They want life. But mostly what they find is more darkness. The question is, how are outsiders like the Magi to get connected to God? How are insiders like the Jewish leaders to truly open their hearts to God? The Magi found Jesus in a rather peculiar way. As they peered into the darkness of the night sky, a star unlike anything they’d ever seen appeared in the night sky. The star appeared long enough to guide the Magi to the city of Jerusalem, but then it disappeared. Then after the Magi consulted with Herod and the Jewish leaders, the star reappeared and guided them to the exact place where Jesus was staying. Matthew 2:9-11 (NIV) says, "…the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary…" That star was God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of the Magi. God supernaturally met the Magi right where they were and led them to Bethlehem to the child Jesus. What will God use to guide us to our life-giving Lord and savior, Jesus Christ? This week I wondered if God still works today in our lives as he did with the Magi. I wondered what miraculous means God might use today, this Christmas season, in order to guide insiders and outsiders to our life-giving Lord and Savior? God brought to my mind Philippians 2:12-16 (NIV) which says, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…" Has it ever occurred to you that God still uses stars to draw people into the true meaning of the Christmas season? Has it ever occurred to you that God still works supernaturally through miracles to draw all men unto himself? We are God's stars, shining in the darkness to show the way to Jesus. In Philippians 2 Paul is telling us that we are the miracle of the God. We are God’s interventionists in this crooked and depraved world in which we live. We are the stars that, like the star of Bethlehem, shine in the darkness at the pleasure of God. We shine for the benefit of the world God so loved, "that he sent his one and only Son." John 3:16 (NIV) We shine to the degree that we work out our salvation. We shine to the degree that God works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose. We shine to the degree that we become blameless and pure, children of God. We shine to the degree that we hold out the words of life to our generation. We shine to the degree that we notch up the lumens and glorify Jesus Christ. We are part of the ongoing Christmas story that continues to unfold in history. The star of Bethlehem attracted the Magi to Jesus Christ. And I want you to consider the amazing reaction of the Magi as they entered into Christ’s presence for first time. Matthew 2:11-12 (NIV) says, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." The presence of Jesus Christ miraculously transformed the Magi. Notice that when they saw Jesus, the Magi bowed down in submission and humility. They understood that they were in the presence of a great king, far more powerful than King Herod. The Magi worshiped out of reverence and fear. They understood that this king was greater than any king their eyes had ever seen. The Magi laid their treasures at the feet of Jesus. They offered gold, incense, and myrrh. And when the Magi left the Bible says that they returned to their country by another route. You cannot enter the presence of Jesus Christ and continue down the same path. Jesus Christ changes the course of our lives. He changes our direction. He reorders our world. He reorients our souls. He refreshes us with forgiveness, grace and mercy. He gives us a hope beyond the grave. He gives us meaning and purpose. Somehow the Magi knew their lives and their world would never be the same again. One of the wonders of Christmas is how God miraculously transforms our lives. But another wonder is that he then uses us as stars shining in the universe to attract insiders and outsiders to himself. As it is, we are God’s primary instrument by which he adds new life to his kingdom. We are spiritual guides, lighting the way and inviting people into the transforming presence of the Christ of Christmas. Just like the star of Bethlehem. God wants us to help people deepen their relationship with his son. As it is, God wants us to help people deepen four critical relationships. He wants us to help people deepen their relationship with his son. Jesus is the very essence of spirituality. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. Apart from a knowledge of Christ we are lost. We are left gazing into the dark, empty sky. This Christmas, tell people about Christ. Tell them what this time of year is all about. Give people a Bible. Give them a Christian book. Invite them to church to learn about Christ. Give them Christian music. Talk to them about the lyrics of true Christmas carols. Shine the light of truth so that people hear the truth of Christ. God also wants us to help people deepen their relationship with his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and transforms our character. He helps us become like Jesus Christ inwardly and outwardly. He synchronizes our moral compasses in tune to the heart of God. This Christmas live out Christ’s lifestyle. Give way to the impulses of God’s Spirit. Love God. Love people. Give. Serve. Be generous. Be self-controlled. Be patient. Let the love of Christ overflow out of your life into the lives of others. Move beyond yourself. Be a light shining in the darkness. Inspire a new Christmas spirit in your children and family circle. God wants us to help people deepen their relationship with his family and with the world he loves. We are God’s children. He has a purpose for each and every one of us. He wants us to love one another, but he also wants us to be a light in our dark world. He wants us to add new life to his body and to his kingdom. He wants us to be that star that draws people into the presence of Jesus Christ where they can find life everlasting. We are God’s miracle. We are his supernatural intervention into the lives of lost people. God advances his purposes through us. This Christmas be mindful of the people around you, whether they are inside the Church or outside the Church. We live in the world God loves. Every single person around you needs Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Be mindful of how God can use you to forever change the course of their lives. Because of just one star, the Magi saw the child Jesus with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasures and presented Jesus with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And they returned to their country changed men. If God can do that with one star, then what can he do with hundreds of stars?