“Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” – Luke 2:15b
Christmas in July? Christmas in August? Christmas in September? What, what is Pastor Claude thinking? Let me share a bit about how I feel about considering the Christmas story in summer. You may be a Christmas junkie who can’t get enough of the holiday no matter what time of year its mentioned. That’s not always the case though. So, don’t stop reading in distaste. Please read on. There’s an important truth tied up in this lesson. Trust me. And keep going to verify what I say.
Ever watch the Christmas in July Hallmark specials? I don’t know, there’s something about those that are just out of sync for me. I need snow and cold outside for Christmas. That’s just me though. I know there’s a lot of warm weather people who maybe never really experienced cold or snow for Christmas. I’m a north Easterner. For me, Christmas is in December, everything else is syncopated. Just doesn’t sound right or feel right. Christmas in the summertime doesn’t send chills up my spine, but it sends beads of sweat down my brow. And that’s a death nell for Frosty the Snowman, if you know what I mean. Sorry Frosty.
We’re studying through the gospel of Luke at Calvary Chapel of Hope where I serve as Senior Pastor. One of the doctrinal distinctives of Calvary Chapels is that we teach verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book through the entire Bible. I love it. And as we will see below, it’s a tremendous safeguard to prevent deception.
But as I started this gospel teaching, the first two chapters has what we traditionally refer to as the Christmas story. That’s a little weird; teaching the Christmas story in summertime. (Although, its more likely that Jesus was born around September than December. But that’ s another teaching.). I prayed about it and the Lord was leading me to go forth with the study. Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. When we become too familiar with something, we take if for granted. So maybe its good to study the exceptional birth of Jesus in the summer and not the winter. Maybe the weather and absence of seasonal distractions will help us have a different, a holier, more practically applicable understanding of this great portion of scripture. 
What can we learn from the exceptional birth of Jesus? Well I was studying and preparing and praying and thinking of how some of this portion of scripture is relevant for our day. I was pondering the message with one ear and listening from time to time with the other ear to the cacophony on the airwaves around me. Don’t get me wrong, when I study, I study in quiet and isolation with as few distractions from God as possible. I want to hear from Him. But I think it was the Lord who began to draw my attention to some news and societal worldly themes of the day. I was hearing “fake news,” a lot. Then I saw an article about how the United States military is going to join the fight against “fake news.”  That may sound good, but who determines what is fake and what is real? That’s the real underlying issue. I know “fake” to those in the main stream media is anything contrary to their talking points or political agenda. In other words, if you come from a conservative or, perish the thought, a scriptural world view, your labelled “fake news.” That’s not clarification of the truth. That’s infringement on the First Amendment rights of citizens as well as trying to stifle the truth of God’ word. The Bible tells us to expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). We are to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus told us to salt and light, to infiltrate this dark world and influence it with His light and His flavorful worldview (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus came to witness to the truth, so should we (John 18:37).
As I was prayerfully pondering these contemporary issues as well as the portion of scripture I was preparing to teach from, the LORD drew my attention to something about the shepherds in the field who had just received an incredible announcement of the coming Jesus from the angels of God. These angels told them of “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). “Christ the Lord,” the “Savior,” was born! (Luke 2:11). Then, to top it off, suddenly a host of heavenly angels appeared and praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13-14). Wow! That must have been something to see and experience. That must have been incredible. And that God would choose simply smelly shepherds out in the fields who were there taking care of stinky smelly sheep, incredible in its simplicity and profundity. It was a glorious event that would have literally knocked most people off their feet. There’s no indication in the context, but I suspect it knocked these shepherds to their knees in worship and prayer.
But I noticed something about the shepherd’s reaction that I didn’t really think of before. The Lord brought something to my attention. Look at these verses:
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
As soon as the shepherds heard of the birth of Messiah and experienced the glorious presence of God through the angelic beings, they just had to go and confirm that what they were told was true. I don’t think the shepherds had any real doubts about the truth of what the angels told them. I think it was more curiosity and excitement to see this incredible fulfillment of an age-old promise of God. But there’s still a principle for us to glean and apply to our lives in our day.
To confirm what we are told as being true or not is very important. The certainty of our faith depends to a great extent on the reliability of what we are told and read and see. The reliability of what we are told is linked to the credibility of the one who told it to us or wrote what we are weighing as true or false. In the Old Testament whether or not a prophet was from God was determined by whether or not what they said God told them would happen, actually happened. If it didn’t, they were deemed a false prophet (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20-22). In Deuteronomy 13:1-5 any prophet or dreamer of dreams that contradicts God’s law and word is deemed not from God. Therefore, in both these cases adherence to God’s word is the pivotal determiner in what is and what isn’t from God; what we should and should not accept or follow.
These announcing angels were impressive. In the Old Testament 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slayed in one night by one angel (Isaiah 37:36-38; 2Kings 19:35-37; 2 Chronicles 32:21). These shepherds experienced a host of these mighty angels! But the shepherds still went to see if what they were told actually did come to pass. And that’s a good thing for us to take note of. I don’t think these shepherds ran to see the baby Jesus because they doubted the message from the angels. I think they were genuinely excited or at least very curious about what they had been told and therefore they ran to see if it was actually true. But there’s a principle for us to adopt here.
The Bible states, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And now wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Our adversary is a master deceiver. The Apostle Paul expressed his concern of believers being deceived when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. He said, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or it you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Trust and verify is a very good holy habit to have.
Satan is very persuasive in his deceptions. He deceived Eve by getting her to question the word of God. He does the same today. Satan provides us alternative “interpretations” of God’s word that don’t jive with scripture as a whole. That’s one way he deceives us. If you aren’t familiar with the Bible as a whole, you’re more susceptible to being deceived. But Paul elaborates that Satan the serpent deceives by drawing people away from the “simplicity that is in Christ.” The mark of religion is to complicate and cloud up the simplicity God has provided in Christ to have a personal saving relationship with Him (e.g. John 17:3-4). When teachers holding a particular position begin to say that the simple usual meaning of a word is really not the true meaning and that you need to look “deeper” or to their alternative definition, beware. The late great Bible teacher Norman Geisler simply but profoundly used to say, “If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.” That is oh so true folks. Remember that. God isn’t into hiding His truth in esoteric cloudy confusion. God speaks very clearly, very simply, so that all who desire to understand and accept His revelations, can easily do so.
Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 to refer to, “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or it you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!” Another Jesus would be any Jesus not defined in scripture. Another “Jesus” would be any “Jesus” who contradicts scripture or speaks out of His Holy Character. For instance, if a “Jesus” presented by someone said, “Well, you know, revelation is evolving. I used to say I’m the only way of salvation and to get to heaven, but times have changed. Now the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, New Age, Humanist, Atheist ways are just as valid.” If you hear that coming from a “Jesus,” renounce him and walk away. That is “another Jesus,” which is really no Jesus at all. The only Jesus that is the real Jesus is the “Jesus whom we [the Apostles] have preached.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is Michael the archangel. Mormons or the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints say Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. These are “another Jesus” that is really no Jesus at all. Most cults get their Christology wrong and that is a big reason why they are discounted as false and aberrant. The only Jesus that is the real Jesus is the “Jesus whom we [the Apostles] have preached.”
Paul mentions “a different spirit.” Notice the small case “s” as opposed to the capitol “S” we’d usually found when referring to the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of spirits masquerading around like the Holy Spirit. Beware of them. The Holy Spirit will never contradict or countermand the scripture which He has inspired to be written (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). For instance, there are some who minimize the value and importance of the word of God by quoting the phrase, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6b). They quote this verse and take it entirely out of context. That is what cults do; they use scripture to lend authority to their teachings, but take scripture out of its context to twist and abuse its original holy intent. The context of this phrase is a discussion of the Old versus New Covenants. The “letter” that kills is the letter of the Law of the Old Covenant. That killing is actually good because when we, in our own strength, try to keep the Law in order to be righteous before God, we discover we are weak and powerless to do so. The Letter of the Law kills self-reliance and works righteousness in us. The letter of the Law is therefore “a tutor” which leads us to the cross of Jesus to find mercy and grace (Galatians 3:24). Without that killing, we’d remain hopeless lost.
The word of God is not death producing but is “living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word does spiritual surgery on us. Sometimes that involves killing off our flesh or sinful nature. But those who minimize the importance of God’s word in the life of the Christian, are listening and promoting a the “spirit,” not the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, Paul mentions “a different gospel which you have not accepted.” The “different gospel” takes many forms today. Sometimes it takes the gospel out of its wholly Bible context to state repentance is not a part of the gospel. Repentance is a part of the true gospel and if it is not always specifically mentioned, it is always implied (e.g. Acts 2:37-39). A “different gospel” is a gospel that minimizes holy living. It is a gospel that communicates “go and sin some more,” rather than heeding the words of Jesus who said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). The idea of Christians using “grace” to condone sin or even promote sin is anathema to Paul. To those who allow and even encourage sinfulness as a means to promote “grace” Paul said, “Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2, 15). Wake up people! Jesus came to save us from sin not allow us to continue in sin. Sin is what sent Jesus to the cross. Sin produces death! We are saved from sin not saved so we can sin some more (e.g. Romans 6:14-23). Paul was inspired to write, “Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. . .. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:6-7 and 11). Read all of Romans 6 and you’ll see that truth as clear as day.
Any gospel that depends on our works rather than grace, doesn’t involve repentance, that depends on anything other than the atoning sacrifice of Jesus alone, and does not follow and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and His word, that is a “different gospel.” Trust the gospel, but verify that it is indeed, the gospel of the Bible. Yes, Satan is the great deceiver. And because of that, if we see something that sounds good, looks good, and feels good, yes, we can proceed in trust. But don’t trust too far unless you also verify the truth of your experience.
16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
When the shepherds came and found the holy couple, they found them just as the angels said they would, “Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” You can trust God’s word. God is faithful to uphold it and protect it. God is true. His word is true. You can analyze it all you want and please do seek to verify it. In the end, every time, you will find God’s word is true. And even in those rare, rare cases where there isn’t a whole lot of information or confirming data, God’s track record makes it a good practice to give God and His word the benefit of the doubt. He’s never been proven wrong or untrue.
17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
When the shepherds had verified that Messiah was indeed born just as the angels had told them, they “made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child” Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead the angels told the disciples to “Come, see, . . . go. . . and tell” (Matthew 28:6-7). That’s what we should do in our walk with the Lord. We should first come and see about the gospel and receive it by faith trusting Jesus as Savior. Then we should go and tell others, the whole world about the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When you have a certain faith, a faith that is true and reliable, it is something that needs to be shared. When we experience the glory of the gospel and of Jesus Christ, truly, that needs to be shared. Truly, if your heart has been altered by God, wild horses won’t keep you from sharing Jesus with others. The shepherds couldn’t help but tell others what and who they had seen and what they had heard. That’s a good example for us to follow. We should use every resource to broadcast Jesus to a world lost in darkness.
This is where some in Bible believing and Bible revering churches err. We cross our Ts and dot our Is doctrinally. We study verse by verse through scripture. We believe scripture is God’s word. But we don’t tell others about the truth of God’s word. We don’t follow or obey one of the clearest necessities of the revelation of God, to seek and to save the lost. Jesus came to serve and seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Gods plan for us is to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). We are to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). We are to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). Therefore, we, like Jesus, should have a burning desire and make every effort to seek and save the lost people of this world.
Trust, verify, and then share what has been entrusted and verified to you. Father we come to You today in Jesus’ name. You have made us aware of the “fake” news and plethora of deceptions in our world today. Father, we have noticed deception outside and around the Church. We have seen it even in Your Church. Father, in Jesus name would you please help us discern truth from falsehood, right from wrong, life from death? Holy Spirit, would You help us to know the Truth and live it out in the world today as well as in Your Church? Jesus, would You please keep us by Your side? Would you help us to stay close to You and introduce You to others? LORD, would you help us to know what is right for us to trust in, and help us verify everything by Your word? Would You help us to do all of this, to Your glory? We love You LORD. May You be exalted and glorified forever. In Jesus name. Amen.