BELIEVE IT OR NOT

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

Luke 1:1-4

Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers who did not know the physical Jesus. He was not present during our Lord’s three-year ministry and did not witness His death and Resurrection. His sources for this Gospel are eyewitnesses of these events. He visited the people who actually saw the physical Jesus: His family, His disciples, His friends. These are the sources of his information.

The second verse of the first chapter of the story tells us that Luke is reporting these events “just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us. He is not concerned about eyewitnesses who aren’t ministers. By ministers, he does not refer to clergy, but to those people who are ministering and doing the will of God. We Protestants believe strongly in the doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers”—that every Christian is a minister, serving Jesus Christ wherever he or she happens to be, in laboratories, schools, offices, shops, or neighborhoods. Ministers like this were Luke’s sources.

There is a story told about a man who was so intrigued by a Christian friend at work that he came to him one day and asked how he could find God. His friend said, “You need a theologian. You’d better talk to my pastor.” When he talked to the pastor he was told, “I’m not a theologian, I’m just a poor preacher who learned some things in seminary. I suggest you see my seminary professor.” Undaunted, the man made an appointment to see the seminary professor. At the start of the visit, he asked, “Are you a theologian?” “No, no,” was the reply. “I am just a teacher. I get my material from all these theology books in my library. You’d better go and see some of the authors of these books.” When he finally arranged an interview with one of the important authors, his first question again was, “Are you a theologian?” “No, no,” answered the author. “I’m just a scientist who observes life and who writes about what I see. If you want a theologian, talk to somebody who is living out the faith day by day.” I think this points up what Luke is implying. He got his story from the authentic theologians of his time. Beyond being eyewitnesses, they were living out their faith day by day.

Luke 1:5-25.

Zechariah was told he will have a son. John the Baptist is the morning star that announces the dawn. You see that first star while the sky is still dark and you have the certainty that it will soon be light. John appears as a harbinger proclaiming that “great days are coming.” (HARBINGER is anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign: Frost is a harbinger of winter.) Zacharias could not have known that. His reaction to all that the angel had predicted was disbelief. It was all too good to be true. He was like Thomas, the disciple who doubted the Resurrection and said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). He was given proof and he believed.

Think of the dialogue: The angel tells Zacharias that he and Elizabeth are going to have a son. Zacharias argues that he is an old man. The angel pulls rank. He says, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God.” In other words, “God sent me. How dare you argue with me?” Zacharias could not believe the good news, chiefly because of his age.

I love the story of the man in his nineties who went to his doctor with knee trouble. The doctor said, “At your age, what do you expect?” “I expect you to fix this knee,” was the reply; “my other knee’s the same age, and it works fine.” Our age can be a barrier, whatever age we are, and we can believe we are restricted because of it.

Zacharias’s age was not a factor in his ability to carry out God’s purposes. What are your barriers to stopping you from believing All things are possible with God in your life?

Matthew 28:18-20.

We are to evangelize the world. Are you individually in the belief of that or do you be the people in the church will do it? If an angel said to you, “Your prayer is heard,” what would it mean for you? What is the “too good to be true” news in your life? You may have given up believing God can bring it about.

You may think you’re too old to start something new and exciting. Remember that people in their nineties have written plays and governed nations. Perhaps you have been praying about your loneliness. You are single and well past the age of expecting to marry. There was a person who sent a wedding invitation recently from somebody well past the accepted age. It said, “Celebrate with me. I have found my true love.” And that message gladdened their heart.

Whatever it is that might seem too good to be true for you, remember Zacharias.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NIV

[18] This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. [19] Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. [20] They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Sometimes we tire of waiting for God’s answer, and we take things into our own hands. God told Abraham he would be the father of a great nation. He and Sarah were old and Sarah was barren. Abraham waited what seemed a reasonable length of time. He finally decided to help matters along and had a son by Hagar, Sarah’s maid.

From that union came Ishmael. In his impatience, Abraham decided to help God out and, in the vernacular, he blew it. In the same way, Zacharias could not believe that God had an answer for him. We’ve all been guilty of that at some time.

Some may enter into an affair because we can’t trust God with our loneliness. We may in desperation take the wrong job, not trusting that the right one will turn up. In our hopelessness, suicide may seem the only answer. We can’t believe God can untangle the mess we are in. We pay a price for our unbelief, just as Zacharias did.

It was apparent when Zacharias came out of the temple that something awesome had happened. An authentic experience with God was discernible. Zacharias couldn’t pass on God’s blessing because he was mute. This was not the usual priest coming out to give the routine blessing. Something strange had happened to him, and the crowd perceived it.

First of all, he was late, off schedule. Would that we had the freedom to be off schedule occasionally in worship. If we come to church to have an authentic dialogue with God, we can’t always do it in one neat and precise hour with the sermon taking just twenty minutes and no more. The real dialogue may take time. We can’t always follow the printed bulletin. Sometimes God wants to scrap the schedule. He may have something special to say to us as He did to Zacharias, and we may run overtime. Try as we might, we can’t organize God and put Him on our timetable.

Once in a Lifetime.

But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John. . . . He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival.”Luke 1:13, 17 b Zechariah the priest had one of those experiences when he was picked to burn incense on the altar in Jerusalem’s temple. There were approximately eight thousand priests in Israel at the time. They were divided into “divisions” that rotated the duties of the Temple, including the burning of incense morning and evening—part of a tradition dating back to the days of Aaron, the first high priest (see Exod. 30:7-8). Individual priests were chosen out of the division by casting lots. One day, old Zechariah’s name was called for this most sacred of tasks. It was his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No doubt Zechariah entered the holy place with a mix of exhilaration and trepidation. He was part of a venerable tradition, and he was as close to the Holy of Holies as any man other than the High Priest would ever be allowed to go. The awesomeness of God’s presence would be well-nigh overpowering for him. And then it happened!

The angel Gabriel met him beside the altar and said, “God has heard your prayer” (Luke 1:13). Zechariah could have been forgiven if he had asked “Which prayer?” but immediately he was told about the impending birth of a son in his old age. Now a once-in-a-lifetime experience had suddenly turned into a once-in-a-hundred-lifetimes experience! This son’s dramatic birth was only the prelude to a dramatic life devoted to a ministry which would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:17).

Zechariah asked what probably seem to us to be perfectly understandable questions, but the angel interpreted them as evidence of unbelief (1:18-21)! Then he was made mute, presumably so that he could not express his unbelief until it was obvious that God had done what he had said. God wanted to protect the other priests from Zechariah’s unbelief.

Revelation 21:1-8 NIV

[1] Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. [2] I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. [4] ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” [5] He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [6] He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty, I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. [7] Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. [8] But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Most people never get to meet the president or the queen. Most athletes never make it to the Super Bowl, the World Cup Final, the Wimbledon Championship, or the Olympics. Should they be fortunate enough to receive that kind of opportunity, they savor it, for they know it may be a once-in-a-lifetime. Most people haven’t seen angels—or at least they haven’t recognized them as such. And most have not received as direct a message from the Lord as did Zechariah. But all God’s people have been called to a relationship with the Lord and to an avenue of service for him. For some, the experience was dramatic and unforgettable; for others, less so. But for all it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, never to be forgotten, always to be cherished.

Do you believe God at His Word? If your answer is yes, then you will obey His Word no matter what!

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