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Serving God Regardless of the Consequences
As we prepare for Christmas I thought I’d start up with where we left off during the Thanksgiving holidays when we looked at being grateful during the inevitabilities of life, and how to maintain the ministries graciously given by God. Therefore, with Christmas and New Years are right around the corner I’d thought it appropriate to look at those within the Christmas story and how they, despite the consequences, served God.
Consider the price Jesus paid when He came down that Christmas morning thinking more about you and me than He did Himself. He truly is love personified. Listen for a moment to the extent of that love.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV)
“(Jesus) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8 NKJV)
But it’s what Jesus said, as He washed the feet of the disciples, that has tremendous significance as we look at the Christmas season and what lies beyond.
“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” (John 13:15-16 NKJV)
What did Jesus do? Simply put, He came to seek and save the lost regardless of the consequences. He came to serve no matter what it was going to cost Him, which we all know was His life, as He took our place and died the death we all deserve.
And if we are called upon by Jesus to follow His example, then what we need to decide once and for all this Christmas is to serve God regardless of the consequences. We need to let this Christmas be the turning point where we decide not only to follow Jesus, but also to serve God no matter what the cost may be.
This is what we see in those who were such an integral part of the Christmas story. I think we’ll be amazed at the heart of those God saw fit to bless. And hopefully we’ll come away with our minds made up to serve God in the same way.
In His parable of the tower, Jesus said we are to count the cost and then move forward and build, not back away because the cost may be too high. When we get this firmly settled in our minds then we can truly live out what Jesus tells us, taking no thought as to our lives, what we will eat, or what we will wear. In fact we’ll give no thought on what tomorrow may bring, but instead we’ll seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness knowing that He will supply all our needs, Matthew 6:25-33.
Maybe think about it like this. Let’s say you ask someone to marry you, and they say yes. But then everyday you have to re-convince them they made the right decision. Or they say yes but they want to continue living with their parents, and you have to convince them that it’s not a great idea, or even a viable option.
Now consider how the Lord feels when we, who claim to be Christians, who have accepted His proposal to be His bride, argue about everything He tells us to do?
• Yes Lord I’ll follow, so long as it isn’t overseas or in some bad neighborhood.
• Yes Lord I’ll follow, but do I have to tithe?
• Yes Lord I’ll follow, but do I have to do it this way? Can’t I do it my own way? Why can’t I just text or e-mail them? Do I have to go over to their house?
Every time there is a chance to serve God we put it under a microscope and check it once and then check it twice to see if it’s good or nice. It’s like trying to decide whether or not to come to a Sunday morning or evening worship service, or being a part of a Bible study, saying we’ve got something else we want to do.
I mean if we were God, how would we respond when we ask a friend to come over to our house to meet with us only to have them question whether or not it is something that they really want to do?
We need to settle in our hearts to serve God regardless of the consequences. It’s where we’ve counted the cost and have decided that following Jesus and His calling upon our lives is worth it.
In our remaining time together I’d like to look at those connected with the birth of Jesus and see how this attitude was present within them.
First there was Mary. She served God by bearing His Son despite the consequences, and despite the adversity that was sure to come.
An angel appeared to Mary and seeing her obvious distress said,
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31 NKJV)
I wonder if Mary put God on hold to weigh her options? I wonder if she feared the consequences of open shame, the certain cancellation of her upcoming marriage to Joseph, being cast out by her family, loss of all her friends, or possible death (that’s a big one)?
But Mary didn’t fear the consequences. Instead she said,
“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NKJV)
Basically she said, “I’m here to serve the Lord, whatever He asks, I’ll do.”
Mary didn’t sit down and reason it out, or weigh the good to the bad. Instead she gave herself to public shame so she could fulfill God’s calling on her life.
Are we as willing to bear in our hearts and bodies the marks of Jesus Christ?
In Mary we see this attitude of a willingness to serve God regardless of the consequences.
Next we see Joseph who disregarded the shame and misunderstanding and took Mary to be his wife.
Joseph was troubled at the news Mary gave him, as would all of us. This is one of those Jerry Springer specials if I ever heard of one. Here was your bride to be, an acknowledged virgin, and she was pregnant, and she says that God implanted the Messiah inside her womb.
How could this be? Has Mary done something wrong and used God as her excuse? But still Joseph loved her and didn’t want to report it, because if he did, she’d be put to death. But it wouldn’t be long before the bulge became evident.
So he went to sleep that night still troubled over this whole thing and an angel came to him in a dream saying,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20 NKJV)
Not much is known about Joseph. He is believed to have died prior to Jesus’ ministry, because we never hear of him again after the incident at the temple when Jesus was 12 years old. But Joseph served God regardless of the consequences.
“Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.” (Matthew 1:24-25a NKJV)
So Joseph had no regard and took no thought to the possible consequences, but did what God commanded.
3. The Shepherds
Then there were the shepherds who disregarded the consequences so they could see Jesus.
They were out in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night when an angel appeared before them and said, “Do not be afraid.”
Does anyone see a trend here? Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were all told not to be afraid.
Whenever God calls us, whenever God tells us to move forward, whenever God says go, fear arises within our hearts. Fear of the consequences! Fear that our carefully laid out plans might get messed up. Fear about what we might be called upon to do or go, which by the way is “all the way.”
But God says, “Do not fear,” because God’s way and His call is always the best, and we shouldn’t fear it; rather we are to embrace it.
To the prophet Jeremiah God said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)
Seeing that God’s plans and purposes are of peace and to bring us hope in the future, what do we have to fear?
Back to the shepherds! And so the angel said to the shepherds,
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord … You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12 NKJV)
And so regardless of the consequences they left their flocks and went searching for the Messiah, whom they found just as the angel declared.
What were the consequences? No one was left to watch and protect the sheep from wandering away or getting eaten by predators. You see, a Savior is far more important than sheep. And when they saw Jesus, joy so overwhelmed them they didn’t go back that night, but instead went throughout the city proclaiming the good news.
And so the shepherds served God regardless of the consequences, and God blessed them with an overwhelming joy.
4. The Wise Men
Finally there were the Wise Men who didn’t hesitate to spend both time and money for God’s purpose.
They had been watching and waiting because they knew Daniel’s prophesy of the coming Messiah, because Daniel had been a prominent official in their land when the Jews live there during their Babylonian captivity.
And so they knew when the command was giving to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and they knew the time was close at hand, so they searched the heavens waiting for a sign.
When they saw the star appear in the East, they knew now was the time.
To King Herod they said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2 NKJV)
Nothing is told to their arrangements, or what they told to their family and friends, or who they left the affairs of their households, businesses, or jobs to. All we know is they packed their bags and left.
They didn’t board a plane and arrived at Jerusalem the next day. The trip was very hazardous and would have taken quite a bit of time. The trip would have also been expensive, not to mention the cost of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were gifts only royalty could afford.
But still they came regardless of the consequences or cost. From their example we see the words of Jesus being played out before us.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37-38 NKJV)
The Wise Men followed the star regardless of the consequences, taking no thought as to what the next day would bring, or of what they had left behind. They served and followed.
Will we be like whose who were involved in the first Christmas? Will we serve and follow God regardless of the consequences?
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1 NKJV)
John Rice, pastor, evangelist, and commentator, tells a story of when he was on his way to a revival in Texas. He came across a stranded driver, and Rice offered to tow the man’s car to the next town.
As he was towing him, the man continued to apply the brakes because he couldn’t see the road ahead like Rice. Finally Rice pulled over and asked what was wrong. The man asked that his car be unhooked and that he would pick it up later.
God wants to take us forward, but all we want to do is apply the brakes because we don’t see what God sees. God doesn’t want to drag us along. We have to trust that God knows where He is going and we have to stop pushing on the brakes and let Him take us where He wants us to go.
This Christmas we have a great opportunity to make that same commitment as those who were a part of that very first Christmas to serve Jesus for the rest of our lives regardless of the consequences. So let’s stop applying the brakes through a lack of trust, and move forward in the will and way of God.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study