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Overshadowed For Christmas
When we think about shadows, we generally think of something dark and sinister that is just lurking outside our sight. And what it does is fill us with fear.
The idea or the link between shadows and fear is seen in the statement made where a person is afraid of their own shadow. This means that someone is extremely nervous, anxiety ridden, and easily frightened.
We see such fear and trepidation when people talk about death, and it’s seen in the Bible about how people view death as someone being in “The valley of the shadow of death.” But the Bible goes on to say that those who make the Lord their shepherd, who place their trust and faith in Him, that they no longer need to be afraid of this valley, or the shadow of death.
But there is another shadow that I’d like to talk about today, and it’s the idea of being overshadowed by God, because when we’re overshadowed by God we don’t have to be afraid of death’s shadow any more.
Let me make this observation at the outset of our time together. And that is, the same power that conceived Jesus, the Son of God, within the womb of Mary is the same power that works inside each and every believer in Jesus Christ.
And the power I’m talking about is the overshadowing power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
When Mary questioned how she could be pregnant, the angel answered saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NIV)
In this passage we see that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Light of the World, the Creator Himself was not conceived after the manner of men, but rather by the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit, whereby a virgin was able to conceive outside and beyond the laws of nature.
But it goes beyond that. Mary’s womb was overshadowed, that is, the life conceived within her, Jesus Christ, was also protected and maintained by the Holy Spirit.
This overshadowing presence is also seen in Jesus when He was a child.
“The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40 NIV)
And when Jesus began His ministry we see this same overshadowing presence when John the Baptist baptized Him.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” (Matthew 3:16 NIV)
It doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit was a dove, but came down like a dove. It’s as if the Holy Spirit descended and overshadowed Jesus.
In Luke’s Gospel, right after His baptism, it says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert.” (Luke 4:1 NIV)
We see the same idea of overshadowing in what Jesus said to His disciples about being empowered to fulfill God’s Kingdom plans and purposes.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)
And so it was that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the upper room on the Feast of Pentecost filling them, overshadowing them, allowing them to do things beyond their own capability.
And we see this in what Jesus said. He said that those who believe in Him will not only do the miraculous deeds that He Himself performed, but will do even greater things because He was going to the Father (Luke 14:12).
He went on to say that He wouldn’t leave us as orphans, but both He and the Father will send in His place another just like Himself, the Holy Spirit (Luke 14:26).
In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 NIV)
And so the same overshadowing power and presence that conceived Jesus in the womb is the same overshadowing power and presence that’s available to all who believe.
In our remaining time together, what I’d like to do is to take a little time and talk about the benefits of being overshadowed.
The Benefits of Being Overshadowed
1. Receive God’s Protection
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1 NIV)
This is what you might call God’s 911. When we face opposition and those who are out to get us, we need to call upon God and let Him deal with the situation and those who wish us harm, and as we do we are then privileged to abide under the shadow of His mighty protection, or as the Psalmist goes on to say, “Under the shadow of His wings.”
God will shield all those who dwell and rest under His care. And when we by faith choose to be overshadowed by God we’re choosing Him as our protector.
David said, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
But the truth is that there is no rest when we’re afraid.
There’s an interesting stat that most Christians know about, but very few actually put into practice. The Holy Spirit has placed in the Bible 365 times of our need not to be afraid, or not to fear. That’s one “fear not” for every day of the year. So why are we always afraid?
To Joshua the Lord said that both he and the people were not to fear, but rather be strong and courageous, because He was with them no matter what.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NKJV)
And so when we dwell under the shadow of the Almighty, He will protect us and give to us rest.
2. Hear God’s Voice
“While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.” (Luke 9:34 NIV)
This is from the story from the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus was transfigured before his inner three, Peter, James, and John.
Jesus was praying when all of a sudden He was transfigured into His heavenly form, and next to him stood Moses and Elijah in their new heavenly bodies.
Upon seeing this Peter thought it good to put up three tents or tabernacles, one for each, in fact, he even said so, but while the words were coming out of his mouth, they were overshadowed, that is, a cloud enveloped them and when they entered into the cloud, God the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
God told Peter not to listen to other voices, even if they are godly, but rather listen only to Jesus. Moses and Elijah represent the Law and Prophets. Now, when Peter said, “Let’s build three tabernacles, one for each,” he didn’t understand the significance.
By building each a tabernacle Peter was saying, “Let’s honor and worship all three.” But God made sure this would never happen, so He sent His overshadowing presence to speak to the situation and to make sure they heard the truth, and not what they wanted to hear.
Within the church we are told that we need to hear what the Holy Spirit is trying to say and teach us. That’s why we sang this morning about welcoming the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst. We want and need to hear Him for our lives.
We see this time and again throughout Jesus’s letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:11)
And when we do Jesus said we’ll overcome and not be hurt by the second death, but instead be given a new name in heaven. And so there are benefits to being overshadowed by God and hearing what the Holy Spirit has to say not only within the church, but also within our lives.
For this next benefit of being overshadowed, I’d like to return to the conception of Jesus.
3. Know God’s Will
The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NIV)
It’s when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, overshadows us, that we’ll receive revelation directly from God.
One of the names for Jesus is “The Word of God.” And one of the names of the Bible is “God’s word.” There is a correlation. And so when we go to God’s word, we receive a word from Jesus for our lives. And this word is courtesy of the Holy Spirit, who not only moved upon those men who wrote it so long ago, but who also opens up our hearts and spirits to hear what Jesus is saying.
But this is not my assessment; it’s Jesus’s assessment, and His purpose in sending the Holy Spirit.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:13-14 NKJV)
And so, when we are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, not only will He protect us, and not only will we hear God’s Word for our lives, but in that Word we’ll know God’s will and way for our lives, because it is Jesus’s word for us.
But not only will we know God’s will, but the Holy Spirit will also give to us the power to follow God’s will.
4. Follow God’s Will
The word of prophecy of the coming of the Messiah says that out of the shadows came the Light of the World
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV)
Out of the shadows of darkness came Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, and being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit came upon Him like a dove, the Holy Spirit directed His steps, and He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit who then led Him into the wilderness.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert.” (Luke 4:1 NIV)
This same overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit guiding is seen, not only in His guiding us into all truth, as we saw in our last point, but also leading us as we walk out this life of faith in Him.
In the book of Acts, we find many times where the Holy Spirit guided people
• In Acts 8, we read how the Holy Spirit guided Philip to go over to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch and there Philip explained the Scriptures and the good news of Jesus Christ, and the eunuch believed and was baptized.
• In Acts 10, we read how the Holy Spirit led Peter to go to the house of a centurion named Cornelius there to preach the gospel and the whole household believed and was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
• In Acts 13, the leaders of the church in Antioch were directed by the Holy Spirit to set apart Barnabas and Saul for ministry and sent them into the mission field.
• In Acts 16, Paul was prohibited by the Holy Spirit from going to Asia and directed him instead to go to Macedonia
• In Acts 20, Paul was directed by the Holy Spirit to go back to Jerusalem.
What’s interesting about these accounts is that we’re not given any detail as to how the Holy Spirit guided them. Therefore, there’s no set formula we can use to insure that the Holy Spirit will guide us like He guided them.
So how can we know if it is the Holy Spirit leading us?
It is when it’s consistent with God’s character and with His word.
The Holy Spirit is God, and just like with the Father and Son, there is no variableness or changing.
This past week I’ve been in contact with someone who is in the process of divorcing His wife saying that he married outside of God’s will and she is unwilling to change. The unfortunate part of all of this is that there was absolutely nothing of God of from God’s word in his rational.
It’s our responsibility to check out what we are told, and to be like the Bereans because they checked everything out by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). We need to be careful not to be like those the Apostle Paul condemned as having itching ears and who seek out those who are going to tell them only what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).
And so, the overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit was present to conceive and protect Jesus while in Mary’s womb, and then to guide Jesus while He walked the earth.
But, this is not just for back then and something that makes good copy for pastors to talk about. Rather, the overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit is available to each and every one of us when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, because when we do it says that we become the temple of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus sitting upon the throne of our hearts.
In other words it’s the Holy Sprit’s overshadowing presence that brings about Jesus’s conception into a person’s life, and when that happens then it is the overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit that will lead and guide into all truth and into the will and way of God.
And so, this is what it means to be overshadowed for Christmas.
The overshadowing power and presence of the Holy Spirit is ours for the asking, and it is a gift that the Heavenly Father gives to His children. And seeing that it is Christmas, let’s ask our Heavenly Father for this great and wonderful gift.
Listen to the promise Jesus gives.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13 NKJV)
And so this Christmas, ask the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. He’s already given to us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and He also desires to give to us the gift of the overshadowing power and presence of Holy Spirit as well.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study