Christmas: God's Mission Trip - A Dangerous Mission

Yeah Lord we great You, born this happy morning!! But did you know it is a miracle that Jesus was born in the first place. Not just the miracle of the virgin birth, but the fact that He was even allowed to be born.

The mission trip God took, by way of His One and Only Son Jesus, was wrought with dangers from the very beginning. Any number of things could have happened to derail the mission. We're going to talk about this because the enemies of God are still trying to prevent God's mission from becoming a reality in your life.

Let's pray! Father God I love You so much and I thank You for coming on Your mission trip on that first Christmas! You faced dangers on every hand, but You did what You did because You loved us so much.

I pray Your Holy Spirit will teach us today and reveal to us why You were so determined to carry out Your mission back then and why You are every bit as determined to complete Your mission in each of our lives today! Hide me behind the Cross so folks can hear from You and let You reveal Your mission for them. In Jesus Name!

Danger from the start
Danger throughout

Danger from the Start

Read with me if you will from Matthew 1:18-25 a familiar story but we'll discover some things you may not have thought about and their application to our lives today.

Matthew 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to  public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,  
because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Do you realize what a close call this was? Back in Jesus' day it was not uncommon for a woman who was thought to be an adulteress to be stoned. And in Mary's situation, she was legally betrothed to Joseph. Back in the Bible days, a pledge to be married was a legally binding decision. To be betrothed to a person was no small matter.  A betrothed woman was considered legally married. In fact, to undo a pledge to be married was paramount to divorce. He knew he had not consummated the marriage and when he discovered she was pregnant, what else could he think? Joseph had a decision to make. In his world Mary's life and the fate of the little one was in his hands. If he said the word, Mary's life, along with her unborn child would be over. However, God had a plan and He spoke to Joseph in a dream.

The womb can be a dangerous place. God knew this when He sent His Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus in the womb of the young maiden named Mary.
In this old world, sometimes things go wrong. Miscarriages sometimes happen. I want all of you in this room who've gone through this tragedy to know this...
When that child was conceived, he or she was loved by God and when that child was lost to this world, that child was welcomed into God's world in heaven. You will see that little one someday. I don't understand all of the whys and the hows, but I know the Heart of God and for that reason, I can tell you to trust Him in all circumstances.  

The womb can be a dangerous place today because of abortion. Now I want to say again, because I know the heart of God I can tell you that any woman in this room who has had an abortion, you can know that God has forgiven you, loves you, and wants you to know as well, a child lost to this world is welcomed in God's world. I also want to encourage any woman here, who is considering having an abortion, to please reconsider. No matter what your circumstances, because I know the heart of God, I can promise you He will not forsake you and will help you to be able to provide for your little one. Trust God to do this and give that little one a chance at life here!

So Jesus' mission faced danger from the very beginning. But even when He was a toddler He faced danger. Even though we see the shepherds and the wise men in the manger scenes, the truth is the wise men came to see Jesus at a much later time. Maybe even as much as a year or two later. Now don't run home and take the wise men out of your nativity. It's okay to put them together for the Christmas celebrations. And how do I know they weren't at the manger the night of His birth. Let's see as we look at the next major threat to God's mission.

Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
2 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.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 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.
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “ ‘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.’ ’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
8 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.”
9 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.
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
11 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.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you,  
for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,
15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

The danger to Jesus and His mission was real. Herod was a horrible ruler. He was a liar and very deceptive. He did not want to worship the One born King. He wanted to destroy Him. Why? Herod had usurped the throne. He had no right to the throne. He had been appointed king of this region by the Roman Senate. They also gave him the title of Herod the Great.  This went straight to his head.He was insanely jealous of anyone who might take his throne. He executed his favorite wife, his priestly brother-n-law and several of his sons.

Herod was in fact a "mad king"! His desire for power had made him mad. He would stop at nothing to further his own agenda. His motivation was nothing more than self.
In fact, he was so obsessed with self, he not only was willing to destroy his own family, but was willing to kill all the boys under the age of two to insure his throne. So the mission of God to save humanity was threatened by a ruler who had let power, pride, and insane jealousy, rule his life. Did you know the same things still threaten the success of God's mission to seek and to save that which is lost? Self-absorbed pride has kept so many from experiencing the mission of God in their lives. God's Word says this...

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.
7 When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing.

Herod died not too many years after Jesus' birth. His hideous acts of terror did not pay off. His selfish grabs for power only led to his eventual downfall and had destroyed much of his family. But God had taken care of Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child.
Now how does this relate to you and me? Is God's mission in your life in jeopardy because of foolish and wicked pride? And by the way, pride and arrogance does not only effect you! The evil of Herod was passed on to one of his children who survived his paranoia. Yes, his son followed in his footsteps...

Matthew 2:19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt
20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,
23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Scholars are unsure of the exact text or which prophet Matthew was referring to when speaking of Jesus' being called a Nazarene. The other prophecies mentioned are clearly found in Jewish Scriptures.
What we can be sure of is this...

Satan was determined to end the mission of God, but God had planned out His mission trip with great care and everything that was happening was happening for a reason. All of the twist and turns of Jesus' young life were orchestrated not only to fulfill each and everyone of the ancient prophecies, but even more important to fulfill God's mission!
I just want to interject this…no matter the twist and turns your life has taken, the good, the bad, and the ugly, God can and will take those things and use them to accomplish His mission in your life. The key is your willingness to listen and follow His leadership. Thankfully Joseph was paying attention and followed God's directions!

Now we fast forward in the events of the mission trip. We know very little about Jesus' life from the time of His birth until He began His ministry, with the exception of His trip to the temple in Jerusalem when He was only twelve years old. Scripture jumps straight to His baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan. What happens after this showcases Satan's desire to prevent the success of God's mission trip. There was danger throughout Jesus's life.

Danger Throughout His Life

Satan realized his previous attempts to use others to stop Jesus had failed, so he decides to take care of things himself. Oh and by the way, God was not caught off guard by these events and He's not caught off guard by events in your life.
Listen to Matthew's words in chapter 4.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

What was the real temptation here? Have you ever seen how many rocks there are in Israel? Satan was saying "turn this barren land into an agricultural mecca and the people will follow you because you'll make them rich. Give them what they want and they'll follow you!" If Jesus did that He could avoid the Cross and still have people follow Him. However, their motivation would not be love for God, but love for things and there would be no payment for their sin! Satan was tempting Jesus to abandon His original mission! Jesus knew better than to buy that lie! What was Jesus' reply?

Matthew 1:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ’”

Satan is still trying to destroy God's mission in our lives today by having us go after the things of this world and neglect the the more important things like the truth that comes from the mouth of God! This can be seen so clearly at Christmas time. The time we should be celebrating God's mission to save us many of us are more focused on other things! And I do mean things. I'm not a grinch and I love giving and getting gifts, but interrupt the gift giving with a five minute devotional on what the day is all about and you might get some strange looks. I'm just saying! Let me just say this, the words that come from Satan's mouth are twisted lies. But the words from the mouth of God can always be trusted. Satan didn't give up with this one temptation. That's one thing about Satan, he's a persistent little Devil! Let's see what happened next...

Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ’”

What was the temptation here? Amaze the people with your powers and prove to them with fantastic, public miracles and you will become wildly popular. You'll be a superstar and everybody loves a superstar. But Jesus knew better! People who follow you because your popular or because your a superstar talent, will also abandon you when you're not so popular anymore. Their willingness to follow is not based on a relationship, but on a fad! Jesus didn't buy that lie either. How many people have bought into the lie that popularity is the most important thing? How many people have been hurt or destroyed by that lie? That lie destroys God's mission for your life. God wants you to know that if you are living life according to His divine plans and you know He is pleased with you it won't really matter what other people think.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

So when we are tempted by Satan to abandon God's plans and chase the mirage Satan places in front of us, what do we do? Do what Jesus did, call out Satan's misuse of Scripture and his lies.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ’”

And then, came a crazy temptation. A temptation that if Jesus had succumbed to it would have destroyed the purpose of God's mission trip to earth. Check it out...

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Wow! Satan wanted Jesus to bow down and worship him. What was the temptation here and how could this have destroyed God's mission? Satan was trying to bargain with Jesus. "I'll give you the kingdoms of the world today. The souls of everyone alive today. But I get all the others, past and future! If Jesus had done that, there would be no need for the pain of the Cross, but there would have been no hope for the people who had lived in the past and put their hope and trust in the promised Messiah! He would have totally let them down and here's the kicker, you and I would have been totally abandoned.  

But thank You Jesus, (I'm about to pray with my eyes open) You didn't bargain with the enemy of our souls. You didn't do Your mission half way! You looked down into the future and saw our hurts, our needs, our lostness, our brokeness and You weren't going to let anything keep you from accomplishing Your God-given mission.
Thank You Jesus, we owe You everything!
Amen and amen!

I love the way Jesus responded to Satan...

Matthew 4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ’”

Let me tell you this, Satan will offer you the world if you'll only worship him and turn away from God, but I beg you to understand this, when you trade with Satan, you will always, and I mean always come up on the short end and what you thought was a bargain will turn out to be your worst nightmare!  

Jesus did tell Satan to leave, and he did! But check this out in the Gospel of Luke...

Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Satan didn't stop trying to foil God's mission. He tried other ways to keep Him from going to the cross as prophesied.
We see in John's gospel that twice the religious leaders sought to have Jesus stoned.

John 8:59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself,
slipping away from the temple grounds.

I would love to know how He hid himself and just slipped away from them.
And then in John 10:31-39

John 10:31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him,
32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father.  
For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews,
“but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’ ?
35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken —
36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?
37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.
38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles,
that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Jesus loved them so much! It's sad that the religious were so blinded by their lust for power and their self-righteousness they could not see that Jesus was the Messiah, the very fulfillment of the very prophecies they knew and loved. They wanted Him dead. Well, when the time was right, they got what they wanted.

God's dangerous mission proved to be a deadly one. But God is an impeccable planner and He had even planned the details of the most tragic and difficult part of His mission trip. I'm going to end the message with a song. It's about God's mission trip and wondering if people today will understand it's what Christmas is all about!

As I sing this song, some of our staff will be here at the front to pray with you if you like, or you can just make this alter a place of prayer. My prayer for you today is that you will allow God to accomplish His mission in your life by letting Him come into your heart!

Christmas Song For All Year Round

Written by Randy Stonehill

I wonder if this Christmas they'll begin to understand
The Jesus that they celebrate is much more than a man!

Cause the way the world is I don't see how people can deny
The only way to save us was for Jesus Christ to die

And I know that if Saint Nicholas was here he would agree
That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me

They led Him to the slaughter on a hill Called Calvary
And mankind was forgiven when they nailed Him to the tree

But most of all the children, they're the ones
I hope will learn
That Jesus is our Savior and He's going to return

And Christmas isn't just a day and all days
aren't the same
Perhaps they'll think about that word and see it spells His name

And I know that if Saint Nicholas was here he would agree
That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me

They led Him to the slaughter on a hill Called Calvary
And mankind was forgiven and mankind was forgiven, and we were all forgiven
when they nailed Him to the tree…

so Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry
Christmas. Well I wonder if this Christmas they'll begin to understand?