Committed to Seeking God’s Truth!

BELIEVE    The Bible — Committed to Seeking God’s Truth!

The Importance of Finding the  RIGHT   LEADER 

Start our New Year as a church family – continuing our celebration of the light that Jesus brought into our world.  The prophet Isaiah shows us that Jesus’ light leads us out of the darkness of evil and death – into the light of God’s eternal life!

Isaiah 9:2    Before, the people lived in darkness, but now they have seen a great light.  They lived in the dark land of death, but now the light of life shines on them.

The light of Jesus – has inspired generations of people to seek His power.  Some of the most famous people who went to search for the light of Jesus – are the Wise Men.  This Sunday, Epiphany Sunday, is the time that we remember and celebrate their determination to find the right leader.  Epiphany means – life changing manifestation/discovery.  On Epiphany Sunday – we celebrate the life changing discovery the Wise Men made when they saw the star revealing Jesus’ birth and their commitment to follow that star to find the right leader, for themselves and for our world.

Matthew 2:2 (NLT)    Wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?  We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.”

The commitment and determination of the Wise Men – inspires and challenges us to think about how determined are we to follow the light of Jesus?  How important is it for you to find the right leader for your life?  Is Jesus the right leader for you and our world.

You can think about the commitment the Wise Men made to find Jesus in terms of taking a trip.  How big of a trip would you be willing to take to find Jesus’ leadership for your life?

Think about taking a trip.  With all this cold weather – might be tempted to want to get away.  What do you have to do to get ready?  Depends.  How long of a trip do you plan on taking and how tough will the conditions be in the place where you are going?

If you want to plan a two day get away to Disney World – very easy.  If you forget something – you can just pop over to the store – and it’s no big deal.

If you want to plan a two month trip hiking in the Adirondacks – it’s a lot tougher – especially if you wanted to go out at this time of year.  You have to be a whole lot more careful about how you plan and pack.

What if God called you to go on a two year Missionary trip to Iraq?  First – you’d probably want to check it out several times.  God, is this really You?  Are You really sure You are calling me to go to Iraq?  Can I get a second opinion?

If you were planning on making a two year Missionary trip to Iraq you would put a lot of time and effort into making sure you had the right supplies – and you would do everything you could to be ready to survive in a hostile territory.

Historians say that the Wise Men came from Persia – modern day Iran and Iraq.  They estimate that it probably took them about two years to travel from Persia to Bethlehem.  They obviously had to do a lot of planning and preparation.  And to stick it out and go the whole distance for 2 years – they had to have a very good reason for making the trip.  For them – the reason was the importance of finding the right leader for the world.

Who are these Wise Men?  We don’t have a lot of details.  They were Scholars.  Astronomers.  Astrologers.  They had probably learned a lot of their lessons about Judaism from Daniel and the other leading young men who had been taken from Israel after Babylon conquered Israel.  The Wise Men were the leading scholars of the Persian empire.  They studied other religions and the stars – because they believed that it is critically important to find Had obviously studied the Old Testament and Jewish Rabbis – to learn about the hopes and dreams of the Jews to one day receive the perfect king.

The wise men risked everything for two years – to follow the star that led them to Jesus.  The reason they did it – was because they knew there was a difference between leaders. 

What Is the  DIFFERENCE  Between Leaders? 

When you read Matthew 2 – you see that the first place the Wise Men went in Israel was to King Herod.  Herod was all shook up – when they asked him about the new born King of the Jews.  Wait a minute – in case you haven’t noticed – I’m in charge here!  No one in my family had a baby.  So, just what do you mean the newborn King of the Jews?

Herod got a team of Jewish scholars together – and they came back with a quick answer – the King, the Messiah, who the nation of Israel had been waiting for – for over 3,000 years was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem.

Then Herod pretended that he wanted to join the Wise Men in going to worship the new born king.  In reality – Herod showed the Wise Men and the World the difference between a godly leader and a selfish leader.

To help you think about the importance of being committed to finding the right leader – I’d like to add a little background on Herod.  The Jews hated Herod because he had gotten to the position of King – by making a deal with the Roman empire which had conquered Israel.

Not only had Herod sold out his country to Rome – Herod was also paranoid. He had three of his sons, his wife and his mother-in-law put to death because he saw them as threats to his power.  The Roman Emperor, Augustus said, “It was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son”.  Herod’s murderous streak didn’t end with his death either. Just before he died, he ordered some of Jerusalem’s most distinguished citizens to be arrested on trumped up charges and sentenced to death.  Their execution was to take place the minute he died. Herod knew no one would mourn his passing, but wanted to make sure that people mourned the day he died.

So as you start your new year – and think about the right leader for your life and for our world – let’s do a quick comparison and contrast of the leadership that Herod offered to the world and the leadership that the proper new born King of the Jews offered to the world.

Matthew 2:16 (NLT)    Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him.  He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under…  

HEROD

  • I Win—You Lose
  • No Freedom — Dictatorship
  • Destroy Your Enemies

JESUS

  • Win—Win        The Golden Rule
  • Freedom through Truth
  • Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Jesus came to be a giving leader – Who gave everything, including His life – for His people.  Herod was a taking leader – who took as much as he could from his people.

Jesus’ kingdom is based on love.  Herod’s kingdom was based on cruelty and fear.

The prophet Isaiah helped all the world to choose the right leader – by revealing what kind of King Jesus is:

Isaiah 9:6 (TLB)    For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders.  These will be His royal titles: “Wonderful,” “Counselor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace.”

The Wise Men made a big decision – to invest 2 years of travel to a place they had never been, to risk many dangers – because they were committed to finding the right leader.  As we begin a new year of our faith journey together – we have an opportunity to join them by renewing our commitment to find and follow the right leader.

Will You  RENEW  YOUR  Commitment to Follow Jesus’ Light?

From the moment of His birth – Jesus has challenged people to make a decision – is He the right leader or not?  As we know – Herod felt threatened by Jesus and did everything he could to destroy Jesus.  The Wise Men made a very different choice.  Look at how the Wise Men demonstrated their commitment to celebrate, honor, and follow Jesus as the right leader for our world.

Matthew 2:10-11 (NLT)   When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the Child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him.  Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

The Bible shows us the commitment the Wise Men made to find and follow Jesus.  They traveled for 2 years, not knowing exactly where they were going.  They risked tremendous dangers.  And then they gave their most valuable gifts.  Gold – to help provide for the needs of Jesus’ family.  Frankincense – because incense was an important symbol of Worship – celebrating the sweet fragrance of God in our lives and in our world.  Myrrh – the spice that was used for burial.

The Wise Men made their decision to commit everything they had – time, money, and their lives – to find the right leader.  Today – as we start a new year of our faith journey – we have an opportunity to renew our commitment to follow Jesus as the right leader.

In John 1 – the Bible teaches us that Jesus forces everyone to make a decision if they will receive Jesus as their King like the Wise Men, or reject Jesus like Herod.  When we accept Jesus as our King and commit ourselves to following His leadership – Jesus pours into our lives the power that we need to become our true selves – children of God.

John 1:12 (MSG)    Whoever was willing to receive Jesus, whoever believed He was Who He claimed and would follow His teachings — Jesus gave them the power to be their true selves — to become children of God.  All they needed to do was to trust Jesus to save them.

This morning, as we start our new year of faith together – I want to invite you to do two things with me – to renew your commitment to follow Jesus as your King.  First, to never forget what Christmas is really all about.  Christmas is not just a one day blow out.  Christmas is the beginning of receiving, opening, and growing in the gift of Jesus – so that we can join with Jesus in accomplishing God’s mission on earth.  An African American Pastor and Professor Howard Thurman offers a great way to renew our commitment to receive and follow Jesus as our King. 

NOW THE WORK OF CHRISTMAS BEGINS

* To find the lost.  * To heal the broken.  * To feed the hungry.  * To release the prisoner.  * To rebuild the nations.  * To bring peace among people.  * To make music in the heart.      Pastor Howard Thurman

The second thing I would like to invite you to join me in – is John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer.  John Wesley is the founder of the Methodist denomination.  Every year, he would encourage Methodist congregations to start their new year of faith – by joining together in renewing their covenant to serve and follow Jesus.  I thought it would be a great way to start our new year of faith – and to prepare to come to God’s table to receive Jesus’ best gift to us – so that we can be strengthened to offer our best gifts to God.  Let’s read together…

JOHN WESLEY’S COVENANT PRAYER

I am no longer my own, but Thine. 

Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with Whom Thou wilt. 

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee,
exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to Thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

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