Christmas at Cornerstone 2018 - Follow the Light

We can learn so much from the wise men following the light of Jesus.

Linn Winters
Dec 23, 2018    37m
In this sermon Pastor Linn Winters talks about what we can learn from the story of the wise men following the light. Although everybody could see the star that appeared with the birth of Jesus, only the wise men traveled to find him. Sometimes our circumstances cause us to be so stuck in the dark, we become blinded to the light of Jesus. Be like the wise men and look past the darkness to find the light. Video recorded at Chandler, Arizona.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Linn Winters: 00:36 Hey, Merry Christmas. Super, super glad you're here. What a great time of the year to be celebrating. Truth is, if you've got any sort of church background, if you're familiar with the Bible on any level, you've probably heard this story. It's an amazing, remarkable, almost unthinkable story that God is in heaven, he looks down to us and he says, people are missing me, people are not figuring out that they can have a relationship with me, and so he sends his son. Think about this, he sends his son to Earth to be born a human being. God come as a baby, God in diapers, how crazy is that? God's got to get potty trained. When he's a teenager, does he have zits? I don't know. I mean, but just think how incredible this is that God would leave heaven, come walk with us so that, you ready? So we could see how he lived, so that we could have real conversation with him, and he could explain what it means to enter into an actual relationship with his father. And then if that was not enough, he goes to a cross to pay for your and my sins.

Linn Winters: 01:54 I mean this is just a crazy, crazy, remarkable story of which the Christmas season, the Christmas story is chapter one. This is the beginning, the launching, of that amazing story. Which makes it all the more interesting that in the middle of the Christmas story, suddenly there pop up some relatively ancillary characters. I mean people that you just go, how did you even get into the story? And I'm talking about the wise men. You know, you're in the middle of, you know, Jesus is being born, and then all sudden these three dudes show up. I mean, what are the three wise men, and why are they even in the story? Are they like the first Amazon drivers? What is this? I mean, you know, they show up at the manger, ding dong, you know Joseph comes to the door, hey, we got some packages for you. It looks like some myrrh, and some Frankincense, and could you sign here? I mean what, how do they make it to the story? Why would they even be included? Which is why every year when we're putting the manger, we kind of know where the shepherds go, and we surely know where Mary and Joseph go. But then you get to these three wise men, and you're kind of like maybe to the left behind the donkey? I don't know. I mean, where do you put these guys?

Linn Winters: 03:12 What if there's actually a reason that God said, look, you have got to record, you've got to get these guys' reaction, and what they do, into the Christmas story. Because it is critical that people understand how important, how vital their response to Christmas was. What if, you ready for this? What if the wise men are actually the second most important people in the Christmas story outside of Jesus?

Linn Winters: 03:47 So I just want us to take the next few minutes, just kind of delve into this idea that says, how did these three bit characters end up in the story? Why did God believes that their part of the story was so critical that it ends up in scripture for you and me? So go ahead and grab your bibles and we'll just go chasing after that today. If you have your bibles with you, turn with me if you would to Matthew chapter two. And if you're not familiar, if you simply just go to the back of your Bible and start working to the left, you're going to find this book of Matthew. And this is the moment that chronicles the story of the wise men. Matthew Chapter two, we'll start in verse one. And here's what I want you to do, this time, this time, when we read the account, would you lean in? Would you look through different eyes in this moment asking this question, why did God think that their participation, their part of the story was so vital and important, that he made sure that it got to scripture. That you and I would have a chance to tell their story at Christmas time. What's so important about them?

Linn Winters: 05:06 Here we go. It's Matthew chapter two, starting in verse one, and here's what it says, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi (Wise men.) from the east came to Jerusalem. Where is the one who's been born King of the Jews, they asked? We saw his star when it rose, and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard about this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had called together all the people's chief priests, and the teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the Prophet has written. 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 shepherd my people Israel. Then Herod called the magi, the wise men secretly, and he found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, and he said, go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may worship him. And after they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star that they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place that the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed on coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary. And they, next word? Bowed. You're going to want to remember that word, it's going to be important later. And they bowed down and they worshiped him, and then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, Frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

Linn Winters: 08:42 Now here's the deal, we're probably still left after reading that, pondering and saying, why? Why does that account, why does that story, make it into scripture? ` And in order for you and me to unpack it, we're going to have to answer two questions together. Question number one, what was wise about the wise men? Think about that. What was wise about the wise men? To you get there you've got to have a little bit of background, so as best as Bible scholars can figure out, these wise men are actually Babylonians. Which begs a question, why do Babylonians even care that the king of the Jews has been born? Why would that matter to a Babylonian? And the answer is, that 400 years before the birth of Christ, Babylon invades Israel. And when they do, they conquer the land, they take nearly every single inhabitant and they take them back to Babylon to be slaves and servants. Part of the captives, a young man by the name of Daniel. And Daniel reasons in his heart, I don't like what's happening, it's kind of dark what's happening right now, but I am purposely in my heart that I'm going to make the best of the situation. I'm going to be the best servant the Babylonians have ever had, I'm going to learn every one of the lessons that the Babylonians teach, but in the midst of doing that, I will not, I will not, I will not, I will not compromise my walk with God. And so sure enough, Daniel gets to Babylon, he passes every test they give, every exam, he's at the top of the class. And yet in the midst of this, in the midst of being a better Babylonian than even the Babylonians are, he never, never, never compromises his faith.

Linn Winters: 09:18 Matter of fact, one of the stories of Daniel is the story of Daniel in the lion's den, a moment when he takes a big stand for God. And you need to know, this is no small deal because Babylon is dark, it is dark, dark, dark, dark. Matter of fact, Babylon is so dark, it makes Las Vegas looked like a Baptist picnic. Just saying, it's dark. Okay? And yet here is Daniel living out his life, being promoted, promoted, promoted, promoted, and every single time, and all along the way, he stays faithful to God. He is a light, ready for this? He is a light in the darkness of Babylon. So much so, that the Babylonians eventually come to him and they say, Daniel, we don't understand, why aren't you freaked out? Your entire country has been decimated by us, the reality is, it hardly even exists anymore. You've all been dragged off into captivity and slavery. How in the world are you okay? And Daniel's reply, you're ready? I have been promised, scripture tells me that there is a coming king, a messiah, and when he comes, God said he would place a sign in the sky. And the life of Daniel in Babylon is so remarkable, that you ready? Four hundred years later when that star appears, the wise men, the most knowledgeable men. The guys who have all this information. Look up and say, I wonder, could that be what Daniel talked about four hundred years ago?

Linn Winters: 11:11 Which now, you ready? Brings us back to the initial question. What makes the wise men wise? Because you get it, you get it right? There's a difference between being smart and wise. We've all met smart people who weren't very wise, right? I mean they passed trigonometry. They come to our family gatherings, and they start talking about something, and using words that I'm pretty sure aren't even really words, right? They can fix anything on your computer, but try to live life, try to make a good life decision, and it's impossible. Their marriages are all screwed up, their finances are in the hole, they can't seem to put a plus b when it comes to life. Because, because, because, you ready for this? It's possible to be smart, and not to be wise. But here's the deal, the wise men are both, these men are brilliant. That's why they're Magi, that's why they're wiseman, they are sought out by kings for their knowledge. But here's what's interesting, in this moment they don't have a whole lot of knowledge. All they know is that four hundred years ago, Daniel said something would happen in the sky. And if they choose to follow that star, they have no idea where it will take them, and they're not even sure what they'll find when they get to the other end. But here's what they did that was wise, they said, if that's the star, if that's real, that would be life changing. If there's any chance what Daniel told us is true, then everything would be different. We need to investigate. And so they chased after the star, to what was wise to do.

Linn Winters: 13:17 Here's what I find interesting, what I find interesting is how many people didn't respond to the star. I mean, think about this for a minute. As best we can tell from the Christmas story, not one other person saw the star, and ended up at the manger. Not even, you ready for this? Not even the Jews, not even the children of God. How ironic is it that the only people who saw the sign that God put in heaven, and chased after it, we're Babylonians. How's that possible? I don't know. I mean, you know maybe, I've got believe they all saw the star. I mean, because the star was bigger than any other star in the sky, it was brighter than any other star in the sky, it was in a place that had never been a star before. How incredible is it that God put a sign in the heavens, a star alight, and every single person ignored it, except for the wise men. I don't know, maybe they were too busy Christmas shopping. If you'll think about that, that was really funny, because Christmas hadn't happened yet. Maybe they're just doing life. Maybe they're just trying to put one foot in front of the other, and get to the next day. Maybe they're focused on business and their career, and maybe they said, you know, I saw the star, I get it. But I just got to land my next deal, or I just need to get to the next promotion. And then when it's convenient, you know, maybe I'll check out the star. Maybe they'd ended up in a science class, and the professor had said, hey, you realize all stars are just the product of an evolutionary process. Therefore, if you see a star, it's no big deal. I don't know.

Linn Winters: 15:15 It just seems remarkable to me that God could put a sign in heaven, a light for them, and that they could to alas man, alas, woman, miss it. Which causes me to wonder. I wonder if you and I have missed some stars? It's grandma, every time you go over to her house, she's got that little crocheted memory verse on the wall. You walk into her home and it smells like this weird combination between mothballs and Ben Gay. You know what I mean? Grandma smell, right grandma's smell. And every time before you leave her house, she turns to you and says, the last thing that you want to hear grandma say, I'm praying for you. I wonder if grandma's a star? I wonder if she's a light, you ready? Placed by God in your life so that you would notice, and in that in that moment you'd go, you know, I don't know. And grandma's kind of old, and you know, her faith seems a little worn out. But if that's true, if what she believes is right, that would be life changing. Maybe I need to investigate the star.

Linn Winters: 16:55 Maybe your star is that coworker at work. You know which one I'm talking about, the one that always finds a way to like put Jesus in every conversation. You're talking about, hey, you know what? Revenue for this quarter is way, way down. And they go, oh, that reminds me of Jesus. I wonder if that coworker as wacky, and I wonder, ready? I wonder if that is a God placed light in your life that you would notice, that you would just pause for a moment and say, you know, I just wonder underneath all of that, is there something real? Maybe your star is some events that God has allowed to happen in your life. I mean maybe a moment that you just went, wow, I have no idea. I have no idea how that turned out so well, it's almost like there was divine intervention or something. Maybe it was the birth of your child, and in that moment you looking at that little baby you said to yourself, you know, I know I contributed to this, but I surely did not design those fingers and I did not manipulate how many eyelashes they would have, and there's something bigger and greater than me at work here. Maybe it was driving down the freeway and suddenly all the cars stopped in front of you, and you still can't explain while you're still here. Or maybe you're living on the far side of cancer, and by all rights you know you shouldn't be. And is it possible that God has placed events in your life, moments that were to be light moments to cause you to go, hmm, and begin to wonder about the star. It may be as simple as a neighbor who invited you to a Christmas Eve service, or parents who won't start bugging you about church. But here's my guess, that if you would simply pause for a moment and look over the events of your life, the people in your life, I bet you would find star after star after star. Moments in which God placed light in your life to say, here I am, come find me, follow the star. This also brings us to an interesting moment, because if you're a Christ follower in the room, I wonder who's star you are. You realize God placed you in your family, you realize God put you in your neighborhood. You thought you got your job because you were qualified, God placed you to be a star. That people would see the light of Jesus in you, and wonder if that could possibly, just maybe, be true. Whose star are you? The answer to question one, what made the wise men wise? When they saw light, they did not ignore it. They were wise enough to say if that's true, if that's real, then everything changes and they explored the light.

Linn Winters: 21:02 Question number two, you realize the very purpose of the star, right? Was to get people to Jesus. It was to shine its light, people were to notice the light, and then follow the light. And when they got there, right, they were going to end up at the manger, they were going to get to Jesus by following the light. Which brings us to the second question. When is light the brightest? Think about it. When is light the brightest? And do you know what the answer is? It's always the same brightness. We just don't notice light, in a room full of light, light is the most noticeable in the darkest of dark. And suddenly we're thankful for light, and suddenly we're attracted to light, when we're in darkness. But here's the problem, I think many of us have gotten more focused on the darkness in our life, than we have on the light in our lives. Rather than saying, wow, look what God just put there so that I could find my way out. Instead we go, how come it's so dark? And we sit in moments and we say, God, I'm just telling you, God, I just feel like my life has been filled with unfairness. I look around at other people, and I'm just telling you, my life is worse than their life, I've got more darkness than they do.

Linn Winters: 22:31 For some of us it's a family of origin, and we just go, Linn, I'm just telling you, my parents were so screwed up. I mean they couldn't have been meaner, they couldn't have been harsher, maybe they couldn't have been less attentive. I'm just telling you, I still have scars, my siblings were just a mess. And I'm just going to tell you, my family was the definition of dysfunctional, and I'm 40 years old and I am still carrying baggage from my family of origin. So tell me, tell me how a loving God lets that happen, because that's dark.

Linn Winters: 23:08 Some of us in the room, and you'd say, well for me it's kind of my business path, and my career. I'm the one who does stuff, I mean, I'm the one who gets it done. And for some reason the gal who flirts with the boss gets the promotion. Or the guy with the big mouth who takes credit for what everybody else did, takes credit for what I did, is advancing and I'm stuck, tell me how that's right.

Linn Winters: 23:39 Some of us just say, Linn, my darkness is about what someone did to me, and I'm just telling you that if I were to ever describe it to you, you'd understand why I'm so angry. Because the wrong that was done to me was so wrong. So tell me how that figures into the story, why would God let my life be darker than others?

Linn Winters: 24:22 When Lisa and I first got married, on our honeymoon one of the activities that we went on, we went spelunking. How many of you know what spelunking is? Okay, there's like 12 of you, that's great, you guys are going to love this story. Alright, spelunking is when you go explore caves. Okay? So we go, they get us out to, you know, the mouth of this cave. They give us these tiny little like 15 watt lights to put on our forehead, and then they've got like stretchy band things to put around our head. We look like Charlie Brown on a bad hair day. Okay? And now we're going spelunking, we're going to go in, and explore these caves. So you get into the first kind of bigger room, there's still some light coming in from the outside, and you can see there's like five different paths. You know, five different kind of like, cracks in the wall, and places you could go. And it occurred to me and I thought, what have you went to the wrong path? I mean, would you eventually get to the right place anyways? Would you end up in a dead end, and have to come back? What if you went on the wrong path? But of course, the guide takes us down this one path, and then the ceiling starts kind of like coming down and in, and you're starting to feel a little claustrophobic. And now we're going through some stuff, but then we come into this bigger room, and the guide has us all sit down. And then he says to us, I'm going to have you all turn off your lights, I want you to experience what it's like to be in absolute darkness. So he tells us to turn off our lights. I'm a man, fully grown. But I'm going to tell you that about a minute and a half in, and I know that doesn't sound like long, but in sheer darkness, a minute and a half is eternity. And about a minute and a half in I started imagining things in the cave who have better eyesight than me in the darkness, and are now taking advantage of the opportunity afforded them. About three minutes in, this thought occurs to me. What if my light went out for real? What if in my way out of the cave, literally my light failed, and I tried to try to navigate my way out of this cave in absolute dark, I would be in so much trouble. A few moments later, the guide said, okay, turn on your lights, I have never been more thrilled for a 15 watt bulb then I was in that moment. And there you get it, why would God allow your life to get dark? So that when he shone the light, you'd be attracted and thrilled. You wouldn't ignore the light like everybody else did, and you like the wise men, would follow the light.

Linn Winters: 27:22 Is it possible that the very things that have been the most wounding and the darkest in your life, have actually been the loving hand of God preparing your life for when he turned on the light in your life, that you wouldn't miss it? It's interesting, the wise men, the reason they're so important, the reason their story had to be included in scripture, is because they are the story of what you do, how you're supposed to respond, when God places light in your life. And the answer is you explore, you chase, you follow light. Now here's the answer. When the wise men followed the light, they end up at Jesus. If you and I were to respond to the light that God's placed on our lives, you'd end up at Jesus. Because you're here, ready for this? The Star wasn't actually the light, Jesus was the light.

Linn Winters: 28:40 Matter of fact, let me grab you a passage in scripture, you don't have to go there. This is Jesus talking about himself. Here's what he says, it's John, chapter eight, verse twelve, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said to them, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." What does that mean? It means when you finally get to Jesus, there are answers to your questions, there is healing for your wounds, there's forgiveness and there is life, when you get to the light.

Linn Winters: 29:31 We've got a story that I want to share with you. It's about a gal and a guy, they’re in our church. Her life was filled with darkness ,and I'm going to guess that her darkness is darker than your darkness. And in the midst of that, she saw a little glimmer of light, and she knew I've got to figure out if this is true, I've got to figure out if this Jesus thing is real. But the wonder of her story is that before she even gets to Jesus, she turns to her husband and says, come on, this may be our last chance, come with me toward the light. Here's her story.

Jeremiah: 30:09 In 2006, ended up in a DUI scenario, arrested. In 2009, ended up in a accident, ran a stoplight after drinking and being on prescription meds all night. Woke up in a trauma center in Philadelphia three days later, not knowing what had happened. And this was roughly about six months before my wife and I were to be married. I don't have a lot of memories of the first two years of my daughter. The times that we would have together, I would pick her up from daycare, my first order of business was to put her down for a nap, as I would drink and then pass out on the couch.

Andrea: 30:48 It started to progress and get worse and worse. He had tried getting help elsewhere, AA meetings, rehab facilities, he had done that earlier in his life. But again, I just didn't think that was the problem, there was something else that was missing, and we just had to find the missing piece.

Jeremiah: 31:07 I collapsed in the bathroom, and when I collapsed my mind was completely coherent, as if I speak with you right now. Except my body function had completely gone from me, and laying on the bathroom floor, I was able to watch my wife come in and see her reaction.

Andrea: 31:31 And he was just laying in the bathroom awake, he just couldn't, he couldn't tell me what was going on. And I was so mad, and scared, because I didn't know what he'd taken, I didn't know what he drank. I knew that he'd been drinking as always. And all I could think to do was to go and pray, and I got on my knees next to my bed while he was still laying in the bathroom, and I just prayed to God. And I said, you know, if you're there, I don't know if you're there, I don't know if you exist, but this is my last resort.

Jeremiah: 32:04 The next thing I remember, we were actually headed to church the next morning. While we were in the service, I just had this calming feeling that you know, there was something that had to change. There was something that had to change for Andrea and Aubrey, and myself, my health moving forward with a two year old daughter. And as the service ended that day, I looked over at my wife and I said, I'm done.

Andrea: 32:33 I said, what do you mean you're done?

Jeremiah: 32:34 I said, I'm done drinking, this is it, it's over.

Andrea: 32:39 At that point, all I could think of, was God answered my prayer.

Jeremiah: 32:46 That was the last time that I had drank. I've turned my life over to Jesus, I was baptized shortly after. I now have my daughter's life back, I now have been able to see her grow up in a way that I never would've been able to. I'm thankful for the life that I have now. I'm thankful for the love that my wife and I have been able to enjoy together. I do know that her and I can make it through absolutely anything that is thrown in our way.

Andrea: 33:17 The things that I've been through, the things that Jeremiah has been through. There's a reason for every bit of it, and I think moving forward using our experiences, can help other people get through some of those things. I am so excited to see how our negative experiences can help other people, and how God's used those to not only make us who we are today, but to make us a light for the people that might not otherwise have it.

Linn Winters: 34:04 What was wise about the wise men, when they saw a light? See, we've got to figure this out, we've got to pursue this. What was wise about Andrea and Jeremiah? That when they saw a light, they went toward the light. They said, if there's any chance that this Jesus thing is true, that would be life changing. So here's my challenge. If you look back in your life, I can promise you, you'll see moments over and over and over again where God has tried to put light in your life. Tried to say, hey, I'm here, would you come take a look, would you follow your star? And as you leave this place, would you just have the courage, have the integrity to say, you know what? I'm just going to check it out, I'm just going to pursue it, and is there any chance of this Jesus thing is real? Is there any chance this Jesus is true? Could you simply do that?

Linn Winters: 35:11 There's some of us in the room, and you go, Linn, I don't need to go on a journey. I already get it, I get that when I get there, it's going to be Jesus waiting for me, and I'm ready. I'm ready for his light to be in my life. Here's
the interesting thing, remember in the story when the wise men got to Jesus, what did they do? They bowed. See, here are these guys with all sorts of honor, and all sorts of esteem, and they get in front of a baby Jesus and they get down on their knees. And here's what they say, you're God and we're not, and we're smart, but you're smarter, they bow the knee. And that's what has to happen for every single one of us when we come to Christ. That we just simply say, hey, God, do you know what? Your God, I'm not. Your ways are above my ways, and I'm just simply done living in the darkness, I'm ready for the light. It's simply the bowing of a knee. And the wonder of that, it's a prayer, it's just a prayer.

Linn Winters: 36:20 So here's what I want to do, I want to give that opportunity, because I promise you there some in this room that are ready for the light in their lives. So can we just bow our heads. I'm going to lead you in a very simple prayer, and if you're one of those that say's, Linn, I'm there, man I'm there. I'm ready to step out of the darkness and into the light, I'm ready to encounter this Jesus. Then I'm going to pray a simple prayer, you just pray along quietly in your seat. And that prayer would go something like this, Dear Lord Jesus, I've been ignoring the light, but no more, not today. And I'm simply coming to you, I'm bowing the knee of my heart, and I'm confessing that you're God and I'm not. And I need you inside of me, I need you to forgive all the broken, all the crazy stuff, I've done that brought you heartache. I need you to forgive what the Bible would call sin. I need you to be my savior, and the light of my life. This I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Recorded in Chandler, Arizona.
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Cornerstone Church
1595 S Alma School Road
Chandler, Arizona 85286