The Gifts of the Wise Men and Our Gifts to Jesus
by Dr. Adrian Rogers
It’s that time of year again…time for gift-buying, gift-wrapping, and gift-exchanging. What are the gifts we could bring Jesus this Christmas? One way we can discover that is to look at Matthew 2:1-12, which tells of the gifts the wise men brought Him on the night when God became flesh and dwelt among us.
A Christmas Sermon
by Dr. W. A. Criswell
Text: Luke 2.6-14
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled, The Little Lamb of God. In the second chapter of Luke, verses 6 and 7:
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in rags— she was so poor she didn’t have a little dress or a little gown for the little Baby—so she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a She didn’t have a crib. She laid Him where the straw was that the ox and the donkeys and the cows ate; laid Him in a manger.
What an unusual story; and more amazing than we realize, as I pray God will help us in this sermon this morning to see. There are apparently insuperable and insoluble problems that face our world today. For the first time in the history of civilization, nations are openly and avowedly and statedly atheistic.
The ancient Greek would never make a decision without consulting the Oracle at Delphi. No ancient Roman general would ever go to war without first propitiating the gods. But these today bow at no altar; they call upon the name of no deity; they are avowedly and statedly atheist. This is a new phenomenon in the history of mankind, and we’ve seen it developed in our generation.
The secularization of all of the values of human life is almost universal. And every school system and every university and college, whether it is here in America or across the sea, it’s just the same. There is no difference between secular values in Russia and secular values in the United States.
Humanism, materialism, secularism degrades the human soul wherever in the world it appears; and it is almost universal. We live in a day of increasing ebbing and lack in converting to the Christian faith. By the year 2000 there will be less than two percent, barely above one percent, of the population of the world that is Christian. And that carries a concomitant, and corollary, and an addendum: terrorism and violence are increasingly a characterization of modern history. And above all, we face the very annihilation of the human family in atomic We can understand why the Swedish people were so upset with the Red submarine in their very naval yards. We can understand why the Danes and why the Norwegians are fraught with constant fear, with those atomic submarines playing games off of their coast.
But it is not just them alone, they are in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re up and down the border of the Atlantic of the United States of America. You read just last week that in the city of Dallas, there is a United States government federal office charged with the evacuation of the population of the city of Dallas yet, lest we be annihilated by an atomic missile from a submarine—the warheads, multiple of which can destroy Houston, and Austin, and San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth in a twinkling of an eye. We face apparent, insoluble problems in our modern world. But they faced those insoluble problems two thousand years ago.
At that time, Caesarism was triumphant. It was as though Hitler had won the war. The whole civilized world was in the mailed fist of a Roman Caesar, and over Judah and over the chosen people of God Herod reigned, bloody Herod. He was sustained and kept in power by the power of the Roman legions. He was the king of Israel. And the soldier was everywhere seen.
There was a seething ferment in the land of Israel, erupted finally into the war in 66 AD, that destroyed that nation in 70. And wherever you went, from one side of that empire to the other, there you would see the Roman soldier. He was everywhere. And as though that were not problem insoluble enough, the earth, the entire civilized world at that time was mostly slaves. Three men out of five that you met in any city, on any street in the Greco-Roman world was chattel property. He was a slave. Out of a population of a hundred million people, sixty million of them were slaves.
In that day, a woman was no higher than a beast. She was a chattel property. In fact, if a man might chose between his cow and his wife, he would have chosen his cow. That is the Roman Empire. And as though that were not inhuman enough, it was a universal law in the Greco-Roman Empire that if a man didn’t want his child, he could expose the baby. By exposing, the law said that he could take the child and put it on the hillside or the mountainside for a wild beast to devour it, or put it on a roadside; and worse still, let a family without heart take the little thing and break all of its bones and raise it as a pitiful object, a blob, and set it on a street corner to beg for alms. That was universal.
And as though that were not insoluble enough, the chosen people of God had descended and had sunk into a spiritless, dead form of worship of Jehovah God that was characterized by the hypocrisy of Phariseeism and the greed And God’s answer to the problem of human need, then and now, is a little Baby, a little Lamb, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. How unthinkable are the ways of God Almighty.
I would have thought, for the answer to the problems of the world, the very hosts of heaven would have been marshaled and the phalanxes of the angels in glory would have marched in power up and down the streets of the capitals and the empires of the world. But instead, God’s answer to human problems is a helpless, innocent little Baby, God’s little Lamb. Even the people didn’t realize that. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the fifteenth verse, it says that the people sought to take Jesus by force and to make Him a king.
Here is a man who can feed an army with the lunch of a child. Here is a man that, if a soldier is killed, can raise him from the dead. The head of a marching army, He would be invincible and invulnerable. They sought by force to make Him a The disciples themselves had the same persuasion of the solution to the problems of the world. Don’t you know what it means when it says they argued with one another and were jealous with one another of who would be first in the kingdom [Luke 9:46; Matthew 18:1]? Let me just change one word there; “first in the empire.” They were looking for King Jesus to rule over a mighty Roman Empire, set up by force, and they were going to be first or second in the power of a kingdom founded upon armies and upon conquest. That was their idea.
You know, when I began thinking about it, God has always been just like this. He’s never changed. God’s answer to the curse of the world was a little lamb, offered by Abel. God’s answer to the bondage in Egypt was a little lamb offered at the feast of Passover. God’s answer to the national sin was a morning and an evening sacrifice of a little helpless lamb. And when John the Baptist was presented to the people of Israel, with his great messianic announcement, this is what he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And the reason I had you read the passage in Revelation 5:1-10: “And they searched heaven,” it says, “and earth,” it says, “and beneath the earth,” it says, for a man worthy to open the book and to break the seals and to look there on God’s book of redemption. And there was no one in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth that was able or worthy to break the seals, and open that book of redemption. And John said, “I wept sore in my helplessness and hopelessness”; the insoluble human problem. And while John was weeping an elder touched him and said: “Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah… has prevailed to break the seals,” and to look on the And John says, “I turned…” And when he turned he expected to see a roaring carnivorous lion; and instead he saw a Lamb as if it had been slain. And they all bowed down and sang that hymn I love so well, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain”; God’s answer, the little Lamb; or as Isaiah says in his brilliant Messianic prophecy in the eleventh chapter, “And the little Child shall lead them” [Isaiah 11:6].
We shall look for a moment: the gospel of the Lamb. It is one of non-resistance and non-retaliation and You heard that is has been said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a I say unto you resist not evil but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
That is the hardest thing in the world for me. It is so natural to fight back, to hate those that hate you; the gospel of the Lamb.
Back there in the day when Armour and Company was the biggest packing house in the world, I went through it in Chicago. In this section of that tremendous plant, they slaughtered cattle. It was a din, the lowing of those cows. A great heavy strong man with a hammer, with a sledge hammer cracking their skulls one by one; then from there I went to the section of Armour and Company where they were slaughtering pigs. And a man there with a long razor-sharp knife as those hogs were brought to him; took that knife and slit-cut their throats in the jugular vein and the blood poured out and they were thrown into those cauldrons of boiling water with the most awful din of noise.
And then I went to section in that great plant where the sheep and the lambs were slain. It was as quiet and as silent as this sanctuary right now. “He opened not His mouth” And I presume it was the background of that that made the word of this preacher stay in my heart so poignantly. He was talking about his father. He said, “My father was in one of those packing plants with that long razor-sharp knife. And he said as those hogs were delivered to him one by one, he cut the throat and the jugular vein; the blood flowed out.” But he said, “They forgot to make my father aware that for the first time on that line there was coming little lambs.” And he said, “My father was there with that long sharp knife with those pigs squealing, cutting their throats, severing that jugular vein, the blood pouring out. And then unaware, came a little lamb. He took the knife and he plunged it into the throat of the little thing and cut the jugular vein and the blood poured out.” And the preacher said, “The little thing licked his own blood from the hand of his father.” He said, “My father then walked into the office of the company and laid down the knife, ‘I quit.’ And he never went back.”
Imagine that; licking the hand that had severed the life-stream of blood; the And to apply it universally: in 1922 was convened the worldwide Conference of Disarmament in Washington D.C. It was opened by a minister in prayer. It was presided over by a Baptist, Warren G. Harding. And the day was given over to an address by another Baptist leader, Charles Evans Hughes. I heard him at a Southern Baptist Convention meeting in our national capitol. Later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, he delivered a message on the Prince of Peace. That night in the hotel room the ambassador plenipotentiary representing Japan sat in his chair in deepest study. The secretary came in late at night and said, “Sir, you must retire. There’s a great heavy day tomorrow.” “No!” answered the ambassador of Japan, “I must think.” The hours passed and the secretary came in again, with the same “No, no.” In the wee hours of the morning the secretary came yet once again, and the ambassador said to him, “Sit down.” He said, “I have thought it through, and the American ambassador is right. There is no other hope than in the God of all of the peoples, the Prince of Peace.”
God’s little Lamb. As long as there is the spirit upon the nations and the peoples of the world, “You hit me and I’ll hit you,” and we confront one another with violence and terror and death, it will continue only more bitter and more We need the gospel of Him who said, “Pray for those who hate you. And do good to those that despitefully use you, that you may be the children of My Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5:44].
The gospel of the little Lamb; God’s solution to the insoluble I have a moment left. The gospel of the little Lamb: quiet, sweet, humble, precious; dependence, trust, faith in God. “I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or what you shall put on…” Don’t think, saying,” What shall we eat?” and “What shall we drink?” or “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” “Your heavenly Father knoweth you have need of all of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God … and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Lord, Lord, I can’t do that either. There’s something on the inside of me that drives. I want to solve it myself; I want to do it myself. All the while He stands there, the Almighty, saying, “I’ll do it for you. I’ll answer every question. I’ll open every door. I’ll make every provision, if you’ll just trust Me—like a little child, a little lamb.”
Just trusting: innocent, humble, sweet, precious, believing God can do it! Now may we stand together? Our Lord, we have so much to learn, and seemingly it is so hard to learn it. How infinitely better to trust in God and to rest in You; to let the Almighty plead our cause; to guide us in the way, rather than to lean on our own understanding and to follow our own affinities. O God, that we might be more like Jesus and more unlike ourselves.
Help us, Lord, in that quiet confidence to make Thee king of our hearts. May God reign supreme in our souls and may the sweet virtues that so richly crowned our precious Savior be our daily emulation. And, our Lord, may the appeal of the Spirit of God that brings us to the Savior touch our hearts in this invitation and give us a beautiful harvest In a moment we are going to sing our song of invitation and appeal, and while we sing this sing don’t anyone leave. Stay, pray, and I will give you opportunity to go in just a moment.
But right now, ask God to touch the hearts of these that this moment, this precious moment, ought to give heart and life and home to the blessed Savior, the little Lamb of God. A family you, a couple you or just one somebody you: “Pastor, we have decided for God today and we are coming.” Down that stairway, down one of these aisles, “Here I am pastor. I am on the way.” The angels attend you as you come, welcome. And dear Jesus, thank Thee for the sweet response, the precious harvest. In Thy beautiful and wonderful and saving name, amen. While we sing, come.
Copyright © 2013 The W. A. Criswell Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
Posted with permission.
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A Christmas Sermon
by Dr. W. A. Criswell
Text: Matthew 20:28
We welcome you as fellow worshippers with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Christ Dying for Our Sins, Dying for a Lost World. And the sermon has in it a twofold hope in its message. Number one: that back of Christmas—with all of its color, and tinsel, and tinfoil, and the accouterments, the sleigh, the carol, the Santa Claus, the reindeer, the tree—back of all of it we remember the great purpose of the coming of our Lord into the world.
by Ronnie Rogers, pastor
Trinity Baptist Church
The good news according to Calvinism is to be proclaimed to everyone everywhere, but it is not good news for everyone who hears. I believe the gospel according to Jesus presents a better gospel.
To many it appears that Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists, Traditionalists, etc., all believe the same thing about the gospel while merely differing on tertiaries. Consequently, they quite understandably retort, “Why all of this wasteful bickering; let us just preach the gospel.” I wholeheartedly agree that we can all communicate the gospel message so that anyone and everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved; therefore, we should do so and applaud all endeavors at such. I also emphatically believe that non-Calvinists and Calvinists can be evangelistic.
However, I do think it is incumbent upon Christians to make clear that, even though these things are true, the differences between Calvinists’ and non-Calvinists’ perspectives regarding salvation do in fact influence the evangelistic and missionary endeavor. This influence is even determinative of what one can and cannot say to a lost and hell-bound world or a lost and hell-bound individual with whom we communicate the gospel.
These differences are not tertiary as some claim, for they do in fact change the raison d’etre (reason for being or existence) of the gospel, the purpose for sharing the gospel, the language used in communicating the gospel, and the nature of our passion derived from the gospel. Thus, these dissimilarities are substantial. So much so that they actually and unavoidably define the missiology of the church; accordingly, they are not tertiary, all asseverations to the contrary notwithstanding. Our differences even affect our understanding of arguably the most well-known, lucid, humbling, awe inspiring verse regarding the gospel and mission of evangelizing (John 3:16).
The well-known five-point Calvinist, John Piper, asked the question, “What message would missionaries rather take than the message: Be glad in God! Rejoice in God! Sing for joy in God! …God loves to exalt himself by showing mercy to sinners.” My answer to this question is the truth that when someone hears this glorious message, that same someone has a chance, by the grace and mercy of God, to receive the truth of the message by faith. Further, without opportunity for all sinners to accept, Piper’s message should be changed to say, “Some can be glad in God if He predestined you” or “God loves to exalt Himself by showing mercy to some sinners.” This is the actual message of Calvinism, and everyone who understands Calvinism knows it. Unfortunately, it is popularly and ubiquitously stated in the manner cited by Piper (or similarly opaque phrases) that shield most from yet another disquieting reality of Calvinism. I would greatly appreciate Calvinists’ due diligence to speak in such a way that all can be reminded of this reality (as some Calvinists are very careful to do). To propose that this distinction is tertiary is baffling indeed.
There is an abstractness to Calvinism’s understanding of the gospel, which results in a concomitant chilling unfriendliness of the “good news” when shared one on one. For example, it is one thing to say God loves Canada and desires the gospel to go there, or that He desires for Canadians to be saved. It is quite another for the missionary to look into the eyes of a lost and perishing Canadian and say God loves you and desires you to receive the good news of the gospel, which is the friendliness of the gospel in Scripture. The former has an abstract quality about it that the latter does not have (like the difference between saying I love Canadians and then really loving the one who moves in next door). A Calvinist can say, “Believe in Jesus for the remission of sins,” but there is a secret aloofness imbedded in the invitation for the vast majority of individuals who hear the gospel; an aloofness the Calvinist is very aware of and staunchly committed to.
Further, this abstract quality of Calvinism is the provenance of the “good faith offer,” which is reflective of Calvinism’s different understanding of the gospel. I for one find neither this abstraction, with its secret indifference for the majority of individuals who hear the gospel, nor the suggestion of such a concept as a “good faith offer” in the scriptural presentations of the gospel
This abstract quality transforms the simple straightforward gospel as seen in Scriptures from being exoteric (available to all) into an esoteric gospel (only available to some). The exoteric gospel of Scripture calls upon every individual with whom we share to receive the gospel and gives every indication that he should and can believe; that is to say, it is authentically and dependably what it appears to be, the good news of God’s love and compassion offered to all who hear.
Whereas the esoteric gospel according to Calvinism says everyone should come, but the secret is that while God has told Calvinists to tell the lost man to come, be forgiven, and flee the wrath to come, the inner circle—Calvinists—know that God has been pleased to exclude most individuals to whom the Calvinist present this truth. Therefore, if one is to be consistent with Calvinism, the gospel must be protectingly presented so that the hearer believes that God loves him and truly desires for him to be delivered from the fiery cauldron of God’s eternal fury; something no Calvinist can say to any particular individual unless God inspires him to intuit that the lost man to whom he is witnessing is one of God’s elect.
Actually, according to Calvinism, the gospel is good news for some, but inherent in their understanding of the gospel is that for most with whom they speak the good news, it is the ghastliest horror one could ever imagine (whether a sinner desires to believe or not does nothing to palliate this point). That being the case, one may rightly question the righteous legitimacy of indiscriminately declaring a gospel so construed that, in any way, intimates that it is for all who hear because it is emphatically not; something every good Calvinist knows. To wit, if a Calvinist shares the gospel in such a way that the hearers believe that God loves them, desires for them to repent and be saved by faith in Jesus, something that by God’s grace they can do, then the Calvinist has been true to the Scripture but not to Calvinism; additionally, is there not a point when “a good faith offer” is transmogrified into an “ungodly deception?” One that Calvinists can avoid by determinedly shunning any semblance of offering, via precisely chosen guarded language, what the Calvinist is convinced does not exist. Or is the concept of “a good faith offer” an unchallengeably justifiable and un-fillable reservoir for storing gospel secrets of Calvinism? I am simply asking Calvinists to be clear in presenting what they so doggedly believe to be the whole good news, and I do not think that is too much to ask.
Non-Calvinists follow the scriptural pattern of presenting the good news as good news for everyone who hears because, by God’s loving grace, they should and can believe; if they choose to reject, which they do not have to do, they will forfeit being adopted as a child of God and succumb to a sinner’s just dessert. This is based upon a clear, simple, and straight-forward reading of the clearest presentations of the gospel and the declared nature of God. Calvinism’s understanding of the gospel disallows any meaningfully eternal difference in the gospel if they simply said, “God hates you and has a terrible plan for you because the elect will get saved and the non-elect will not.” For Calvinists to respond that they are sharing the gospel out of obedience is not a solution to the problem I pose, but rather it is symptomatic of it. Further, for a Calvinist to rely upon such an idea as “a good faith offer” does nothing to absolve God from intentionally obscuring His real plan.
The gospel according to Calvinism is that the gospel that is commanded to be preached to all, is presented as available to all with an urgency that it be received by all, yet it cannot be received by all who hear the wonderful message of love and forgiveness; even though its universal availability is the obvious inference any listener would draw based upon most Calvinists’ carefully guarded presentation of the gospel (guarding the divulgence of the secret limitations of the gospel according to Calvinism).
Actually, the doctrine of selective regeneration preceding faith dictates that the gospel—good news— is really not good news at all because it cannot be received by anyone who just hears the good news, and this unavailability is just as true for the elect as the non-elect. Reception of the gospel is divinely limited to the selectively regenerated; therefore, the primary good news of Calvinism is not the gospel, but rather that some to whom they speak are on the secret list of those who have been selected for regeneration, which results in receiving the good news—gospel. That is to say, according to Calvinism, the gospel is not the good news to be received by all or any listener, but rather a description of the benefits that will be bestowed upon those on the secret list. Simply put, the gospel according to Scripture is a better gospel than the gospel according to Calvinism.
by Walker Moore, founder/president
This year, we will celebrate our first Christmas with our new grandson, Titus. I don’t know who’s more excited about hanging up the newest stocking on our fireplace mantle, his Grammy or me. Having a new little one in our family has renewed our outlook on life. We get giddy every time we hear his parents pull into our driveway.