The Wise Men Help Us Worship
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 19, 2012
*Does God care how we worship? -- Of course He does! So we need to know how to worship the Lord, and the Wise Men can help us get there.
1. Church, if we are going to worship the Lord, first we must go the distance to seek God.
*That's what the Wise Men did in vs. 1-2. Here Matthew says:
1. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
2. saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.''
*These men had been searching for the Lord long and hard. They had probably been on the road for two years, and had come 400 to 500 miles on camel or on foot. All of that effort: Why did they do it? -- From a human point of view, the wise men already had everything they could have wanted: Education, wealth, power, prestige.
*They certainly had prestige, because they were ushered in to see King Herod in Jerusalem. We also know that the Wise Men had great wealth, because they were able to give great treasures to Jesus. These men had everything the world could offer. But there was something missing in their lives.
*They had a spiritual hunger that drove them to the highest goal. They were seeking the King of Kings: Seeking to find Him, seeking to know Him, seeking to get close to Him, seeking to worship Him. And this is the greatest goal we can ever have in life.
*But with all of that effort, they still had not found Him. It would have been so easy for them to give up. I can imagine lesser men whining, "Two years? -- My feet hurt! I'm getting tired of this! Let's go home."
*But the Wise Men didn't give up! They kept on searching for the King of Kings. So in vs. 2, we see them asking: "Where is the King?" And when they kept on searching, they found the King. So will we! God promised that we would in Jeremiah 29:13, where He said: "You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart."
*The Wise Men finally found the real King in Bethlehem. Aren't you glad that we don't have to go to Bethlehem to find Him? But where are we going to find the King of Kings? Where is the right place for our worship? Jesus tells us in John 4. In this Scripture, the Lord was trying to lead a lost and lonely woman to living water, to salvation, to Him.
*Jesus showed her that He knew all about her 5 husbands. He knew all about the way she had wrecked her life. So she knew Jesus was somebody special. Then maybe out of curiosity, or maybe trying to change the subject away from her sin problem, the woman asked Jesus about the proper place of worship.
*Listen to the story starting in John 4:19:
19. The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.''
21. Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.''
*Jesus was saying: "Let Me tell you where the real place of worship is. It's not in Samaria, and it's not in Jerusalem. The real place of worship is in your spirit, -- in your heart."
*Sure, God wants us to come to church whenever we can. But just because your body is here doesn't mean your heart's here too. The real place of worship is in your heart. And that's where we have to go the distance. God says, "You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart."
*One of my greatest joys as a pastor has been leading children to the Lord. And one of the most memorable times was a 7-year-old boy named Ryland. Ryland had been talking to his dad for several weeks. And that little boy was seeking the Lord with all his heart.
*I went through the plan of salvation with Ryland. We talked about how serious our sin problem is, but how much God loves us anyway. We talked about how Jesus Christ came to die on the cross for our sins, how He rose again from the dead, how Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with us, and how we must place our faith in the Lord to be saved.
Ryland only had one question, and it was a good one. He didn't understand the word "faith", and he wanted me to explain it to him. The best way I can understand faith is trust. Faith is putting your trust in God. And it helped that Ryland was standing right in front of his dad as we talked about it.
*I am sure that the Lord gave me the idea to ask him: "Do you trust your dad?" "Sure," he answered. "Well, trusting God is kind of like that. What if your dad told you to fall back right now, and he said, "It will be O.K. Ryland, -- because I'll catch you." Would you do it?"
*Ryland firmly answered, "Yes." Then I explained: "You can't see your dad. But you heard him tell you, 'It's O.K.' And said he's going to catch you. We can't see God, but he has spoken to us in his Word. He told us that he loves us and died on the cross for us and rose from the dead. So we can trust him to forgive us and give us eternal life. We can let our whole future fall on Jesus Christ."
*Then I asked Ryland if he wanted to trust in Jesus as His Lord and Savior. And he said, "Definitely!" Ryland went the distance that night! He called on the name of the Lord. He prayed to receive Jesus. He opened his heart to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. He went the distance. And if we are going to worship the Lord, we must go the distance to seek God.
2. But we must also follow God's guidance. That's what the Wise Men did. They followed the guidance of God.
 Sometimes God guides us with His great power.
*This is what God did for the Wise Men first through a miraculous star, and then through a God-given dream. In vs. 2, when the Wise Men got to Jerusalem, they asked, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.''
*God apparently turned that star off for a while, because the Wise Men were stumped when they got to Jerusalem. But then in vs. 9&10:
9. When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.
10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
*The Lord may not send us a shining star, but His power is just as real today! And down in vs. 12, God guided the Wise Men through a Heaven-sent dream. Here Matthew says: "Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."
*Now you have to be careful when it comes to dreams. That dream you had last night was probably not the Lord speaking to you. It may have been that extra piece of pizza you had before you went to bed. But some of us here could give testimonies about how God touched our lives through a dream.
*I had a dream like that 21 years ago. It was Christmas of 1991 in the Prayer Room at McClendon Baptist Church.
*At the time I was an Associate Pastor, desperately wanting to serve somewhere as a pastor, but nothing was happening. In the Prayer Room that day, I dozed-off and had a dream. I don't remember all of it, but there was an angel in it. He looked like an ordinary man, but somehow I knew he was an angel. And he said to me: "They are already looking for you."
*I found out later that the pastor from Emmanuel Baptist Church had resigned a week or two earlier. And they called me to be their pastor in August of 1992. I had to wait eight more months, but that dream was a real comfort to me: "They are already looking for you." I am sure that it was a message of encouragement from the Lord.
*Sometimes God guides us with His great power.
 And He will surely guide us through His prophets.
*The best way that God guides us is through the Bible, the Word of God. We will never see a star guiding us to Jesus, but we will always have the light of His Word. And you may never get a dream from the Lord, but you can always look into His Word, and find the guidance you need.
*In this case, God's guidance came through an Old Testament prophet. So in vs. 3-6, Matthew says:
3. When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6. 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.'"
*Seven hundred years earlier, God had told the prophet Micah that the Lord would be born in Bethlehem. God's Word was absolutely reliable then. And it is just as reliable today. God will surely guide us with His prophets.
 Sometimes He also guides us with a problem.
*This truth can be painful and hard for us to understand. But that is exactly what happened in this story. In this case the problem was King Herod. We see King Herod starting back up in vs. 3, where the Bible says: "When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."
*The whole city was troubled, because Herod was a brutal, heartless tyrant. And in vs. 4-6, Herod who found out that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. So starting in vs. 7:
7. Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.
8. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.''
*Herod was a problem to say the least. Next week we will see that he was a vicious monster. But God used Herod to help guide the wise men to Jesus.
*You may be dealing with some difficult people right now. And we don't like it. We want God to get rid of our problems right now! But those problems may be the very thing God is using to lead us closer to Him. Sometimes God guides us with a problem.
 But He also guides us with His people.
*We can see this truth in the first part of vs. 11, which says, "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother." In this case the help for the Wise Men probably came from Joseph. I say that because in vs. 11, it was most likely Joseph who opened the door and let the Wise Men into the house.
*It may seem like a small thing, but that door was standing between the Wise Men and Jesus. And Church: one of the most important reasons we are in this world is to help other people get closer to Jesus! This is surely one of the things He is guiding us to do. And if we are going to worship the Lord, we must follow God's guidance.
3. We must also come with an abundance for God.
 Part of the abundance is worshipping the Lord with abundant gladness in our hearts.
*We need the same kind of joy we see here in the Wise Men. As vs.10 says: "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy." Why did the Wise Men have such great joy? There was only one reason: They were getting close to the King! And God reminds us here that the closer we get to Jesus Christ, the happier we will be. God will give us real joy, eternal joy, joy that the world can never take away.
*Church: This doesn't mean we won't get discouraged. We will go through seasons of guilt and grief. But as King David prayed in Psalm 51:12, God will restore the joy of His salvation to us. And all things being equal, the more we worship the Lord, the more our hearts will overflow with joy.
*I have seen this happen many times in my own life. Maybe I was burdened down from my own shortcomings or problems or someone else's troubles. But when I intentionally turned my thoughts to the Lord, when I began to praise Him for who He is, and how good He has been to me, I could feel the difference.
*The Lord would lift my spirits. And we truly can worship the Lord with abundant gladness in our hearts.
 But we should also worship the Lord with abundant gifts in our hands.
*All Christians should give gifts fit for the King, like the Wise Men did in vs. 11: "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Strange gifts for a kid, but not for a King!
*And the Wise Men's gifts remind us that something I've heard all my life is true: You can't out-give God. The wise men gave gold, reminding us of the royalty of Jesus Christ. But if we trust in the King, He will give us a place to live where the streets are made of gold. He will even make us a part of His royal family.
*You can't out-give God. The wise men gave frankincense, a sweet-smelling gum that was burned with sacrifices. The rising smoke reminds us of our prayers going up to Heaven. They gave a symbol of prayer. But if we trust in the King, He gives us the real thing. God gives us the great privilege of prayer, being able to speak to the King anywhere, anytime.
*You can't out-give God. The wise men also gave myrrh, which was a fragrant oil used as perfume, but also used at times of burial. This gift points us to the cross, because after Jesus died on the cross, John 19:39 tells us that Nicodemus brought myrrh to help prepare His body for burial. The wise men gave a symbol of death. But Jesus went through death for us. He gave His life on the cross for our sins.
*The King gave everything for us. What can we give to the King? You may not have gold, frankincense and myrrh, but you can give Him your time, your talents and your tithes. Best of all you can give Him your heart. And that is the true spirit of worship.
*So worship the Lord. But be wise in your worship. The Wise Men show us what to do:
-Go the distance to seek God.
-Follow the guidance of God.
-And come to Jesus with an abundance for God.
*The first step is to call on the name of the Lord. Turn your life over to Jesus. Trust in the Lord and in what He did on the cross for us. Open your heart to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.
*You can do that right now, as we go to God in prayer.