Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to be Filled with Joy

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry Dorsett based on Luke 2:8-18.

Verse 8 - In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.
·         To fully understand the JOY of this story, we need to understand who shepherds were.
·         Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water.
·         Shepherds guarded their flocks at night from wild animals and robbers.
·         Shepherds kept count of the sheep.
·         Shepherds carried weak lambs in their arms.
·         Because shepherds spent most of their time outside in the elements, their life was often hard.
·         Shepherds seldom owned the flocks they watched over and their pay was so small that it was unlikely they would ever own their flock.
·         Shepherds seldom owned the fields in which their flocks grazed, and it was unlikely they would ever own their own land.
·         Shepherds often became victims of robbers or wild animals, their life expectancy was short.
·         Because shepherds spent so much time away from the village watching the sheep, they seldom were able to complete their education.
·         Being a shepherd was mainly the occupation of younger sons and slaves.
·         There was not a lot of “upward mobility” for shepherds.
·         A shepherd’s life was quiet and simple but it was also full of hardship and poverty.
·         It was a life with little joy or excitement. No real prospect for recognition. Little hope of long term survival. Little anticipation that anything great would ever happen.
·         Yet it was to these men that the Joy of the World was first announced!
·         Adapted from “Interesting Facts About Shepherds”
·         God chose to reveal to these ordinary people the extraordinary news that the Joy of the World had arrived.
·         God still speaks to ordinary people.
·         Very few of the rich and famous follow Jesus.
·         It is easy to look for some “super Christian” to come solve all the problems in our community.
·         But very few “super Christians” really exist.
·         Mostly it is just ordinary people like us who follow the Lord.
·         God wants to use us ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
·         We can accomplish the extraordinary if the joy of the Lord overflows in our lives.

Verse 9 - Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
·         Angels are special messengers from God who give us direction in life.
·         Sometimes God uses actual angels to give us messages from Him.
·         Sometimes God uses people in our lives to give us directions from Him.
·         It is far easier to be joyful when we know God is directing us, so we should listen to Him.
·         Sometimes we are scared of God’s directions.

Verse 10 - But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:
·         We do not need to be afraid of what God is says to us, because God only wants our good.
·         We can focus on our problems, or we can listen to the Lord’s directions.
·         Joy comes when we get our eyes off of our present circumstances and on to something bigger. God is bigger than our problems!

Verse 11-  Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.
·         The angel proclaimed that Christ was born..
·         Christ came for both the powerful and the weak.
·         Christ came for both the rich and the poor.
·         Christ came for both the educated and the uneducated.
·         Christ came for both the employee and the employer.
·         Christ came to SAVE us from the eternal consequences of our sin, which is an eternity in hell.
·         Knowing our eternity is secure should fill us with joy!
·         If we do not have the assurance of our salvation, that is the first thing we must make secure in order to find real joy in life.
·         Christ also came to teach us how to live better so that we might be SAVED from making the same mistakes over and over again.
·         We lose our joy when we keep doing things we know are wrong.
·         Our lives will be full of JOY when we choose to follow the way of Christ.

Verse 12 - This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger.”
·         The angel told the shepherds they would know they had found the Messiah when they found a baby wrapped up in cloth and lying in a manger.
·         We have gotten so used to hearing this part of the Christmas story that it sounds “sweet” to find a baby in these circumstances.
·         But to the shepherds, this sounded crazy.
·         A manger was a feeding trough that food for animals was put in. Then animals came and slobbered all over it while they ate.
·         The shepherds, who fed animals for a living, knew this was crazy. No mother would put her new born baby in such a gross place.
·         Therefore, they knew if they found a baby in these circumstances, it would be a sign from God.
·         How often have things happened in our lives that could only be described as supernatural?
·         How many such experiences do we need in order to know Christ is real?
·         We need to stop asking God to prove Himself to us because He has already done it numerous times.

Verse 13 - Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God ….
·         We should not be surprised that the simple announcement of the Christ’s birth was followed by such an amazing display of God’s power.
·         God is always declaring His directions for our lives in both big and small ways.
·         We will not find joy until we start listening to what God is saying.

Verse 14 - Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
·         The glory of the Christmas story was NOT in the shepherds, or Mary, or Joseph or even the angels who sang so wonderfully.
·         The glory of the Christmas story was God!
·         Whenever we get our eyes on ourselves, we lose our JOY.
·         When we get our eyes on Jesus, JOY comes!

Verse 15 - When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
·         After the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds immediately decided to go check out what the angel had said.
·         The shepherds had a tremendous spiritual experience and realized this experience had the potential to change their lives.
·         The shepherds realized they could have real JOY if they found Jesus.
·         It is important to note that the shepherds recognized this JOY was something the Lord was showing them. It was not from their own will power.
·         They were not just pretending to be happy.
·         They realized that the God of the universe had stepped into their ordinary lives and given them a glimpse of eternity.
·         They could not help but be filled with joy.
·         Real JOY has no other source but Jesus.
·         We will be disappointed if we think we can conjure up JOY without a deep and meaningful faith in Jesus Christ.
·         So the shepherds immediately left what they were doing, risking everything to find Jesus.
·        When we sense something spiritual going on in our lives, we should reorder our priorities and press in close to the Savior so that we do not miss out on the JOY God wants us to have.
·        Just imagine if the shepherds had said they were too busy, or too poor, or just disinterested in finding the baby the angel told them about.

Verse 16 - They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.
·        The shepherds hurried to find what the angel had told them about.
·        It is interesting how we are in a such a hurry to finish school, find a job, make money, get married, buy a car, shop with credit cards, etc, etc, but when it comes to spiritual things, we suddenly slow down and put off making the commitments we know we should make.
·        Though we should not “rush” into spiritual commitments that we have not yet thought through, we need to make time to think through what God is saying to us so we can have JOY.
·        If God wants us to start having a daily quiet time, or to start tithing, or to join the church or be baptized or start serving in some way, we will NOT find JOY until we HURRY to obey!!!
·        As the New Year approaches, we should make a list of things God is calling us to do in our lives.
·        Then we should make a list of things we can let go of so we will have time/energy/money to do what God is calling us to do in our lives.
·        We will not find JOY in our lives until we are doing the things God has called us to do.

Verse 17 - After seeing them, they reported the message they were told  . . .
·         Once the shepherds found the JOY they were looking for, they could not help but tell others what they had experienced.
·         When we finally discover the JOY that comes from a wonderful relationship with the Lord, we will have to tell others.

Verse 18 - and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said . . .
·         Even though the shepherds may not have been considered “great” or “influential” under normal circumstances, the story they told was so fantastic that everyone listened.
·         We may think that our lives are too simple and do not count for much, but when we share with others what God is doing in our lives, they will listen and find the same JOY we have.

Conclusion: To find JOY in our lives we must
·         Realize that most often God uses ordinary people to His extraordinary work.
·         Realize that we can trust God when He tells us how to follow Him more completely.
·         Give up the things that are keeping us from following Christ completely.
·         Share the JOY God gives us with others who also need it.