As we celebrate Christmas we are reminded of our Lord’s birth and the details of that story that are outlined in the Gospels. Once a year we sing these details in what we call “Christmas Carols.” We remember the Archangel who appeared to Mary and told her of her unborn child: that she would give birth to the King of Kings. Finally after an arduous journey to Bethlehem we read that Baby Jesus was born in a humble stable which was suitable only for animals. Up to this point the story is quite interesting and miraculous in many ways. But as the story unfolds what follows is beyond interesting and moves into the realm of the stupendous.
We read that immediately after his birth, there were shepherds in nearby fields who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. And suddenly an angel came to them and announced the birth of the savior of the world. Moreover as they continued to watch the night sky, a multitude of heavenly angels, hundreds, maybe even thousands, began singing praises to God. Can you even imagine? There you are with your coworkers holding down the fort, working the night shift, wondering who’s going to make the next pot of coffee and suddenly the night sky is filled with angels who are singing praises to God, and announcing the birth of the Messiah. You might wonder if you’re going crazy. But your coworkers are seeing the same thing. How does the average person wrap their head around such an event? And if that wasn’t strange enough the story becomes even more astonishing. We read that 3 Kings (the Magi) from eastern countries show up at the site of Christ’s birth bearing incredibly expensive gifts to give to the newborn. They claimed that they followed a moving star to meet this infant Messiah because they were aware of this baby’s coming and they were aware of his significance months ago. Consequently, they together made a journey to see this child, a journey that began weeks or perhaps even months before his birth.
Can you imagine what that would do to your faith if you saw what the shepherds saw or new what these 3 Kings knew? So often I hear testimonies where Christians share a set of circumstances that led them to accept Christ as their personal savior. I hear their testimonies and I think to myself that what they are sharing could have happened to anyone. So often it seems to me that their conversion or salvation experience is dependent on a desperate situation. You know, like they’re kind of convinced but their story is a little bit flimsy. In other words, a lot of Christians share something like, “I was in a jam.… I told God if he got me out of this one alive, I’d live the rest of my life for him.” Really? Is that the basis for a conversion to Jesus Christ? Now I realize I’m oversimplifying here to make a point. But if that’s the case we’d probably be better off to just get rid of the excessively-commercialized Christmas story and season, and reduce the gospel to a message from a fortune cookie that reads, “There are no atheists in foxholes” or quote some other pithy witticisms.
But if the biblical account is true then a flimsy conversion certainly was not the case for these dirt-poor shepherds. For them it was overwhelming. It was unmistakable. How could they NOT BE converted after what they saw and heard. Or the wise men; what guided them? What kind of star leads kings to a baby born in a barn? What motivates kings to bring super expensive gifts to a poor young couple that can’t even afford a room at a Microtel. What knowledge did these kings have? Indeed, the story of the Magi and shepherds is not the testimony of Christians today who say that they have decided to follow Jesus. Instead, most Christian testimonies include stories about influential family or friends, cool Christian music, an alleged miraculous escape from legal trouble and so on.
These wise men were powerful, influential individuals of considerable wealth who had extensively traveled to see this baby that was born because they were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was now manifested in the flesh. It’s so different from anything you could possibly hear in a church today. Was there something special about these shepherds or these wise men? Dirt-poor shepherds get to see the skies filled with the angelic host. Why them? Three kings from the East know absolutely that God is now come in the flesh. They know when, they know where, and they know how. I get it that it that it was a special event. Great! But why did God choose these people to be part of the story. Why not you or me? After all, the Bible says God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). That is, to God where all the same. He loves us all.
Well Christian I’ve got good news. You and I are indeed chosen just like the shepherds and just like the wise men. Reading in Ephesians 1: 12-23 “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise… Wherefore I also… cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places… And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
So here we see that Paul is speaking to spirit filled Christians (after you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise). That’s right, this is a letter written to the Pentecostals or charismatics at Ephesus. And what does he have to say to them? That he DOES NOT CEASE to pray for them so that they might receive the “Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation” in the knowledge of him. Wisdom, you know, like the 3 wise men; or Revelation, like what happened to the shepherds. But why? Why do these Christians who are already filled with the Holy Ghost need this special “Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation?” What could be greater than getting saved, and having the Holy Ghost – the icing on the cake? Well, according to Paul, receiving this Spirit from God causes the believer’s eyes to be enlightened. Like the 3 wise men they know the “hope of their CALLING.” Like the shepherds they have seen “the riches of the GLORY.” And Paul’s prayer for these Christians is not trivial or a footnote. He is not just rambling on in some theological way. He says he CEASES NOT to pray for these believers, CONSTANTLY requesting that God give them this Spirit.
I think it’s safe to say that the shepherds and the wise men were not acting out of blind faith when they sought the Baby Jesus. They were NOT responding to a message they heard on YouTube. They DID NOT read about it in a daily devotional or hear about it on Christian television. They had personal experience that convinced them beyond a shadow of a doubt to seek Jesus, the Christ child, the Savior of the world. If you receive the SPIRIT of WISDOM and REVELATION in the knowledge of him, money-back guarantee, it will blow your mind. You will never again be insecure in your faith. This involves an encounter with God because it is a spiritual encounter with TRUTH. It is not an encounter with a doctrine, with theology, with the apostles Creed or with a “statement of faith.” Once you have had this encounter you can easily understand why the songwriter wrote the words, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Now I can tell you that the point of this wisdom and revelation is that you will absolutely know that “Jesus is soon coming to be revealed in a many membered body who will, as one unified man, set up God’s kingdom on earth.” But that is and should be meaningless to you. You and I could argue and debate that statement for hours. But if GOD OPENS YOUR EYES to see his coming in a many membered body you will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER forget it and you will be permanently changed – just like the shepherds and – just like the wise men.
Now I realize that it’s common for most Christians to say that we’re not going to have this kind of firsthand knowledge (wisdom and revelation) until we get to heaven, when we see him face to face. Rubbish! Reading on in the same book, (Ephesians 3:17-19) “… that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that you might be FILLED WITH ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD.” Just think, all of the God of the universe in you in this lifetime. Remember we just read, “the church, his body, the fullness of him.” If that’s really the truth then most of us have been sold a bunch of defective goods. Or it’s like getting home and realizing that you left most of the groceries at the grocery store. You’ve got to drive back and get what’s been paid for.
Christian, I challenge you to cry out to God for the spiritual eyes to see him in his glory as HE is. Be willing to take all your preconceived notions, catechisms and things you’ve been taught about Jesus since childhood and put them at the foot of the cross where the fullness of God’s wisdom was revealed to mankind. You will not be disappointed. Jesus will indeed lead and guide you into ALL truth. And guess what will happen, “You will know the Truth and HE who is the Truth will set you free (John 8:32)” from religion into relationship that brings you into ONENESS with HIM (John 17). Praise his holy name. May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you richly above all you can ask or think during this Christmas season.
Brother Jerry Turk