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About this series
The Hope of Christmas
Hope has tremendous power - the power to heal, to help you keep going, and to inspire! 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote to the people of Israel who needed hope: "For unto us, a child is born, unto us, a Son is given. The government will rest on His shoulders and He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The hope of that message was for them then, and it's for us today! In this series, Chip reminds us that Jesus is all those things. Those are titles God gave Him and titles He claimed. If you need hope, join Chip for these messages. You'll be comforted, encouraged, and inspired!More from this series
What’s your hope this Christmas? Now, there are two kinds of hope. We use that word in English. Hope is, in fact, here’s a definition of hope the way we use it in English. It is a wish or desire with anticipation for a specific positive outcome.
It’s a wish or a desire. And I think we ought to hope. Hope is, someone said, “The oxygen of the soul.”
But when you hear the word hope or read the word hope, biblically, that’s not what it is. It’s not a wish and it’s not a desire. In fact, a good definition of biblical hope is an unshakable promise or guarantee from God concerning a future event or outcome for your good.
So, when the Bible talks about: this is our hope, it’s not like wishful thinking and maybe something will happen. When Scripture says the return of Christ is the anchor or the hope of your soul, when Scripture says He is our hope, what it means, there is an unshakable promise, there is a guarantee that you can bank your life, your priorities, everything about your life because it’s not up for grabs. It will occur.
Let me give you an example. It was about 700 B.C. Israel had turned away from God, they are worshiping idols, they are consulting mediums. God has told them repeated times that – this is about fifteen years before the Assyrians actually completely take Israel out and then later, Judah. And the people are just far, far from God.
And so, Isaiah is telling them, “You need to turn back to God. You need to turn back to God.” And so, when people don’t, God brings what I call the velvet vise of His love that are consequences. And so, Jerusalem is up on this mountain and it was like a fortress.
And so, what would happen is that you would surround this city and then they would build barricades or ramparts and sometimes it would be a year or two and they would just pile up the dirt and they would hold the city hostage until they would come and take it over. And that’s what was happening during this time and all the false prophets were saying, “Hey, everything is going to be okay,” and Isaiah is saying, “Actually, it’s really not. This is God’s judgment.”
And then, he talks about how terrible life is going to be for God’s people because they have turned away from Him. And then there’s this little window. And this little window says, “But I want you to know there is still hope. All the promises I made to Abraham, all the promises I made to David – God never gives up on us, even when we are really disobedient and far from Him.” And so he says, “Someday, a little bit later,”
“Here’s your hope. You’re going to be taken to exile, there’s going to be consequences, but here’s what I want you to know: a child is going to be born and His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, he made this prophecy that there is going to be hope.
If you have your notes, you might pull them out because I have put that passage on there. And so, there is an absolute sense that this is what is going to happen and we get to be in on the side of looking back two thousand years when that child was born of that virgin that was prophesied in Isaiah 7.
Now, the circumstances when that was written was the Assyrians. The circumstances when Jesus came was a world that was in absolute turmoil. They had the ISIS of their day. They were called Barbarians. The economy was going in the tank. The false gods and the religion of the day and the corruption in the Roman government, it was unbelievable. The taxes were overwhelming. You had a very, very small group of elite people, over seventy, almost eighty percent of all the Roman Empire was slaves.
And so, into this, Galatians 4 says, “When the earth,” or, “history was pregnant,” is the word, literally. At this pregnant moment, God sent His Son. And He sends Jesus into a world where there is, people are looking for hope. Economically, spiritually, relationally, morally, it looked a lot like today. And this Son was going to bring peace. This Son was going to be a Savior. And He was going to be a Wonderful Counselor.
“What does it mean, ‘A Wonderful Counselor’?” If the hope of Christmas is that we have a Wonderful Counselor, what do counselors do? They give you wisdom, don’t they?
Early in our marriage, we, everybody gets stuck. So, we went to a counselor. And this counselor helps us see blind spots, they helped us see our family of origins and why Theresa and I would argue and why she would shut down and I would get upset. Counselors give you tools to work through issues. They give you insight about how you are wired.
See, a great counselor is an amazing thing. And this word, wonderful, it literally is supernatural counselor. The other time, you might jot in your notes there, by the way, I gave you a blank sheet of paper so you all could do a little work with me this Christmas season.
Judges 13:18, there’s an angel that comes and it’s the father of Samson. And the father asks, “Who are you?” And he says, “Well, why do you ask me? Because you know that my name is wonderful.” The Hebrew word is it’s supernatural. We have a supernatural Counselor.
Jesus came. In the body of this little baby that was born of the virgin Mary, He was fully God and He was fully man. And one of His major roles would be to come and give you supernatural, wise counsel. Wise counsel about relationships, wise counsel about your future, wise counsel about dealing with problems like finances and kids that aren’t doing well or aging parents that you don’t know what to do with or what treatment with this kind of cancer you should take. He is a wise counselor that wants to help you.
And so, what I wanted to do in our time today is to look at maybe three quick counseling sessions that Jesus had that I think really relate to maybe some things we need to hear during this Christmastime.
So, turn in your Bibles if you would to Mark chapter 10 where Jesus in the counseling session. Mark chapter 10.
And we will pick it up at verse 17. Counselors show us our motives, our blind spots, give us insight and help, and here’s the deal: good counselors are objective. They tell us what we need to hear, not always what we want to hear.
“And He was setting out on His journey, and a man ran up,” and notice, “knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. Do you know the commandments? You know them, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”’ And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, all of these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him,” and in your Bible you might circle this little phrase, “loved him.”
Sometimes counselors tell us things, in fact, the Wonderful Counselor, the supernatural counsel of God, at times, tells us things that feel so hard and so painful and so impossible to obey, but notice His motive. He loved him.
“And He said to him, “You lack one thing: go sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” And so, like a good counselor, He has a presenting problem, right?
I used to do, actually I did a major in psychology, so I’m not a very good counselor, but at least I know what you’re supposed to do.
And so, people come and they say, “I have a presenting problem.” And so, you ask questions and you find out about them. So, you find out. And this counselee is wealthy, he is young, he is moral, he is successful, he is kind of the kind of person that you think, Man, he’s got it all together.
In our day, he’s driving a great car, he’s got a good looking family, he’s morally pure as far as we can tell, high integrity, very wealthy, super successful.
And, yet, he is restless. Something in his soul says, I have been doing and doing and doing and doing and doing. In fact, You tell me what you’re supposed to do? Man, it’s a target on the wall, I go get it, I’ve done it, but something is missing. This isn’t an unusual counseling situation.
Here’s the lie – “if I do this, if I did that, if I achieve this, if I do that, if I go to that school, if I finally get married, if/then, if/then, if/then,” it’s scary if you ever achieve to a great degree and then you just stop and go, Is this all there is? And that’s the situation.
So, Jesus thought, Well, you know the commandments.” And He lists them. “So, how are you doing there?” “Got them! Man, I learned that as a little kid. I have been tracking. I do all those things.”
Now, it’s interesting, if we had time to study this a little bit more carefully, you would notice that He mentions almost all the commandments, but He doesn’t touch on the tenth one. Anybody remember what the tenth commandment is? “You shall not covet.”
And He doesn’t emphasize the very first one either, does He? “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
And so, Jesus listens, He has the presenting problem, and like a good Counselor, I’m sure they had a little conversation and the guy even has a great attitude. Notice, he came, he knew Jesus. He knelt before Him. And so, He says, “You know what?” He doesn’t give him a list of things to do. He says, “There is one thing that you lack.”
See, in counseling people have presenting issues and then what we call it is what is the real issue? What is the core issue? What is really going on inside that needs to be addressed?
His core issue was idolatry. His core issue was materialism. His core issue was: I can do it. These things will make me happy.
So, Jesus, obviously wanted to help him, right? It said He loves him. So, in this counseling session, He says, “Well, here’s what you do.”
He got his little pad out and His prescription and He wrote a prescription, okay? “Go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor,” and then, by the way, here’s the results that are going to happen, so you know. This is a great prescription, “…so that you’ll have treasure in heaven.”
See, Jesus actually believed heaven is a real place, that there is real treasure, there’s real reward. And then, “Come follow Me.” See, the problem was you can’t have a relationship with Me when you have an idol in your life.
And Jesus doesn’t tell everyone He meets – I mean, a good counselor doesn’t tell everyone – you know, “Go sell everything you have.” That wasn’t the issue with a lot of people. But it was with this guy.
So, He gets to the core and He loves him and He says, “Look, there is a big idol. We need to address it. And here’s how we can address it.” There are a lot of things more important than money and stuff. So, do this and it’s going to be great.
And so, then you pick up the story and you find out, well, how does he respond? He only lacks one thing. And Jesus’ desire is that: “I want you to follow Me.” Let’s connect. This is great.
“Disheartened by this saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” See, counselors, especially the supernatural Counselor, we bring Him all these symptoms. There’s this issue and this issue and there’s this and there’s that and there’s this.
Really good ones, they go, “Mm-mm, bing!” This is the one. This is the domino, this is the issue, this is the core. And when you address that, all the rest of your life is going to…
“But he went away sad, because he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have great wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven!’” And I think this is probably a pretty good application to get some great counsel. It’s hard for us, all of us wealthy people, to have the right focus during anytime, but especially during Christmas.
See, at the heart, the heart of Christmas, at the heart of grace, at the heart of really experiencing God left, God gave, God cares. And He counsels us. But there’s always a counterfeit, and the counterfeit is stuff.
I am a semi-avid Sports Illustrated reader. The article opens up, “For almost five days, the most decorated Olympian in history lay curled in the fetal position in his Baltimore home, crestfallen, fearful, embarrassed at his behavior, uncertain of his future.” He had another run-in with alcohol and did some outrageous things.
“Over three Olympics, from 2004 to 2012, Michael Phelps had won eighteen gold medals and twenty-two medals overall, each more than anyone ever in history.” And the article talks about checking into a rehab, the journey that he’s on. But I thought it was really interesting. They have a quote. “I was in a really dark place, not wanting to be alive anymore.” See, that’s what happens to rich, young rulers when they try and fill their soul with stuff. He is young, he’s wealthy. And he talks about the bubble that he lived in and how stuff couldn’t satisfy. We, intellectually, agree with what Jesus says, but most of us live like someday, someway, we want to be a Michael Phelps in our area.
Can I encourage you, this Christmas, to take a good word from the Wonderful Counselor? And just ask yourself, So, what are you going to do with your money this Christmas? And how much stuff? And why are your closets full?
So, counseling session number one is with a rich, young ruler that has it all. And Jesus says to him, “Address idolatry.” Don’t want what other people have, because if you got it, it would never satisfy.
And number two, “Have no other god before Me.” No other god. And it’s interesting, He almost always pokes around. Half of all, a little more than half of all of Jesus’ parables are about money. Not because He cares about money, but because it’s the other god.
Ready for counseling session number two? Turn if you will to Luke chapter 10. We have the story, not of a rich, young, successful man, but we have the story of a very stressed out, overextended, under-pressure, frazzled woman.
And we will see in just a minute that her presenting problem is she feels overwhelmed, she feels so overwhelmed like most of us do, that we start to blame other people and we are a victim and why do other people not help us? Or why am I doing all the work?
And so, she has some misguided views about God, she has some misperceptions about what really matters and what is really important. And I don’t know about you, but is there a month in all of the calendar that our calendars just go, trrrr? If you asked me for coffee right now, and most of us, you just look at your calendar – it’s crazy. And you’ve got to ask: well, what happened? Why, at a time when we would ponder and rejoice and be thankful and – well, we have got some things built in. You’ve got to buy gifts for all these people, you’ve got to write cards to all these people, you’ve got to go to parties. A lot of them you don’t even want to go to.
There’s a lot to do. You’ve got to bake, right? And there are some traditions you’ve got to fulfill and then some of you, you’ve got to travel. You’ve got to, you’ve got to, you ought, you should, you’ve got to, you’ve got to, you ought, you should.
And what Jesus is really going to say is, Really? Who made up the “gottas” and “oughtas” and “oughts” and that you should, that make Christmas season the most stressful time in many of your lives? So stressful, so busy, so overwhelming that the only thing you really forget is Jesus.
Let’s pick it up in Luke chapter 10, verse 38. “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet, and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve all alone? Tell her to help me.’”
Now, I don’t know about you, and certainly she knows Jesus is a great rabbi and a great teacher, but calling Him out seems to be a little bit strong, right? Like, “Hey, don’t You care? Look what’s happening here!”
So, you’ve got Mary who, they are sisters and Martha is realizing, Wow, we need to prepare. We need to cook. We need to get it set up. We need to get the good dishes out. This is an important guest. So, we can’t have two or three dishes. We need four or five.
Everything has got to be just perfect. What really matters is all the stuff we do for God, right? So, she’s active and she is busy.
And we pick up the story. “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And so, afterward, Jesus said, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”
His words are really interesting. He uses a general word: “You are distracted.” It means an over-preoccupation with a concern about future events. And then the word here, He says, “You are troubled,” it’s a more specific word. It’s what happens to you emotionally when you get locked up inside. So, she is preoccupied about: We’ve got to get this, we’ve got to get this, we’ve got to get this, we’ve got to get this. And everything is going to be terrible unless we get it all lined out.
And then she is not only anxious, but she is troubled within. And then He uses an interesting word. He says, “What Mary has chosen won’t be snatched away,” or, “taken away from her.”
Isn’t it interesting in both situations, Jesus’ counsel, He says to the rich young ruler, He says, “You have one problem.” And He says to Martha, “Only one thing is necessary.” And so, I looked through my counseling profile and so, the presenting problem is I have too much to do, I am overwhelmed, and as we say to one another, “I’m stressed out.”
The diagnostic evaluation was: she believes that Jesus doesn’t care and if other people would get with the program, her life would really work out well. Anybody ever feel overwhelmed, like a victim, and if God really cared, He would be helping you a lot more than He is right now?
And some of these other people, if they would just pull their weight in your house or pull their weight at work or pull their weight here, then things would really be better. Has anyone ever felt that? That’s what, this is a lady who is frazzled. And she is frazzled because her belief system is that what really honors God is her activity, her serving, her doing.
And like most of us, when doing is the focus, you can never do enough. Mary sat down and she had time for Jesus, Himself. Martha was doing things for Him. Mary said, “I’m not sure when this opportunity is going to come, but I want to be with Him.”
Do you find during the Christmas season that your time with Christ gets squeezed? You’ve got to shop, you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to cook, you go to these parties, you’re out a little bit later, it’s hard to get up.
What will be your game plan this Christmas to say, “Wow, if I have a supernatural Counselor that wants to give me wisdom and put His arm around me, coach me through this season, and help me for my good, what do I need to hear from Him?”
So, she believes Jesus is about how much she does. The real issue is she substitutes her relationship with Him for activity for Him. And so, He gives her a divine prescription. And basically says, “Your problem: busyness. The root issue: you don’t get it. You don’t understand. It’s priorities. You have built-in traditional expectations that, when someone comes to your home, you have to do one, two, three, four, and five. And, actually, two would have been fine, where you would have time to be with Me.”
So, I would encourage you to ask yourself, what are some things that you have always done that take time and put you under pressure and just ask this ridiculous question: should I even do that this year? Would the world fall apart if you said to a couple of those parties: “I would really love to come, but I’m just not able to make it. I have another very important priority.” And it’s you’re going to spend time with God.
Or, anymore now, everyone makes their Christmas cards and then you get something printed from someone that you hear from once a year, right? And on the printing it says, “Oh, I hope you have a blessed season. Rejoice! La, la, la, la, la.” Maybe a verse if they’re a Christian or you get a four-page letter about how well all their – “My one son is a superstar, the other one is in Oxford, my daughter just won a beauty contest.” Right? You get those letters like I do, and it’s just like, “Ach.” I don’t want to know that much about your life.
Right? And you get these – and then at the very end, “Oh, by the way, please pray for us because we are a little overwhelmed because we are leading seven Bible studies,” and it’s just like…help me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s wrong to send out those letters, especially if they are well done. But I have met people that, the weight of the whole season, “What am I going to say in those letters? I've got to write out all those cards.”
What? And I’m not saying, by the way, I am not saying any of this is wrong. You may be led to do some things. I just remember about fifteen years ago, I looked at everything and I thought, You know what? I’m just not doing Christmas cards. I’m just not doing them! They take a whole bunch of time, I’m trying to find all the addresses, and I’ve got to self…
I can text people and call people and have a genuine connection with the top twenty-five or thirty percent than doing all those cards and all that stuff. But, believe me, for years it was like a gun, “How can you not send cards?” Or for some of you, “We have to bake everything ourselves.” Right? “My grandmother, my mother, me.”
And it’s nine days of baking. And then we take these pies and then we put them over here and then we’re here and when the little, “Get out of the kitchen! I’m trying to make these pies” – why? “Because I really love God, that’s why.” And there’s just all this crazy stuff we do.
I’m just saying, I’m just wondering whether Jesus would say, Why don’t you can some of that stuff? Really, that’s kind of His words. He goes, Jesus, “You’re troubled about many things, but the only one thing is necessary.” If we didn’t do anything and our heart was to spend time with Him and to express His love to other people and we didn’t do any of the traditional stuff, we might have this weird experience like, “Wow, there wasn’t much stress. I had such joy. We got to help that family over here.
What would happen if you just took off things that, unconsciously, that are expectations that you think to be a good person, a good mom, a good dad, a good single person, a whatever. That you just, you haven’t even thought about it, it’s just the – it’s December! What if you just said, “I’m not…” are you ready?
What if you said, “Okay, if a child is born unto us and His name will be called supernatural Counselor,” what if you took your whole Christmas list and expectations and said, Oh, Wonderful Counselor, which ones of these do You want me to do, and which ones I really don’t need to do? And is there anything, maybe, that’s not on this long list that this year might really express love to people that You want on the list?
And then just relax and do whatever He shows you. Now, by the way, He might give you a rich, young ruler moment, right? See, the rich, young ruler – he was restless and dissatisfied and he had a hole in his soul. And Jesus gave him the answer. He says, I could hear him going, “Hey, Lord, I wanted help. I just didn’t want that much help. I want to be close to You, but I want to keep my idols. I want to be in control. I want people to know I’ve got stuff. I want to…”
And Jesus, good counselors, the best ones I have ever had, there are times where you just want to get up and knock them out. And usually, if you’re that defensive, it’s because you realize they are really right. “You’re arrogant, Chip. You’re a workaholic, Chip. You think you have to earn God’s favor, Chip. You have to feel like you’ve got to do…” “You’re crazy!” And right.
And then you walk through a journey and a process with some friends and say, “I want to learn to be humble. I want to learn to be a servant. I want to learn to not care what other people think.”
And you get some insight along the way about your personality or where you picked up some of this stuff. But grace is saying, “I am loved, not because of anything I do, not if I do something, and not to impress anyone. I am loved because the living God came to the planet, born of a virgin, that would be a full hundred percent man and a full hundred percent God.”
The classical theology is: true humanity and undiminished deity, without confusion. And He died upon a cross after living a perfect life and He has covered and paid for my sins and I can receive that by faith and He will take up residence in me and the Christian life is Him living His life through me and I walk with Him and I do good things and kind act, not to earn His favor – I already have it – but to express His love to other people and to give thanks for what He has done.
And that just takes mountains of pressure off. That’s why Jesus came. He didn’t come so you could check off the box, “Okay, no adultery, no this, no this, no this, no this, no this, no this, but I’m God and I’m in control.” And He didn’t come so you could say, “Okay, I’m going to do tons of things for God.” Some people do so much for God, they miss a relationship with God.
So, are you ready for the third counseling session? Counselee number one is a restless rich, young, successful, moral person. Counselee number two is a harried, stressed out woman. And counselee number three is you and me. And I want to give you four little principles that I have drawn for this Christmas season for me and for you.
I call them wisdom principles to follow this Christmas. Number one, stuff will never satisfy. Giving stuff to other people won’t satisfy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t give Christmas gifts, I’m just saying, ask: what do you give and why? And what are you going to do? And are you giving what you can afford or giving…?
All these games we play like, I hear people say stuff like, “Well, I really can’t afford it and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but it’s the Christmas season.” Like, oh! That’s license to be stupid! It’s the Christmas season; I think I’ll be irresponsible. Stuff won’t satisfy. So, how do you personally declare war on the stuff world?
Second is: being good is never good enough. Built into the drivenness is being good, but demonstrating to other people you are good. Good teacher, Jesus said, “Who are you calling good? There is only one that is good. That’s God.”
It’s about a grace relationship. It’s being forgiven. The performance orientation that you have and I have is thinking someday, somehow, I’ll get good enough to earn God’s favor or earn people’s favor. I want you to know, you’ve got God’s favor because of what Christ did.
Third, our activities for God and others can destroy our relationship with God and others. So just do an inventory check on your activities. Your good activities. What Martha was doing was good! But her good activity for Jesus and the other guests actually ruined her relationship with Jesus and not just the other guests, but her own sister.
Fourth, if you’re too busy to listen and pray, you’re too busy. Right? If God Immanuel, what does it mean? God is with us. God came near. Jesus left heaven to be with you and then we celebrate it by not having time to be with Him.
Does anybody see something that doesn’t make sense on that one? Maybe you’re going to read the book of Luke. Maybe you’re going to read the Christmas story.
How are you going to be with Him, to listen and to pray? What does that look like, either in the morning? Or what does that look like in the family? Or what does that look like? I don’t know.
But let me encourage you, the Wonderful Counselor wants this to be an amazing Christmas of deep connection with Him, of great love toward other people, and you being deeply satisfied.