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How the Soul Feels Its Worth!

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 12/1/2019

“Christmas” is such an amazing time of the year. They say a shepherd knows His flock. How many of you have been checking through the 10th Anniversary “Countdown to Christmas” list of Hallmark movies? It’s so exciting there is even a Hallmark movie App, you can install it right on your phone (meh). I haven’t decided which is worse, watching Hallmark movies or the Chicago Bears (ouch!).

Alright new poll question. How many of you absolutely will not setup a Christmas tree or listen to Christmas music until AFTER Thanksgiving? How many of at least wait until AFTER Halloween? I have a confession to make, I started listening to Christmas music well over a month ago. A few of us were planning Christmas at Lakeside, and someone mentioned the classic “Oh Holy Night.” BTW, am I the only one who groans listening to all these artists remake the classics? Newer is not always better!

But O Holy Night do you know the song? “O holy night the stars are brightly shining… It is the night of our dear Savior's birth… Long lay the world in sin and error pining… Till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” Boy, is there any greater need today, than for the soul to feel it’s worth? I don’t want to bring up a such a sensitive matter, but a few times a week I get breakfast, and I’ve noticed all these young people wearing “suicide prevention” clothing. For young people, 10-34 years of age, suicide is one of the top causes of death. For Pre-Teens in Ohio, age 10-14 it is THE leading cause. Within our nation there is unprecedented wealth, material prosperity, abundant housing/food, unprecedented opportunities, technological and medical innovation, knowledge, connectivity, mobility, entertainment. But there is unprecedented sadness, depression, darkness. What does the appearance of a man, named Jesus, 2000 years ago, have to do with a soul feeling its worth?

O Holy Night. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining… Till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth… A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices… For yonder breaks a new glorious morn.” How many things would you describe with the adjective thrilling? Lara and I were talking about this series and I asked her if she’d written my sermon yet. No just kidding. We were talking about the title of this series, “Thrill of Hope.” She asked me what the most thrilling gift I ever received was, as a child.

Hands down, the best gift I ever got was an electric train set. I was introduced to model trains by a man named KJ, who lived down the street. KJ had Cerebral Palsy. With his dad’s help, KJ had transformed his entire basement into a literal city. He would put on his engineers’ hat, and send those trains down streets, over bridges, through tunnels. It was the coolest thing my young eyes had ever seen—and so when I got my very own electric train set it sent me to the moon and back. For weeks I’d wake up in the middle of the night and reach under my bed just to touch the box and assure myself I wasn’t just dreaming! Last I checked that train set was in a box in our attic.

Last Friday was Black Friday. Tomorrow is Cyber-Monday. I enjoy buying stuff as much as the next guy. I’m not a fanatic though! If the parking lot is crazy… If any shoppers have that homicidal look in their eye) I’m gone! Nothing is worth dying for! Lara’s parents come down and take her shopping. I hide in my woodshop. But on a serious note, whatever thrills this weekend will have worn out its thrill by New Year. Maybe the reason we hype Black Friday so much is because our soul feels so dead inside? There is a depression, a sadness, a darkness that overshadows most every thrill.

What happens to us as adults is we become calloused. We recognize a kind of hollowness, especially to material things. Back to Lara’s question. As a young man of 18 years of age, I ventured to Bible College in large part, because I felt spiritually dead inside. My plan was to go to Bible College just one semester to see if there was anything true, anything real, anything life-giving to this Christianity stuff. I was told they had Bible classes, theology classes, classes in Apologetics. They had professors with all the pedigrees. So, after my senior year of High School I went to college to torment Bible teachers. I pestered those poor guys after class, stalked them on campus, I read more books that semester than I’d read my entire life. I met Lara. What mystified me about Lara was (#1) that her parents allowed her to date someone with my all my issues, but then (#2) she was so assured in her faith, and confident.

That first Christmas I went home on break and started reading a book by C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity. I’d heard how it impacted so many people. So all I did for days was poor over that book. Here Christmas was nearing. My parents were like, “what do you want for Christmas…” and I was like, “nothing, I don’t care about things.” But one night, like 3am in the morning, I finished that book and was emotionally overwhelmed that the God of the Universe loved me so much He sent his One and Only Son into the World to forgive me, to set me free, to die for me. I’d heard about Jesus my whole life, but that was the first time “my soul felt its true/full worth.” That night I fell to my knees, I had tears in my eyes, I felt the most satisfying thrill I’d ever known in life… a thrill that has not faded sense… the thrill of hope!

Hope is material, Christ physically shed his blood, and broke his body on that cross. Hope is intellectual, the mystery of Christ is one of the most philosophically satisfying truths your mind will ever contemplate. Hope is emotional, not that there aren’t ups and downs in life, but when Christ enters your heart the joy of the Lord truly becomes your strength. Not that there aren’t low points, and dark moments in life, there are many. But that deep abiding joy in Christ always pulls you through. Hope is Spiritual. Again its mysterious, but when you trust Christ by faith, the Spirit of the Living God really does take up residence in your body, and you do feel your worth, and more than that, you feel other people’s worth, you abound with Spiritual fruit.

I know I’m not hitting you with a bunch of Scripture yet. But consider the second verse of O Holy Night: “Truly He taught us to love one another… His law is love, and His gospel is peace… Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother… And in His name all oppression shall cease… Christ is the Lord… O praise His name forever… His power and glory evermore proclaim.”

Some this Christmas know the “thrill of hope.” But for others their hoping Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or __________ will shock their soul back to life. I just want to know if that describes you. I want you to truly be honest with yourself. What are you hoping will shock your dead soul back to life? What of gravity are you hoping will help your soul feel it’s worth? If you have a spouse, or children, what GIFT this season are you hoping will help your loved one’s souls feel their worth? Why is it the things that were most excited about giving do very little to lift the soul?

This December we’re going to spend a few weeks reflecting on Luke 4:14-21. Over a month after Jesus was baptized, after He’d spent forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, as kind of his first act of ministry, we’re told this:

“14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.”

When you read the gospel of Luke, you can’t help but catch this sense of optimism and hope that enveloped Jesus. Luke continually reminds us how the Spirit of God was so alive/active in Jesus’ life, the presence of God was truly upon Him, just as it was upon Moses, Elijah, and so many other men of renown. But there was something more going on. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit. When he was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, the Father’s voice boomed from heaven saying, “This is my Son with him I am well-pleased.” Jesus’ baptism so eerily reflects Genesis one. The Spirit hovering over the waters (like a dove). The Father acting in pleasure to create the world, creating New Life by his Word, who is Jesus Christ. In Luke 4 Jesus is led into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan but is victorious. The Spirit was an undeniably present in Jesus. Notice in verse 15 how his ministry evoked so much praise.

But in verse 16 we see something far more familiar. Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth, to the town where he was brought up. Like a good Jewish boy, on the Holy Day, on the Sabbath, he goes to the same Synagogue he’d attended his whole childhood. Keep in mind Jesus is some 30years old now! Verse 16 tells us Jesus is doing what has always been his custom. You go to the Synagogue, people read the Scriptures, someone talks about the Scriptures, you go about your day. Whereas in verses 14-15 you get start to feel a sense of anticipation, in verse 16 you get a sense of monotony.

I don’t know how to explain this. I shared a snippet of my story. I spent my life in church. My parents planted the church we were part of. The church for years met in our living room. I went to church camp. I memorized large chunks of Scripture. One time I was so spiritually impressive I got camper of the week at church camp. But a sense of monotony had set in. I thought I’d heard it all, seen it all, read it all, knew it all. But in reality, God had broken through the wall around my heart and mind. The number one indicator that your spiritual dead is when church has become more monotonous than thrilling. The only thing that can break the monotony of Christmas is a fresh encounter with the man Christ Jesus.

Look at Luke 14:17-19, “He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”

“Yawn. Yea, yea, Jesus is doing an Old Testament reading out of Isaiah the Prophet.” You know you are a spiritually dead inside when you hear words like these read and they neither quicken your soul, nor excite your imagination, nor stimulate your mind, nor jumpstart your heart, nor evoke worship, nor evoke an ounce of anticipation, nor so much as stir you to raise an eyebrow.

Luke 14:20. “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.” Oh boy. Here we go. Another sermon. It was the custom after reading a scroll that a person would sit down, and another would teach about what was read. But on this day, something different was happening. Luke 14:21, “Jesus began by saying to them, “’Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

If ever there was a moment when Jesus dropped the mic, this is it! Essentially Jesus is announcing, “Everything we’ve been hoping and longing for all these centuries… from the time of Moses, from the time of Isaiah the Prophet, from the Days of Elijah and Elisha, from the days of Jeremiah the Prophet, since the Days of captivity in Babylon, since the days of Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah… its all being fulfilled right now. Talk about exciting, talk about thrilling. Luke 4:22, “They were all speaking well of him[n] and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, [hey wait a minute] “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” We’re thrilled hope has come; we just didn’t think it would be you Jesus!

Here is the sad reality. There is hope in Jesus, but some of you won’t even consider it, because you’ve already made up your mind about Jesus. You want the thrill of hope, but the blooms fell off your Christianity years ago. You heart is hard.

In Luke 4:23-24 Jesus paints a stark picture and gives a stark warning. “He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’” 24 He also said, “Truly I tell you; no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Boy if ever there was a relevant warning to us it would be these verses. Have you ever considered that the biggest obstacle you have to overcome this Christmas is your “familiarity” with Jesus? (Familiarity breeds contempt/unbelief?) It’s good you’ve heard of Jesus, but what you’ve heard and concluded may not be good nor right! How might you unhear and rehear Jesus in a fresh way this Christmas? If you can’t see him and can’t hear him. . . if you won’t see him, or won’t hear him… there can be no transformation.

What Jesus says next was equally outrageous. Luke 4:25-27, “25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” You know what Jesus is saying here? He is saying there is a higher probability that some GENTILE pagan (unfamiliar with Jesus) will become more thrilled by this Hope… than all you JEWISH synagogue goers. Their souls will feel their worth, but your souls will remain dead, because of unbelief!

Luke 4:28-30, “28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.”

This Christmas this preacher, and all of you, have to overcome our familiarity with Jesus to really encounter him, and see him, and hear him, and know him. Are you willing? Luke 4:18, Jesus announces he’s come “to proclaim good news.” Our spiritually bankrupt world… and financially bankrupt world (thank you Black Friday, thank you Cyber Monday, thank you Visa/Mastercard). Jesus has come to bring good news. Luke 4:21, “Jesus fulfills all the Scripture.” All the Law and Prophets. Every promise yes in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 1. We become blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Who knows the thrill of hope? Who is eager to share the thrill of hope this Christmas? Let’s be inviting folks. Let’s get about familiarizing ourselves with this one who appeared, who gives each/every soul its worth.

Scripture Verses

Worship Playlist

Worship Playlist

O Holy Night
by Adolphe Adam, Placide Cappeau, and Chris Tomlin
as recorded by Chris Tomlin

O Come Emmanuel
by John Mason Neale, Rita Baloche, Thomas Helmore, and Paul Baloche
as recorded by Paul Baloche

Nobody Loves Me Like You
by Ed Cash and Scott Cash
as recorded by Chris Tomlin

Christ Is Enough
by Reuben Morgan and Jonas Myrin
as recorded by Hillsong

Go Tell It on the Mountain
by David Crowder, Jack Parker, Jeremy Bush, Mark Waldrop, Mike Dodson, Mike Hogan, and John W. Work
as recorded by David Crowder Band

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