Adventus: Zechariah: The Power of Expectation
December 14, 2014
When the impossible presents itself we have a Divine choice - to fearfully recoil, or to faith-fully speak God's best future into reality. Jesus' birth story features the best supporting roles of Zechariah and Elizabeth- who mirror our present day choice to participate in God's story with epic faith.
Luke 1:5-13, 18 / Mike Slaughter / December 13-14, 2014
- 2 Timothy 3:5
- Matthew 9:29
II. Advent is Reminder of God’s Promise
- vs. 20
- vs. 13
- vs. 36-37
- Ephesians 1:3
- Acts 1:8
- Luke 10:19, 10:17
III. Speak and Act with Expectation
- vs. 25
- Isaiah 42:9
- Jeremiah 3:5
See this week’s journaling questions on reverse side for deeper reflection.
The Power of Expectation
Thanks for joining us for our series, Adventus. With this weekends message, Zachariah, the power of expectation.
Open your Bibles church to the gospel of Luke, first chapter. Today we’re going to talk about the power of expectation. Expectations in our life determine the success and failures of all life’s endeavors. It’s easy to understand that in relationships, especially marriage, you know, we get married with all of these expectations, and when you’ve been married a few months you begin to experience frustrations. When those frustrations begin to dominate your thinking, you lower your expectations and two things can happen. One is you just settle into a lifetime of mediocrity or divorce. That’s why one of my favorite versus in the Bible is “a person thinks within themselves so they become.” So Advent is a time of expectancy, renewing our expectation in the promises of God. Now, we’re going to discover this through the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth, they were the parents of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus and he was Jesus’ cousin. So pastor Rachel is going to stand and begin reading at verse five, gospel of Luke.
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Will you pray with me? Father God in this Holy season, as we prepare for Christmas, awaken us out of our sleepiness. Move us from a place of staleness. Renew our expectation, and strengthen and grow our faith that we may live fully into your promise. It’s in Jesus name we pray, amen.
Expectation: look at verse seven with me. Now it’s important to understand that the parents of John the Baptist were righteous people. That means they did everything they knew to be in a right relationship with God. They were obedient to all of God’s commands. The angel Gabriel tells us they were people of prayer and they served. Folks would say these were very religious people. But there was one thing in their life that was unfulfilled. Now they were past the age of child bearing, we’re told that they are very old. But they always wanted a baby, and they were never able to have one. So what happened is there’s this unfulfilled expectation. So after years of being faithful, of showing up, of praying, of serving, there’s still this kind of frustration, this nagging frustration. So what Zachariah does, and it happens in all of us, is we begin to lower our expectations. And when you lower your expectations, based on the promise of God, the potential of the Holy Spirit’s seed that has been planted in every believers life, you begin to allow doubt and frustration to dominate your thinking. So you see, he comes to this place, look at verse 18, that when God shows up, now here’s the problem, many times we ask God for something, and we work, and we pray, and we serve, and sometimes it’s years and we expect God to show up at the expected time. God doesn’t show up at our expected time, God shows up at the appointed time. God shows up at the appointed time and many of us give up. I’m not talking about we don’t have a saving faith. I’m saying we have a saving faith but we miss the promise for which we’re created. We never live fully into our calling. So we hold to a form of faith without experiencing the power of faith. So what he says is, oh my gosh, how can this be? Do you see the skepticism in his question to the angel? He goes how can this be, that I’m an old man; really, the best years of my life have passed, now it’s got to be for someone else. Many of you may have thought this. If I would only have quit this job that I hate years ago, and taken the risk and started that business that I wanted to start, or if only I would have finished my education. If only I had finished my degree. What happens is we begin to be defined by our circumstances or our frustrations or doubts, or we allow other people to define us by those failures and frustrations. Like someone will say, well she’s divorced. Well divorce doesn’t define you. Or, he’s never been successful; he changes jobs every three years. That doesn’t define you. Or he’s an alcoholic, and we allow other people to define us that way. Here’s what begins to happen, especially in our voice of secular culture, we begin to let reason rule over God’s promise. And so he says, my wife is well along in years, it’s no longer scientifically possible. So this pregnant hope, this possibility that God has placed within us is no longer an option so we reduce faith to just believing in God, believing in Jesus, and living the Ten Commandments. So we hold to a form of faith but we never experience it’s power. This potential, this calling remains barren. Now look with me, right there at verse twenty. Here’s what happens, if we want to be contagious for the Lord, we want our children to know we’re committed to Jesus but they’re not listening, we’re trying to speak this but no one hears because we’re not contagious, please hear me sisters and brothers. The word says, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses. I love that word “power” in the Greek, its “dunamis” which means dynamite. When the Holy Spirit comes in your life God will blow some stuff up. So you’re going to become so contagious that when people are around you you’re going to catch the virus. How many people have come to Jesus this last year because of you? They can’t help it if you’re living in the power. Do you see how a witness can become barren and no one hears us, you wonder why your children are going astray or whatever. They’re not listening to your words because you’re holding to a form of faith but you’re missing its power, sisters and brothers. We read in the scriptures that when someone was filled with the Holy Spirit other people would just come up and touch their clothes and be healed. We may not even realize it but it is just natural for any follower of Jesus who is living in the promise that people all around them are coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Expectations determine the success or failure of all of our life endeavors. Look at verse twenty, here was the problem; why aren’t people around you catching the faith? Why aren’t we here in the church in the United States seeing a lot of physical healing today? “You will remain silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words which will come true at their appointed time.” Remember how we get excited, we start out with great faith in Jesus Christ, and we begin to see changes in our life, and then we just kind of settle because things we expected did not come at the expected time and we have not yet waited or trusted God for the appointed time. How many times do you read in the New Testament when someone would come to Jesus and ask for healing, Jesus would touch them and say, “let it be done to you according to your faith.” You see expectations determine the outcome. 1975 I was 23 years old and there was a famous evangelist named J.T. Seimans. He invited me to go to India with him for a month; we were there like five weeks. 23 years old, he was in his late 50’s at the time. He had been raised by missionary parents in India and then he and his wife served there into his 40’s, so he was well known, his family was well known. We would go and travel, we had sleeping bags in a backpack, and we traveled third class in the Indian train. If any of you remember, this is like 1970’s, third class meant there were wooden benches and the toilet was a hole in the floor where you could see the track passing under you. We would go to these villages and hundreds of people would turn out to hear him preach, it was amazing. We were at one place, it was some obscure village outside an area called “Bell Gam” more towards the south in India. When he finished preaching there was this couple who looked to be in their 60’s, and they had a son who I found out was 20, standing there. They said “Doctor, doctor, do you remember, you prayed for us 20 years ago, do you remember us? We came and we asked you, my wife was in her 40’s, we had tried to have children for 20 years, and you prayed. Not only did we ask if we could have a child, we prayed specifically that we’d have a son. This is the son that we prayed for.” When we walked away I said to Dr. Sieman, “No fertility treatment or anything?” He laughed and he said, “Where do you see a clinic or anything where there’d be fertility treatment?” Now I saw something on that trip that I have never seen since I was 23 years old. I saw physical healing, I saw deaf people hear and blind people see. Obscure villages, no electricity. I said to Dr. Siemans, “why is this happening here?” He said, “Its simple, Mike. These people have never heard that the impossible things we read in scripture are not possible.” You see your expectations, sisters and brothers, determine the outcomes. What are we sitting on? Do you see? We have down sized our expectations. That’s what Advent is about, it’s to remember Christ’s promise, God’s promise, and to elevate our expectations because God’s promise may be delayed but it will not be denied. It may not come at your expected time, but it will come, it will be birthed at God’s appointed time. We don’t have to live out of our fears and frustrations. Look at what the angel says in verse 13. “Your prayers have been heard.” Look at verse 36 with me. There are only two angels mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, who is the other angels name? Michael. Michael is the other angels name, he’s mentioned in Daniel. Michael in the Bible is called “Arch Angel.” Arch is Roman for “commander” or “leader.” A lot of people say Gabriel is an arch angel too; maybe, but he’s not identified as that in scripture. So Gabriel first appears to Zachariah, then he’s going to appear to Mary. Mary, we know the story, scholars think she was probably 13 at the age of child bearing and this angel, Gabriel, shows up and says, “Hey you who are highly favored, you’re going to be pregnant.” Mary said, “How can this be, I’ve never been with a man?” Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit is going to do it for you.” We talk about that every Christmas, what was it like to go home; you’re 13, say mom, I’m pregnant and God did it. Now, here’s what Gabriel says to Mary in verse 36. “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age.” Well that’s not possible. Who said it’s not possible? People said it’s not possible, God didn’t say it’s not possible. “She who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.” Who said she was unable? Other people said she was unable. She’s not smart, she’s not smart, he’s never been successful in anything, he’s an alcoholic, and she’s divorced. Who says? I did two assemblies this last Tuesday at my old high school, North Cottage Hill in Cincinnati. I didn’t have an illustrious career at that high school. We did elementary school, junior high, and senior high. They helped us raise about $40,000 in the last ten years for the Sudan project, their goal this year is $9,000. Between one of these assemblies, I marched into the guidance counselor’s office, just walked right in, still a little ticked off from 46 years ago when I graduated. Now it’s not the same guidance counselor, you’ve figured that out. So I walked in and she kind of looked up startled and I said, “Never tell anyone they’re not college material like the person sitting at that desk told me, because who says.” They say, but God didn’t say. I said to her, “Are you getting this?” She looked at me and said, “I know, my son was like you and now he has a Master’s degree.” Now look at what the angel said, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age. She who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month, for no word from God will ever fail.” Did you get that? No word from God will ever fail. Carolyn and I have been pastoring here for 36 years and we grow, God’s given us new things, the grace of God and the things of God are new every morning. Here I am 63 and Gods saying to me, Mike, we’re supposed to plant 1000 new faith communities by 2050. The wonders of God are new every morning. So I said to Carolyn, Carolyn, we’ve been here 36 years. We’ve seen thousands of people go through this church in 36 years. We keep growing; God keeps showing us new things, giving us new visions and new missions. Why is it that so many people that we’ve ministered to in this place, they’ve started growing, and they’ve started to see the miracle of God take root. They were contagious. And some of them are not even churched today. Other friends have just kind of quit growing, they fall into this routine, stagnant kind of place and it’s the same old same old. We resign ourselves to live less than Gods best. I said Carolyn, how does this happen? Well this happens because we forget who we are and what we have in Christ, sisters and brothers. Go home today and read the first chapter of Ephesians. Paul spends that whole chapter telling believers what they have in Christ Jesus. Right here he says this, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” That’s past tense. All the resources of heaven, I already possess. What are we sitting on? Then he goes on in that chapter about how it’s freely been given to us. We don’t earn this, it’s a gift. He uses words like, “it’s been lavished upon us.” So it’s not about what God’s going to do for us, it’s what God’s already done in us. I wasn’t created for second best. Why are we settling for second best, God say’s I’m going to make you the head not the tail. What does it say in Acts? “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come into your life, to be my witnesses.” That means contagious. That means people sitting next to you who you work with, in your neighborhood; they can’t help but catch that disease. Why do you think I’m here today? I wanted to be playing rock and roll. I caught the disease. “You shall be my witnesses beginning in Jerusalem.” That’s your whole town, wherever you live, Troy or whatever, everybody is going to be affected, because the “dunamis” of God that’s in Trotwood or wherever you come from, then it’s going to go out to Judea, that’s the county. Then it’s going to go out to Samaria, that’s the next county. Then it’s going to go out to the uttermost places of the world. Folks, we don’t have to live in defeat. My failures and weaknesses do not have to determine the outcomes of my life. Someone said to me, “Mike, you know all this stuff we read in scripture, that was for the disciples that Jesus gave that to. Healing and all that stuff shouldn’t be…” No, it’s for us too! In the 9th chapter of Luke, Jesus sent out the twelve. And he gave them power and authority to heal and cast out demons. Maybe you’re sitting here going, I don’t believe in this demon stuff. I’ll tell you what, the best trick Satan has is to convince you he doesn’t exist. He’s always dancing on your head, like right now, “I can’t wait for that Bengals and Browns game.” Or man, you can do the God thing too, and you can handle a little internet pornography. Do you see how this works, you can live in this contradiction. Why do we think we’re not contagious? Why do you think that our children don’t listen to us or no one around us is catching the disease? In the tenth chapter, here’s the pattern, it’s not just for the twelve. This is the pattern of replication that’s supposed to be happening in every follower of Jesus’ life. Chapter ten of Luke, he sends out seventy two! See the power of replication? Here’s what he says to the seventy two, “I have given you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and overcome all the power of the enemy.” What does all mean? All. “All the power of the enemy, nothing will harm you.” Now when he says I have given you power to tread on serpents, we’ve got to go back to Genesis the third chapter. Remember when the devil came in, serpents, remember the word serpents, came in and began to mess with Adam and Eve’s heads. “Hey man, some stuff that God wants you to do is good. But that’s old time stuff; we live in a new time world. You can be doing some new time stuff and it won’t hurt you. You can still God’s thing at the same time.” So they’re defeated. They’re powerless. God never quits loving us even when we quit loving God. God never quits working for us when we quit working for God. So God turns and says to the serpent, remember this, it’s important to understand. “Hey I’m going to send one who is coming. Guess who it’s going to be. The Messiah. And you bruised his heal, but he will crush your head. I have given you power to step on serpents. Are we on the same page? So why am I defeated by anything? I’m tempted by all kinds of things. Why am I defeated by anything? Because if Jesus is in me, I’ve already been given the power. So the seventy two returned with joy, saying even the demons submit to us in your name. We don’t have to live in defeat. We live in the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m not called to be second. I’ve been called to be the head, not the tail sisters and brothers. We don’t have time to settle. Life is so short. I’m not talking if you don’t have saving faith, I’m just talking that you’re going to miss the miracle to be birthed through you in this life. It’s too short to miss. It is too short. God says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for evil, to give you a future and hope.” So what’s advent about? It’s about speaking and acting with expectation. Speaking and acting with anticipation. Now look at verse twenty five. Are you still out there church? I know it’s long but it’s too good to miss. It is too good to miss. Look at verse twenty five. Now Zachariah has already lowered his expectations but his wife has believing faith. Any men out there thankful for when you’re down, your wife is up? I’m thankful. Here he comes, I’m going to start at verse twenty three. “When his time of service was completed he returned home.” He was a righteous dude. He had faith but he was missing the power of faith. “After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.” What I want you to notice here is the seed of the miracle was in her, but the miracle has not yet been delivered. It’s important to get. If you made a commitment to Jesus, the seed of the miracle has been planted in you but for many of us in here, that miracle has not yet been fully delivered. Now I want you to notice what Elizabeth does there in verse twenty five, she doesn’t say “here’s what the Lord’s going to do for me”, she speaks in past tense. “This is what God has done for me.” Because if God says it, it’s done. Every promise of God is yes in Christ Jesus. That’s the word. No word from God will ever fail, that is the word. So she speaks in past tense, “the Lord has done this for me. In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” I do not have room for words of negativity to come out of my mouth. No room for a word of negativity. You have to speak it before you can receive it. You hear me church? You have to speak it before you can receive it. God says this, he says, “Former things have taken place and new things I declare. Before they spring into being I announce them to you.” You have to speak it before you can receive it and you have to act on it before God will give it. You can hesitate but then God will wait. You can hesitate but God will wait. I remember when Carolyn and I first discovered that we were pregnant last Wednesday. Just wanted to make sure you were still with me. It was 1978, we were living in Cincinnati in a place called Stone Gate Apartments; we had a two bedroom. So one bedroom was obviously our master bedroom, and the other was my office. It was kind of my man cave; I’m a real sports nut. Especially I have all kinds of baseball memorabilia, everything from the negro leagues, Stan Mugel signed a jersey for me. Pete Rose, when he was still playing for the Reds and I was in my twenties, handed me a bat. The Reds had won the World Series in 1975-76 so I had framed the front page of the Cincinnati Inquirer. I had a heck of a man cave. You don’t just wait until a baby is born and then say now what the heck am I going to do with this baby. You act on the seed that has been planted. So now I’m losing my office man cave, and it was nice. Because it’s a girl it was going to be painted pink. You don’t wait until the baby has been born, right? The seed has been planted, you act right before the miracle has been birthed. You prepare for what God’s going to do. So we went, I was making $5,200 a year which wasn’t much, so we went to an unfinished furniture store and bought a rocking chair and sanded it down and stained it and refinished it. Someone in the church gave us a used bassinet, we took the old chest of drawers I had as a baby and painted it to fit into the room. You prepare, you act. You can hesitate but then God will wait. I love in Joshua, the third chapter, where the Israelites had been promised this incredible land of promise, but they had just been camping out in the desert for forty years. So God finally shows up and says to Joshua, tell your people to consecrate themselves and in the morning they’re going to see me do some incredible stuff. I want you to notice, they’re not going to see God do incredible stuff until they consecrate themselves. What does consecrate mean? Well, Mary, 13 year old, angel shows up and tells her she’s going to be pregnant, she’s going to go tell her mom, “God did it”, and her mom is going to beat the living day lights out of her. Am I right? All her life a lot of people are going to be calling her names. It’s not God’s name. What do we call her today, “Blessed.” Holy Mother, mother of God. That’s a pretty good title. She didn’t hear that in her lifetime. But here’s her response. “I am the Lord’s servant. Be it done to me according to your will.” That’s consecration. So Joshua goes out to the people and says consecrate yourselves for tomorrow you’re going to see God do amazing things. They didn’t sit there where they’d been camping out, waiting for God to do things. You know what they did, they broke camp and they began to march. See that’s what Advent is about. It’s about breaking camp from the place where you’ve been hanging and beginning to march. Amen.
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