Many times, when we look to the scripture we think of men and women who were used mightily by God to accomplish great things. We often imagine them as spiritual giants who were so far beyond anything we could ever become. In our minds they must have been just slightly less than perfect. However, if we will take the time to dig a little deeper in the scriptures we will see that they were simple people who were used by a mighty God.
We see Abraham, the patriarch, whose descendants will be numbered like the starts in the sky, but also knowing that he was a mere nomad who struggled with a lack of courage and a lack of faith at times. We see Moses who was used of God to lead the children of Abraham out of Egyptian slavery, but who had also been a murderer who had spent 40 of his best years in the wilderness taking care of sheep. We read of David who was the youngest son and a simple shepherd. In the hands of God David became a great king of Israel. The prophet Amos was a picker of figs. The mighty warrior Gideon had started out as the youngest son, from the weakest clan in the smallest tribe of Israel. The apostle Peter was a fisherman. Throughout the Bible we see the simple used for God’s sacred purposes.
When you look back at Christmas paintings through the centuries you see that the painters were thinking the same way. They portray Mary and Joseph with haloes and an angelic look about them, when in reality they were two teenagers, from a small, unnoteworthy village in northern Galilee, who were tasked with raising the Son of God. They were simple people who God called to a sacred task.
That should be an encouragement to we imperfect, normal people, who long to play a meaningful part in the Kingdom of God. As we look to the Christmas story we see once again that God takes the simple and makes it sacred.
Let us read Luke 2:8-20,
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The Christmas characters were simple people.
It was an ordinary night, simple shepherds, a simple manger, simple hay, a simple young mother, and a simple young father, but then the presence of God came and changed everything. God made the simple, sacred.
It is a wonderful thing that the story should tell that the first announcement of God came to some shepherds. Shepherds were despised by the religious people of the day. They were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous religious hand-washings and rules and regulations. Their flocks made far too constant demands on them; and so the religious people looked down on them as sinful people. It was to these simple men of the fields that God's message first came. God used the simple to usher in the sacred. It was in that simple field of sheep that the choir of angels sang to declare the coming of the Christ and it would be these simple shepherds who would be the first proclaimers that the Messiah had come. God takes the simple and makes it sacred.
We see this pattern time and again throughout the Bible. We see it lived out in the life of the young boy who offered up his fishes and loaves that Jesus used to feed thousands of people. Simple to Sacred. We see this in the life of Peter who had betrayed Jesus in his hour of need but was then restored and became one of the main leaders of the early church. Simple to Sacred. We see Esther, the orphaned young lady from an unknown family who becomes queen of Persia and risks her life to save the Jews from a certain nation-wide massacre. Simple to Sacred.
God desires to use us to usher in the sacred. It is not because we are sacred, but because He is. At times we think too highly of ourselves. At other times we think too lowly of ourselves. But God will draw near to those who will humble their hearts before God, believe and obey. In the midst of His presence everything changes. The simple will become sacred.
It is God’s presence and his purposes that make the simple, sacred. The Temple was a beautiful, architectural masterpiece, but the only reason it was sacred was because God dwelt there. A musician may be awe-inspiring, but it is only as they sing for the glory of God that there music becomes sacred. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. As followers of Christ the simple has been made sacred.
The definition of sacred is, ”Dedicated or set apart for the sole purpose of the worship of God.” It is similar to the scripture’s word “holy.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells how we have become holy. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Through the death and resurrection of Christ the debt for our sin has been paid. All who will now turn from their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ are forgiven and take on the righteousness of Christ.
We are now holy and set apart for the purposes of God. It is based on our receiving of what Christ has done. For those who are in Christ we now have put on His righteousness and have access to all His resources to grow in godliness and good works. We are saints because He, through Christ, has made us holy, set apart for His purposes. The simple has become sacred.
Now that Christ dwells in us we have been tasked with living sacred lives and taking the presence of Christ with us wherever we go. Whether it be where we live, work or play we are to bring the sacred presence of Christ with us.
If we are holy and set apart in Christ then why do we as Christians still struggle with pride, materialism, anger, covetousness, jealousy, gossip and other sins of the world? It is often that we are seeing sacred as a description of only part of our life. .
Often we are only allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord over certain parts of our lives. There are certain things we are not willing to surrender. So many times, we live as if our lives are made up of compartments. School, work, play, family, spiritual, and maybe more. With this way of thinking we feel free to submit to God in areas that we think are spiritual. Then we work, play, date, live, as if those are totally unrelated and separate from God's purposes for our lives. We go to church on Sunday, sing the songs, listen to the sermons, shake hands with others, and then we use those same voices, ears, and hands to live a life as if there is no God.
If we follow the idea that only part of our lives being sacred or spiritual then we end up living lives that look outwardly like Christ on Sunday, but then are characterized by sin during the week. When we are involved in spiritual activities we will try to be like Christ, but when we are participating in other life events like business, government, sports, or our daily lives, the areas that supposedly are not spiritual, then we will do what we want. We might think that we don’t have to be honest with our finances if we think there is a better way, because that’s not a spiritual part of life so God’s perspective doesn’t matter. Or maybe when we play sports and the referee makes a bad call we can yell, curse, and almost fight, because we feel that it is not a spiritual event and God’s opinion doesn’t apply. We might think that when we are considering our future career or where we will live we can do what we want, because that’s not a spiritual decision. This type of thinking will permit us to cheat on tests at school while leading worship at church. We can be involved in sinful dating relationships while attending a weekly Bible study. We can verbally abuse our spouse while praying daily for the persecuted church. How can that be possible?
Some will call this the division between the simple and the sacred, but from God's perspective is anything really beyond the reach of the sacred? Is anything really beyond the concern and will of God? Every word we speak, thought we think, and action we take is an opportunity to give glory to the one true God. Everything is sacred.
God’s fingerprints are everywhere. Evidences of God are all around us.
The four seasons that occur year after year; the tides of the oceans that are so predictable; the cycle of birth, life and death are all evidences of an orderly Creator. Humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide that plants need. Plants use the carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen that humans need. The beats of our hearts and the breaths of our lungs that occur thousands of times a day that we never have to think about. The need for love that we each have. The sacredness of each life because we have all been created in the image of God. Our emotions of pain, sorrow, loneliness, and discontentment that serve to remind us that we were made for something more. If we look we will find signs of God everywhere. Everything is Sacred.
All relationships, circumstances, pain, disappointment, joys, small details, and big details are tools in God’s hands to make us like Christ. He is refining us for His sacred purposes. As we read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Everything is Sacred.
Practically speaking, may we seek to usher in the presence of Jesus into every situation and usher every situation into the presence of Jesus. As we talk with others who are in need, may we bring Christ’s presence into the conversation. May we bring Christ into our relationship with our children. May we bring the presence and purpose of Christ into our workplace. May we be the priests that we have been called to be, representing God before our people and representing our people in prayer before God. May we not be content any longer with the lack of the sacred, but instead may our conviction be to usher the presence of God into every part of life that we can.
During the 1800s there was a simple man named Dwight L Moody. He was a shoe salesman. He was educated only until the fifth grade. He could not spell. His grammar was not good. His manners were non-existent and he was at times crude. He was a simple man. Moody’s Sunday School teacher once said that he had never seen anyone whose mind was as spiritually dark as Moody’s.
Moody eventually surrendered his life to serve Christ and in the years that followed God did extraordinary works in and through Moody’s life. It is estimated that Dwight L Moody led several hundred thousand people to Jesus Christ in his lifetime.
“D.L. Moody tells of how he once heard someone say that “The world has not yet seen what God could do with one man who would be totally surrendered to Him.” In response D.L. Moody said, “I want to be that man.”
This is the key to a life that is sacred. It is surrendering our lives fully to the will of God. It is in this surrender that the Holy Spirit begins to make the simple, sacred. It is the practice of continuously, practically, mindfully dwelling in Christ’s presence.
2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” That is possibly how Mary and Joseph were chosen. There hearts were committed to Him. When faced with the angel Gabriel and the news of the virgin birth Mary believed and obeyed. When Joseph was instructed to take Mary to be His wife, even though she had become pregnant through the working of the Holy Spirit, he obeyed and married her. It was in their faith and obedience that the simple became sacred.
Will you be that man or woman who totally surrenders your life to follow Christ?
It started in Bethlehem with Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds. It continues today with you and me. May we be a simple people who usher in the sacred presence of Christ in everything that we do.