TRANSCRIPTION | Wednesday, December 9, 2020 | Theophilus

 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Hey, 3trees, it’s great to be with you guys this evening. What we've been doing on Wednesday nights, here in the month of December, is just a little bit of a Bible study and taking a look at some different things that I don't know maybe help us just in our discipleship journey as followers of Jesus. On Sunday morning, I launched a series entitled God With Us. And we took a look at the passage of text associated with Christmas, where Jesus is identified in that way. But we also took a look at Matthew chapter eight. And the thing I would encourage you to do is, if you didn't get a chance to hear that message, and you're going through a storm, you're going through a trial, you may want to go on over to the YouTube link, just search 3treeschurch, pull up that message and give it a look. Maybe even share it with some people that you know are going through difficulty, going through struggle, because we've really heard some good solid testimony from people who were impacted by the message. The fact that you can have a great storm, and then you can have a great calm, even if all you have between the two is just a little bit of faith. I believe it will encourage you. I hope you'll check it out. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Tonight, I want to go back and just drop an anchor with that first text that we had on Sunday morning, Matthew 1:21, it says this, “And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Now notice it it says, you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save the people from their sins. Verse 23, Matthew chapter one, “Behold, the virgin shall bear for their son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel,” which is translated God with us. Man in a time like this in a year like 2020, it is just really good to know that God is with us. But if you notice the emphasis in these texts, that in verse 21, it says, you shall call his name Jesus because he saves. They shall call him Emmanuel, God with us. I think there's something to be said to us, as I mentioned even on Sunday morning, that when we accept Jesus as Savior, there will come moments in our life, when simply because he is our Savior, that others the world, they will have to admit it, that God is with us. I pray that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, and I pray that you get to have those moments where maybe even the mocker and the scoffer and the relative who refuses to believe, has to acknowledge that surely God is with you. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

You know, I've been reading through the Gospels, and especially as we enter into this Christmas season, just reflecting on some of the verses that we typically associate with Christmas. And we know that the virgin birth is central to the Christmas story. And maybe you have a family that you have a tradition of reading the Christmas story from the Scriptures from the Gospels each year. Maybe that's something you've seen in Christmas plays or in Christmas presentations. Our family, we like to take the Christmas story from the Bible and read it before we begin exchanging and opening gifts on Christmas morning in our home. But typically, when we go to the Christmas story in Scripture, and we start celebrating that Jesus came as our Savior, and that because Jesus came, we have God with us, we tend to go to the book of Luke. And we tend to read from those chapters that record what we call the Christmas story. And we detailed the manger, and we detail the stable, and we detail the wise man and all those things that go with the Christmas story. But when you think about how it is that we get the Christmas story from the book of Luke, and this promise from the Gospel writers that as Jesus is our Savior, God is with us. I found something super intriguing at the front end of the book of Luke. Maybe you've noticed it, maybe you haven't noticed it, but I want to share it with you, especially as we celebrate this concept that God is with us. Luke 1:1, “In as much as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those from the beginning where eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word delivered them to us.” Verse 3 “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus. That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” Now, I hope you were leaned in there and paying attention. If not, or even if you were, let's just bring it full circle. Luke is opening his gospel, and he is telling us that he is aware at the time of his writing that there had been other gospels written. Most believe that he was referring to the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark because that's the way it would have been probably put together in regards to the fact that John was the last Gospel, and Luke was probably written after Matthew and Mark. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Now, so Luke's telling us, I know there's some other biographies of Jesus that have been written. And I have been studying, and I have felt like there's some things that I should also bring to the storyline of Jesus and his time on Earth from a biographical standpoint, if you will, a historical narrative. And he tells us, like, why he's doing it. And before we go into that, I want to think just for a moment about who Luke was, because what we learned is that you just just a few notes here, Luke, was mentioned three times in the New Testament, okay? He's actually mentioned as a character in the New Testament three times. And each of those times it was by his close friend, Paul. It's mentioned, if you want to write these down, Colossians 4:14, Philemon verse 24, and 2 Timothy, 4:11. And they believe that Luke, and we know this, there's no doubt about it, was extremely close friends with Paul. And Luke was actually a doctor by trade, which we'll probably mention in a moment. But Colossians 4:11, in context with verse 14, leads a lot of people to think that Luke was a Gentile and not a Jew. And he travelled extensively with Paul. And we know this because he also wrote the Book of Acts. And when you're reading the Book of Acts, he repetitively says we as he's referencing Paul, so we think that, you know, Luke was traveling with Paul. We don't know a lot about his personal life, but there's an earthly historical account outside of Scripture. So like an historical record about him from the early church, that this is what they stated about him, that he was a Syrian, that he was a doctor, that he was a disciple of the Apostles, and then later followed Paul, until Paul was martyred. He served the Lord blamelessly. He never had a wife. He never fathered children. He died at the age of 84, full of the Holy Spirit in Greece. Now, we don't know for sure if that's accurate. But there's many commentator scholars that believe that is a true biographical kind of overview sketch of Luke. And so we do know that his name is Greek in nature. And even as he's writing, his writing style is distinctively Greek, and he displays like this high level of sophistication. And that's actually similar to like classic Greek writers. He was well educated. He had considerable gifts of expression that come through in his writing. And what we know is that even as he's referencing here, in the beginning of chapter one, he was not personally an eye witness of Jesus’ ministry from what we can tell. But what he did, in his Book of Luke, the Gospel of Luke, is he went and he interviewed eyewitnesses, and he found people who had had some kind of personal interaction with Jesus. And you're going to see why he did that in just a minute. It's powerful. And God's got a word for us as a reason for why he did this. And so we know that he's compelled as a historian, to join the narrative of Matthew and Mark, and give us some further context for who Jesus was on earth, things he preached, things he did, things he said. In order to have went and interviewed all these eyewitnesses, like he would have had to have traveled miles and miles and miles. He would have had to have conducted like lots and lots of interviews. And so like some people believe, as they study Luke, and his gospel and how he might have interviewed witnesses, like some folks believe that maybe he interviewed Jesus’ mother, Mary. Some think he may have interviewed Jesus’ brothers and sisters. He may have found childhood acquaintances. He may have found living disciples, Jesus’ personal friends from his time on Earth, eyewitnesses to people who were in Jesus like services where he was preaching, people who had eyewitness accounts of his miracles, his deliverances, his resurrection. Like, Luke did all of that as he's capturing his gospel. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Here's what you got to see. At the beginning of the book of Luke, chapter one, “It seemed good to me also, 3 having had perfect understanding of all the things from the very first to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus”. Theophilus, that is not a city, it is not a nation, it is not a church, it is a man. And so what we learned is that Luke wrote his gospel to a man. He put this account together on behalf of a singular individual, a guy by the name of Theophilus. Now, we don't know exactly who Theophilus was, but what we do know is that Josephus mentioned two men by the name of Theophilus who were high-priest, but most scholars do not believe that that's the Theophilus, or one of the Theophilus’ that Luke would have been mentioning. Instead, what they believe is that the Theophilus that Luke mentions, was probably actually a Greek man, and that he was motivated to investigate if all these things he was hearing about Jesus was actually true. Furthermore, it's possible that he's not yet a Christian, and he's like me sending Luke, hey I want you to go investigate these things. Because for Luke to do all these investigations, for Luke to travel all these miles, for Luke to have any kind of income, while he's doing all of this research, like it would have taken somebody of significant means to fund that. And so because he dedicates the Gospel of Luke to Theophilus,  the pattern of that day, especially among Greek writers, is if somebody was receiving the dedication, if somebody had paid for something, you mentioned them first. Almost like when you walk into a building, and maybe somebody’s donated the money for the building. You put their name right there at the front of the building, like a placard of sorts. Like, they believe that the reason Luke put Theophilus at the forefront of this writing is because Theophilus had funded, his research had funded his investigation. Why? Because Theophilus may have not been a believer, or he may have been a new believer. And here's the thing, if he was a new believer, he was living in a part of the world that was under Roman rule. And under Roman rule, only one person could be lord and that was Caesar. You couldn't call anybody else lord, didn't matter if it was a god, or a person. Why? Because they believe Caesar was a god. And so for you to accept Jesus as Savior, you have to acknowledge him as Lord. And the early church understood that probably far more than we do today. And so Theophilus is saying, like, I need to know were the miracles true. Did Jesus really open blind eyes? Did he really unstop deaf ears? Did he say he was the son of God? Was he really born of a virgin? Did it happen in a stable? Is he really God with us? Theophilus wants to know these things. He finances Luke to go figure it out for him. And now Luke is writing the Gospel of Luke, the good news, the good news that Jesus is Savior, that Jesus is with us, to one man. Like, we know that God is for the whole world. We know that God is for nations, we know that God is for tribes, we know that God is for families. But the thing that the Gospel of Luke teaches us before it's even out of the first four or five verses is that God is all about the individual. God is all about reaching one person. And here's the thing that I really loved. It's like this little hidden secret mystery within the Book of Luke, and that is this; the name Theophilus, one of the interpretations of it is lover of God. And so you can read this, as if to say that it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent lover of God. If you are a lover of God, the Gospel of Luke is for you. If you are somebody who is beginning to experience the love of God in your life, and youre like, I want to love God back. II want to thank him for being my Savior. I want to love him as being the God that is with me, the God that is for me, the God that is beside me, the God that is leading me, the God that is guiding me and directing my path. Like the Gospel of Luke is like God's way of saying, I bring it down to a singular individual. I'm looking for somebody who will love me. And I think even as you begin to read the book of Luke, like, you're gonna just find encouragement in it. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

And so, I just, I think it's stunning to contemplate that one of the Gospels was written with an individual in mind, and now we all benefit from it. And I wonder, like, as you're in your personal experience with Jesus, you know Theophilus had a lot at stake, because if he calls Jesus Lord, he's risking his status. We know he's called most excellent. That means he's the person of nobility. He's got a lot to lose. He's like, I want to make sure this Jesus thing is real. I want to make sure everything they're saying about him is true. If you need your faith encouraged, if you want to be reminded, man, God is with me. Maybe it's just a great time for you to even just start flipping through the pages of the Book of Luke. And maybe God speaks to you through the prodigal son. Maybe God speaks to you through the moment, when the rich man finds out that there's something worth more than money in the world. Maybe you want to flip to Luke chapter nine, and you want to see God's speak to you and remind you that if you'll follow Him and choose him over security, and choose him over the things of this world that you will always discover there's more following God than anything the world has to offer. Maybe you just want to spend some time in the Christmas story, even with your family, and just give thanks that God so loved the world that he sent his son to a stable, fully aware that he was going to have to exit the world through a cross. That God was willing to start this thing, knowing how he was going to end this thing. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

And so, you know, I tell my kids all the time, and those of you who are a part of our church on a regular basis, you've heard me say it, you can't just read the Bible, you got to read the Bible. And as you're reading through Scripture, on your daily basis, you're having your devotional time, you're being discipled as a follower of Jesus Christ. Like sometimes there's a little something that just jumps off the page at you, and you see a name like Theophilus. And the first time I ever read this, I thought it was a city. Years ago I started studying, Theophilus must be a city somewhere, that must be somewhere where there's a church. And then to discover that God is descending these little things through Scripture that he wants to get through to you that if he's got one man named Theophilus that wants to know more about him, he'll bring a guy like Luke in his life, who will bring detailed information to help his faith. And I think God wants to help your faith during this Christmas season. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

And so I just want to pray for you. Father, I thank you that when you save us, that you save us from our sin, you wash it as far away from us as this God as the east is from the west, you put it in a sea of forgetfulness, you don't just forgive us, you forget it. But I also thank you, Father God, that you give us little examples in Scripture that just just pop off the pages that you love us enough that even for just one, just one, that God, you want us all to be lovers of you. And you'll get that message across to us in a way that we can receive it, we can experience it, we can benefit from it, and our faith can be increased. And I pray Father, that somebody that has experienced your love and wants to see their love for you go to that next level is just going to have some moments, maybe even with the Book of Luke and the Christmas story, where they start to realize he really is my Savior, and Jesus really is God with me, through the good day, through the bad day, through the thick, through the thin, when it's going right, when it's going wrong, that Jesus you're with me. And God, somebody that needs your love, somebody that needs your encouragement, somebody that needs to be encouraged right now, God I ask you to manifest yourself in their life in such a way that the great storm becomes a great calm, let it  be done in Jesus name. And this church said, amen and amen. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Again, if you want to think more on the subject of God With Us, I challenge you, man, go over to YouTube, type in 3treeschurch, spelled with the number. Look up that message from Sunday. I want to encourage you. And then tonight, just just a little reminder that there's some little things God's going to speak to you through Scripture that's gonna stick out to you from time to time, and it's going to spur your faith forward. I love you, hope to get to see you again next Wednesday night, 6:30pm Central, 7:30pm Eastern time. And then also Sunday mornings, at every location, you can go to 3trees.com and just see the details on the service times and the locations. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

And another thing to listen, if God's doing something in your life, I invite you like, please go to 3trees.com, to pick one of those links and communicate with us your prayer requests, communicate with us that you'd like to get connected, communicate you'd like to take that next step. We want to help you in your path with Jesus. And the other thing is this, that if you're thinking about worshiping the Lord through giving, we are here in December, we are trying our best to be the hands and the feet of Jesus. We're doing everything we can to find needs and to meet them. This last Sunday through the stockings that were sent out, we invested $6,000 into just that moment of sending out the stockings for you guys to go and bless families and there's a lot more to still be done. So thank you guys for your giving. I'm sure there's a link there, or you can go to 3trees.com. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

God bless you. I promise you if you will go with God. He will go with you. Greater things are yet to come.