Following the Shepherds featured
Book Club,  Soul

Following the Shepherds to fearless faith


This week Nettie’s Book Club is reading Chapters 5 and 6 of Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller. In these two chapters, we are inspired by the faith of Mary and of the Shepherds. In both cases, these familiar characters of the Christmas story received the message of the birth of Jesus through angelic messengers sent by God. Although Mary and the Shepherds were all afraid at first, all of them “listened well, overcame their fears, and went out into the world carrying the joyful news to others” (Page 74).

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Luke 2:10
Luke 2 verse 10

In most Nativity plays the Shepherds play a sentimental supporting role at best. Yet Tim Keller encourages us with four important lessons we can learn from the faith of these humble believers.

Hear well

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17
Romans 10 verse 17

Once the shepherds heard the message from the angels they immediately went to see Jesus Christ (Luke 2:15) and found him as the angels said they would. After what they witnessed in the manger, they could not contain their excitement and went on to spread the word of the birth of the Saviour (Luke 2:17). Tim Keller contrasts how people might receive a message from an angel or from a shepherd differently. Anges must be incredible awe-inspiring creatures that take your breath away. Shepherds, on the other hand, were lowly, uneducated men without much standing in society. It must have been hard for the shepherds to get their message across compared to the grand entrance of the angels. Similarly, our reception of the Gospel might be obstructed by our prejudices against the messenger bringing the news, but we should guard against this threat. If God could speak through Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:21-39), he can speak through anyone.

When we hear the Good News we should not just let it flow in one ear and out the other. Mary is our example as she “pondered” in her heart what the message from the Shepherds and angels meant for her and for the future of mankind (see Psalm 119:130). The Word of God should also become our treasure as we relish in the truth and allow it to have an effect on our lives (Psalm 119:11). Tim Keller’s test is the question How would my life be different if I really believed this from the bottom of my heart” (Page 77). That is how we should study the word of God.

When we hear well, the word of God should change the way we think and feel, producing a change in our prayer life and our attitude towards God.

Make Peace

The peace of Jesus Christ does not mean a trouble-free life. On this side of heaven, we will always have trouble, but we can also carry the peace of Christ in our hearts. Biblical peace means God and sinner reconciled. Jesus Christ achieved this reconciliation through his birth, death on the cross and his resurrection. Through his example, we see that being a peacemaker means sacrificing our own authority over our lives and allowing God to drive our lives how he sees fit. This is very difficult for us as humans because our innate nature is to fight anyone who wants to take control of our lives. If we fall into the trap of believing that if we live a good life God must bless us, we are trying to control God and seek to be our own saviour.

Instead, we are called to recognize our sin and bad intentions by which we try to manipulate God’s hand. The beginning of the gospel is realizing that I am a sinner and I need God’s saving grace in my life. Only then can I be reconciled with God and become a peacemaker.

Christmas means surrendering my own pride to work out peace with God and others.

Fear not

Last week we read how Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to come into the presence of God without fear and how this contrasts starkly with the relationship God had with believers in the Old Testament before Jesus was born.

“If you have a perfect relationship with the all-powerful, loving Lord of the world, you would have no fear at all. You would not be afraid of him or anything else.”

Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas
Perfect relationship casts out fear - Tim Keller quote

When Adam and Eve committed the original sin in the Garden, man’s relationship with God was severed and would remain so until Jesus Christ was born. Due to their sin, which we have inherited, we are filled with many fears but, because of Christ, God provides an answer for each fear. The fear of failure and rejection is remedied by God’s unfailing love. The fear of the future can be quenched by the certainty that God is in control. The fear of death comes to nought when we remember that we will live with God forever.

Since that fateful day depicted in Genesis 3:8-10, Satan has been trying to convince us that we need to be in charge to be happy. The irony is that we are never in control which is what causes such overwhelming fear in our lives. Unlike the shepherds, we do not have to fear our holy God because we are not alienated from him. If we believe in Jesus Christ we have been reconciled with our Father and we have nothing to fear. He’s got this.

Behold

If you saw a shocking video on Youtube that you couldn’t wait to show someone, you probably wouldn’t share it with them with the instruction to “behold!” But that is the meaning of this old English word in the Bible. When we behold the Gospel, we perceive it, comprehend it. Essentially, Christmas means “A Saviour is born“. When we truly behold (comprehend) the truth of Christmas, it removes all fear.

“Fear always haunts and then overwhelms you when you seek to save yourself, to earn your own sense of worth, and to construct your own identity.”

Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas
Fear haunts when you want to do it yourself - Tim Keller quote

Our greatest innate fear is to lose control. Jesus Christ showed us his love for us by losing all control and surrendering everything all because he loves us. This is all the evidence we need that we can fully trust in him and that we have nothing to fear.

Take the time to behold Christmas. Treasure, ponder and take in with all your senses what God did for us through the birth of our Saviour.

Fear not! Behold!

Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas
Fear not! Behold!

In this sermon, Tim Keller explains that what we know and believe about God informs how we perceive everything and make all our decisions.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of the books studied by Nettie’s Book Club. I am not profiting from the sale of these books. I will carefully select books that have had a significant impact on my faith. My goal is simply to share the wisdom in these books with others so we can assess and apply the wisdom of these authors to grow in understanding of our faith together.


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