Study # 1
December 21, 2003
Lincolnton, N.C.

<035><036> Thesis: Our expectations should be realistically balanced. Introduction: As we have been witnesses once again to what happens when this time of the year comes around, one of the things we see is imbalance. Merchants offer 'special deals' to get customers in their doors which are in incredible contrast to our expectations (TV sets for 99 cents; DVD players for $30). Extravagant displays of Christmas lighting are deliberately designed to shock our vision. Crime, during the season of 'Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men', increases markedly and, if we are a victim, we are left stunned at the enormity of the contrast. And, TV specials heap up the sugar coating of the warm and fuzzies about how Christmas causes men to be generous, kind, and good so that our expectations set us up for great disappointment when family gatherings degenerate into screaming fights on Christmas day. The key word here is: imbalance. Even the Scriptures are often used to generate a false sense of imbalance. We are told, by some, that God is an Omnipotent Sugar Daddy that will do anything we ask -- as long as we ask in faith -- because God doesn't want any of His children to be sick or poor. We are told, by others, that if we will just "trust in Jesus" our lives will level out in a regular experience of "abundant life" that translates into an effective denial of the internal war that rages between the Flesh and the Spirit. And so it goes, both without and within, we are confronted by false expectations in the process of real living. When Luke wrote to Theophilus, he was well aware of just how easily a person could get a false impression that would inevitably lead to false expectations that could easily produce a disastrous crash of confidence when the experiences of real-time living catch up with those impressions and expectations. He was, after all, writing about the coming of God's Messianic Savior within a context of a huge imbalance of expectations in the theology of Israel -- and he was writing so that his reader could know 'the exact truth' -- the balanced reality that exists in God, but doesn't seem to have much of an echo in the hearts and minds of men who are given to extravagance in both pride and despair. This morning, as it has simply come about as a happy coincidence of study and season, we are going to begin a study of the first coming of God's Messianic Savior. It is interesting to see how Luke threaded his way through the pitfalls of false expectations in order to give Theophilus a way to achieve balance in his own expectations. And, therefore, we will seek, this morning, to give ourselves a sense of balance--both for the season of the year as well as for the process of living year around.