Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

We find ourselves today in the first twelve verses of the second chapter of Matthew. This story is only found in Matthew. The challenge for us is ignoring all the traditional information about this story. If you want to be Biblically accurate, then you must listen to the Bible. What does the Bible say? The Bible says sometime after the birth of Jesus, Magi came to worship him. The Bible does not say they are kings. The Bible calls them Magi. Who are the Magi? Kings have political interests, but the Magi had no political interests or aspirations. They were more interested in spiritual matters. They sought God in a variety of ways. One of those ways was the stars. It is through their study of the stars they discovered a king had been born. It is at this moment they make one massive mistake. They assumed a king would be born in the palace. They went to insecure King Herod’s palace. Sadly, this wrong assumption caused the death of baby boys two years and younger. The Bible is not always kind. Devastated by their mistake, they were overjoyed when the star reappeared. When they found this newborn king among the commoners in Bethlehem, they worshipped this special child and offered him treasures.

Verse 11 says, “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  What kind of gifts are those to bring to a baby? You can be honest. They were not as bad as used toothbrush or second-hand clothes, but they were odd. They seem odd to us because we are not as wise as the Magi. While they were blind to the political events of their day, they fixed their eyes on eternal matters. From some unknown source they knew about Jesus’ earthly ministry. In other words, they must have known what would happen to Jesus in the next thirty-three years. Just think about it. Gold was the perfect gift for a king. Jesus was the King of Kings. Frankincense was the perfect gift for a priest. Jesus was the ultimate high priest, acting as a bridge between mankind and God. Myrrh was the perfect for someone who was going to die. It was used to embalm the dead. It is those three gifts I want to examine in this blog.

Gold was a perfect gift to a king. What is gold? Gold is a precious metal that is reserved for special people and occasions. Did you know an ounce of gold sells for approximately $1,900? How much gold do you own? It has been called the king of metals. Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) tells us that in the ancient empire of Parthia, no one approached the king without a gift of gold. It is truly the perfect gift for a king. Never forget, Jesus is the king of kings. Jesus is our friend, but Jesus is not our equal. We must always meet him on terms of submission.

History tells us Admiral Nelson always treated his defeated enemy with kindness and courtesy. After one of his naval victories, the defeated Admiral was brought to Nelson. Knowing his reputation for kindness and courtesy, he walked up to Nelson and stuck out his hand to shake it. Nelson’s hand remained at his side and said, “Your sword before your hand.” Before we can be Jesus’s friend, he must have our complete submission. Do you submit to Jesus or is he just your friend? Gold was the perfect gift for a king. Gold was the perfect gift for Jesus.

Frankincense was the perfect gift for a priest. What is frankincense? It is the bark from a boswellia tree. That bark was used to make a sweet perfume that was used by priests during sacrifices. Those sacrifices were used to make connection between mankind and God. The Latin word for priest means “bridge builder.” Remember, Jesus was the ultimate high priest, the ultimate bridge between mankind and God. Jesus was the incarnation of God. He just didn’t study us from afar. He became one of us.

The scriptures tell us Mary and Joseph respected the Law of Moses. In Luke 2:22-40, we learn they went to Jerusalem in accordance with that law. After the birth of a son, the law demanded two things. First, women had to wait 40 days to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice. Mary had to be purified to re-enter society. Second, Jesus had to be consecrated to the Lord. At that time, Jesus was circumcised. They went to Jerusalem to attend to those matters. It was a big day in their lives, but they didn’t have a clue what was about to happen. Like every parent, they knew their son was special. They were about to find out how special.

They meet two characters during their time at the temple. The first was a priest by the name of Simeon. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and was told he would not die until he saw the Messiah. The Holy Spirit did not lie. On that day he was in the temple courts and a young couple walked up to him. They expect him to just circumcise their son. They must have been shocked by the way the priest reacted to their baby. Simeon was overjoyed. He knew Jesus is the Messiah! The second person they met was Anna. In terms of this world, she had nothing. She was an old widow who lived her life within the temple. However, spiritually, she was rich. She was a prophetess. She is the one who announced to the crowd that Jesus will bring redemption to Israel!

I love Simeon and Anna. They model for us the importance of patience and they remind us of the uniqueness of Jesus. They knew what we often forget. Jesus was not just another good man. Jesus was not just the leader of another world religion. Jesus was different. Jesus was the son of God. Jesus was the incarnation of God. Jesus would forge a relationship between us and God that still stands today. In other words, Jesus was the great high priest! Frankincense was the perfect gift for a priest. Frankincense was the perfect gift for Jesus.

Myrrh was the perfect gift for one who was going to die. What is myrrh? It is a spice that was used to embalm the dead. I hate to say it, but Jesus did die. You remember the story. Thirty-three after Jesus’ birth, he is executed like a common criminal. The Bible tells us he did nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, he did everything right! He never committed a single sin which made him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. That fact is only important if you admit, you are a sinner. Sinless people do not need a savior. Sinless people do not need Jesus. However, you do need Jesus because you are a sinner. What does the Bible say? It says, “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That means anyone who has ever lived is a sinner. It means you are a sinner. Let me say this clearly. If you think you are going to heaven by your good works, then you are wrong. Jesus is and always has been your only hope of salvation. Myrrh was the perfect gift for someone who was going to die. Jesus died so we could live. Myrrh was the perfect gift for someone who was going to die. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were the perfect gifts for Jesus! Let me end with this question.

What did you get for Christmas? I hope you didn’t get one of these. Several years ago, gather magazine listed the worst Christmas gifts. This is their list:

          1. Nose hair clippers

          2. A pet rodent

          3. A vacuum cleaner

          4. Mascara

          5. Hand-me-down clothes

          6. A photograph of yourself

          7. A year’s supply of NutriSystem diet food

          8. A month gym membership

          9. Socks

According to Squidoo.com, these were the most desired gifts for Christmas.

          1. Cell phone

          2. Tablets

          3. Televisions

          4. Movies and sports streaming devises

          5. Gaming

          6. Remote control toys

          7. Cologne

          8. Docking systems

          9. Amazon gift card

          10. Unique cameras

What did you get for Christmas? Did you get any of those things for Christmas? They would have made the perfect gift. This is the bad news for today. Jesus didn’t get any of those things. The Magi showed their wisdom in their gifts. What did you get Jesus for Christmas? Never forget, Christmas is not your birthday.  

Accepted

In the second chapter of Matthew, verses 1 through 12, we find the story of the Magi. The Bible says it happened after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea. So, Jesus was born five and a half miles south of Jerusalem. Matthew goes on to pinpoint the date. It was when King Herod sat on the throne. He sat on the throne for thirty-three years, from 37 – 4 B.C. He was appointed to his position by the Roman Senate. Over two thousand years later, he is still remembered for being ruthless and insecure. His insecurity led him to murder many in his family: his wife, three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncles. In our reading for today, we learn his murderous ways extended beyond the family. You know what the Bible says.

One day, Magi, Gentile astrologers from Persia or southern Arabia, (both east of Palestine), came to visit Herod. They had been studying the stars and had discovered that God was doing something new. A baby had been born, who was called King of the Jews. They assumed the King of the Jews would be born in the palace. They assumed wrong. The infamous insecure King Herod is thrown into a tirade. His insecurity fuels the loss of more human life. The story does not have a happy ending. It pains me to say it. Using the information received from the Magi about this divine birth, he orders the death of all baby boys under the age of two. However, in the end, the Magi find the baby, now a toddler. (Jesus could have been two years old.)

I have preached this story for years, but it is only recently I discovered something new. It is something I have overlooked my entire life. It is not that Jesus was a toddler, not a newborn. It is not that they were Magi, not kings. It is not the meaning behind the gifts. My new insight was that the gifts were accepted. It is hard to see thousands of years later. Joseph and Mary received the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Think about it for moment. When you accept a gift, you are accepting the gift giver. Joseph and Mary accepted the Magi’s gifts, so they were accepting the Magi themselves. It does not sound so earthshaking now, but it was then. This Jewish couple accepted this group of three Gentiles. That rarely, if ever, happened. At the time of this story, accepting the Magi was, and is, a big deal. Just think about it for a moment.

From the time of Abraham to the time of Jesus, God had an exclusive relationship with the Jews. That covers thousands of years. The Hebrew nation took pride in the fact that they were God’s Chosen People. The purity of their race was important to them. They took pride in their heritage, and they disdained for everyone else. Either you were a Jew, or you were not. That is why genealogies were important to them. In the previous chapter, Matthew proves to the readers, Jews, that Jesus was 100% Jewish. That is why the Jews hated the Samaritans. They were almost Jewish, not good enough. Who were the Samaritans? They were the descendants of former Jews who had intermarried with Gentiles during the exile. Through Jewish eyes, they were half-breeds and hated for polluting the race. The purity of the race is extremely important to the Jews. That is what makes this story so amazing. This Jewish couple, Joseph, and Mary, accept these Gentiles, the Magi. Not only do they accept them, but they accept their gifts. Can I ask you a question? When was the last time you didn’t feel accepted? In the Bible lesson for today, the issue is racism. We understand racism because sadly, it is still part of our world.

I have never experienced the magic of Pittsburgh. Some people see it as a magical place. Some believe, heaven looks a great deal like Pittsburgh. I am not one of them. Don’t get me wrong. There are a few nice streets crowded in between the rivers and the hills. Can I confess something to you? I can never drive into Pittsburgh and not get lost. I am always going the wrong way on a one-way street. It is my experience that modern GPS is useless in Pittsburgh.

Several years ago, I was going to visit someone in one of the hospitals in Pittsburgh. Kathryn came along for company. Not to my surprise, we got lost. I break the stereotype and ask for directions when I get lost. Kathryn was driving, so I jumped out of the car. The closest place to ask for directions was a corner bar. When I walked in the place, it went silent. I do not want to sound racist, but the place went silent because I was the only person of non-color in the bar. I asked the first person I saw for directions. He was helpful. He pulled out a napkin that sat under his frosted beer mug and wrote down some directions. When I walked out, everyone started laughing. Racism is at the heart of that story and racism is at the heart of our Bible story. However, racism is not the only source of the problem. There are many reasons why we don’t accept others. Let me ask you the question again: When was the last time you didn’t feel accepted?

Several years ago, I officiated at a wedding at the Butler Museum of American Art in downtown Youngstown. To be more exact the wedding took place in the new Butler North, who was the former First Christian Church. The congregation had left, and the Holy Spirit went with them. The ceremony was stiff with canned music. My plan was to leave after the benediction, but the father of the bride asked me to stay and say at the reception in the art gallery. I was more than glad to stay, but I had stay about two hours. I called Kathryn and she agreed to meet me at the reception. However, that meant for two hours, I was on my own. I spent most of the time looking at the pieces of art. I tried to talk to people, but no one wanted to talk to me. I was identified as the minister, and no one wants to talk to the minister. I was alone in a crowd. I was not accepted. Have you ever been excluded because of your job? Let me ask you the question again: When was the last time you didn’t feel accepted? You know it is true. Sometimes, we exclude ourselves because we do not feel like we belong.

Personally, I find New Year’s Eve to be depressing, after the great day of Christmas. We always go somewhere to escape the festivities of New Year’s. One year, we went to Annapolis. It was a great trip. We toured the Naval Academy and visited some historic sites. Annapolis was the Capitol of the United States for the first eight months after the Revolution. From Annapolis it moved to Trenton, New Jersey. The last day of our trip we went into Baltimore and toured the B & O Railroad Museum.

The last thing we did was go to a mansion called Evergreen. It was the home of one the B & O CEO’s. The building was impressive, filled with priceless art and collectibles. Our guide tried to impress us with all the pieces. Everyone was impressed, except for one person in the group, me! I just didn’t appreciate the various pieces. Don’t get me wrong. I have been exposed to some of the finest things in life. I have heard some of the finest music ever composed performed by some of the world’s finest orchestras. I have seen masterpieces in some of the finest art galleries in the world. The problem is not a lack of exposure, it is a lack of appreciation. Everyone on our tour appreciated what they were experiencing, except me. Once again, I was alone in a crowd. The guide and the group did nothing wrong. The problem wasn’t them. It was me. I didn’t feel like I belonged. By the end of the tour, people were sharing what they enjoyed the most in the house. Do you know what I enjoyed most? It was a photograph of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941). I really admired his large mustache. It was obvious. I just didn’t fit in with the rest of the group. It is entirely possible to exclude yourself. Let me ask you the question one more time: When was the last time you didn’t feel accepted?

That is what makes this morning’s story so incredible. It is a story of acceptance. A Jewish couple, Joseph, and Mary accepted a group of Gentiles. They aren’t just accepting them. They are emotionally embracing them by accepting their gifts. Here is the Good News for today: You are accepted too. Jesus didn’t just come to maintain God’s special relationship with the Jews. Jesus came so everyone can have a relationship with God. Jesus came so God can have a relationship with you. Never forget it. God loves you so much, he wants to spend eternity with you! Brian Tracy (born 1944) said it best, “The greatest gift that you can give someone is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.”

Discipleship 101

In 1857, John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1820-1891) wrote one of the great hymns in the history of the church, We Three Kings. At the time, Hopkins served as the rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. However, he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City. The carol is a combination of Bible and tradition. Tradition, not Bible, tells us there were three kings. Tradition, not Bible, tells us the names of the three kings. If you picture your nativity set, Then, you can see them. Melchior was an old gray-headed man with a long white beard. He brought the gold, the gift for a king. Caspar was young and beardless. He brought the frankincense, the gift for a priest. The myrrh, the gift for one who was going to die, was brought by Balthasar, who was dark-complexioned. That is interesting, but that is not Bible. We are a Biblical church, which means we are only interested in what the Bible says about the Magi (not kings). So, what does the Bible?

In the second chapter of Matthew, we find the story of the Magi. The Bible says it happened after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea. So, Jesus was born five miles south of Jerusalem. Matthew goes on to pinpoint the date. It was when King Herod sat on the throne. He sat on the throne for thirty-three years, from 37 – 4 B.C. He was

appointed to his position by the Roman Senate. Over two thousand years later, he is still remembered for being ruthless and insecure. His insecurity led him to murder many in his family: his wife, three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncles. In our reading for today, we learn his murderous ways extended beyond the family. You know what the Bible says. The combination of the uninvited visitors and the insecure king produced one of the greatest stories in the Bible.

The story of the Magi is rich in many ways. I preach on this text annually. I looked at my past sermons from the past decade. Through the years I have looked at this story from several different angles. Maybe you remember one of these themes. In the past, I have looked at the odd gifts they presented the toddler Jesus. They were gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In the past, I have looked at the symbolism that surrounds the Magi. They were Gentiles, non-Jews, entering a Jewish world. However, in God’s plan of salvation of the world everyone, even Gentiles, are welcomed. The Magi represent us! In the past, I have used the Magi to illustrate a cruel point. Life is hard! Why did innocent babies have to die? That fact upsets me. Today, I want to look at the Magi from a different angle.

The Magi illustrate for us the basics in discipleship. That is important because we are in the discipleship making business. Do you remember the mission statement of this church? Western Reserve will develop disciples who reflect Christ’s love through worship, fellowship, and service. The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. So, what the Magi did to become a disciple we must do. They did three distinct things once they found Jesus. Each one is found in the story.

First, the Magi bowed down! Look at the text with me. The entire story revolves around a group of tired travelers, the Magi. Here is a question you must answer. Who are the Magi? Many have been trying to answer that question for years. It will have to suffice to say they were spiritual astrologers. By studying the stars, they had discovered that the king of the Jews had been born. Their knowledge of the stars is impressive, but their understanding of the scriptures is limited. They assumed the king would be born in the capital, Jerusalem. The scriptures tell us he would be born in Bethlehem. That single mistake ignited the insecurities of the present king, Herod. However, it is Herod who sends them in the right direction. When they arrive, we are told they bowed down and worshipped Jesus. (Verse 11) By then, Mary and Joseph are no longer staying in the4 barn or manger. They have moved to a house. However, this is a more important question. What does it mean to bow down? It means the Magi, with all their worldly influence and power, were humbling themselves before Christ. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you must humble yourself before him. How humble are you?

The late Dawson Trotman (1906-1956), founder of the Navigators, was visiting Taiwan on one of his overseas trips. During the visit he hiked with a Taiwanese pastor back into one of the mountain villages to meet with some of the national Christians. The roads and trails were wet, and their shoes became very muddy. Later, someone asked this Taiwanese pastor what he remembered most about Dawson Trotman. Without hesitation the man replied, “He cleaned my shoes.” So, this is my question for you. How will you be remembered? Will you be remembered as a prideful person? Will you be remembered as a humble person? If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, then you must be humble. Do the people in your life consider you humble?

Second, the Magi opened-up! Look at the text with me again. The Magi did not just bow down. They also offered him gifts. There was gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each one of the gifts reveals something about the life that Jesus is going to live. The gold was a gift for a king. The frankincense was a gift for a priest. The myrrh was a gift for one who was going to die. The gifts reveal the Magi’s insight, but the gifts also reveal the Magi’s generosity. One of the great secrets of the Bible is, what happened to the gifts? Many believed they were sold to pay for life because life has always been expensive. The Magi gave their best. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you must give him your best for the business disciple making. How much of your life are you giving?

There is the 90/10 Principle. I have spoken of it in the past. I repeat it because you need to hear it. It is not a complex principle. It simply says, 90% of the work done and 90% of the money given is done and given by 10% of the people. It does not just happen here. It happens in every church. So, this is the question you must answer. Are you part of the 10% who does or gives 90% or are you part of the 90% who does or gives 90%? The answer is obvious. Are you proud of your answer or are you ashamed of your answer? The Magi were generous with their time, they looked for Jesus for years. The Magi were generous with their money, they gave expensive gifts. Do the people in your life consider you a generous person when it comes to the disciple making element of the church? The Magi bowed down. The Magi opened-up.

Third, the Magi changed! Look at the text with me one final time. The time came for the Magi to go home. They had experienced the king of the Jews and were ready to go home. They were prepared to go home in the same way that they came. There is no reason to believe they would have changed their itinerary, but they have a dream that warns them to go home a different way. Verse 12 says, “They returned home by another route.” Jesus had changed their normal way, and they tried a new way. How much is Jesus changing your life? Are you willing to try something new?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) called it “cheap grace.” It is when grace is experienced in your life, but there is no discipleship. It is grace without price; it is grace with cost. It is grace without change. How many people do you know proclaim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, but they refuse to change? They expect to go to heaven, but they refuse to forgive or love unconditionally. How much has the Gospel changed your life? The Magi bowed down! The Magi opened-up! The magi changed!

I heard this week 84% of all Americans kept their New Year’s resolutions to some degree from last year. So, let me ask you the question. What is your New Year’s Resolution? I am not the first one to ask it. The people at GoSkills.com say these are the most common New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Exercise More
  2. Lose Weight
  3. Get Organized
  4. Learn a New Skill or Hobby
  5. Live Life to the Fullest
  6. Save More Money
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Spend More Time with Family and Friends

Is any of those your New Year’s Resolution?

This is my New Year’s Resolution. This year I am going to more like the Magi. I am going to take my discipleship more seriously. I am going to humble myself. I am going to be more generous. I am going to be more open to God leading. I hope you are going to be more like the Magi too. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was an American revivalist. He once wrote, “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

What Does the Bible Say?

In 1857, John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1820-1891) wrote one of the great hymns of the church, We Three Kings. At the time, Hopkins served as the rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. However, he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City. The carol is a combination of Bible and tradition. Tradition, not the Bible, tells us they were kings. Tradition, not the Bible, tells us there were three kings. Tradition, not the Bible, tells us the names of the three kings. Melchior was an old gray-headed man with a long white beard. He brought the gold. Caspar was young and beardless. He brought the frankincense. The myrrh was brought by Balthasar, who was dark-complexioned. Those things are interesting, but those things aren’t in Bible. We are a Biblical church, which means we are more interested in what the Bible says about the Magi (not kings).

We find ourselves today in the second chapter of Matthew. According to that chapter, sometime after Jesus was born, Magi came from the east to see the newborn king. They had seen the star which announced his birth. That sounds innocent enough, but it led to many dark days. Do you remember what they say about assuming? The Magi assumed the newborn king was born in the palace. They were wrong. They should have stopped and asked the shepherds. He was born in a barn. Their wrong assumption ignited the insecurities of the sitting monarch, King Herod. He summons all his counselors and discovers where the child was born. The Magi told him when he was born. The Magi never see Herod again. Thanks to a dream, they returned home by another route. Once Herod discovered he had been fooled by the Magi, he gave a cruel order. Based on what he knew, he ordered the death of all baby boys in the vacancy of Bethlehem who were two years old or younger to be killed. That means your nativity set is wrong. The Magi and the shepherds never met. What does the Bible say? It says the star rested over a house, not a barn or manger. Here is a question you must answer.

Why is the story of the Magi so important to us today? There are two reasons. First, the Magi illustrate for us that Jesus came for all people, the Jews and the Gentiles. The Magi were Gentiles, non-Jews. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. Second, the Magi model for us true discipleship. Never forget we are in the disciple making business. In true discipleship three things must happen. The Magi do each one. Let’s look at them individually.

Shortly after Booker T. Washington (1856-1919) took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him, and later revealed his identity to the lady. The next morning, the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating large sums of money to the Tuskegee Institute. God uses humble people.

First, the Bible says the Magi bowed down. In other words, they humbled themselves.Who were the Magi? Many have tried to answer that question. Some say they were scientists. Some say they were astrologers. Some say they were politicians. Some say they military officers. Some say they were priests. We do not know who the Magi were, but we do know they were important, and they bowed down and worshipped Jesus. In other words, they humbled themselves before Jesus. That fact is so important. True discipleship begins with humility. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Do the people in your life consider you humble? The Magi bowed down.

Money is always a challenge in the life of the church. We are no exception. Because money comes in unequally, we never know where we stand until the end of the year. In many cases, I am convinced churches like to cry ‘poor’ because churches generally don’t want to do anything. That isn’t the case here. I saw the final treasurers report for 2019. I am pleased to report, we met the budget. In other words, all the bills are paid, and we paid our district and conference support in 2019. That is impressive. However, in my opinion, the best part of the report is the fact they we raised approximately thousands of dollars for missions. That included things like Heifer International, Estonia, Baton Rouge and the rest. That figure came from the church’s treasurer’s report and does include other groups like United Methodist Women or Helping Hand. They gave generously too. That figure does include our various collections, like the giving tree, warm weather tree, socks and food collections. Generosity is the sign of a growing church. (Don’t get too excited. We started over again on New Year’s Day at zero.)

Second, the Bible says the Magi opened-up. What did the Magi give? Everyone knows the answer. They gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. They were odd gifts for baby. Gold was a great gift for a king. Jesus is the king of kings. Frankincense was a great gift for a priest. Jesus is the great high priest. Myrrh was a great gift for the dying. Jesus died so we could live. Those gifts had one thing in common. They were expensive! That means the Magi were generous. How we spend our money says a great deal about our priorities and our spiritual maturity. Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and share with others, for such sacrifices please God.”  Do the people in your life consider you a generous person?The Magi bowed down. The Magi opened-up.

Third, the Bible says the Magi changed. According to the scripture, after the Magi worshipped Jesus, they stayed long enough to need sleep. As they slept, they dreamed and in one of those dreams they were warned to return home by another route, hence avoiding Herod. In other words, they knew what God wanted them to do and they changed. In our time, we know what God wants us to do, but we seldom change. For example, we continue to love selectively, not universally. If you want to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, then you must be prepared to change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Do the people in your life consider you flexible?

Did you know on approximately 40% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution? That figure came from the Cleveland Clinic. Most resolutions revolve around three things. The first is health. “I am going to lose weight.” The second is economics. “I am going to get out of debt.” The third is education. “I am going to learn something new.” The Cleveland Clinic also tells us 90% of resolutions are forgotten in a few weeks.

On New Year’s Eve, Kathryn and I were with friends. She asked me the question many have asked me through the years. “What is your New Year’s resolution?” I have answered that question the same way I have for many years. THIS YEAR I AM GOING TO BE A BETTER PERSON. However, this year I have decided to make a different resolution. THIS YEAR I AM GOING TO TAKE MY DISCIPLESHIP MORE SERIOUSLY. I would challenge you to do the same. However, let me warn you. Discipleship is not easy. It takes work. You must do what the Magi did. They humbled themselves. They were generous with their time, talent and finances. They changed. They obeyed what God commanded. Can the same thing be said about you? Brandon Cox is the founding and Lead Pastor of Grace Hill Church in Bentonville, Arkansas. He once said, “Discipleship is the art and science of helping people find, follow and fully become like Jesus.