We begin today a study through this great Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, we call it the Gospel of Luke. When we refer to the Gospels, we're not talking about when we use the word gospel to refer to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. We're talking about the four books that give you the context for appreciating that message. Those four books - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - tell us the story of the life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, which are all essential to the gospel message. And they explain the meaning of these events. They give us the history, in other words, of the person and work of Christ, and then they explain the significance of the person and work of Christ, in order that we would understand the gospel message.

The Gospel of Luke doesn't begin with the birth of Jesus, it begins before the birth of Jesus. And it doesn't just begin with the birth of John the Baptist, it points us back to the Old Testament and to the prophecies and the promises of the Old Testament, which are accomplished and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That's one way that God tells us that He's not just at that point in time beginning to work for His people a salvation, but He has been working for our salvation not only from before the foundation of the world, but throughout the history of His people in the Old Testament.

I want to draw your attention to four things in this passage.

I. The Christian Gospel Begins With What God Has Done For Us.

The first thing I want to draw your attention to is this: Luke makes it clear in this passage that the story of God's redemption in Jesus Christ begins with a focus on what God is accomplishing among us. You see this in verse 1. Luke says to Theophilus,

"Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us."

And when he begins to catalogue in the next two chapters the things that have been accomplished among us, you will see that it's not a record of what we've accomplished; it's a record of what God has accomplished.

Why is that so important? J.I. Packer says that the secret to a soul-fattening Bible study is to ask first, "What does this passage teach me about my God?" and then only secondarily ask, "Okay, how then does that inform how I am going to live?" Luke is putting things in perspective for us by pointing to God's accomplishments among us. It's all about God. This is His story. This is His plan. This is His purpose being accomplished. And what we learn from that is this: the Christian gospel begins with God's accomplishments on our behalf.

II. The Christian Faith is Founded Upon Truth

Now there's a second thing I want you to see as well, and you see it especially in verse 4:

"That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught."

In other words, Luke believes that it is absolutely imperative that we understand the truth on which Christianity is founded. Christianity is an historical religion. It claims that God has intersected and intruded into human history, and therefore there is truth, there are facts, events, and concrete things that have happened that form the basis of what God is doing in His plan of salvation.

So Luke is telling us that the Christian faith is founded upon truth, and it's important for us to know these things and to believe these things and to understand that these things are based on truth - events that really happened. This is not a fairy tale.

III. The Christian Story Reveals An Irony

Third, note the intriguing irony in verse 5:

"In the days of Herod, the king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah."

People, because of his position and because of his notoriety, would have assumed that Herod was far more important that Zechariah. Not in God's economy.

This unknown priest, Zechariah, was the chosen instrument that God was going to work through. The world looks at faithful believers, obscure believers, marginal believers, and says that's not important. They're not important. The really important things that are going on in the world are going on in Washington and London, Moscow, and Beijing. Nope. They're going on in the lives of yielded believers whom the Lord has chosen to be His instruments for the propagation of the gospel and for the building of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The world may think that they are obscure and unimportant. Fine. But in God's economy the kings are pawns, and His people are His instruments.

My friends, there is nothing that we do for Christ or for the gospel that is wasted in God's economy, and it doesn't matter whether the world gives us acclaim for that or not.

It's an intriguing irony, isn't it? Nobody would have paid attention to little Zechariah, but he was the one that God was planning to use, and Herod was a pawn.

IV. The Christian Life Entails Both Faithfulness and Trials.

Finally, Don't you love the way that Zechariah and Elizabeth are described in verse 6? They were righteous before God. They walked blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Luke is telling his Jewish readers, "Look, these were godly saints! They loved the Law of Moses. They lived according to their Hebrew Bibles. They walked with integrity. These were salt of the earth believers," he's saying to his Jewish readers. But...verse 7...they had no child.

It's resounding, isn't it? They loved the Lord. They walked in His ways. They served His kingdom. They gave their all from the inside out for Him, and they were going through the most grievous of trials.

Over and over in the Bible, remarkable stories of God's purposes in the overall plan of redemption begin with a childless couple, and often the couple is advanced in years.

Why? To teach us that God's power is perfected in weakness and God's glory is displayed in our weakness; and, on the other hand, to teach us that though God had one Son without sin, He has no sons without trials.

It teaches us that God's power is perfected in weakness. What better way to show that this is a story that God Himself is going to accomplish than to point to two human beings who are not only not even going to have another generation to pass their line on to? How dependent is this plan upon the intervention of the Lord? It's that dependent. It's utterly dependent upon Him. Our weakness will not accomplish this; His strength will. God's power is perfected in weakness. That's what we learn.

But we also learn, my friends, that wonderful, God-fearing, Bible-believing, gospel-treasuring, Christ-exalting Christians can endure great and grievous trials. And even if God has called you to trial, I want to tell you this: there is no place like trial for God to prove himself to you that His power is perfected in your weakness.