Luke 4:1-13 Jesus is the Son of Man: The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Temptation of Jesus

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 4! OF course if you do not have a Bible, see me after the service and we will get you a Bible.

Last week we looked at the transition in Luke’s Gospel from the pair of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. Luke showed that Joh was fulfilling his ministry and calling by preparing the way for Jesus to come as the Messiah. This culminated in what we saw last week, which was the baptism of Jesus by John and the appearance and approval of Jesus by God the Father and the descending of God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

Now, we didn’t spend much time on verse 23 last week, which tells us that Jesus was about 30 years of age when he began his ministry. Luke tells us that right after the baptism and we see, especially through the other Gospels, that there was little to no time between the baptism and the events we will look at this morning. They were, quite literally, back to back events.

But Luke is putting an emphasis on the shift from John & Jesus to Jesus only and so he buffers the baptism and the temptation in the wilderness with Jesus genealogy. And so, today, this story really marks, especially for Luke the beginning of Jesus ministry.

Now, we know that the Bible is filled with stories that we are all familiar with, to various levels and degrees. We actually get so used to and familiar with the story that we lose sight of some of the meanings and purposes of the story. Often we will hear the simplest or most shallow teaching on those stories, because they are so widely known. That doesn’t mean that those teachings or perceptions are necessarily wrong, but it does mean that often, the most well know stories in the Bible, the way we know them are often incomplete or partial.

I think todays text is one of those too well-known stories. When we come to them in our Bible reading, we don’t even think too much about them, we just kind of skim over them to get to the deeper and more interesting parts. However, we know that Gods word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. There is no limit to the depths of scripture that we can mine if we commit to reading it, studying it, being taught by God and being led by the Holy Spirit.

So, this morning we are going to read Luke chapter 4, verses 1 through 13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to grab your Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Word. Luke 4:1-13, Luke writes, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

 

May God Bless the reading of his Holy Word.

 

Now we see immediately that Jesus was both filled with the Holy Spirit and he was led by the Holy Spirit. He was on a spiritual high, so to speak. We all have experienced this. Some of us, it might have been right after our baptism, maybe when we were first converted. Some of have various times during our walk with Christ that we just feel extra close to him and extra set in our life with Christ. But we also sometimes have the opposite. We have those times in our life where we are just physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. We are not feeling very holy, not feeling close to God, feeling like we are constantly tripping and messing up.

Satan is going to come and hit Jesus with temptation throughout these forty days in the wilderness through both Jesus spiritual and physical highs and his physical and spiritual lows.

Scripture says that Jesus was tempted throughout the 40 days he was in the wilderness. But going back for a moment, through those 40 days, and in fact, before he went into the wilderness, Jesus was being led by the Holy Spirit. He was specifically and purposely brought by God to the wilderness in order to be tempted and more accurately, to resist the temptations.

This time in the wilderness was planned by God from before the beginning of time. This event had to take place because it was a part of Gods plan. That’s important to remember, that God is in control, that he had this all set out from the beginning.

So, Jesus spends 40 days out in the wilderness. And that 40 days is an important number. This was a parallel to Israel wandering through the wilderness for 40 years after leaving Egypt. And this is a complete fulfillment and reversal of what was broken in the world.

Israel failed time and time again in the wilderness. They failed in their obedience. But Jesus come through and was fully obedient. Jesus was the fulfillment; he was the better Israel.

We see Jesus first, going into the wilderness and was fasting. He was there for a time of prayer and fasting. I like how Ligon Duncan describes and explains fasting, especially in this context. He says:

Fasting is designed to deprive you of the comfort of the very basic necessities
of life in water and in food, so that you will remember (1) that everything that
you have comes from God; (2) so that you will remember that you are utterly
dependent upon God; (3) so that you will remember that God is better than any of
the gifts that He gives — that He’s better than food and water, and He’s the
giver of food and water, and that you’re utterly dependent upon Him for it.

 

And so, at the end of 40 days Jesus was a bit hungry. The common scientific consensus is that an otherwise healthy man can live up to 60 or so days with no food. Jesus just went 40 days. He was physically weak. He was quite literally starving.

That’s when temptation hits. First thing we need to know, Jesus says of Satan, John 8:44:  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

          There is no truth in him, but there is a lot of almost truth. And that’s the key. Temptation works, it tempts, it is so appealing because it offers us what we want, what we crave, but what we know is wrong. It offers us what we want, but offers it in a way that seems ok, that seems acceptable, even discreet, so that no one will know.

See, Satan tempted Jesus with something that he could do. “You’re hungry, you’re the Son of God, you can take care of this situation. Turn this stone into bread. I mean, you ARE the Son of God, aren’t you?”

And the reason that this was a temptation was, in fact, a temptation, was that Jesus really could have turned the stone into bread. Its not a temptation if he couldn’t do it. We see in Johns Gospel that he turns water into wine. He could do this.

This will never, ever be a temptation for us. WE will not be tempted to turn stone into bread. We can’t do that, not even theoretically. So, its not a temptation. But for us, our takeaway is not the literal temptation that Satan puts in front of Jesus, but the type and the purpose of those temptations.

Jesus was hungry. Our bodies need food to live. Food, in and of itself is good. It’s a gift from God. God didn’t need to make food taste good, but God loves us, so he made food how it does. It is something we need to live, but, within the correct context, it is something to enjoy as well.

And the temptation is always to make something that God has given us as a gift, and to make that something that we elevate it and to make it ultimate. Food, sex, comfort, acceptance, whatever else you can think of. These are things that we can be tempted to put above God and put as an ultimate thing, even above God. In Genesis we see Esau putting Food and comfort above everything else and trading his birthright for a bowl of stew.

So, we see Jesus tempted to do for himself what he could do but wasn’t supposed to do. His answer to Satan was to use scripture of course, but he rebuffs Satan and says that we are to depend on God to provide for our needs. We might desire food. We might desire comfort. We might desire pleasure.

And we don’t trust God give us what is best for us. We don’t trust God will give us what we need. Jesus tells us however, Matthew 6:25 & 26:

“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

 

Now, its important, especially as we look at the second temptation, to remember that Satan has real power here in this world. Jesus calls him three times in Johns Gospel, “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31, 14:30 & 16:11) So when he offers things, he is offering from somewhere.

And his next temptation is simply for Jesus to simply be here and now, what you are already going to be in the future. Satan offers him the kingdoms of this world if he simply bows down to him.

How tempting is that? You already know this is all going to be yours, how about getting it now, without all the pain and the waiting and the stress. Its already yours, you just haven’t taken possession of it! Take it now.

I heard a great line by Voddie Baucham this week. I’ve heard this said in many different ways many times before, but the way he said just struck me. He said: Doing a good thing the wrong way for the wrong reasons (and any reason other than to give God the total glory is a wrong reason) is sin.

That’s what Satan was offering here. A good thing, done the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. Jesus’ response, God alone is in control of our situation and he alone is in control of the timing. And of course, scripture is what Jesus uses to refute Satan and his temptations.

Something to remember, if he brings us through with pain, or if he makes us wait, its because he has something so much better than we can even imagine, We might know that we are going to live eternally in the kingdom of heaven, but the reality is going to be so much grander and so much sweeter than anything that we can imagine. We don’t always understand his will and his timing, but we trust that God does and that he is in control and that he is good, and he will do what’s best.

The third and last temptation, Satan learns just a bit. He uses scripture, wildly out of context of course, and he uses scripture to try to tempt Jesus. He says, IF you really are the Son of God, God won’t let anything happen to you, jump and let God catch you.

That temptation that is so manipulative, so enticing and so unbiblical for Christians today. God wont let anything bad happen to you. You are a child of God. He wants you healthy, wealthy and wise, living your best life now! Just let him know what it is that you want and what would make your life easier and better and pray faithfully enough and God will give it to you.

Jesus response this time is to use scripture again! Don’t put God to the test. Here’s the thing. You and I are not owed anything. Not by the people around us, not by the government and certainly we are not owed anything by God. And God will not give in to technicalities and loopholes, or what we think those are anyway. But they are not technicalities, they are out of context. I forget who said it, but “out of Context means your wrong.”

Satan is trying to use a technicality, he is trying to use scripture, knowing full well it doesn’t mean the way that he is using it. But that idea of putting God in a corner, making him into Santa Claus or a genie in a bottle. God you said this, so If I do this, you have to do that!

Israel thought that because of what God said to Abraham back in Genesis 12, and in other parts of Genesis, that God owed them salvation and blessing, they thought they were “in” because of their birth and genealogy.  Jesus spends much of his ministry telling the Jewish religious leaders that they could not be more wrong.

Galatians 3:29, And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

God always fulfills his word. Always. He always keeps his promises. Always. But rarely, if ever is it fulfilled and kept in the way that we expect it to.

We cannot make things happen on our timing. We cannot force history in our timing. The date and the time of all these things we see in scripture, but also, everything we are seeing today has been set and determined by God back way back when, before time was created. The date and time of Jesus return is already determined by God. There is nothing that we can do to change it. There is nothing we can do to speed it up. We trust God and his timing above all else. We trust God and his ways, and the trials and joys that he has us walk through above all else. We trust God to provide for all our earthly needs, above all else.

We end this passage, seeing that Satan was rebuff, and he leaves, at least for a time. He retreated, but in order to regroup and watch for a better time to try again. Jesus was able to resist the temptations thrown out at him. And that should be a great comfort for us.

 

We will be confronted with temptation. Its going to happen. We have Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit. And we have the sword of the spirit, the Word of God. Jesus has already won the war; we are just trying to win the individual battles.

And Satan is cunning. He looks for the opportune time.

1 Peter 5:8 & 9: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

 

The ultimate point and question are this. Do you trust God?

Bruce Larson writes: Our Basic sin against God is mistrust. The devil hints that God is withholding something from us and he suggests ways in which we can take care of ourselves and get what is our due.

And he is right. The devil hasn’t changed his tactics since Genesis 3. He adapts them for the times and for us individually, but the tactic is the same. Sowing mistrust of God. As he says to Adam and Eve, Did God really say?

Did he really say that you couldn’t touch the tree?

Did he really say that Jesus is God?

Did he really say that sin causes death?

Did he really say that sin is a big deal?

Did he really say that the Bible is really true?

Did he really say those things? Or is he holding out on you with this book of archaic, prudish, patriarchal, racist, homophobic, culturally out of date stories and letters?

 

The temptation is already there, bombarding us. But because of Jesus we have hope. Adam, the first man, was tempted with food, was tempted to be like God, was tempted to exceed his authority. HE failed. He gave in to his disobedience. He brought sin and death onto this world. He was in the perfect Garden and was exiled out into the wilderness.

Jesus, the last Adam, redeemed all of that. He won. He obeyed. He brought life and forgiveness. He went out into the wilderness and brought the exiles back in so that we may experience the perfect garden for eternity.

Satan tried to get Jesus to doubt his identity as the Son of God. He tries to get us to doubt our identity as children of God. He encourages us to doubt our forgiveness, our salvation and our eternal destiny. But scripture always assures us of our identity in Christ.

Ill finish us up with Hebrews 4:15 & 16:

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

Let’s Pray.

 

Luke 3:21-38 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus’ Baptism and Genealogy

Luke 3:21-38
Jesus is the Son of Man:
Jesus’ Baptism and Genealogy

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, please let me know after the service so that we can get one for you.
As we have gone through the first few chapters of Luke’s Gospel, we have seen him comparing and contrasting and alternating between John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. Today we show the transition away from that alternating and over to focusing strictly on Jesus and his ministry here on earth.
We have seen John come in and do his job, fulfill his calling. He came and paved the road; he was the forerunner to the Messiah. He did in part and was pointing people to what Jesus would fulfill in full.
Last week we saw that Johns ministry including a baptism of water for the repentance and forgiveness of sins. This week we see Jesus partaking in that baptism and Luke emphasizing and prioritizing Jesus as fully God and also fully man. With his baptism, with what happens right after it and with his genealogy.
And so, we will read this morning’s passage of scripture, Luke chapter 3, verses 21 through 38, the end of the chapter. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to grab your Bible, your preferred translation and follow along as we read the passage. Luke 3:21-38. Dr. Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[c] with you I am well pleased.”[d]
23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,[e] the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.

Ok, so, we start with Jesus becoming baptized by John. And we see that it is inferred that Jesus is baptized towards the end of Johns ministry. “When all the people had been baptized…” Jesus may have been one of the last people baptized by John.
And we come immediately to our first question. Why was Jesus being baptized? Why would John baptize Jesus? Matthews Gospel helps give some background as well. Matthew 3:13-15 tells us: Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Jesus had no earthly reason to be baptized. He did not need to repent or to be forgiven of sins he had never committed. But he has a human man, and he was there for good reasons.
One reason was to identify with the sinners he came to save. Though he himself was without sin, he was tempted in every way common to man. We remember, also, that Jesus was born under the law. RC Sproul mentions this then writes Jesus had to submit to all Gods requirements for Israel, and to identify with those whose sins he had come to bear. His baptism proclaimed that he had come to take the sinners place under Gods judgment. It is in this sense that he was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus submitted to and fulfilled ALL Gods requirements for Israel, becoming the true Israel. Fulfilling Israel. And allowing all those who come to him through faith to be grafted into him, the root of all good tress who bear good fruit. Without him no good fruit. Jesus says as much in John 15:1-8:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Now, once Jesus had fulfilled Johns baptism, we see an event that is recorded in all four gospels, which is unusual and saved for only the most important moments of Jesus life. We see the manifestation and appearance of God the Father, saying, “You are my beloved Son;[c] with you I am well pleased, God the Son, Jesus and God the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove.
In this scene, we see that God the Father himself identifies Jesus as the Son of God. We also see that the Holy Spirit points to this as well by His appearance. Now, there are many theories and ideas on why the Holy Spirit appears as a dove. Pretty much as many theories as there are people who have read this passage. Of the ones I’ve read this week, one of them sticks out as the most in keeping with the rest of scripture was from John Piper. He says:
What is the significance of the Spirit’s descending in the form of a dove and God’s declaration of his love? God answers Jesus’ prayer by sending his Spirit in a visible form and then declaring verbally his delight in his Son: “You are my beloved Son; in you I delight.” This is a green light for Jesus. And not just a green light, but a powerful enablement and directive.
The dove suggests to Jesus purity, meekness, innocence. It was not majestic like the eagle or fierce like the hawk or flamboyant like the cardinal. It was simple, common, innocent, the kind of bird poor people could offer for a sacrifice (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8). This was a directive to Jesus from the Father: the Spirit with which I anoint you is not for ostentation or for earthly battle. What is it for?
He will be dove-like not hawk-like. So when God anoints Jesus with the Spirit in the form of a dove, he directs him to use his power in meekness and tenderness and love. Which Jesus does: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest . . . for I am meek and lowly”—I have the Spirit of a dove not a hawk. He says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, To these he comes with his dove-like Spirit and heals and fans into flame.

Jesus’ earthly ministry, marked by love, caring, gentleness, meekness, rest for the weary and one more important aspect, constant prayer and communion with God the Father. The end of this, we see that as this event unfolded, that Jesus was praying. We see throughout his ministry that Jesus continued to make prayer with God the Father a top priority. And as I pointed out a few weeks ago in context of Jesus wanted to learn Gods Word, but if Jesus, who is the Son of God himself, already perfectly attuned to the will of the Father, if he is making sure to make prayer a priority, how much more should we, whose sin has separated us from God, no longer perfectly attuned to the will of the Father. How much more should we be making this a top priority?

Now, we come to Luke presenting Jesus genealogy. Two Gospels, Mark and John, because of the immediate audience they were writing to, didn’t concern themselves with a genealogy. Matthew and Luke, however, see it as vitally important.
But they both have different names in their list. Again, like the Holy Spirit appearing as the dove, there are many different theories as to why they are different, the most likely being that One was the genealogy through Joseph, and Luke’s was the genealogy through Mary, both showing that Jesus was who the Bible says he is.
Now, I know the genealogies in the Bible can be really tough to read sometimes. But before you read through them its also good to remember 2 Timothy 3: 16& 17, where Paul writes:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
One of the reasons the genealogies are included in the Bible is that they will help equip us for every good work. There are things that we can take from these lists and there are things God wants us to take from them. So, we are going to take a brief look at this list that Luke compiled.
First thing that I noticed is that both genealogies emphasize that Jesus is a descendant of David, through two different ways. One of the clearest prophecies about the coming messiah was that he would be descended from David and he would sit on his throne. Luke’s genealogy, however, goes back further than Matthews. Specifically going all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus is the son of Man, and back from Adam to God himself, showing that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus and Adam are compared to each other throughout scripture and we will look at them more in the coming weeks, but for now, lets remember Romans 5:17, For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Jesus is the greater Adam.

Now, we look through the names in this list and there are some names that we can recognize. Roughly half of these names in the list are mentioned in the Old Testament and therefore, roughly half of them are not. OF the ones that are listed, some of them are names that we know, both famous and infamous. And we could spend sermons on those names, those figures from the Old Testament that are key figures in the genealogy.
But today I want you to think of those names that you don’t recognize. The nobodies. Those who are forgotten after just a few generations, much like you and I will be. In this world, we will be forgotten. Our names may live on in a list like these, but after a few generations, there will be nobody who knows who we actually were.
But again, it all comes back to God. We wont matter in this world. But who will remember us? Who will we matter to? We will and we do matter to God. These people that we have no other record of, that we do not know anything about, their names are written in the Bible.
They mattered. They were remembered. They were used by God. We don’t know how their lives were used by God except that we know God used them in the line of Christ, to bring along the Messiah.
And what this does, we see that they are all put down on the same level. David, Adam, Admin, Melchi and Rhesa, you and I, all on equal footing before God. Kings, presidents, blue collar workers, homeless folk, John Doe, all on equal footing before God. The only difference is whether we are in Christ or not.
We also see that physically of course, but also spiritually, we are a product of those who have come before us. Of course, this does not eliminate our individual responsibility or accountability. But we read in Hebrews that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
See, Jesus had two genealogies. A physical, earthly one, and a heavenly, spiritual one. Luke combined them into one, going back physically to Adam, but then including God himself. We too have two genealogies. One physical, parents, grandparents, 13th cousins 15 times removed and so on. But we have a spiritual genealogy as well. It starts with all the believers who have come before, including many included in Jesus genealogy here and many throughout the Old and New Testament. This is the cloud of witnesses that surround us. Some of us are lucky and the two lists overlap in some cases. Some of us are first generation believers and the two lists do not overlap except back till the days of the Bible.
But we do have these clouds of witness in our spiritual genealogy. Bruce Larson shares about some of the things we can learn form them and Ill end with this from him:
As we read Jesus genealogy, we are aware that all these marvelous heroes of Israel’s history were his spiritual inheritance. They were his balcony people. As Christians we are the New Israel and therefore have all the great heroes of the faith in our balcony as well. Each of us has a psychogenetic inheritance from the faithful men and women of the Old and New Testaments. They are each giving us a special message, one that comes out of their pilgrimage with God.
We can imagine Adam calling down to remind us when we are disobedient that God still loves and cares. Noah encourages us to follow our guidance and go against the crowd, even when they laugh at us as they did at him in the building of the ark. Abraham helps us to leave the safe and familiar and to move out and trust God. We can take hope from Jacob, who got off to such a bad start in life and finally let God give him a new name. Esther models that women can get involved in the real world and make a difference.
The Bible says we are surround by a great cloud of witnesses. Let those special encouragers God is sending to you, now and in the past, tell you who you are. They believe in you.

These men and women were sinners saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who had not yet come down. Learn from their sins and let their faith be an example to us as we grow to be more and more Christlike in our walk with Him.

Let’s Pray.

Luke 3:1-20 Jesus is the Son of Man: John the Baptist

Luke 3:1-20

Jesus is the Son of Man

John the Baptist

Good Morning. Please grab your bibles with me and turn to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3. As always, if you do not have or own a Bible, please see me after the service and we will get a Bible into your hands.

 

Now we have been going through the Gospel of Luke. Luke is a historian, a researcher, and prolific organizer and a physician. He has done an incredible amount of research, getting eyewitness testimony, interviewing as many people as possible.

Luke has been paralleling and contrasting John the Baptist with his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. Both of their miraculous births were foretold ahead of time by an Angel, they were born and named ahead of time. John was sent to be the forerunner, to pave the way for the Messiah, who just happened to be his younger cousin.

The last time we saw John was in Luke 1:80, where Luke notes: And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

         

          So, we drop off John as a kid and we come back and we will see him come out from the wilderness and start his true, God given ministry. That’s what we are going to read on this morning, Luke, chapter 3, verses 1 through 20.

I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to grab your Bible and follow along in your preferred translation. Always, always Always! Read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Luke 3:1-20, the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to write:

 

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,[a]
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics[b] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

So, we start with Luke being Luke and proving that he can and will be trusted. Luke, ever the historian, ever the researcher, spends some time and establishes some details, names some names, so that we can know exactly when this takes place.

Herod was the ruler during the time of Johns birth and Jesus birth. When he died, rule passed on to his sons. Well, they did such a bad job that Romans took power away from them and appointed their own governors.

Pontius Pilate was the 5th such governor and he ruled from 26 AD-36 AD. This, of course, also sets the stage for Jesus trial and crucifixion that would take place about three years from this.  Johns ministry took place somewhere around 27-29 AD.

 

The other thing we see with Luke’s list of names here is that there were no good rulers during this time. Israel was locked in a pattern of ungodly, immoral and evil leaders. And in the midst of this, under terrible, corrupt, anti-God authority, God is doing his greatest work. That might be something that this nation needs to remember. One side of the aisle for the next four years, the other side of the aisle for the previous four years. No matter how bad it is, Gods got this.

I like how Ligon Duncan says it: The good news for us is that means no matter how dark our times, our circumstances, or our contexts, God can overrule it all. He begins the ministry of the Messiah through the ministry of John in a dark, dark point of Israel’s history. Don’t ever judge God’s power and ability by your present circumstances. In the very darkest night, He can prepare to do His brightest work.

 

During this time, the Word of God came upon John. He went out and he was not sharing his own words or his own message. He was not sharing his own opinion or his own thoughts. He was sharing the Word of and the message of God.

John went out, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This was an incredibly offensive message that John was preaching. We will get to the repentance aspect in a moment. But first, even the baptism part was deeply offensive to the crowds.

John Piper explains:

In the context in which John lived baptism had one main significance among the Jews: it was the symbolic rite that proselytes had to go through to become Jewish. This made John’s baptism very offensive. It implied that unless the Jews were willing to repent, they were not really Jews and could not count on the promised blessings God had made to his chosen people. Or to put it another way, in calling Jews to accept a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, John was telling them that they cannot rely on their Jewishness for salvation; they have to be changed in their heart toward God.

 

Again, we will get to the second half of that momentarily. But what Piper was pointing out was that only Gentiles had to go through baptism until this point. In order to be converted, they had to be washed clean in order to be brought into the family of Abraham. TO say that everyone had to be washed clean, that no one was inherently worthy, just because of who they were, that was offensive.

Our society tells kids that they are special and that they are deserving of everything they want. Our culture is one of never saying no to our kids. And they grow thinking that they deserve to have the world handed to them on a silver platter. Its offensive to them when we tell them no, or when we tell them to repent.

It’s the same way what John was telling the crowds. Of course, we know that baptism doesn’t save in and of itself. Baptism doesn’t regenerate our heart. Baptism doesn’t wash our soul clean. And of course, baptism doesn’t grant forgiveness or repentance. Baptism, instead, is a sign of those things already being granted to us by the Holy Spirit.

The math is simple. Without a regenerate heart, there can be no repentance. Repentance plus atonement equals forgiveness. But any atonement that we could offer would never be near enough. So, it is only Christs atonement that, his shed blood on the cross that can take the part in that equation and provide the forgiveness of our sins.

Luke quotes the prophecy in Isaiah40, showing that it refers to John, that he is the fulfillment of that prophecy. In fact, all four Gospel quote Isaiah 40, verse 3 in regard to John the Baptist. Only Luke, however, also quotes verses 4 & 5. The general consensus is that Luke, as we see throughout his Gospel, is emphasizing that salvation by Christ is for “all flesh.”

John looks out at the people coming to see him and to hear the message from God and he has strong words for them. He calls them a brood of vipers. The Jewish people of the day would have understood the reference and the insult contained in that phrase. It was a reference to the serpent in the garden in Genesis 3. John was calling them Sons of the Devil. Jesus made this very same comment in his ministry as well.

The truth is that this is one of our two only options. We are either a son of the devil or we are a son of God. There is no in between. And there are many who think they are children of God who are going to be eternally disappointed and eternally covered in the wrath of God when the judgment comes.

John has strong and harsh words for the religious establishment. In modern parlance, he was talking to those who knew their Bible. He was talking to those who lived morally and voted exclusively Republican. He was talking to those who showed up to church every Sunday. HE was talking to deacons, elders, pastors and their families. He was talking to those who lived the life, had the appearance of living for God, but did not have the grace of God.

Who John was talking to usually holds to an us vs them mentality. WE are good because we are Christians, and they are bad because they are not. We deserve salvation because look at all we have done and look at where we were born and the life we have lived. They don’t deserve it because they are sinners. This is the group of religious people of the day that John was addressing.

John makes clear that we are to bear fruit keeping with repentance. We can have an outward moral shell, but with no grace and no repentance, we will no bear good fruit. Paul, of course, lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 & 23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

Repentance and faith. Those are the two things required of us. Faith and the repentance that follows are the only things that can offer us forgiveness and salvation. Nothing else matters.

Your pedigree doesn’t matter.

Your nationality doesn’t matter.

Your race doesn’t matter.

Your gender doesn’t matter.

Your morals don’t matter.

The only thing that matters is who you say Christ is.

Baptism and their Jewishness couldn’t save the Pharisees.

Indulgences and money couldn’t save people during the time that Martin Luther started the Reformation.

The Social Gospel or legalistic moralism can’t save people today.

Instead, as the scriptures say in multiple places, “The just shall live by faith.”

John continues the tree analogy, as does Paul later in Romans. The trees that think they are good, but have no faith, those trees are cut down. And in their place, other trees which are bearing good fruit will be grafted in. Once a tree is grafted together, there are no longer two trees. There is no difference, between the two. They are the same identity, the same tree.

One tree, one people of God. One plan of salvation. There never has been and there never will be two means, two paths to salvation.

Gospel has bad news necessarily in it. The wrath of God is coming. We all deserve it. God, in order to be perfect and holy must punish sin with his wrath. But it also has good News, that’s what makes it the Gospel. That good news is Christs substitutionary Atonement. He took our place, took the wrath of God up there on the cross that was meant for us. He took it and didn’t deserve any of it because he lived a perfect life. He offered up the forgiveness of sins and the atonement for our sins.   John knew this and shared both. He was not afraid to share the bad news, to speak strongly to those who needed to hear it.

Some who heard did indeed become convicted of their sins. And so, they essentially asked John, “So, what should we do?” And John tells them to fundamentally change the way they treat their fellow human beings.

You all remember Zacchaeus? HE was a wee little man? Jesus met him and told him what he needed to do in order to show that he was truly repentant. He told Zacchaeus to pay back those he took advantage of by giving them back 4 times what he took. That’s the same principal that John uses here as he gives three examples of how to live.

First, to the general public, he says to be generous, caring, sympathetic. If you have enough and someone has none, give them some of what you have. Be generous. The motto that Hope and I live by, taught by her parents, “You can’t out give God.”

Second, don’t cheat people. Don’t be greedy. Take only what you are owed. Don’t take more than that. Don’t overcharge. Pay what you owe.

Thirdly, Do your job. Work hard. Obey your bosses and the authorities over you. Don’t abuse any authority you may have.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Johns point in this is to live your faith. Live with fruit bearing with repentance. Repentance is important. Johns ministry starts here with a call to repent. Jesus ministry starts with a call to repent. Martin Luther kicked off the Reformation with a call to repent. The very first of his 95 theses states, when our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

The Westminster Catechism, one of the best of the historical Question and answer teaching tools about faith and doctrine, asks with question 87: What is repentance unto life?”

Then it answers:

“Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a
true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,
doth with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full
purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

 

This is incredibly important as a true sign of new life, a new heart and saving grace given by God.

As John was talking about these things, its peaked people’s interest and it made them wonder about the promised messiah. They were wondering, they were questioning, they asked, Could John be that promised messiah? Could he be the Christ? Even here, Johns actions and preaching were pointing people to the Christ.

In verses 16 & 17, Johns words point them to the Christ who was still to come. He must increase and we must decrease. None of us, are even worthy to unstrap the sandals of the Christ.

He said this baptism is symbolic, but the baptism that Jesus brings, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that is the baptism that saves us from the judgment to come.

The Good News of the Gospel doesn’t exist with out the knowledge of the bad news. John shared the bad, the coming judgment and all that. But John preached the good news to all who would come to hear him. He preached repentance. He preached holiness. He preached bearing fruit in keeping with that repentance.

Not everyone appreciated this message, however. John would call out behavior when he saw it that went against Gods standard. This included Herod and his divorce and remarriage. This was not appreciated by Herod and John got locked up for speaking the truth, for speaking the word from God.

Philip Graham Ryken shares a story. He writes:

John wasn’t trying to win friends and influence people; he was trying to get them to repent. Therefore, he spoke with holy boldness, bluntly confronting their sin. I am reminded of the nineteenth century Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright, who once preached to President Andrew Jackson. Before the service he was warned not to say anything out of line. So, when Cartwright got up to preach, he said, “I understand Andrew Jackson is here. I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to Hell if he doesn’t repent.” The congregation was shocked, but afterwards the president shook Cartwright’s hand and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.”

John the Baptist was not so lucky. He preached the word of God and he was arrest for it. We see in Johns Gospel, chapter 6 that he was eventually put to death because of it.

 

One of the things that Luke wants to make clear is that is only through Christ and him alone that our salvation takes place. John points towards the way. As a messenger in the mold of the Old Testament prophets, he shows types and shadows of what Christ will fulfill in full. John fulfills his mission by pointing directly to the Word of God and Jesus Christ himself. As such, we should see through John the Baptist, as an example and look directly to Jesus Christ and the Word of God itself.

Let’s Pray.

 

Luke 2:39-52 Jesus is the Son of Man: Young Jesus at the Temple

Luke 2:39-52

Jesus is the Son of Man

Young Jesus at the Temple

 

Good Morning! Let’s go ahead and grab our Bibles and turn to Luke Chapter 2. If you do not have or own a Bible, please see me after the service so that we can get you a Bible.

So, in the Gospels, we see two of the writers start, more or less, with Jesus as an adult, about to or actively starting his ministry. The other two Gospels, Matthew and Luke share stories about the birth of Jesus birth and his early, early childhood. With the exception of what we are going to look at today, however, there are no stories, in the Gospels, no reliable, believable stories outside the Gospels, of Jesus as a young kid on up through until about 30 years of age.

And Luke, I think, shares this story, because he is showing Theophilus the dual nature of who Jesus is. We have seen that over the last couple of weeks as we have gone through the, first, the birth of Jesus and then last week, the dedication of Jesus.

Luke has been emphasizing, perhaps pounding at the point may be a better way of saying it, that Jesus is truly man, a physical human being born of a woman. A man, born under the law. A man, who was living, breathing, bleeding and would and could die. He was also very, very clear on who else Jesus was. He was the LORDs Christ. He was the Messiah. HE was the Son of God and he was the Son of Man.

Both. Not one or the other. Not sometimes one, sometimes the other. But both. Not one appearing as the other. Not 50% one, 50% the other. Both. Completely and truly both. Completely both. 100% both.

We are going to see that there are some ways that this creates complications and situations we don’t fully understand. And we may never fully understand them. But that doesn’t change that we know they are the truth.

Without further ado, lets go ahead and read this week’s passage, Luke 2:39-52. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and implore you to read along in your preferred translation, seeing for yourself what the Word of God itself says. Luke, chapter 2, verses 39-52.

Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, having done much investigation and research, writes:

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[g] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[h] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature[i] and in favor with God and man.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.

 

So, we start, first off, with Mary, Joseph and Jesus back in Nazareth. Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for whatever reason, does not mention, as Matthew does, the warnings from the Magi and the exile into Egypt and then their safe return back. Luke skips all that and brings them straight back to Nazareth.

Luke then bookends the story with mentions of Jesus growing in wisdom and strength and growing in favor of the LORD. That this is mentioned twice, albeit phrased differently, shows that this is an important point that Luke wanted to make. It was a sign that Jesus was a real physical person. He was a human being, he grew. He learned. We will get more into this later on in the sermon, but I want you to hear that before we continue.

 

Now, Passover is one of the most important days of the Jewish year. It is the celebration and the remembrance of God saving and bringing his people out of slavery in Egypt.  Its named after the fact that the angel sent by God killed all the first born makes in Egypt except those that had the blood of the lamb covering their doorway. It passed over those houses, sparing them from the wrath of God.

This was an event held yearly in Jerusalem. The Old Testament made it clear that the men were required to make this trip. Women and children were not required but were welcome. That the whole family went, and it seems that they went together every year is another example of Luke pointing out the righteousness and obedient faith of Mary and Joseph.

It seems it was also a custom to bring a son with when they were 11 or 12 years old, even though it was not required. This was to give them a glimpse of what was required of a covenant people of God during this week. When the son would turn 13, he would become a “son of the covenant,” he would go through what is know today as the bar mitzvah. When he turned 13, he became a man in the legal Jewish sense. So, bringing him with at 11 or 12 would be a part of the training you give your kids, part of them growing and learning.

Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and any other kids they would have had at this point, because they did have additional kids after Jesus,         they went to Jerusalem, celebrated the Passover, stayed for a week and then they left to head home to Nazareth.

The way this is written shows that they were travelling with a larger group, likely in a big caravan. This was likely in the same large group, with the same families and friends that they travelled with every year. Probably all the residents of Nazareth that would go down to Jerusalem. They travelled through Samaria which would have been a hostile section to travel through, so there was security in numbers.

The other reason this is important is that we need to realize what’s going on with this story. Mary and Joseph didn’t forget Jesus. He needs to make sure that we are too quick to judge them. They went a day’s journey away from Jerusalem and they realized that Jesus was not with them. Many commentaries give additional information about these caravans.

One of them that I read this week shared how the caravans were laid out. The women and the children were at the front, leading the way. The men were in the rear, making sure that everything was moving together. That being the case, it would be easy to see each parent think that Jesus was with the other. Jesus was still considered a child, as mentioned earlier, so Joseph could easily assume he was up with Mary. Jesus was almost a man and was there that year learning what that looked like, so it would be easy for Mary to assume he was back with Joseph. Or, as many of us picture, they both could have just assumed he was running around with the other kids, pre-teens, almost men in the caravan.

Either way, when they made camp for the night after that first day’s journey, they realized that Jesus wasn’t with them. This would freak any parent out. You can just imagine. So, they looked all through camp. They made the days journey back to Jerusalem, looking all along the way. Finally, they got to Jerusalem and spent much of the day looking for him, finally finding him at the temple.

Now, some will question this story and wonder, did Jesus do anything wrong? Well, we know from various scriptures that Jesus was completely and utterly without sin. (John 8:46, John 8:49, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 7:26, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5, 2 Corinthians 5:21) He was fully in Gods Will in all things. So, we know, we can extrapolate from the scriptures that no, in no way did Jesus disobey or do anything that we would be able to call as wrong.

 

 

Now, in Jewish education, there was a lot of emphasis on discussions as a teaching method. Teacher and Students asking questions back and forth and giving answers back and forth. They would discuss the problems as they came towards the answers.

This is what Jesus was doing in the temple. He was not, contrary to how we sometimes like to think about, standing up and teaching the pharisees and Sadducees. It wasn’t Jesus teaching that they were amazed with. Instead, it was his understanding and the answers he was giving to the questions.

 

One huge takeaway from this that I want all of us, including me, to hear. Jesus Christ is the Son of God; he is the Word of God incarnate. He is God himself. And if Jesus himself wanted, desired to study and to learn about the Word of God, then how much more should we, who don’t have an infinite capacity to learn and store knowledge? How much more should we, who dint have a built in, intimate relationship with God the Father? We should so much more desire to study Gods Word because we need to more than Jesus does.

 

Now, back to the story. Mary and Joseph find Jesus at the temple. Now, as parents, you just know they had been worried out of their mind. Any parent would be if they were not able to find their kid. Now, add to that that they knew Jesus was no ordinary child, but was the Messiah, sent from God. They fear and the pressure, the anxiety and the fear (yes, I said that twice) would have been astronomical.

Parents often respond to and snap at their kids out of fear. I know we focus on being better parents by not snapping at our kids out of frustration or anger, but out of fear is one that I think can’t be held in check as much. If your kid starts running in the parking lot, or is grabbing a pot off the stove, anything like that, you will scream their name and grab them back as quick and as harshly as possible. And Mary and Joseph do that here, “We have been looking for you!” “Your father and I have been so worried!” And you know if mom says, “Your father and I…” its serious.

 

Of course, Jesus famous response, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

 

          Jesus at this point, at 12 years old, he knew here and know that he was different. He already knew that he had a very special relationship with God. It should go without saying that the Son of God should be in His Fathers house, communing with him and growing closer to him. Whatever Jesus did not yet know, He certainly knew who he was at this point.

This is a significant story because of how Jesus refers to God. Here he introduces the concept of God the Father as Abba Father. God as the personal, involved, loving and accessible God that we know.

There was no concept of this in the Old Testament. The Old Testament refers to God as Father 14 times, all in context of nations, as in the Father of Israel, groups of people. None in the context of the Father or individuals. The New Testament has over 60 references to God as Father, specifically in the context that Jesus uses it here, as our Father. This is the introduction of a huge part of our theology and our relationship with God.

 

Now, again, another thing that Luke has mentioned numerous times. This is at least the third time that Luke says that Mary and Joseph did not understand. They knew he was special, don’t get it wrong. As we said last week, they believed all the things that God had shared with them, through Angels, through shepherds through Prophets and the like. They had an understanding of what God had called them and Jesus to, but they didn’t understand all the way.  They didn’t understand Jesus response to them here. IF they are anything like me as a parent, he answered, they looked at him for a moment and said, “Just get in the car!” Jesus was just like any other kid, except without sin. It must have been incredibly difficult, incredibly frustrating to raise him as his parents.

But Jesus was indeed without sin. He obeyed and honored his mother and father. When they told him to git, he got. Jesus submitted to them. He was an obedient kid. Jesus knew who he was. He knew his identity and his calling. That made it easier to obey. You can be more at ease and more flexible when you are more settled with who you are.

And As has been mentioned often, Mary treasured all these things in her heart. And her son, Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge and stature and in the favor of God.

This is an important part that I don’t think many of us think about. Jesus was all man. He was also all God, for those things to co-exist, he had to set aside prats of himself. Jesus is omniscient, meaning he knows everything. Period, end of discussion.

But we also see that Jesus, as a man, as a kid, as a teenager, Jesus was learning. He didn’t know everything as a human being. He set aside his omniscience. He had to learn to talk. He had to learn to walk. He had to learn that 2 + 2 equals 4. He had to learn how to be a builder like Joseph. He had to learn how to be a man. He had to learn the Word of God.

Kent Hughes draws out this point. He says: “An obedient, submissive inner spirit is a key to experiencing proper spiritual growth- growth in favor with God and with men. When we submit our lives to God in Scriptural terms, saying, “Her I am! Send Me!” (Isaiah 6:8) or presenting our bodies as a “living sacrifice,” (Romans 12:1) Gods favor rests upon us.

He continues: But there is more, for such Christians will also submit themselves to serving a lost world for the advancement of the Gospel and the glory of Christ.

Lastly, he says: Also, an obedient, submissive inner spirit like Christ’s comes from knowing who we are. Jesus understood that he was the Son of God and that God was his Father, and that awareness produced profound submission to God and Man.

 

That’s something I want you to take with you. When we know our identity is in Christ, when we know we belong to Him, when we are assured of our standing, clothed in Christs righteousness, before God, we can submit to things we don’t particularly want to. We can submit to the governments that the Bible tells us to. We can submit to the laws of the land, whether we agree with them or not. We can render unto Caesar what is Caesars, because we are rendering unto God what is Gods. And that allows us to accept whatever happens Tuesday for example. Because we know how is on the throne and who is in control and know that He has us in his hands.

 

We are in his hands because we have responded by faith to his death on cross and resurrection. God grace poured out on those covered with his blood, the blood of the lamb, come to takeaway the sins of the world. He instead he spares us from the wrath of God.

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Before he did this, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” 

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

 

Luke 2:21-38 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus is Dedicated

 

When I get them uploaded, this will be updated to included a video of the baptism that occurred after this sermon!

 

Luke 2:21-38

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus is Dedicated

 

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, please see me after the service so we can give you one as our gift to you.

Last week we saw God become man. God clothed in flesh. Jesus the Christ was born a human baby boy. And as a human baby boy, he did all the things that a baby does. He cried, despite what some Christmas songs tell you. He nursed and ate. He dirtied his diaper. He was a human baby boy and all that that entailed. ZI saw those things not to sound crass our irreverent. Instead, to remind us all that he was indeed a baby and a human being. He was also God, but He was fully both, not part one, part the other, or fully one instead of the other.

As a human baby boy, we read earlier this morning that Jesus was born under the law, meaning that he was required to keep the law that God handed down. Failure to keep the law would mean that Jesus sinned, fell short of the glory of God and would not be able to be our salvation.

And what we are going to see today is Mary & Joseph doing the things that they are supposed to do under the law after having a baby, and especially a son. And we will see two affirmations of Jesus being not just a baby boy, but also God himself.

Let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 2, verses 21 through 38. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. The important thing is not which translation you read, but that you read the Word of God for yourself, so please read along as I read the passage. Luke 2:21-28, Luke, inspired by the third part of the trinity, himself fully God, the Holy Spirit, records:

 

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant[e] depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[f] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

So, we start off with some more parallels that Luke makes between Jesus the Christ and John the Baptist. On the eighth day, his parents took him and had him circumcised according to the law of Moses. As was custom of the day, they also officially named him that day. Both Mary, back in Luke 1:31 and Joseph in Matthew 1:21 were told by angels to name the son Jesus. And that’s exactly what they did.

Sometime after that, likely 40 days after his birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to have him dedicated. For the timing of the dedication and the required sacrifice, we go all the way back to Leviticus 12. It reads:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons,[a] one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”

 

Mary and Joseph were observant, obedient and righteous. They went to the temple. They brough their sacrificial offering with them. From this we do see that Mary and Joseph were not well off. They were poor and working class and we know this because she brought a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Once again, this early in Luke, we see who Luke sees is important to God. God shows up and appears to and pursues those who are poor and lowly, especially, and specifically the poor in spirit. Kent Hughes notes: “Here we again see that Christianity began and always begins with a spirit of need- spiritual destitution.”

He continues later: “God did not and does not come to the self-sufficient. This is a truth we need to remind ourselves of again and again. Christianity wrongly understood gives some an illusive sense of personal spiritual adequacy. Even the born again can wrongly turn spiritual advances into prideful self-sufficiency- a sense that one has arrived. We must continually guard against this within ourselves. Our only adequacy is in Christ.”

 

Mary and Joseph were not the established. They were not rich and powerful. They were righteous, but they were nobody. They were not known by anybody outside their family and immediate neighbors. They were poor materially; they were poor in spirit. And they God sends an angel to tell them that they are going to miraculously give birth to the savior, the Messiah, the Christ. They do this, and yet she gives birth in a manger, the poorest of situations. Then the shepherds show up and tell them what they have seen! Now, they go to the temple and dedicate Jesus and we see two more examples of God affirming and confirming who Jesus really, truly is.

Luke likes his pairs and parallels. We saw that with Mary and Elizabeth. We see this with John and Jesus. We will see that often further on in Luke’s Gospel and we see this today with Simeon and Anna, two prophets, waiting at the temple, praying, and serving the LORD.

Simeon was waiting for the Messiah. It is presumed he is a very old man at this point, though that is inference. He was waiting for God to redeem his people and was filled with the Holy Spirit. God revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the LORDs Christ, the Messiah, the promised one from God.

What we pull from this is not that we won’t die before God does this or that we wont die before God does that, but as one commentator writes: Once he (Simeon) had this promise, Simeon patiently waited for its fulfillment. This is what it means to be a believer: it means waiting in faith for God to do what he has promised. How often Simeon must have walked the streets of the city, waiting for the salvation that God had promised to give.

 

And on this day, Simeon “just happened” to be at the temple, in the right place at the right time. We know of course that it was not coincidence, but that God directed this.

And you can just imagine Simeon, as he lays his eyes upon this baby being dedicated. He would have seen, probably hundreds or thousands of babies as he was waiting for this one.  But he saw Jesus and he just knew. He grabbed him, held him and let out praises to God.

He was so excited that God kept his word. He got to see the Messiah! He could go home now. He had been blessed by God and now got to see the blessing of God, for the rest of the World.

And what Simeon said here would have been either confusing or nearly blasphemous if many had overheard him in the temple. The first part would have been just confusing, as we have looked at in recent weeks. Simeon looks down at baby Jesus, born to these two poor people and declares him the LORDs salvation.

This was not how the savior was supposed to come. He was supposed to be a mighty warrior, coming down and freeing Israel from the captivity of what nation was oppressing them, which at this point in time was Rome. He was supposed to militarily defeat and drive them out, then physically take the seat of the throne of David in Jerusalem. That was what was expected, not this baby born to a couple of paupers.

And yet, Simeon says my eyes have seen your salvation. And he is not just a part od our salvation or a means to our salvation, but he is our whole salvation. Kent Hughes writes on this statement by Simeon: The Baby Jesus was and is God’s salvation. Moreover, he did not say, “My eyes have seen part of your salvation!” Christ is totally sufficient. He is all we need! True Peace comes only when we, like Simeon understand that salvation is Jesus Christ plus nothing- and rest our souls in him alone.

 

This baby Jesus would bring salvation to all Gods People. And this is where it would become controversial to those in the temple. Its controversial to some today. Simeon says:

for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

Wait? What did Simeon just say? He said salvation for your people Israel, I got that… But did he say just say something about the gentiles too? He must be getting a little bit too old, too much frankincense this morning or something.

Simeon shared the good news of the Gospel, that ALL people are able to receive salvation. This is a light for revelation to the Gentiles. And glory for Israel. God opened this up to the gentiles! This was unheard of. But God makes it clear in the scriptures that all who believe will be called Israel. Both believing Jews and believing Gentiles are what make up Gods people. And God sent his son to save all of his people.

Now, it seems likely that it may have only been Mary and Joseph who heard Simeons words. But they heard these things and as they were want to do, they marveled at them. We don’t see anything of Joseph after the childhood of Jesus, whether because he wasn’t part of the story or because he died or whatever. But Mary and Joseph struggled with who and what exactly Jesus was. They heard and believe the angels. The heard and pondered in their hearts what the shepherds said. They marveled here at what Simeon said. They believe this but they didn’t fully understand it. And there’s no indication that they ever really did. At least not until after his resurrection.

Simeon then turned his attention from God himself over to Mary. And he says two things of note here. First, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, Now, most people look at this and read it one of two ways.

RC Sproul sums them: If the “fall and rising” applies to one group, then it means that they must be humbled in repentance before they can rise into salvation. If it describes two groups, then it indicates that those who reject Jesus will fall eternally, but those who accept him will rise to be with God.

Now, the good news is that both of those statements are 100% biblically accurate, so it doesn’t matter which side you fall in in regard to which Simeon meant. But next we see him say to Mary that a sword will pierce through her soul.

This was going to cost Mary. She was going to see her son look crazy, teach things that most did not understand, be reject by nearly everyone and then, finally killed and crucified. This was not going to be easy for her. She did not have any of those indications yet of course. But we can clearly see that this is what Simeon was referring to.

Next, we meet Anna. Now, her, her we know that she is older and who she is and where she is from. We see she was married for 7 years before her husband passed. The next tidbit is hard to translate. Mine says that she lived as a widow until she was 84 years old. Some may say that she was widowed for 84 years, putting her age at over 100. It changes nothing either way. She was old and had been widow for the vast majority of her life. She used that time to be dedicated to serving the LORD. She went to the temple every day and worshipped and prayed and fasted.

Interestingly, she is a perfect model for what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:5, saying: She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, Part of Paul’s context is that we are devote ourselves to the work of the LORD instead of opening up ourselves to idleness which allows the devils temptations to creep in.

Anna came up and saw who was in the temple that morning and she began to give thanks to God and speak of him to everyone.

Oh, that we would all continue to be that excited for Jesus and the work of God, even at possibly over 100 years old! What an example and what a testimony!

Anna responded as all those who truly encounter the living God will be called to respond. She gave thanks for Christ and the works he has done for us. And then she went out and told everyone about him.

 

Now, we have seen here this morning that Luke shows us two ways that we can see Jesus Christ as truly man. We see him circumcised as a baby, on the eighth day, as prescribed by law. We saw him brought to the temple and dedicated, with Mary and Joseph providing animal sacrifices for the cleansing of sins.

We also saw two witnesses testifying to the fact that Jesus is not just any baby, but is in fact, truly God. Simeon and Anna testified to this. And its funny to me that Mary and Joseph, taking part of the sacrificial system of the blood of animals temporarily atoning for ones sins, brought with them  a baby boy who would grow up, live the life and finish the sacrificial system once and for all, shedding his perfect blood and atoning for the sins of all who, through the grace of God giving us faith in Jesus Christ our LORD, respond to Christ in faith and repent of our sins.

 

 

Lets PRay

Luke 2:1-20 Jesus is the Son of Man: Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2:1-20

Jesus is the Son of Man

Birth of Jesus Christ

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 2! That’s right! We have made it through an entire chapter of Luke’s Gospel! If you do not have or own a Bible, we would love to give you one if you come see me after the service.

Luke is a historian. He is interested in the details. His purpose is so that we would believed what we have heard. And he knows some of the stories that we encounter in the Bible, and especially in the Gospels, might, to some, be hard to believe. And so, he often includes details to show that he knows what he is talking about and that these are real, historical, literal, physical events that actually happened.

We see that this morning as well. Luke has spent the first chapter of his Gospel building to this event. Now, he didn’t break it down in to chapters, that come later on in history, after the Bible was put together. But he has been building to this moment in history.

HE starts with the announcement of John the Baptist coming in a miraculous way. Nest we see the announcement of Jesus of Nazareth coming in a miraculous way. Then we see Mary sing a song of Praise. Then we see the birth of John the Baptist, the announcement fulfilled. After the birth, Zechariah let out a song of praise.

Today we see the birth of Jesus, the announcement fulfilled. And hosts of angels show up and sing songs of praise. And at the end, the Shepherds will also be giving praises to God as well.

That’s where we will pick up this morning.  We will be reading and looking at a big chunk of the beginning of Luke Chapter 2. Overall, we will be looking at verses 1 through 20 and like last week, we will read through them in two sections. First, we will read through verses 1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I know we all have different translations and that’s great. They all come from the same God, One God, all the Word of God. What’s important is that we open that book up and not just depend on what I, a human being, tell you, but read for each and every one of ourselves, what the Word of God says.

So, without further ado, Luke, after interviewing, investigating and researching, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, in verses 1-7:

 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]

 

You know, we often read the Bible, and we get very focused on the specifics. We get focused solely on the people in the story we are reading, focused on the immediate, without the context of what’s come before or what’s coming afterwards. We look at the stories without looking at what was going on in the rest of the world at that time.

But what is going on in the world at the time of Jesus birth was important. Caesar Augustus was in charge of the Roman empire, which included Israel. This was the first Caser with the Augustus title, which, essentially is the title of God. Before Quirinius, this title was ONLY attributed to the deities. When he died, his followers consoled themselves by telling themselves that because he was a god, he would not stay dead.

God doesn’t just use Christians. God doesn’t just use churches in this world to bring about his will. God uses and, in fact, decrees all people, all governments and all institutions to do his will and to bring about his purposes.

God used the Roman Government occupying and ruling over Israel and the Caeser wanting to make sure he was getting as much in taxes as he was able to bring Mary and Joseph down from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This is important for a number of reasons.

Micah 5:2 prophecies:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

 

God used the people of this world, those who believed and those who didn’t believe to bring about his purposes. He did what he had been saying he was going to do for over four thousand years at that point. Israel was waiting. The world was waiting. And then, as Paul writes in Galatians 4:4, But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

          At the fullness of time. When God told Adam and Eve he was going to send a savior, when he told Isaiah, when he told Malachi when he told everyone he told that he was going to send a savior, the Messiah. He knew exactly when he was going to do so. He wasn’t looking for an opening. He wasn’t waiting for enough people to get their heads on straight. He already knew exactly when. In the fullness of time.

Caeser Augustus says that everyone in the Roman empire must go to their family’s hometown and register. Joseph was a descendant of David, not only filling prophecy of Jesus, of the Messiah being from the house of David. But it also meant that Joseph and his teenage expectant betrothed wife to be, Mary had to travel approximately 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And we are going to see that they would not get back to Nazareth for a number of years.

Now, the common picture is that Mary was pushing nine months pregnant as they were making this journey to Bethlehem. But scriptures never say anything about the timing of her pregnancy during the travels. We know that Mary was three months pregnant when John was born, and she was with Elizabeth until at least that point. So, she was more than three months pregnant, but its very likely she was not 8 or more months pregnant.

Now, Bethlehem would have been filled up with much of Josephs family. Some still living there, having homes and many travelling to the town and trying to stay with the aforementioned family. The town was small and out of the way. Not as small as Nazareth, but no one was going to visit it on purpose or go on vacation there. The town was not set up for housing that many people.

So, Mary and Joseph would have ended up staying in what is commonly understood as the animal room in or attached to one of the homes, or worst case, a cave where the animals were bedded down. While they were staying there, then, it became time for Mary to give birth.

Luke says it simply, humbly, quietly. she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, Jesus’ birth, his first coming, He came not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh. God became man. The Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the World. He finally arrived. The Light, the sun was finally breaking dawn on the world that had been in the darkness of night for over 400 years. And no one noticed. The King of Heaven and Earth. The LORD of all Creation.

Colossians 1:15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

And no one noticed. He was born in a quiet, humble occasion. And this is of course, in direct contrast to his second and final coming. That will be no secret event. There will be no confusion, no misunderstanding. There will be no missing it. When he comes again, he will not come quietly or secretly or humbly.

We see, though in highly symbolic language, we see this in Revelation 19:11-16:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in[b] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule[c] them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

 

But his first coming, the one where he was born, an actual human baby boy, the most vulnerable of all people, he came under the radar. He came not with fanfare, not with worldwide trumpets, but one quiet night, 200 years ago.

 

Now, we will see the first announcement, the first spreading of the news of the birth of Jesus Christ as we read verses 8-20. Luke writes:

 

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

 

Presumably the night of the birth, in a field nearby, just outside Bethlehem, there were a group of shepherds. shepherds were the lowest of the low. They were not able to be ceremonially clean and so they were only above lepers in the societal view back then. They were out in the fields, watching someone else’s flocks, day after day, night after night.

Nothing much changed. This would have been the same as every other night. Maybe even quieter than most nights.

All of a sudden, an Angel of the LORD showed up to them. To THEM! The poor, the forgotten about, the out of the way, poor, manual labor, blue collar, dirty, last people ANYONE would have expected.

All of a sudden, bright shining light, the reflection of Gods glory, shining and lighting up the darkness of the night, an Angel appears to these Shepard’s. And, as happens with the appearance of angels, the shepherds were filled with fear.

The angel told them not to fear. This was not about punishment or judgment or anything like that. The angel was here to share the Good News! This was important, don’t overlook this. If Jesus was born, died and was resurrected, but there was no one to tell us, it would not benefit us. We need someone to tell us so that we can respond to the truth by faith. Faith comes by hearing.

The Angel tells them, I bring Good news of great joy! The Gospel literally means Good News. And the Good News is what it is. ! Corinthians 15:3 & 4:  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

          And Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

          And John 3:16-18:

“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 

That the good news! And that good news should fill us with great joy. Have you ever met a crabby Christian? Not just at certain times, we wall have our moments. Have you have met a Christian who was just miserable all the time? IF so, they have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel. A true understanding of who God is and what he has done with us will fill us with joy.

And this is put out for all people to hear the Gospel and given an opportunity to respond by faith. Not all will respond, but our job is not to determine who will or wont. The free offer of grace is presented to all. Charles Spurgeon once said: If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’

 

And God proved that very first night that no one was to be denied the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. OF all people, the angel came and presented this good news to some shepherds. OF all people, God chose to call Paul, the self-admitted chief of all sinners. Of all people he chose to present the Gospel and call to faith and repentance, me, the least deserving of Gods Grace.  The angel did not appear to Caesar. He did not appear to Herod. He came to the lowly and the poor.

The angel told them, “unto you is born.” Making it clear that the shepherds would be included in the Gospel. Isaiah said, as we read a little bit ago in the scripture reading, for to us a child is born, for to us a son is given. A baby that was born in the city of David, he is Christ the LORD.

It had been an angel speaking to the Shepard’s, but now, a multitude of heavenly host showed up. Can you image this as the shepherds? Sitting out in the middle of the fields, watching sheep, or whatever, night after night and then an angel shows up and tells you good news. But wait there’s more! A whole host of angels shows up and have a worship session.

We have seen Mary praise God. We have seen Zechariah praise God. And we see Angels now praise God.

“Glory to God in the highest,


and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

 

Peace, true, lasting, complete peace is only available by given Glory to God in the highest.

One commentator writes:

Even those who had outward peace in Roman times did not have rest for their souls. One stoic philosopher Epictetus-a contemporary of Luke- observed that “while the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy. He can not give peace of heart, for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”  Nor could the emperor offer peace with God, which is the most necessary peace of all. But now a new King was born, and with his birth the angels pronounced peace on earth- peace like the Hebrew shalom, total peace for the whole person.

 

          The angels came and worship God, announced the great news and then left. Now, I don’t know about you, but if something like that happened, and the angels said, “look, it happened right over there in Bethlehem and you can go see it for yourself. He is the baby in the manger.” I hear that and I’m going to do just what the shepherds did. Hey! Let’s go see it for ourselves!

 

So, they left their job, left the flocks they were attending, risked getting fired from the only job they could get and ran into the town to search for this baby boy who was the savior. They found Mary and Joseph, and more importantly, Jesus, exactly like the angel said they would. They angels’ story was confirmed and proven true. They told Mary and Joseph what happened.  And everyone was amazed.

 

As this passage ends, we see that both Mary and the shepherds very specifically were changed and affected by what happened here. The Shepherds went off praising God and telling everyone their experience and spreading the Good News. One of the earliest evangelists.

Mary was much more reflective. Remember that Luke very likely personally interview Mary before he wrote this. She told him that she treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  Now, this is what I hear in that. Mary knew what Gabriel told her. She knew what Elizabeth told her. She knew what the shepherds just told her. She very likely knew what Gabriel told Joseph as recorded in Matthew chapter 1. She knew all this, and we know from the scriptures that she had faith and believed what God has communicated to her. But that doesn’t mean that she understood it all.

Faith is like that sometimes. We don’t always understand what God is telling us. God speaks through this book right here, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. This is Gods revelation to us. We don’t always understand it or how it applies to our situations or our lives. That does not mean that our faith should lack. We observe, we study, we pray and then we treasure up all these things and we ponder them in our hearts. As Philip Graham Rykien says, Mary had a faith that was seeking to understand. We should all hope and strive for that faith that seeks to understand.

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:57-80 Jesus is the Son of Man: Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-80
Jesus is the Son of Man
Birth of John the Baptist

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 1. As usual, if you do not have a Bible or do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back or see me after the service so that we can get one to you.
We are picking back up in our series through the Gospel of Luke. We are in going through Luke’s Gospel verse by verse and I expect that we will be spending the next few years here in this book. This is sermon number 5 in our series, and we are just now finishing up the first chapter and Jesus is yet to be born.
Luke’s purpose of writing this book is that we may believe what we have heard. That our faith in Jesus Christ can be rooted in reality be set on a firm foundation. Luke would not have wanted us to have a blind, unthinking faith, just believing what someone else tells us. But faith in something real. Jesus was a real person, a real, historical person. Our faith is in Him. Hebrews 11:1, the author writes: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Luke’s pattern so far in the first chapter looks a little bit like this. First was the prophecy, the announcement of the coming birth of John the Baptist. Then that is paralleled with the prophecy, the announcement of the coming birth of Jesus Christ. After that announcement, Mary sings a song of praise. Today, we will see the birth of John the Baptist and then we will see Zechariah sing a song of praise. Coming up in Chapter 2, we see the parallels continue with the birth of Jesus and the Angels sing a song of praise as well. Luke is very organized and very methodical in his writing as we see here.
Now, Elizabeth was miraculously pregnant by God. Her young cousin, Mary was now miraculously pregnant by God. Mary went to visit Liz and stayed with her the last three months of Liz’s pregnancy. We pick up the story with Liz now due at any time.
Let’s go ahead and read the first part of this morning’s scriptures. We will be looking at it in two sections. Over all, we will look at Luke 1, chapters 57 through 80. The first chunk we will read and look at is verses 57 through 66. That’s what we will read first. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along, reading the very words of God.
Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes:
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

After an incredible 9 months, 9 months that Liz had likely come to expect that she would never experience, she gives birth and gives birth to a son! This was a specific answer to prophecy, as Gabriel told Zechariah that he would have a son, back in verse 13.
Now, especially in a small town, a birth is not something that you can easily keep quite. I remember when Malachi was born, it was not even the end of the day and the midwives were still with Hope, I ran down to the Bangor store to get some Ice. I get there and the one behind the counter already knew that Hope had given birth! News travels fast in a small town.
The same thing happened here. Once Elizabeth gave birth, E’er body in town knew. Now, some speculate, based on the reaction of the town and verse 24, where Elizabeth kept herself hidden for some of the months, that no body actually knew that Elizabeth was pregnant until she gave birth. They say this would explain the celebration and rejoicing that went on.
Either way, the neighbors heard about the birth and they came and gave Glory to God. They celebrated with Liz and Zechariah. They recognized the hand of God at work in this situation. This is again, a specific answer to prophecy. Back in verse 14, Gabriel told Zechariah, And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. And many did.
On the eighth day, they were circumcising John as was both the custom and in accordance with the law handed down to Moses, originally instituted with Abraham all the way back in Genesis 17. This was every family in every town for thousands of years. This is, however, the first biblical evidence for naming a child on the eighth day. However, this does read as if it was a normal custom at this point in time.
As was also the custom, everybody expected the baby boy to be named after his father, Zechariah. Elizabeth was adamant that he would not be named Zechariah, that he would be named John. John means “Gift of God.” One of the things we see there is that one of two things happened during Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Either Elizabeth also got direct revelation from God regarding the name of the son, or Zechariah was able to communicate somehow, someway with her to tell her that his name would be John.
Now, the friends and family didn’t understand this. Custom was that the firstborn son would be named after the father. If a son wasn’t named after his father, he would be named after another member of the family. John was neither his fathers name, nor a family name.
So, since Elizabeth wasn’t listening to common sense, the friends and family appealed to Zechariah himself. Now Zechariah was a priest, so he was educated. Whoever was preforming the circumcision would have been educated. Elizabeth may have been educated, if Zechariah was able to write to her during the pregnancy. SO, he wrote to this group of educated people, who knew how to read and write, he wrote to them, “John is his name.”
Zechariah believed God, believed the angel, Gabriel, and he acted on it. He believed what Gabriel had told him those 9 or so months ago and though he didn’t show faith at that point, he did now. His faith produced obedience. That’s the way it works, not the other way around.
Our obedience does not produce faith. I saw a great way of saying it yesterday, it said; Do not make a savior of your morality. Obedience is a fruit, not a root. The thing is, we cant obey God until we believe in him. We cannot obey God until we trust in Jesus. Back to Hebrews, Hebrews 11:6 reads: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Zechariah lacked faith when Gabriel told him what was going to happen. For that lack of faith, he was struck mute for the entirety of the pregnancy plus an unexpected 8 days until the circumcision. Then he showed his faith, it produced obedience in what he would name his son, which went against all the traditions and customs. This obedience, birthed from faith was what ended his muteness.
All of a sudden, his tongue was loosed. He was able to speak and Zechariah immediately praised and blessed God. He will see the details of this in the next chunk of verses, verses 68-80. Zechariahs punishment, his muteness, left him with time to reflect, to focus and time to think about God and His Goodness and His Greatness. It did him a great spiritual good. It humbled him and allowed to grow closer to God than he had been before.
And maybe, just maybe… that was the point.
Maybe, just maybe… that’s the point when we are going through stuff. Maybe God is trying to give us the time and the opportunity to allow us to reflect, to repent, to grow in our faith and to praise and bless him.
The neighbors saw all that was going on. Event after event. Detail after detail. They saw that God was at work. They saw the hand of God in these events. God was at work in a way that no one could have expected. They were struck with fear and awe and reverence.
The circumstances around the birth, Zechariahs muteness, John being spirit filled in the womb. They knew there was something strange, something different about this boy.
God called John for a purpose. John was not called to be Zechariah JR. He was not called to be his cousin Jesus. He was not called to be anyone else but John. You and I are called by God for a purpose.
We are called to be us. We are not called to be Daniel. We are not called to be John the Baptist. Dave is not called to be Mike. Mike is not called to be Jim. Jim is not called to be me. I am not called to be Dave. We are called by God to be who he created us to be.
I am not called not be Billy Graham. I am not called to be RC Sproul. I am not called to be John MacArthur. I am called to be none other than Casey Holencik. I am not called to pastor to the world. I am not called to pastor RC Sproul’s church. I am not called to pastor John MacArthur’s church. I am called to pastor Bangor Community Church, and God willing, this is where I will be until God calls me home.
IF we spend time trying to be someone else, we waste time not being who God called us to be. We need to be careful we don’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. And we need to be carful not to compare those around us to others.
John was called to be the forerunner, to pave the way for the messiah. The people didn’t necessarily know this yet, but they knew he was called by God for some very special purposes.
From here we are going to read the song of praise that came out of Zechariahs mouth when he was unmuted. So next we will read verses 67-80.
Recorded by Luke, we read:
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Zechariah had been silent for over 9 months and here we see the first words out of his mouth and they were worth the wait.
He starts with praising and blessing God and look at some of the things he says here. Many prophecies speak of things to happen in the future, but speak in past tense. This is no different.
Zechariah says that God has visited and Redeemed his people. He is a personal God. Jesus Christ, God become man, came down from heaven, to be born a man. This is the incarnation. We are going to see coming up in chapter 2 the birth of Christ take place.
And he came to Redeem his people. He saved his people by what’s called the Great Exchange. He exchanges our sins, takes them on himself, pays the penalty. He takes the wrath of God upon himself and in exchange, he gives us his perfect righteousness.
Like Mary’s song, Zechariah appeals to, alludes to and references the Old Testament throughout his song. He references the Davidic Covenant, saying that salvation is through the house of David. He saw how Jesus fulfilled that through his lineage.
HE will be the horn of salvation. The horn, we saw a little bit in the visions of Daniel, are a symbol of strength. Jesus is that horn here. One commentator says that the Horn, Jesus is where “all the power of God is focused.”
We see a lot of Old Testament Warrior language here too. We will be saved from our enemies. This is the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised to deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Then, that looked like nations and militaries. Here is what we know that does not mean, It does not mean that there will be not defeats, no giving in to temptation, no hard times. Zechariah just spent 9 plus months muted. There will be hard times.
But we know that in the end, the very end, Revelation 19 shows us that God does indeed finally and completely defeat and deliver us from our physical, earthly enemies. But even more important, we see the same promise but in New Testament Language.
Jesus is King and we are his bondservants. He has come to save us form our enemy, the enemy which causes death. The wages of sin are death. Sin is that enemy. HE has delivered us from the enemy with the Great exchange. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us about him defeating the final enemy; death.

Zechariah switches subjects of song from God to his son, John. He would be a prophet of the Most High. He was going to change the peoples understanding of salvation. The common understanding at the time was what was referenced in the Abrahamic Covenant. Israel was looking for a military savior. They were looking for a political savior. They were looking for any type of savior except a spiritual savior.
Many American Christians today, with their words, affirm looking for a spiritual savior. But with the very same mouth, their words and their actions show that they are indeed still looking for a military or a political savior. We see this especially during this next month more than ever, but in reality, it never stops.
John is here to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and he is to pave the way for the Messiah, his Cousin, Jesus. Preaching repentance is one of the ways that he does that. John reminds the people of Israel that their sins are a big deal and repentance is required. Jesus comes along and shows that through that repentance, grace is abounding.
But that was Jesus ministry. John was not responsible for Jesus ministry; he was responsible for his own. Each of us, we are responsible for what God has called us to do. We are not responsible for what God has called others to do. This is related to what we were saying earlier. We are responsible for our own obedience.
But, our ministries, our responsibilities, our calling supports, influences and paves the way for others and their ministries, responsibilities and calling. Just like theirs does for ours.
John is going to give the knowledge of salvation to the people. He is going to help people start to understand the Gospel. As one commentator points out, this is not “theoretical knowledge, but personal knowledge of the inward experience of salvation as the result of a divine gift.”
John was to show the people the knowledge of salvation, Gods Mercy. He was to show that light was starting to break through the darkness of the last 400 years in Israel. John was going to be a guide for the path that leads to Jesus.
Amazing words out of the mouth from a man who had been silent for over nine months. We finish off seeing a temporary end to Johns story. John grew in both physical strength and in spirit until it was time to start his public ministry and he would come out of the wilderness preaching repentance, forgiveness and salvation. This is a reminder that we need to prepare, we need to study, we need to be an active part in what God has called us to do.
Lastly, I want to read from Philip Graham Ryken as he lays out salvation and most importantly, the last bit about Gods purpose for it.
He writes:

This was Zechariahs Song- a song of salvation. Now everything he promised has been fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the salvation that comes from God. God had to intervene. Unless he sent his Son to be our Savior, we never could have been saved. We needed someone to live a perfect life and die an atoning death in our place. This was the promised salvation, and it was a mighty deliverance, as salvation always is. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ have delivered us from sin, death, and Satan. We are no longer enslaved by our selfishness but are free to give our lives away in service to others. This is why God has saved us: he has given us grace so that we can live for his glory.

Let’s Pray.

Village Missions Sunday Focus on Rural Missions Ephesians 4:11-16

Village Missions Sunday

Focus on Rural Missions

Ephesians 4:11-16

 

 

Good Morning! SO. Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Ephesians chapter 4. We are going to be taking a break this morning from our series through the Gospel of Luke to look at Gods design for the local church and what our role in that is and what role Village Missions plays in it as well.

Who here had heard the name Village Missions? Who here has a general idea of who they are and what they do? Who here knows exactly who they are and what they do? Village Missions mission statement is that they exist to produce spiritually vital churches in Rural North America.

The text I want us to read this morning will show us what it means to become a spiritually vital church in our community. So, we are going to read from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16. Grab your Bibles, follow along with me. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though more important than which translation you read along with, is that you do in fact read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

The first thing I see in this passage is that God has given us all the things we need, people, gifts, each other, to grow the local church into a spiritually vital church. A lot of people think that it’s just the pastor’s job to grow and build the church.

But we see that has given the church more than just the pastor. As the pastor, I have very specific purposes and very specific things that God has called me to, and I will be held accountable for. But it is not solely my responsibility to grow and build the church. It is all of our responsibility.

The church is what and who helps the church grow. I have been around when new people have come to a church. Sometimes they are there for a day, sometimes they are around for a couple weeks, sometimes a couple months, but they leave because of someone or someone’s in the church.

At one church, we had many families start to come into the church, young families with kids. Exactly what the church said they wanted. Only the inner influencers at that church chased away every single family that came through the doors. Families didn’t dress or live the way they were supposed to. Kids didn’t sit down, shut up and stand quietly off to the side. The church actively, though likely unknowingly, stopped that church from growing.

The other option is that people come in those church doors and the people in the church help them stay. Bring them in, welcome them. Make them feel like the church is happy for them to be here. Help them to hear the Gospel and to grow in maturity of Jesus Christ.

That is the responsibility of each and everyone of us in this room. One of the things that Ephesians 4 makes clear, both in our passage this morning and back in verses 3-6 is that the unity of his church is absolutely vital to the church being spiritually vital.

Unity. Its one of the things that we have talked about and prayed for for the entire 2 ½ plus years I have been here. Unity is something that we are continually striving to get better at. We are a community Church. We are not a specific denomination. We hold the Bible up as our standard. With that, people from all different theological backgrounds and no theological backgrounds.  We are not going to agree on all the different details, and we don’t have to. You hear me say it often, but it bears repeating often. Unity is not uniformity.

Hear that. WE don’t all have to believe all the same things. We don’t all have to live the same life. We don’t have to look a certain look. We have to believe and be united in one thing. And that is Jesus Christ. We have one core set of beliefs that classify us as Christians.

We are saved by the grace of God alone. That grace is poured out through a gift of God called faith. And it is through that faith alone in the one and only Jesus Christ alone, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, through that faith that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God the father and grants us eternal forgiveness and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe that this is revealed only through the Word of God alone, that Word given to us by the scriptures that are combined into what we have and is known as the Bible. None of this is or can be deserved by us. It is done for the glory of God alone and by the glory and holiness of God alone.

We believe that core group of beliefs and everything else is secondary. We believe those core beliefs and we can rightfully call ourselves Christians. We believe those core beliefs and we are united as a church family and as the chosen children of God. We are united in our standing before God. Justified by faith. Justified through Christs perfect righteousness. In united in that we are all disciples of Christ.

You know, I use that word “disciples,” very purposely. New Village Missions Executive Director John Adams asks this question; “Do you think like Jesus, respond like Jesus, trust God like Jesus does?”

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. God is always offering opportunities for us to grow. But we can’t do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians that the church is to be “No Christian Left Behind.” WE build up the body until we ALL attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

          Christ is our standard. We cannot and will not meet that standard here in this lifetime. But we work towards and we desire for that progress. The Holy Spirit works in us and if we are truly Gods children, we will see continual growth and maturing over our lifetime. And we will see it together. And of course, it won’t be like a rocket, a straight line moving up, instead our sanctification is more like the stock market. It will have us and downs. We will rise and we will fall. But over time, we will always see it trending towards that maturity and that unity in the faith.

We work together, walking with each other from the beginning of our walk with Christ. We don’t start immediately mature. I know when I became a Christian, I knew very little of the Bible. Most of us are in the same boat. And because we don’t have that anchor in place, that foundation set of the Word of God, we are susceptible to false teachings. We are susceptible to passion and persuasive abilities to deceive. We are susceptible to those who would play off our emotions and take us down the wrong path.

We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we already agree with. We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe instead of what’s true.  We see this all the time. Do you have a bible teacher, a pastor online, or an author that you really like? Be careful, because we tend to put blinders on to what they teach and ignore if they say something unbiblical. Worse yet, if they start sound and go down the path and end up completely unbiblical, we ignore the problems with the new teaching and when confronted with it, we point to the older, more solid stuff. My point is this; if there is anyone that you let teach you or influence you and you cannot find anything that you disagree with them on, you just made them an idol.

Focus on the Bible. In context. Focus on learning and knowing his Word. That’s how we get to know Jesus. John Adams makes the point that The Better you know Christ and the more entrusted every area of life to his will, the less likely you will be deceived. Know and Trust his Word. BE sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit but be cautious. Only Jesus had a 100% true belief system. We only get a diminishing percentage of error.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we can speak the truth to others. But we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of speaking truth in a very unloving way. We unfortunately see it too often. I see it around here more often than I would like. I have also been guilty of it myself more often than I would like. We don’t always realize we are doing this when we do it though, so I want to say that if I have spoken truth to you or spoken anything for that matter, in an unloving way, I am sorry.

Paul here is talking about more than just the words that come out of our mouth though. The word used for truth here is a verb. It basically means that we are to be truthing in love. Our Words, our actions, our attitude even when we are speechless, our whole lifestyle, living out truth and love. Again, I know we can all agree that God gives us plenty of opportunities to improve in this area and to build unity.

If we have truth without love, we have hurt feelings, anger, and so much more. If we have so called love without truth, we have pretty lies. We give false hope. We see this in some many portrayals of Christianity in our culture. Christians are often only portrayed one of two ways.

First is that bigoted, close minded, hate filled protestor that says that everyone except them is going to hell. Now, they have some truth in that, in regard to we need to repent of our sins when we come to Christ. Rejecting Christ and embracing our sins will unfortunately lead us down the road to eternity in Hell. The other portrayal is those who claim that none of that matters and that every one gets to go to heaven or as long as you’re a nice person, you get to go to heaven, or that all religions lead to the same path towards heaven. They have what looks like love, but there is no truth there. Jesus makes the claim, the true claim, that He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. You can’t have it both ways.

Truthing in love can and will be hard. But that what God calls his church to and it’s a sign of that spiritual maturity. And Paul is showing us what Gog has called his church to look like.

Discipleship.

Truthing in Love.

Unity in Christ

Growing in Maturity.

Using our gifts to build up the saints and to do the work of Gods Kingdom.

 

Gifts that Christ has given the church. Pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. You. You are the saints. You are here to do the work of the ministry. To walk and grow with each other. Make Bangor Community Church a spiritually vital church. You determine what this church looks like, how it acts, how it is seen in the community.

If you are here because God called you here, then you have a vital role to play in this church. If you are here because God called, you here you are responsible to use your gifts for the betterment of the church. You play a vital role in making this a spiritually vital church in our rural community.

First, and I’m not talking chronologically, but first, we make ourselves and our church family more spiritually mature. We walk together and grow to act more and more Christlike. We gather together and we worship together.

I said it recently and Ill say it again this week. A common anthem over the past 6 months with COVID and the church shutdowns and what not, the anthem is that the church is not the building, it’s the people. And that’s true but its not the whole truth. The word that is used for church in the New Testament means gathering. So more accurately, the church is the gathering of Gods people.

We gather to preach the Gospel. We learn and teach and study the Word of God. WE preach the Word.

 

The second thing we do. We love the people. We look out from this church; we look out from the building and we look at the community around us. We look at our family and our friends. We look at our co workers and all those we know that don’t know Christ.

Each and every one of us is responsible for showing and more importantly, telling those we know about the good news of the Gospel. Each and every one of us is responsible for praying for our friends, neighbors, loved ones, the Bible even says we are all responsible for praying for our enemies and those who don’t like as well. We are to love the People.

 

You know, one of the mottos that I fell in love with from Village Missions, and I cling to this, and use this as one of my guides. They say our job as Village Missionaries is to Preach the Word and Love the People. That’s what I just described.

Someone asked this week, “IF we don’t Bangor, who will?” There is so much truth in that question. Most rural communities are forgotten places. Most rural communities the non-hyperbolic answer is that outside of their own community, literally no one will be praying for them.

This one of the benefits to Village Missions. Its an organization, a web of churches in rural communities that can and do pray for each other. And they make it so easy to pray for each other. In our bulletin each week, we include the Village Missionaries of the week. The give a brief description of their field and then give a few brief prayer requests. They include in their communications, Stories from the Field. These are actual stories sent in by Village Missionaries about the work that God is doing on those fields. This way you can see how to pray and see the answer to those prayers.

Their quarterly Newsletter called Country Matters gets sent out as well, highlighting Village Missionaries and the mission. This most recent one talks about the retirement of Executive Director Brian Wechsler and the new Director, John Adams.

AS you all walk in the front, you will see the work in progress map I’ve got going on. That is a map of all the Village Missions fields throughout the country. These are rural or formerly rural in a few cases, rural communities that are all connected. They pray for each other. They know and share the unique challenges that come with rural ministry. They know the struggles and the blessings. The know the opportunities and the joys of seeing friends and family come to know the LORD and the heartache of seeing families destroyed, communities torn apart and disunity in the church.

IF you wonder if there is anyone outside of Bangor praying for us. There is. 230 communities throughout North America. 230 communities that Village missions serves plus numerous others that receive the Village Missions material. All praying for Bangor Community Church and this community.

Praying for the saints for each and everyone of us to build up the body of Gods church. Remember, Paul tells the Ephesians, no family member left behind, until we all attain the unity of the faith.

We sow the see of the Gospel. We go out and make disciples. We preach the Word and Love the People. We do that and God grows his church. In the book of Acts, it says that God added to his church daily.

IF we do Gods work, if we use the gifts that God gave us to use for the building up of the body of Christ, our local church, Bangor Community Church, will grow into a spiritually vital, spiritually healthy church.

And Gods church, the universal church will grow in numbers. God will bring the increase. We sow the seeds and he bring the growth. Numerically, that may or may not our local church. But we know that his church will increase, his people will come to know him and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

After I pray, I’ve got a few Village Missions videos to play, maybe take 10 minutes total.

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

Luke 1:39-56 Jesus is the Son of God: Mary and Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56

Jesus is the Son of God

Mary and Elizabeth

 

          Good Morning! Please grab with me, if you will, your Bibles and turn to Luke Chapter 1. So, as we are going through Luke, you can see that we are going to be taking awhile to get through. We are in the fourth sermon and still in Chapter 1, with at least a little longer as we move forward. Now, as I always mention, if you do not have or own a Bible, please grab one from the back or see me after the service for a Bible that is our gift to you.

Now, we have seen a lot in the previous three sermons as we start the Gospel of Luke. Remember First, we saw the purpose. Luke wrote this Gospel so that we may be convinced and assured of the things we have heard about Jesus who is the Christ. To ensure this, Luke did massive amounts of research, interviews with the main characters and eyewitnesses and went to the places these things happened.

And as he recounts this story, this truth of who Jesus is and what he has done, he spends a lot of time leading up to the birth of Jesus. And we are not there yet. First, the angel, Gabriel visited Zechariah, whose wife is Elizabeth. They were old, barren and righteous before the LORD. By the Word of the LORD, they would become pregnant. Their son would become John the Baptist.

6 months later, Gabriel would appear to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. She was young, a virgin, unmarried and childless. She was a cousin of Elizabeth she too would become pregnant. Her son would be Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

When she didn’t understand how this would take place, Gabriel gave her a sign by telling her that her older, barren cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. With God, anything is possible. And in that, Mary submitted her will to Gods will.

And we are going to pick up right there, starting in verse 39. This morning we will read Luke chapter 1, verse 39-56. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version. I exhort you to read for yourself, in your preferred translation as I read the passage out loud. Luke 1:39-56.

Luke, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit records:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.

 

 

So, after Gabriel left Mary, she likely wasn’t sure what to do next. Gabriel had told her that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. So, Mary hightailed it to Elizabeth’s. She likely left within a few days, at most. All the commentators I’ve seen estimate this journey at around 100 miles, a trip that would have taken her 3-4 days.

Mary would have been so excited for Elizabeth and she knew that Liz would be excited for her. I mean, this is big, this is physically impossible. Liz is really pregnant? After how long she has been waiting and trying and praying? Mary had to go see for herself. So, she went to another small, out of the way, nowhere, rural town.

And while Mary wanted to see and be excited for Liz, she also wanted to share with someone what had just happened to her. She wanted to tell others of her experience with God. Because those experiences change us. They will have an effect and they will make us want to spread it around.

And when God does something great in out lives, we want to share it, not just with everyone, but especially with those who will understand. We want to share it with those who will be genuinely happy and excited for us. For those who will support. In other words, with our church family.

Mary knew that Elizabeth was a righteous woman, that she believed in and worshiped the one, true God. The joy and encouragement that Elizabeth would be sharing with Mary would help confirm what just happened. It would give Mary the encouragement and strength to stay faithful and strong during those weak moments that always seem to pop up.

I know, for me, this last month has had some tough moment. During and around Daniels birth, I wasn’t down here as much. Two weeks ago, we didn’t have service due to the smoke and evacuations and those weeks, I felt it. I missed being around you all. I felt like I wasn’t doing my job as well. And then last week and this week, is getting together and worshipping, meeting Wednesday mornings. Talking to some of you throughout the week, I feel that weightlifting off my shoulders as we move forward. The need to be around and to share with other believers who will hold us accountable, yes, but to build us up and to encourage us and to genuinely pray for us, it is absolutely vital for our Christian walk in this world.

You know, especially during this pandemic, these last 6 months, Christians have been quick to point out that the church is the people not the building. And that’s very true. But it leaves something out. The word in the New Testament for the church, ecclesia, literally means gathering. So, we can’t be the church, the people are not the church without gathering as the church.

Kent Hughes writes:

Like Mary, we must fly to the church because we find people like Zechariah and Elizabeth who share a mutual faith, believing the same things. Mary’s faith, as great as it was, would very likely have faltered had it not been for the fellowship of Elizabeth. Therefore, we must purposely place ourselves deep within the fellowship of those who also believe God’s Word. Christians will naturally experience a mutual elevation of faith in the credo, the “I believes,” of the Church.

Like Mary, we must make a priority of being with those who share the mutual experience of miraculous new life within. The resonance of soul that comes from such mutually experience universally empowers all believers.

And like Mary, we must hurry to the community of faith because there we experience elevation through our mutual hope in the ultimate fulfillment our own new birth, as the Apostle John so memorably explained: Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

 

You know, one of my favorite scriptures speak to this very same thing as well. Paul, when writing to the Romans, explained early on, one of his goals and desires for wanting to go and see them in person. He says in chapter 1, verses 11 & 12: For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

 

 

          So, Mary gets to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth and what a meet up it was! One commentator makes the point that this was even more of a meeting that we see on the surface. John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was there to pave the way and to announce the coming of the messiah, the coming of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. And Jesus was and is the Christ. He is the LORD of the covenant, instituting the New Covenant. This is was literally the meeting of the two covenants. And it was John beginning the fulfillment of his calling.

 

 

 

We see here that Mary, who would have left Nazareth almost immediately, was already pregnant when she got to Elizabeth. She already had fruit in her womb. When she showed up to Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb. Moms, you know this feeling. Dads, we can know a fraction of this, but Moms, you know exactly what Liz felt here. Luke already told us that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even in the womb.

And again, John, in the womb, a fetus, was already a person here. He was reacting to who was around him and he was being influenced by the Holy Spirit. Person hood exists before birth occurs.

And Liz was of course, super happy for Mary and what was happening. And this is key. It would be easy for Liz to focus on herself or to demand preferential treatment. But we see that both Mary and Elizabeth can be happy for each other, can encourage each other, can build each other up without it taking away from the other. It reminds me of Paul in Philippians 2:3, writing: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

          Elizabeth says to Mary that she is blessed. Again, as we emphasized last week, we are not lifting Mary up too high to a position of worship or to be prayed to. But we are careful no to swing the pendulum too far the other way and diminish the call and the faith of Mary. Mary is blessed by God, to be chosen for this honor to give birth to the second member of the trinity, God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Liz was also blessed because she gets to see Mary, the Mother of her LORD and gets to worship Christ before he is even born. We remember too that Mary is blessed because of her faith. She believed what the Angel Gabriel told her and submitted her will to the Gods Will.

One commentator brings up a great question. Elizabeth says in verse 45,  And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And the question becomes, was Zechariah standing there hearing this. If so, did he take it as a rebuke? Remember his problem was that he did not believe what Gabriel said that God was going to do. But Mary was blessed because she did believe what Gabriel said God was going to do.

Now, Mary had a number of reasons to be worried. She was away from home. She was super young. She was a pregnant virgin whose reputation was going to be dragged through the mud in the next 9 months, let alone for the rest of her life. Even the pregnancy itself. She had never been pregnant. This was going to be all new to her. Moms, how much do you worry about the pregnancy and about the baby’s health as you go through those 9 months? And to do it for the first time, so young? And carrying the son of God? Fuhgeddaboudit.

And so, with so much to worry about, to stress over, Mary instead chooses to worship. And she lays out this song, it is widely held up as one of the greatest songs of worship ever. Its is called the Magnificat.

Song is such an important part of worship. We worship in all we do. Worship is more than singing, but Singin is one of the ways that God instructs us to worship.

Some people may ask why, a few months ago, we never stopped singing when the Governor told us we shouldn’t. It would be easy to answer and for it to be true that we sang in protest, or to prove a point. However, if we weren’t singing for the sole purpose of praising and worshipping God, then our hearts were wrong.

Mary here, pours out her heart and lifts it up to God. There’s a lot here that we don’t have time to get into this morning, but we will touch on some of the main themes and points. Alistair Begg says that this song announces that God is Mindful, He is Mighty, and He is Merciful.

HE is mindful of us all as individuals. He does not save or condemn nations or groups, but each individual has the opportunity to put our faith and trust in Christ, to repent of our sins and to worship and follow God. When God made a promise to bless the world through the seed of Abraham, that individual seed would come through the individual of Mary giving birth to the individual who was Jesus, the Savior. He saves us individually. We can not be saved because of our parents, or our children or our friends or whoever. We cannot save our children, our parents or anyone else. God saves each of us, is mindful of us individually.

God is mighty. He keeps his promises. He blesses the humble, the contrite. He takes down and he humbles the proud. This point is also a common refrain throughout the Gospel of Luke. A right heart and a right spirit are required for us to submit and turn our lives over to God.

IT takes a Mighty God to make that change in someone. Alistair Begg points out that nobody except someone who has had their heart changed by the Holy Spirit would want to know a Jesus who humbles you, who casts you down, who shows you you are blind before he opens your eyes.    A Mighty God changes those who encounter him and only God can change us that way.

A Mighty God is also a Merciful God. Because God is the one that changes us, it is his mercy through which he decides to change us. Gods mercy is powerful, it is mighty, it is worthy of our praise.

We are all recipients of that Mercy. Some people choose only to receive mercy in this world and this life. For them, Gods mercy runs out when the die and is not extended into eternity.

But, for everyone who enters in Jesus eternal kingdom, for everyone who worships God forever and ever, the story will be the same. Everyone who responds through faith, everyone we will meet in heaven every Christian, then, now, forever, we will all have the same story. Gods mercy was extended to me.

That’s what makes Christianity so different. It is Gods mercy, God’s grace that grants us salvation. Nothing we do. We live in a world full of pride, full of hubris. Look at all the politicians we see in the news on every side.  Look at the world leaders today and throughout history. All of them believe that either they don’t need any salvation, or that they can provide salvation. The truth is that God is Mightier that the Mighty and Greater than the Great.

Martin Lloyd Jones writes:

When the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords came into this world, he came into a stable. If you do not feel a sense of holy laughter within you, I do not see that you have the right to think that you are a Christian. Thank God, this is the Gospel, this is salvation. God turning upside down, reversing everything we have ever thought, everything we have taken pride in. The mighty? Why, he will pull them down from their seats. He has been doing so. He is still doing so. Let many arise and say he is going to govern, to be the god of the whole world; you need not be afraid- he will be put down. Every dictator has gone down; they all do. Finally, the devil and all that belongs to him will go down to the lake of fire and will be destroyed forever. The son of God has come into the world to do that.

 

 

It is easy to see the mercies and the grace of God when things are going smooth and easy. Its harder in times like we have seen in this country over the last 9 months or so. But his mercies are new every morning. And when we gather together for mutual edification, for the building up of each other’s faith, for God ordained fellowship, we are to sing those mercies.

 

I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness.

With my mouth will I make known,

thy faithfulness through all generations.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.[20]

 

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 1:26-38 Jesus is the Son of God: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Luke 1:26-38

Jesus is the Son of God

Mary, Mother of Jesus

 

          Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke Chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible or do not own one, please let us give one to you as a gift from Bangor Community Church. You can grab one off the back table or see me after the service.

We are continuing with our series through Luke’s Gospel here and I want us to remember why Luke wrote this. We saw the very first week that Luke wrote his Gospel so that Theophilus and others, ourselves included, so that he and we could trust what was heard and that he and we could have a well grounded faith in Christ.

And to do so, Luke goes and does a whole lot of thorough research. We see this as he starts off his Gospel before the birth of Christ. We looked last time at Gabriel announcing to Zechariah that he and his barren wife would give birth to a son, John, who would be great, and we know now, pave the way for the coming Messiah. This morning we are going to see Gabriel go to a young virgin, Mary, and tell her that she would give birth to a son, Jesus, who would be greater than great and would save his people.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will see Luke continue this parallel, showing, first the birth of John the Baptist and then afterwards, the birth of Jesus Christ.  And part of this is to show the similarities between the two, but even more so, to show the disparities of the two. That Jesus is the greater and that God is in charge of the timing and the details of all of his grand plan.

So, again, last time we saw Gabriel appear to Zachariah, and tell him that he and Elizabeth would finally have a son, John. Joh would do great things. Zechariah doubted what Gabriel had said, doubted what God could and would do. Because of this, Zechariah was struck mute until after John would be born. Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant and that’s where we left off.

Interesting to me, as we read this, is that Mary would have had no idea about the events that we already looked at. She had no idea about Gabriel appearing to Zechariah and the pregnancy of Elizabeth. And that’s where we pick up this morning.

We are going to read and look at Luke 1, verses 26 through 38. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bible, read along with me in whatever your preferred translation is and see for yourself the very Words of God. Luke 1: 26-38, Luke writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

 

So again, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and then, 6 months later, he appeared to Mary. And Mary and Zechariah could not have been more different. They could not have responded more different.

Mary was too young as opposed to too old. She was betrothed and not married. She was a virgin, not married. She was a woman, not a man. Mary could tell others what happened, Zechariah was struck mute. She asked out of not understanding, he asked out of unbelief and doubt.

Now, a couple of things that we pull out of who and where Mary is. First, she is betrothed. This is a hard concept for us to understand in the modern West. We tend to think of it like an engagement because its not quite married. Its being promised to your partner, but not finalizing the full covenant as of yet. But its so much more than an engagement. It was a legal agreement. This is why we see in the story that Joseph was able to give her a certificate of divorce. But a betrothal did not have all of the benefits, the partnerships of marriage. Mary and Joseph would not have known each other in any kind of relational or physical way.

Mary was from Nazareth. Nazareth was nowhere. It was nothing. It was a simple, small, rural town in the middle of nowhere in Israel. IT was, at most, a few hundred people. For sure smaller than Bangor here, which is saying something. It was likely less than 100 people. In John 1:46, Nathaniel sums up the prevailing view at the time of Nazareth, saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

          That’s what Nazareth was for them back then.

 

We also see that the House of David was mentioned. Joseph, legally Jesus father was shown to be from the kingly line of David. And Mary, being kin, being family, was shown to be from the priestly line of Aaron. I told you a while ago, we would be exploring the different titles, different offices of Jesus, Prophet, Priest and King. And Luke is going to show us a lot about the fulfillment by Jesus of those offices. Right here we see two ways that he will be able to fulfill them by his earthly ancestry.

 

 

And then we see Gabriel’s words to Mary, “Greetings oh favored one!” A clear misunderstanding of the words of Gabriel here can get us into a lot of trouble and can give us a very false impression of Mary.

This text can be and sometimes is used to elevate Mary to deity status. It is used to elevate Mary above who she is. She is not “full of Grace” in terms of being a source of grace for others. The term “full of grace” itself is an inaccurate translation.

Mary is not to be prayed to. Only God is to be prayed to. Mary is not more than a person. She is not a co-redemptrix along with Christ. She is a woman who is full of God’s grace poured out in her.

Despite some teachings out there, Mary was not virgin born. She was the result of an earthly mother and earthly father being married and having children in the way that God designed. Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus and gave birth to him. She did not stay a virgin after giving birth to Jesus. She and Joseph had more children after this, that scripture testifies to in numerous places.

Mary is not a part of the trinity, nor is she someone whom God just happened to decide “Hey, that girl right there will do.” God does not just work with what’s given to him. HE is not waiting for us to allow him to work. He is not standing outside our houses, our schools, our public buildings, or our country just waiting for us to invite him back in. God does what he decides to do, and he chose Mary before time began. He knew that Mary would be the one in Genesis 3:15 who would give birth to the offspring that crush the head of the serpent.  He had already chosen her and decided that she would be the mother of Jesus.

Mary is not to be deified. She is not to be worship. She is not to be prayed to. She is not on the level of angels. But, as Gabriel says right here, she is favored by God. She is looked upon with favor. She was chosen by God for one of the most important jobs in the history of the world.

And she did it believing. She did it with faith. She did it with dignity and honor. She did it with a heart for serving and obeying God. She did it because she was favored by God. IT show be clear as we look at the Gospels and see what Mary dealt with in her life that favored by God is not a life of unbroken happiness. IT is not a life without hardships, or a life without sickness. It is not a life with all the money, our all the possessions we want. But it means that we have God on our side.

Favored, the free bestowal of Gods grace. Undeserved. It was nothing about Mary that made God choose her. She didn’t earn it. She didn’t achieve it. God choose her because of his goodness and his grace. This is just like we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t do anything to achieve our salvation. Its not anything about us, but God choose us, because of his goodness and his grace to be saved from His wrath against our sins.

 

Now, Mary got this greeting from Gabriel and she was nervous. She didn’t know how to react to this. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. Well that sounds familiar doesn’t it? Again, this is the normal reaction to an angel appearing before you. Not warm, fuzzy feelings, but awe, fear and trembling.

So, she is told not to be afraid, but she still doesn’t know why Gabriel has appeared before her. So, he proceeds to tell her. Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to get pregnant while still remaining a virgin. You are going to have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High, he will reign over the house of Jacob. He will be given the throne of David. His kingdom will have no end.

What that all means is that Jesus is God. That he is and will be the fulfillment of and the King of Israel, the house of Jacob. He is and will be the king over all of creation for all time. Jesus is reigning. This is an important part to this. I want you to understand that we are not waiting for Jesus to reign. HE is doing that right here, right now.

Listen to how John Piper said this, albeit dated in its references because he said this in 1984, but really listen. He says:

Gabriel says, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Do you see what this promise means? It means that Jesus is alive and ruling over his people at 11:50 AM, Sunday, March 11, 1984. Do you believe that? Jesus, Savior, Son of God, King of the world, is governing just as realistically today as Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher or Helmut Kohl. If Gabriel has spoken the truth, THE ISSUE in 1984, no matter where you live on this planet, is: Will you bow before the kingship of Jesus and obey the rule of his kingdom?

 

Think about that. Today. Sunday, September 20, 2020. Jesus is reigning and governing just as realistically today as Donald Trump, as Vladimir Putin, as Justin Trudeau. They are ruling over America, Russia and Canada, but Jesus Christ rules over them all.

 

Now, free grace is hard to accept. We don’t understand how it works and it goes against all of our human instincts. And Mary doesn’t quite understand how this is all going to work. She asks that very question, How? She asks out if confusion, in a direct contrast to Zechariah, how asked “IF…” and did so out of disbelief. Mary says, how can this be, as I am a virgin. I believe you; I just don’t understand.

Now, a couple of good things come out of this question by Mary. First, you don’t have to have all the answers in order to believe. You don’t have to know all the nuances and the details and the theological intricacies in order to have faith. You don’t have to understand every aspect in order to become a Christian. Keep asking your questions. God will answer some of them.

Second, Gabriel answers her, saying that the Holy Spirit will conceive Jesus in Mary. The Holy Spirit is God. One third of the trinity. And each of the trinity fills a different role. The Holy Spirit is here to point to Jesus. The Holy Spirit only comes along with receiving and following Jesus.  We can’t have the Holy Spirit with out Jesus.

Pointing towards, building up and affirming Jesus Christ is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to point towards and glorify and build up Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ comes to save sinners, but to do so so that God the Father may be testified towards, and glorified.

John Piper makes the point that the Holy Spirit is not to be look for as an end in and of Himself. He says:

in seeking to be filled and empowered by the Spirit we must pursue him indirectly—we must look to the wonder of Christ. If we look away from Jesus and seek the Spirit and his power directly, we will end up in the mire of our own subjective emotions. The Spirit does not reveal himself. The Spirit reveals Christ.

 

And he continues:

Devote yourselves to seeing and feeling the grandeur of the love of God in Jesus Christ and you will be so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that his power will flow mightily in your life. Christian spiritual experience is not a vague religious emotion. It is an emotion with objective content, and the content is Jesus Christ. The shy member of the Trinity does mighty work, but he never puts himself in the limelight. You might say he is the limelight that puts the attributes of God the Father and the person of Christ into sharp relief.

 

Mary was not looking for the Holy Spirit. She was looking to serve and obey and honor God and what she received was the Holy Spirit.

Now, the fact that it was the Holy Spirit that would conceive Jesus is vitally important to Christianity. Why? Because it means that Jesus was not born of man. He had no original sin to corrupt his nature. He was born of a woman, the Son of God. Because of this, he would fulfill all the temple requirements of the Old Testament. HE was the fulfillment of the temple itself. It means that through Jesus, because of Jesus, there will be no more need of a temple and there will be no more need of sacrifices and the sacrificial system.

The fact that Mary was a virgin and the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus means that something supernatural happened. Something literally physically impossible. If you do not buy into the virgin birth of Jesus, there is no reason to believe any of the miracles, any of the works, any of the promises of Jesus.  Just like creation and nature and the beginning of everything start with Genesis 1 through 3, the beginning of Jesus and all that he is starts with the virgin birth.

Gabriel then, essentially says, you have not asked for a sign, but I am going to give you one anyway. Your cousin Elizabeth, who was old and barren, she is in her 6 months of pregnancy.

God can do it! What is impossible for man, with God it is possible. Again, what is physically impossible, what is the definition of impossible, God speaks and makes it happen.

 

Now, I think that Mary’s response in v 38 may just be the biggest takeaway of this whole passage. And it definitely puts her question in v 34 in proper context. Mary responds to all that Gabriel has told her by faith. Remember that Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

          Mary could not yet see what Gabriel had promised her, but she responded in faith. “I am the LORDs servant. May it be according to your Word.” What God says, what he wills, what he calls me too, that I will do. I will serve and obey him.

And so, we need to ask ourselves, will we respond, as Mary did, with absolute faith? Will we submit to Gods call on our life? Will you go where he wants you to go? Will you do what he wants you to be doing? Will you do it with who he wants you to? Will you do it for how long he wants you to do it?

In order to do so, in order to follow and serve God in the way he deserves to be served, we need to be willing to give up everything we know and love. God comes first, above all else. He wont always take away from us everything we know and love, but I guarantee that the tighter we hold on something and keep it way from or above God, the more he will rip it right out of our hands.

When we respond to Gods call through faith, we will approach him with open hands, giving all of us, and all we have to him, knowing that he is in control, knowing that he is reigning above right now, forever and ever, we will see that we too, by the grace and choice of God are also highly favored.

 

Let’s Pray.