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.

Daniel 4:1-37 God of all Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream

Daniel 4:1-37

God of all Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 4. We are continuing through our series through Daniel, entitled “God of all Nations.”

          This week, this chapter, we see a difference in format from the previous few chapters. We see the same focus and the same theme as we have seen so far that God is sovereign over all. Period. But this week, we are going to see things told through the perspective of King Nebuchadnezzar himself. And we are going to bring to a close the King Nebby part of our story.

We don’t know the exact time that this chapter was written, though it is obviously likely that it was towards the end, at least the latter half of Nebby’s 43-year reign. And this story, this chapter is told and written from His perspective instead of Daniels, and it is him looking back, from towards the end, in order to share what God has done for him and what he has learned from God.

In that sense, this has a feel similar to the book of Ecclesiastes to me. This is what I’ve learned, this is what God has shown me. And this I pass on to you. And he says that his audience of this story is to all people, all nations and all languages.

So, lets go ahead and read the first section of this chapter, Daniel chapter 4, verses 1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read and follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 4:1-7, Daniel records what Nebuchadnezzar wrote”

 

King Nebuchadnezzar,

To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:

May you prosper greatly!

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
his dominion endures from generation to generation.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his word.

 

We have seen leading up to this point some of the things that Nebby has seen and experienced as a witness and testimony of the Most High God. We have seen Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego prosper and grow strong on a diet of water and vegetables. He had a dream that not only could no one interpret, but no one except Daniel could tell him what the dream even was. He saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refuse to worship him and his statue and get thrown into a super-hot fiery furnace, only for them to come out not even smelling like smoke. The man has seen some things.

And here he is going to share one more thing he has seen God do. In verse 3, along with what we are going to read in verses 34 & 35 are going to be the theme of this chapter, God and his absolute sovereignty, his eternal kingdom that endures from generation to generation.

Through those previous instances, we see that Nebby has acknowledged the power of the God of Daniel, and the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but we haven’t seen him acknowledge Him as the God of Nebuchadnezzar. We haven’t seen him turn to the LORD as exclusively God. Will this one last story of Gods Work in his life be the one that changes Nebbys soul?

 

So, we immediately see from Nebby that he had another dream. He had it when he was comfortable, when he was prospering, when he was, from what we can tell, when he was complacent. This would have made him immediately think back to his other dream that we covered in chapter 2.

But this was different than the first. Nebby was different. His circumstances were different. The dream itself was different. And his reaction was different. This time he didn’t withhold his dream from the wise men that he brought together. HE told it to them straight up. But he hadn’t changed completely because he still expected them to be able to interpret his dream. And they still were not able to. We do see that Nebby has mellowed some because he is not threatening to tear them limb from limb and all that, but that still had to be hard for the wisemen to admit to him.

 

We pick the story up in verse 8 through verse 18:

Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)

I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.

“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.

17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

So, Daniel finally shows up here and I notice a few things first. These are the things that tells me that Nebby has not fully accepted the God of Daniel as his own personal God. First, he says that Daniel is filled with the spirit of holy gods, not the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of the Holy God. Second, he insists on calling Daniel by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, which is a tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk.

He tells Daniel his dream and tells him to interpret it for him and then we get to see what the dream is. A great big tree, reaching towards heaven. It was seen throughout the world, seen by all. It was fruitful and abundant. It was beautiful, it provided food, shelter and security for many.

Then came a message from heaven, Chop It Down! Chop it down and leave the stump and the roots as a sign to all. His mind will be made as a beast instead of a man. And the purpose of this dream is very specifically for the purpose of making the Most High God known to all.

So, Mr. Daniel, Mr. God is with you. Tell me what this dream means.

 

And so, Daniel responds to him in verses 19-27:

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— 22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.

23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

 

 

Now, this dream kind of freaked Daniel out. The King tried to calm him down, but this dream was intense for Daniel to hear about and to think about. And the standard formality of that time is to wish that the dream is about the Kings enemies, as Daniel says here.

Then in verse 20, he starts his interpretation. The tree is about you, oh King. Your greatness reaches to the heavens and your dominion is to the ends of the earth.

But the messenger came down and said that you would be cut down and sent out into the fields to dwell with the beasts to eat grass. This time will last for 7 times. Now, there is no consensus about how long a time is. It could be 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months or 7 years. No matter the assuredness that some may speak with, it is an unknown. But we know that God said that it would be for a specific and finite amount of time.

Daniel continues that the stump and the roots of the tree will be left. This is to show that Nebbys kingdom will be held for him during these 7 times and that once he “Knows that Heaven rules,” his kingdom will be returned. In other words, when he acknowledges Gods sovereignty and humbles himself, he will be allowed to return from the field and have his mind returned to him.

The message that Daniel ends with is a message that is delivered by men throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, including by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Mark are “Repent and believe the Gospel!” Jonah told the Assyrians in Nineveh something he didn’t want to tell them, repent or you will be destroyed!”

God is a holy God and has holy standards. We are an unholy people from before birth, at least we are since after the fall in Genesis 3. Repentance is when we turn away from our unholy behaviors, our sins. We turn from our sins and turn to God, putting out trust, our faith and our dependence on him. That is where salvation comes from. By the grace of God, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, he saves us from the consequences of our sins, eternal torment and suffering in Hell.

Often times in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, we see more earthly examples, some practical examples of the need to repent. Often times, what we see in the Old Testament is that you are in a poor situation because of the sins you have committed. Not always of course. Job shows us clearly that this isn’t across the board true and it should not even be our theology. Jesus again addresses the misapplication of this idea as a rule with the blind man that is brought to him. He is asked, why is this man bling? Is it his sins or the sins of his parents? He answers them and says, Neither, this is the case so that the power and glory of God would be shown.

But as we saw with Jonah, as we see with many of the prophets, the message that God sends is to turn away from your sins, Repent! And I will save you from your situation. Repent and I will relent of your judgement. Repent and I will relent of your punishment. Here, we see, Repent and you may not have to spend 7 times as a beast in the field, eating grass and with the mind of a beast.

Daniel sees the message that God is sending to Nebby and he begs with him not to continue on the path he is on. God is going to humble you because your self-pride is too much. Repent and you may be spared this situation!

If Daniel is this passionate about saving his King from acting a fool for a period of time, how much more should we be passionate about saving everyone we know from Hell. How much should we try to show them how to escape the eternal torment that is waiting at the end of their path, that was waiting for each of us at the end of our paths before God intervened.

Ultimately, the power is in Gods hands. He and he alone is the one with the power to save. Jonah cries out, Salvation belongs to the Lord! Our job is to faithfully plat the seeds of the Gospel. Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Our job is to speak the words of the Bible, the Words of God into their lives. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. Our job is not to make converts, but to grow people in wisdom, knowledge and obedience of the LORD.

This should not be a secondary issue or a backburner issue. If we have unbelieving friends, unsaved family, it should consume our prayers. And I know for a lot of you it does. I know it does for me. As a church family it should be vital for is all together, for all of our families and friends, not just our own individually.

          Charles Spurgeon puts into great words how passionate we should be about this, he says: If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

 

 

 

Now, we see that Nebby didn’t heed Daniels pleadings as we continue along with verses 28-37, finishing this chapter. It reads:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

1 year after the dream and its interpretation, Nebby was walking around his palace and thinking to himself, “I did this! I built the kingdom of Babylon! All of it! I did it!”

So, God essentially told him, “All right, your hubris has caught up with you. I am in charge here. I am in charge of the kingdoms of the world, and I am taking yours away from you!”

Immediately his dream came to fruition and he was made to act like and live like the beasts of the field. Usually we tend to think of Cattle in this story. That’s what I’m thinking about as we talk about this. Nebby spent 7 times living like the animals, eating grass, growing long hair and long nails. Exactly as his dream told him would happen.

And then, at Gods appointed time, he says, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praised God. I blessed him. I honored him. There is a balance in this. We both see, because of who Nebby is, that he is still taking partial credit for the end of his time as a beast. But we also see that one of the main balances, or tensions, that the Bible strikes is that God is completely sovereign, and nothing happens with him saying so, but also that we, Man, are responsible for our actions. We can’t blame God for our sins, for our problems and certainly not for us being sent to hell. We freely sin of our own volition.

So Nebby is both proud and truthful in his words. And when he praised God, in Gods timing, God restored him to his right mind. All of his kingdom, his power and his glory were restored, and he was actually given even more than he had before.

Again, a theme in the scriptures. Using Job as an example, once everything ended, his rewarded was even more than they understood God was going to give them. Everything that was taken from Job was restored plus some. Here, Nebby was not only restored but given more once he praised God.

We can make the parallel connection that if we trust in God, and we are saved by his grace, that our reward is going to be so much better than we are to expect. We are not only avoiding the punishment of hell; salvation is not just fire insurance. But we get to spend eternity in perfect communion, in perfect relationship with our LORD, the God. We get to spend eternity in perfect creation, worshipping him, praising him and full and perfectly complete.

I love the last line of this chapter and I’m going to leave you with that as we close for the week.

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Let’s Pray.

Romans 11:33-12:2 How we Should Respond To God

 

Romans 11:33-12:2

Our Reaction to God

Good Morning. Go ahead and turn in your Bibles with me to Romans chapter 11. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please grab one from the table in the back as our gift to you. If you forgot yours at home or in the car, you can grab one as well, to follow along, though we do ask that you leave it here for us to gift to those who do not have one.

We will be looking at the last couple of verses of Romans chapter 11 this morning and the first two verses of Chapter 12. We started touching on these verses last week and I wanted to expand on that as we start off this morning.

We talked last week, and many other weeks as well, that these letters we have in the bible were not written with verse numbers nor were they written with chapter breaks. They were written as a continuing flow of thoughts, connected and meant to be in context. However, we also know that, as when you or I write a letter, do any of us still write letters?, we touch on numerous subjects and we wrap up one line of thought and start another one. Thats what is happening here.

Paul does this often in his letters. Often he talks and writes about theology in the first part of a letter and then changes directions, which is a poor way of wording it because they are necessarily related, but he changes directions and talks about application and how to live a christian life in the second part of the letter. Thats what Paul does here in Romans.

The first 11 chapters have been called a systematic theology by Paul, and there are many things to focus on and take away from it. Often people think of Romans and what they see and read is conviction and repentance. And thats in there for sure. Some read Romans and what they see and read is God sovereignty, and praise, God, thats is there too. There is sin, total depravity, hope for the future, the work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is justification, sanctification and salvation. All of that is in there, so what are we supposed to pull out all that? Thats what pull uses to transition to his practical instructions going from Chapter 12 on through the end of the letter.

SO thats why we are looking at the last few verses of chapter 11 and the first two verses of chapter 12 this morning. So lets see what Paul has to say, reading from chapter 11, verse 33 through chapter 12, verse 2. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Heres the important thing. This is Paul’s response to all he has written in the previous 11 chapters. Praise and Awe of God, worship and joy. These are the marks of understanding who God is. because when we see God for who he truly is, it shines off us in a way that is impossible to not see.

The Bible shows us the darkest sides of our selves. It does so, not only because it is true, the heart is deceitful above all things, as Jeremiah says (17:9) but also to show us how great God is. Lets break both of those things down for a quick moment.

God is God. As such he is holy and perfect. His standard is the same. He created us to commune with him in perfect paradise. But we sinned, now we cannot meet that standard. God cannot abide any unholiness and so our communion, our perfect fellowship with him is broken.

Tell that to people today on the street. Their response would be to talk about how incredibly unfair that is. Why would God take issue with the occasional sin? Or our sin isn’t really that bad. Or any other myriad of thoughts that don’t allow them to realize how serious their sin is.

And so the Bible has to make clear just how serious it is. Because our eternal souls literally depend on it. We die without having made atonement for our sins, no matter how small WE think they are, and we get to spend eternity in Hell, Gods perfect and holy wrath being poured out onto ou for all of eternity. However, we deal with our sins before we die, and we get to spend eternity with God in perfect paradise, sinless, perfect bodies, worshipping and serving Christ our King, just as we were created to do. No more death, no more sickness, no more tears, no more hurt.

But here once again, the Bible has to be crystal clear because our human assumptions, thoughts and beliefs are not accurate and will lead us astray. We can’t atone for our sins. We, despite what our friends and family will say, we are not good enough. God does take sin seriously and we cannot not sin. We cannot pay the cost to make up for our sin and wipe our slate clean.

And so the Bible shows us our darkest sides so that we can see and appreciate what God did. In a plan from before time, God the Father sent his son, His only begotten son, God the Son, Jesus. God became man. He was born a human being. He didn’t stop being God, but made himself man. And he lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we should have died, to pay the price for sin, and through the grace of God, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we become are no longer seen as unholy or unrighteous by God, but we are seen through the lens that we are clothed in Christs righteousness and no longer seen as unholy or as sinner, but seen as a saint, and our relationship with Him is restored.

So the Bible shows us our bad, to show us how in need of His good we are. And then we get to see the good of God and we get to marvel at it. How big, how great, how loving is God! He chose to do those things, to save us from our sins. He chose to love us, while we were unlovable. He chose to redeem his people, to bring them out of this broken, sin nature and change us from sinner to saint. To change us from goats to sheep. We cant chose Him without him first choosing us.

Paul is looking back at the grand picture of Gods entire plan. He is looking back at the entirety of what he has written in Romans. And he is looking above some of the details and specifics, which, as we looked at last week, are not always the clearest and most important parts. But he is looking at gods entire character, his entire redemptive plan, the entirety of his love and goodness and he looks back and is just amazed by God.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

I said this last week too, but I think it bears repeating, If we are reading the Bible and it doesn’t not lead us into worship and awe of God, we are reading it wrong. Yes, it should convict us, yes, it should teach us, yes it should inspire us, yes it should do all those things and more. But if it isn’t leading us into worship, we have completely missed the point. We have lost the forest for the tress. And Paul is reminding us of that here, as we finish up the systematic theology of the letter and we move into application. One commentary say this about Paul, “From a mountain height the apostle surveys the sublime plan of God, and his soul breaks out in a transport of delight.”

When you look at Gods plan, at his Word, does your soul break out in a transport of delight? Meaning, is it well with your soul? Do you have joy, joy, joy down deep in your heart? Do you Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

We talked last month about giving thanks in all circumstances to God. And the benefits of a joyful, a thankful heart. And what that does for us. And one of the things that Paul is showing here is that this joyful heart, this praise and worship of God in all things is what allows us to live for God. Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5. These are the evidences that the Holy Spirit is working through you, that Jesus Christ has justified you and you are being sanctified.

Of course, Joy does not always mean happiness. It certainly does not mean “Grin and Bear it.” But it means that through the various trials that we experience, as James puts it, that we can consider it joy. That when we have Christ, he gives us peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.

And it is that peace, that joy and the rest of the fruit of the spirit that allows us to lead the lives that God has set before us. We can’t do it on our own. We cant have true, lasting peace or joy, we cant have true, meaningful worship without the work of the Holy spirit inside of us.

Paul shows us what a true understanding of God is. He ends what we have as Chapter 11 with  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

All Glory, all Honor, all praise and worship, all things are to be given to God. He is great and worthy to be praised. To God be the glory, great things he has done. Paul also writes at the end of Ephesians 3, verses 20 & 21:  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

When we look at God and the more we look at Him, the true Him, the more we learn about Him, the more we see him all around us and learn from his Word, his revelation to us, the more we should praise him. Paul said back in Romans 8 that one of Gods purposes for us is to conform us to the image of his Son Jesus Christ.

And to do that, he gives us rules, principles, advice and laws to live by. True worship is loving God. Jesus says if you love me you will keep my commandments. John writes that we show love by keeping his commandments. Paul says that obedience is not for obedience sake, but for worship sake, to show love to God. He says in 1 Corinthians 10:31:  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

And Paul is going to get into the practical nitty-gritty of that starting in Chapter 12. I want to say one more thing before we move on. We come together on Sunday morning here, the purpose of the church, the purpose of our gathering, the number 1 main thing is to worship God. This is a worship service. There are other reasons as well, to edify and build each other up. To learn more about the Bible and what God says. Even too much lesser extents, for fellowship and to be fed. I’m not going to say those things are not important. But the reason God calls us to gather together is to gather in worship of him.

This is a part of that unity thing that has been coming up lately. We have differences in a number of things. Backgrounds, ethnicity, gifting, musical preferences, order of service preferences, minor, secondary doctrinal issues, as we saw last week, we can disagree on a great many things. But when we gather together as a church body, we come together united in the Gospel to lift us glory and praise to the One True God. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

And so, one of the main ways we worship God is how we grow in him and how we live according to him, and so turns his attention from theology, or more specifically, why we need salvation, what salvation is, who provides salvation and how we receive salvation. The application part of this letter is Paul explaining what do we do AFTER we salvation.

Romans 12:1&2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Therefore. You know what comes next. When you read in the text, the word therefore, you should ask, whats it there for? It’s a connective phrase. Paul changes direction, changes his line of thought, but he doesn’t change subjects completely. What he starts writing here in Chapter 12 is directly connected with what he has already written. “Because of what I have just written, because of that, I say to you…”

Therefore, because of Chapters 1-11. Because you are sinners who have been saved by the mercy and grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, because he is conforming you to His image, we praise him and glorify him above all things. Because of all that, present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

Live your life for him. Do all things for him and through him. Theres a meme going around Facebook right now, I picture with a caption. It’s a person holding up their heart to God and saying, “Its all I have.” Gods response in this picture is “Its all I ever wanted.”

And if he truly has our heart, if we have truly given it to Him, that is true. But so many people think that this is all they have to do. They just have to profess faith. They can say I love God, while using the American word love, not the biblical word love. They can redefine who God is, who Jesus is and what love means and they can say that God has their heart and they dont have to change a thing.

And yet, that is the very thing we see happen in the bible. We are changed. WE go from people who have an inherent sin nature, who cannot not sin, and we are made into new creations in Christ. We have been changed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out.

And that change requires action. If all there is, are words, then there has been no heart change. How many of us who have kids can attest to this? Your kid does something wrong, maybe they hit one of their siblings. You do whatever correction or discipline is required and then what do you say to them? Go say your sorry. How do they say it. Most of the time, you can tell they don’t mean it. They say the words, but there is not a heart change. And that means that often, only moments later, they do the same thing again.

And so, if God has a hold of our heart, we will worship him and one of our methods of spiritual worship, as Paul says is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. That is that all we do, we do to the glory of God.

And that should cause us to ask some pretty tough questions to ourselves. Are we presenting ourselves to him? Or are we living life as functional atheists? Are we living a life of sacrifice? Or are we taking, looking for what makes us comfortable and what makes us feel good? Are we living a life that is holy and acceptable to God? Or are we living a life, doing what is good and right in our own eyes. And I want to add another question that the scriptures are clear on; If we answer yes to those questions, that’s good, but, then the hardest question to answer, Are you trusting in those answers to save you? Because we can fake our actions, outwardly, for a while.

And Paul is saying that we cannot continue our old ways, we cannot remain unchanged as followers of Christ. Henry Blackaby says “It is impossible to worship and remain unchanged.” Worship changes us. And so, when Paul says that our lives are to our spiritual worship, he then tells us this same thing.

Do not be conformed to this world. We do not do what is right in the eyes of the world. We do not do what is right in our own eyes. We do the will of God. Proverbs writes, Lean not on our own understanding. Do not be conformed to the world. If the public at large, if society as a whole is on our side, then we are conformed to the world. Remember that Paul says that the gospel, the cross is foolish to those who don’t believe. It doesn’t and it wont make sense until and unless God reveals the truth to them.

Do not be conformed, but be transformed. Be changed by God. Change your life to live according to what you know God is saying. Do not call yourself a Christian and continue to live the same way you were before. Do not call yourself a christian and continue to live the same lifestyle. Transform. Repent. Grow.

C S Lewis says We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; Martin Luther says that The life of a Christian is one of repentance.”

Now, brand new Christians, or those who have not been taught, those who are still feeding on milk, may not know what God is calling them to change in their life. How will they know? The Word of God. The Bible is Gods word to us. It is not only inerrant, but all-sufficient. If you want to know what God says, read your Bible. If you want to know what God wants, read your Bible. If you want to know what God expects, read your Bible. And if you want to know Gods will, read your Bible.

That is the biggest, most important, and really the only advice to give a new believer who is looking to learn about God. Books are good. Solid theological books are great. We are giving some away both this morning and tonight. But I go back to one of the first pastors that I listened to after coming to church.

He was sharing his mentors advice, and after this pastor came to Christ, he asked his mentor, what should I do now? He said read your bible.

Ok, Did that. What should I read next?

Read your Bible again.

Ok, read the Bible again, there’s all these awesome looking books in the library and in the book store, what do you recommend I read next?

Read your bible again.

He read through the Bible more than six times before his mentor told him he could read something else. This book is foundational and is the only foundation we have to our faith, to know what is right and what is wrong. To know what the bible and therefore, what God says. That way, if a book says something else, or a friend or loved one says something else. Or if, heaven forbid, a human pastor says something wrong, we have a foundation to look back and knowing the truth.

But this is not just for new believers. This is for all believers. It’s easy to think we know what God says and what god wants. It’s easy to think that we know what the Bible says. Here’s the problem. James makes it clear that even the demons believe. Luke’s Gospel shows us during his recounting of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness that Satan knows the scriptures as well as anyone. I guarantee you that he knows the scripture better than you and I.

We have to keep reading, keep learning, keep seeking and chasing after God. Otherwise we will become reconformed to the world. We will not be able to discern Gods Will, what is good and acceptable. We are going to talk more specifically about gods will coming up, not next week which is our Christmas service, but likely the week after, when we continue through Romans 12.

But right now, we need to see that is through the reading of the Bible that allows us to know God better. The more we know him, the closer we get to him, the easier it is to discern his will. The easier it is to discern between God and the world. There is no substitute. It’s the only way to grow closer and to stay closer.

And only by reading the bible and growing closer to God that we can see how he expects us to act and live. And it is only through the heart changing gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to see it in the Bible and gives us the want and the heart to actually act and live that way.

Lets Pray.