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Entries in Disgrace (1)

Tuesday
Jan192016

Believe for Greater Things - Mary

Luke  1:34-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 17, 2016. 

This series has been an adaptation of a sermon preached by George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God USA, on August 6, 2013, at its biennial meeting in Orlando, Florida.

So we first looked at Sarah who laughed when she heard God’s plan for her.  Then we looked at Naomi who simply plodded through God’s plan for her.  Last week we looked at Hannah who wept before God regarding His plan in her life.  Today we will look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, and see how she submitted to God’s plan in her life.

We will pick up the story in verse 34 after the angel has given Mary the news that she is going to have a child that will be called the Son of the Highest, would have the throne of David, would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and whose kingdom would have no end.

The Faith of Mary

We are not told how young Mary is.  We only know that she is old enough to have children and young enough to not have been given to her fiancé Joseph yet.  She is most likely in her mid-teens.  It would not be hard for her to realize that the angel is describing her giving birth to the Messiah for whom Israel had been waiting.  Thus this brings up a question for her.

Mary’s question is not so much about doubts she has about what God is going to do.  Rather her question is about the “how” of the plan.  Doubt can arise anywhere.  But the angel’s response makes it clear that Mary is honestly curious.  True faith always has questions and spends time in prayer asking those questions of God.  However, they won’t be questions that doubt God’s ability.    Mary may simply wonder if she is going to be impregnated by Joseph.  How is this going to be?  Sometimes God gives us answers to the how and to what is next in the plan.  Yet, He doesn’t always give us an answer.  Even the answers that we do receive can dredge up more questions.  Thus faith will have questions and even receive some answers.  But, at the end of the day, it will still have to trust God and believe Him for both the “what” and the “how.”  In fact, the “how” will always take care of itself in the end.  God will make a way.

The angel makes it clear that Mary will not become pregnant by Joseph.  Rather, she will conceive by supernatural intervention from the Spirit of God.  Such a miraculous conception would not be believed by the people around her.  Mary knows that if this happens she will be publically disgraced.  Thus true faith accepts and endures public disgrace.  Mary would know exactly how a girl who got pregnant “early” would be treated in that society.  Kids very quickly understand public disgrace and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  Yet, Mary accepts this.  By doing so, she accepts being labled a harlot, or promiscuous girl, perhaps even an unbeliever.  Who would believe such a story?

On top of this Mary would be risking her relationships with family and Joseph.  But, true faith risks its present relationships for the sake of the Lord.  Mary makes the choice to accept what God wants to do.  But, she could not control how others in her life would respond.  Most likely she thinks Joseph will divorce her, maybe even publically to protect his reputation.  How would her father and mother respond?  This is way too risky a proposition for a young girl, and yet, Mary accepts the risk because she trusts God.  No relationships in this world can mean more to us than our relationship with the Lord.  Jesus said in Luke 14:26-27, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  Hate in this context does not mean “to despise and desire harm.”  Hebrews used this term to cover a wider range of situations than the English language accommodates.  In this context the point is that none of these relationships can mean more to us than Jesus.  He doesn’t want to ruin these relationships.  But all of them have to make a choice, and some will not like you being a disciple of Jesus.  We have to put all relationships in our life “on the altar.”  We have to love everyone in our life.  But our love for them cannot come between us and God.  Would anyone stick with her?

True faith also embraces the unknown hardships.  She knew the path ahead would be extremely difficult from what she could see.  But, what about what she couldn’t see?  She couldn’t foresee giving birth to her baby in a stable and laying him in a manger.  She couldn’t foresee having to flee to Egypt and living in a foreign land for years because a king wants to kill your baby.  She couldn’t foresee the rejection of the Messiah and his public execution in such a shameful way.  The angel does not tell her all that lay ahead.  However, she received advanced warning from Simeon the prophet.  When Jesus was 8 days old and at the temple, Simeon warns Mary, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against, (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35).  All along the way Mary would be tested, over and over again.  Would she keep following the Lord or try to save her own life?

Finally true faith submits to the Lord’s plan.  Mary’s words, in verse 38, point out two powerful things.  First, she makes a powerful declaration that she sees herself as a slave of God.  I know that translations are generally “handmaiden.”  However the word is literally a female slave.  A slave has no choice.  It is their duty to do the will of their master.  Of course, we tend to shy away from such language today because of the history of slavery in our nation.  However, Mary strongly declares she is God’s slave.  Now we might be tempted to say that after the cross we are no longer slaves to God.  However, the apostles called themselves slaves of God.  Paul does it in Romans 1:1.  In Philippians Paul calls himself and Timothy slaves of Jesus Christ.  James the half brother of Jesus says in James 1:1, “James a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Later in James 4:13 he reminds believers that we should not be presumptuous about what we are going to do.  But rather should say, “if the Lord wills we shall live and do this or that.”  He is pointing out that our will is not what matters, but the Lord’s only.  Jude, another half brother of Jesus, also calls himself the slave of Jesus Christ.  How could these men who taught about the freedom we have in Christ call themselves slaves and teach Christians to be slaves of God?  How can we be both slaves of God and His children?  The answer is simple.  We were slaves to sin like Israel was a slave in Egypt.  God sent His deliverer to set us free from that sin (Pharoah).  We were purchased from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ and thus go from being slaves to sin to being slaves to God.  Yet, this master, does not treat us like sin did.  Rather, he adopts us into His family and lets us share the inheritance with His One and Only Son, Jesus.  Being a slave to God is not about being forced to do something.  Rather it is about being free to serve him.  The early believers chose to not entertain a choice.  Mary chooses to not have a choice.  “Look, the slave of God.”  May this same spirit be in each of us.  Submission is never to be forced among God’s people.  It is volunteered by those who love Him and are loved by Him.  Are you submitted to the master or are you trying to master Jesus?  Are you being corrected and transformed by Him, or are you doing the shaping and fitting Jesus into your life?  The latter will never work.  You will only find yourself frustrated and lost.  But when we lay our life down and say, “I am your slave, I submit to your plan,” then we will find the true life of being a disciple of Christ.

Remember believing God involves laughing at the audacity of His plan, plodding through the difficulties when we don’t see the end, weeping before Him over our experience, and submitting to Him.  None of these things are easy, and yet, they are the path that the faithful have taken from the beginning of time.  Let’s believe God for Greater things.

Mary audio