Monday, December 22, 2008

Pastor's Perspective

Nothing is Impossible with God:
The Sovereignty of God gloriously displayed in the virginal conception of Christ

Well, I'm still enjoying the afterglow of a glorious Lord's Day at First. In the morning services, we were in Luke 1:26-38, a passage telling of Gabriel's visit to Mary, commonly know as, the Annunciation. We began by reflecting on the fact that at Christmastime, American evangelical Christians are perhaps more conscious than at any other time of the year of how the world shapes us. And we also, perhaps, long more than at any other time of the year to be shaped by Christ and his Word and Spirit, rather than by the world. We asked how can we see some growth and encouragement in this area. And answered this way. First, it begins in the desires, the affections. Then prayer. Then self-examination. Then attention to Scripture. Then repentance. Then new resolve. Then deeper dependence upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, and greater treasuring of Christ.

And we observed that Luke 1:26-38, while being first and foremost about Christ, and God's work of redemption in him, offers us some help and hope here. If the world offers us worship of stuff and status, treasuring of fading pleasures, worldy wisdom, self-reliance and freedom to do as we please, the Gospel offers us superior joy. In particular, we saw this through five words: (1) Humility, (2) Privilege, (3) Mystery, (4) Sovereignty, and (5) Submission.

I. The humble circumstances of Mary and the humble conditions of our Savior’s birth, set forth something of God’s condescension and Jesus’ humility (26-27). In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary."The great Gabriel sent to mean Nazareth is a picture of God's amazing condescension and foreshadows Jesus' course of humility. As Kent Hughes says: "Mary was a nobody in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere." God dwells with the humble indeed. And should this not move us to lives of humility?

II. The privilege of Mary in bearing the Messiah, God’s only Son, ought to make us think of the privilege we have in being children of God, through faith in Him (28, 30). And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."
Though it is true, as Luther said "No woman has ever lived on earth to whom God has shown such grace." It is also true that there is no greater privilege than the adoption we have by faith-union into God's family. Remember Luke 8:21 where Jesus said, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." And John 1:12 where we learn that "to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." As great as Mary's privilege was, we must not forget that by grace through faith in Christ, we have becomes God's children, members of his household, brothers and sisters of Jesus and joint-heirs with him.

III. The Mystery of the Virgin Birth, far from a problem for faith, proves the worthiness of God to be worshiped, and the importance of our walking by faith and not by sight (34). And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
Do you have a problem with the idea of a virgin birth? So did Mary! She was befuddled by such a concept. But think about it friends, if you believe in an infinite and omnipotent God, miracles and mysteries shouldn't surprise you. After all, Christians believe that Mary's baby was God in the flesh! Surely that is no less amazing than her virgin conception of him.

IV. The Sovereignty of God is seen in the Angel Gabriel’s answer regarding the Virgin Birth (and the birth of John the Baptist) (37). For nothing will be impossible with God."
How does Gabriel answer Mary's query? "There's nothing God can't do, Mary!" So, faith rests on the truth and reality of the sovereignty of God. As our favorite dead Anglican bishop once said: "Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence" (J.C. Ryle). By the way, this shows at the outset, that our salvation must be all of God and all of grace! If the entrance of the Messiah into the world is marked by a singular, sovereign intervention by God, it serves to remind us that HE will accomplish our salvation, without our aid or assistance. This is his work. His sovereign work. His gracious work. This is the heart of the passage, and a key to the Christian life.

V. The Christian life can be summarized by Mary’s response to Gabriel – God-centered believing, thinking and living, and self-renouncing service (38). And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Mary's response is stunningly mature. Indeed, it's a picture of how the Christian life should be lived. "Let it be according to your Word" about sums it all up, doesn't it. I love how the hymn "Father, I Know That All My Life" captures this idea in its fourth stanza: "In service which thy will appoints there are no bonds for me; my secret heart is taught the truth that makes thy children free; a life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty." (Anna L. Waring).

So while the world offers us worship of stuff and status, and fading pleasures for treasures, and worldy wisdom, and self-reliance and freedom to do as we please, the Gospel offers us solid joys and lasting treasure, because of God's grace to us in Christ Jesus. And thus we have a superior joy. And that joy is expressed and experienced in our (1) life of humility, (2) sense of Gospel privilege, (3) acceptance of mystery, (4) embrace of his sovereignty, and (5) joyful submission to God's will.

1 comment:

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