WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?

WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Where is God in this crazy worldWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we’re in Luke 2 for our message titled – “WHERE IS GOD IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?” Lately, it seems as if our world is getting crazier everyday – ISIS terrorists, Ebola virus, high unemployment, and low morality. People are wondering – where is God in all this? Is He just sitting up there twiddling his thumbs? Has He lost control of the world He created? This morning we will look back 2000 years ago when Jesus was born into a world that was just as crazy. We will see that God is very much in control today as He was back then. His plan is always accomplished in heaven and on earth.

Luke 2 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”

Overall Background: I was talking to someone last week and this person said, “This world is getting crazier every day. I’m just ready for Jesus to come and get us out.” Two things wrong with that statement: First, to this person, this is the worst that this world has ever been. This morning’s message will teach us that it’s been worse before. Jesus’ coming for the church is not dependent on how bad the world gets. He can come any moment. Second, to this person, the world was like a building on fire that could collapse any moment, and God was like a rescue worker on the outside too afraid to go in. God is much more sovereign than that. Application: Have you wondered lately – where is God in this crazy world? Why doesn’t He just destroy the wicked? Why doesn’t He just end this world? I’m here to tell you that God is working powerfully in this crazy world but you won’t find Him if you look for Him in pomp, show, lights, and noise. He is working gently and powerfully in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Now, here’s a question – Is He working in your life? Have you welcomed Him in your life? If not, today is the day you can invite Him.

This morning we will first look at the crazy world in which Jesus was born and then we will see how God has been working in this world.

I. THE WORLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN CRAZY. Luke 2 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου, ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. Who was Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. His birth name was actually Octavius. He was the Assassination of Julius Caesar great nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the dictator of Rome (48 BC – 44 BC, four years) until his enemies assassinated him on the Ides of March (March 15). Octavius took this as his opportunity to ascend to the throne. He wasn’t much of a soldier so he linked up with Mark Anthony and Marcus Lepidus and began avenging the death of Julius Caesar. He was brutal and did not spare any who stood up to him.

Octavius was very ambitious. He even had coins minted with Julius Caesar’s image on one side with the words “the God Julius” and his image on the other side with the words “Caesar, Son of a God.” He was not satisfied with being one of three and so he first got rid of Lepidus. Then, he defeated Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, who committed suicide along with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. They knew what would happen if they fell into the hands of Octavius. Now, Octavius was the only man standing. He was powerful and cruel, to say the least. He established the Pretorian Guard – private bodyguards of 5000 soldiers. The Senate was afraid of him Augustus Divi Fand gave him power over the proconsuls and the armies. They even made him “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest of the state religion. Their own position was reduced to being just advisors.

But there’s more – remember when Octavius defeated Mark Anthony. There were provinces in Asia that had supported Mark Anthony. Now Octavius was in power and they were going to pay for that. Very quickly delegations came from city of Pergamum and the city of Nicaea informing him that they were going to make him a god and needed his permission to build temples in his name. Of course, Octavius said, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. But, if you insist….” Two years later, the senate even gave him the title we find in Luke 2:1 – Augustus, which means “great” as in god. He became Caesar Augustus, not only the Emperor of Rome but also a god who had been appointed by the will of the other gods. It was in his hands to bring the “pax Caesar Augustusdeorum” or the peace of the gods to the mortals on the earth. He was the incarnation of all the gods. He was the savior.

The people loved him. He expanded the Roman Empire, rebuilt temples and public buildings, reorganized the Senate, and brought opportunities to the people. He was so popular that Roman men even adopted his hairstyle. For the first time there was peace in the world, as long as you didn’t oppose Octavius. One scholar noted that never before in the history of the world was a man worshipped like Octavius – Caesar Augustus.

Some of you are saying – how come we’ve never heard of him? Have you ever looked at the calendar? The sixth month is named after the god Julius Caesar and the seventh month is named after Caesar Augustus – August.

Why did he want the world to be registered? Taxes. More money was needed to fund the growing army – 28 legions, each legion had over 5000 soldiers. More money was needed to fund Rome and fill the coffers of the god Augustus. But, there’s something more – Herod the king of Judea had made Octavius mad and this was his way of proving a point to Herod that he was the boss. Amazing isn’t it? Everybody’s life is turned upside just so an egomaniac can prove a point. So verse 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 2 Αὕτη ἡ ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου. 3 Καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν.

In short, Jesus was born in a world ruled by a cruel, egomaniac who thought he was god and didn’t think one bit about uprooting people and turning their lives upside down. This was the Crazy World – power, intimidation, cruelty, propaganda, brutality, show, dazzle, and everything demonic.

II. GOD ALWAYS ACCOMPLISHES HIS SOVEREIGN WILL.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 4 Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρέτ, εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν, εἰς πόλιν Δαυίδ, ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ, 5 ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ μεμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ γυναικί, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ. Joseph and Mary Bethlehem

Background: Caesar Augustus – claiming to be god, emperor of the world commanding everyone to go to their hometown – does not realize that he is just a pawn in the Master Plan of God. This was all part of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

God is not unaware of all that is happening in the world. He knows everything and He works all things towards His divine purpose. Job 42 1 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Daniel 2:20 “…Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings…”

Application: Are you afraid of what’s happening in this world? Are you discouraged by what you hear on the news? Just know that God is in complete control. Everything is falling into His divine purpose, whether in the world or in your life.

III. GOD ALWAYS COMES IN HUMILITY AND GRACE.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. Typically people think that Joseph and Mary just arrived Manger Nativityin Bethlehem and couldn’t find any room in the local motel. Not true. They were there for a few days before she went into labor. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ, ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν. 7 Καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

The word for inn is “kataluma,” which is guestroom. Joseph and Mary were probably staying with some friends and couldn’t find any privacy and had to deliver Jesus in the family room. Unlike Caesar Augustus who was living in the lap of luxury, the King of Kings had to spend his first night where the animals were tied. God’s ways are not of pomp and show and lights and noise but humility and meekness. The world looks for a conquering hero on a white horse who would destroy the wicked. People are still looking for a leader who will step to the plate, with charisma and charm, and wrong the rights and fix all the craziness but God’s way hasn’t changed. God’s way is the way of the manger – the way of humility.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Background: Roman society was divided into many classes. You were born into your class and there’s nothing you could do to get out if it. Unlike Augustus who surrounded himself with powerful elites, God came to those who were the lowest. Shepherds were a smelly lot. They were dirty but they were on God’s mailing list.

Application: Do you think that you don’t deserve the grace of God? His grace is available to you.

IV. GOD’S WAY IS ALWAYS ONE PERSON TELLING ANOTHER.

shepherds nativity11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

That is still God’s Way – the angels told the shepherds, the shepherds came and saw, the shepherds went and told others, and the others marveled. Are you afraid of what’s happening in this world? Are wondering where God is in all this? He is perfectly in charge and His plan keeps moving. The real question is do you know Him as your Savior?

GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING

GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

GOD'S WAY AND GOD'S TIMINGThis morning I’m preaching a message titled, “GOD’S WAY AND GOD’S TIMING” in our ongoing series on the life of Christ from all four gospels. Trials are part of life. That’s a given. How you handle trials depends on how you see God in your trials. Many people don’t wait upon God or his timing. They do whatever they want to do. Instead of waiting for supernatural solution, they find natural solutions to fix their problems. The prophecy of the Virgin birth or virginal conception was given to remind us that God’s way and God’s timing are always perfect.

Isaiah 7 10 Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” 13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. 17 The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.”

Overall Background: The Book of Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth gospel. The Latin father Jerome (A.D. 342-420) said that Isaiah “should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet because he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the Church so clearly that you would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying about what is to come.” That is true. Isaiah gave the prophecy that a virgin will give birth to a child and he would be called Emmanuel. It was given at a time when God’s people were facing invasion from every direction – from the South, Edom was attacking; from the West, Philistia was attacking; and from the north and northeast, Ephraim and Syria were building a coalition against Judah. God was aware of all this and He sent Isaiah to King Ahaz to remind him that everything will be okay. God will take care of His people. Instead of trusting God’s way and God’s timing, Ahaz decided to do it his way. He decided to call upon the king of Assyria to come to his rescue. It was as one commentator said – “taking a tiger by the tail.” Assyria came and captured Syria, destroyed Ephraim/Samaria, sent the Northern tribe into exile, never to return, and almost wiped out the Southern kingdom of Judah. Only by the grace of God, they survived but for a short while longer.

Does all this sound familiar? Isn’t this how we do it? We face a crisis. God tells us to choose His way and to wait on His timing but we refuse to trust him and do it our way and the consequences are devastating. We make a total mess for ourselves and for those who are dependent on us. But God in his grace and goodness still works is greater plan for our lives. The prophecy of the virgin birth was given as a promise that even though everything will be destroyed that one day God will redeem his people.

This morning some of you are facing a crisis or facing the consequences of not trusting God in your crisis. Look to God. Wait upon him. Trust his way and his timing. Even if you’ve messed up, don’t lose hope. God has a plan. You may have to face some consequences of your decisions but God can still work his greater plan for your life.

So let’s walk through Isaiah 7 and understand God’s way and God’s timing.

1. A BIG PROBLEM – WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it.

Background: The historical account we just read took place around 734 BC. The people of Israel were divided into the northern kingdomSyro-Ephraimite Invasion and the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom were the 10 tribes in the northern part of Israel, led by the tribe of Ephraim and the southern kingdom were the two tribes in the southern part of Israel (Judah and Benjamin) led by the tribe of Judah. It all began after Solomon died and the tribes to the north chose their own king against the tribe of Judah in the South. The Northern Kingdom became known as Israel and the southern kingdom became known as Judah.

Let’s read again verse 1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it.

What a sad sight! Pekah, King of Israel, had made an alliance with Rezin, king of Syria, to fight against Ahaz, king of Judah. Both Pekah and Ahaz were sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but Pekah had turned to their enemies in the north to fight against their brothers in the South.

It is shameful, disgraceful, and sinful when God’s people fight against their own brothers and sisters. Church conflicts break the heart of God. Church conflicts stifle the work of God. Church conflicts give the enemy a stronghold among the people of God.

The first invasion was not successful and in verse 2 And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.

What a powerful imagery! Have you ever seen trees blowing in the wind during a storm? They bend and sway and even break. They are unpredictable. The people of Judah along with their King were in a great crisis.

Jeremiah 17 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Application: How do you respond to crisis in your life? Is your hope in the Lord? Are you planted in him?

2. A WISE PLEA – DON’T WORRY. GOD HAS THIS.

3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son…” Why did God say take your son? Shear-jashub means “a remnant will return.” Children are a sign of hope. They are a reminder that life will go on. We have a lot of children at Clearview. It’s not accidental. It is intentional. They are not in the way. They are the way. When we start caring for our children in our church and in our nation, then we have hope for the future.

“…at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field,

Why is the King hanging out at the aqueduct? He is concerned about the water supply in Jerusalem. He wants to make sure that if there is a siege that his people have water to survive. He is taking every precaution possible to be ready for the coming invasion. Nothing wrong with that.

4 and say to him: “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.

What a wonderful word of comfort from God! What a powerful imagery! In other words – they are blowing smoke. Don’t worry about them. Instead, be careful and stay calm.

Some of you need to hear that – be careful and stay calm. Don’t start scheming. Don’t start screaming. Just stand back and watch the salvation of the Lord. Just like God told their forefathers when they left Egypt and came to the Red SeaExodus 14 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Just like Jesus with his disciples during the storm – Mark 4 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39   Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

Then it goes on in verse 5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel” (There’s a play on words here. Tabiel means “my God is good” but Tabeel means “good for nothing.”) 7 thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass… (In 65 years Ephraim ceased to exist.) 9 “…If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.” ’ ”

Application: Are you in need of encouragement today? God’s word to you is – be careful and stay calm. You’ll be okay. Are you willing to see the salvation of the Lord?

3. A FOOLISH PRESUMPTION – NAH, I GOT THIS.

10   Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!”

Background: Now God does not like people who test Him but here the situation was different. God was asking Ahaz to ask Him for a sign. But Ahaz was trying to sound spiritual but he really wasn’t. More than likely, he had already sent off his envoy/ambassadors to King Pul.

These are the type of people when you tell them that you’ll be praying for them. They say – “Uh huh nothing wrong with praying.” They want to do it their way. They write off God’s way as being naive.

Application: Are you a superficial Christian? Are you one of those who already have their minds made up? Are you the type who looks at Christians as being naïve and stupid?

4. A MUCH GREATER PROMISE – NO YOU DON’T HAVE THIS; BUT I WILL DO WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO HELP YOU.

Is. 7:13   Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Background: The Bible does not give much information to us on who the virgin was that Isaiah was referring to. She could have been a young woman, probably in Ahaz’s palace/harem, who was pregnant at the time.

Tiglath-pileser III15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. 17 The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.” 18 And it shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will whistle for the fly That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Meaning: When the prophecy of the virgin birth was first given, it was a promise of judgment. But in God’s divine plan, there is mercy in judgment. There was an underlying promise that another virgin will conceive of the Holy Spirit and give birth. His name shall be called Jesus because Matthew 1 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

God always has a plan, a much greater plan. Even when we disobey and go our own way, He still brings the message of salvation to us. He brings Jesus to us. Do you know Him?

SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK

SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Sacrifice The Missing Link

This morning we are in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1 for our series on the life of Christ from all four Gospels. Today’s message is titled “SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK.” If there is one thing lacking in our culture today, it is sacrifice. We do what is expected of us and maybe a tad bit more but that’s it. Sadly, this is also true of many Christians. In today’s message we will see from the life of Joseph what true sacrifice looks like.

Matt. 1   18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Overall Background: The passage we just read has been rejected and ridiculed by some people. They ask – “How can a virgin give birth? It is physically impossible. Miracles don’t happen.” Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, said, “The Virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.” In other words, miracles like the virgin birth are for the naïve and uninformed. A German NT scholar Gerd Lüdemann, who does not believe in miracles, put it in a witty and terse statement: “The tomb was full and the manger empty.”

How do you convince people like them that miracles are possible? The place to begin is by asking, “Do you believe in God?” If you can believe that there is a God who created nature, then you can also believe that nature is subjected to Him. Miracles are simply nature being subjected to its Creator. He can do whatever He wants to. Not only did God perform the miracle of the virgin birth but He is still in the miracle working business. Do you believe that? He is still healing the sick, answering prayers, making the impossible possible, and the greatest miracle of all – changing a sinner’s heart.

According to the Pew Research in 2013, 73% of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth.

But there is another issue in this passage that often gets overlooked – it is sacrifice. In this passage we come across Joseph – an unsuspecting spectator who became part of the greatest drama in history. Like Mary, he too had to sacrifice his reputation, comfort, and goals in life for the coming of Jesus. Sadly, we’re living in a time when people cut corners, do the minimum, play it safe, and bailout early. More sadly, it is even among Christians.

Application: Would you describe yourself as a selfish or as a sacrificial person? Even better, would others describe you? How will people describe you when you’re gone? “He always got his way.” “She always got what she wanted.” If someone compels you to go a mile, do you go two? If someone tried to take away your tunic, do you also let them have your cloak? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ? Are you willing to lay down your life so that someone else may find Jesus Christ? By the way, have you truly understood the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross? Until you do, your standards of sacrifice will be too low.

This morning as we look at the example of Joseph, let the Holy Spirit challenge you to sacrifice your life for others. If you do not know Jesus Christ, receive His sacrifice for your sins today.

1. HE SHOWED MERCY WHEN HE DIDN’T HAVE TO.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Background: Mary was pregnant and Joseph her fiancé was not the father. This was not good. The penalty for adultery according to the Old Testament was death by stoning but the Romans had abolished all Jewish capital punishments. The worst they could do was divorce, public humiliation, and shunning. Mary would probably never marry again. She could live in the community but as a pariah. Also keep in mind that she was Nazareth, a tiny community of 150-200 people at the time, mostly of priestly lineage, the holier than thou. Do you remember Nathaniel’s remark to Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Even Jesus felt their hate when He came to teach in their synagogue. In Matthew 13 they said, 55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son? (They did not even deem it worthy to use Joseph’s name.) Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6 even adds, “And He (Jesus) marveled because of their unbelief.” Even God was shocked at their hateful and unbelieving spirit.

So you can only imagine what Mary was up against in Nazareth. They would have looked down on her, shunned her, called her names, and Joseph - a just mandone every evil behavior imaginable to her. Joseph could give her a public divorce and cleared his name but he decided to put her away quietly. I can imagine his family and his friends telling him, “Joseph, she isn’t worth it. Why are you staking your reputation over her? People will think – you did it. Make it public. Let her suffer. Let her be an example.”

Application: If you were Joseph, what would you have done? Would you have listened to the crowd? Would you have publicly humiliated Mary? Or, would you have compassion on her? It is natural to look down on others and judge them. The first step to a life of sacrifice is to do what doesn’t come naturally. That’s what God did for us.

2. HE BELIEVED WHEN IT WAS HARD TO.

20 “But while he thought about these things…” What is Joseph thinking? I know I can leave this girl and move on with my life. No one is going to blame me but what will this do to her? How does God want me to handle this? Will He be pleased by my decision?

Application: Do you think about what God wants you to do? Do you think about the decisions you make? Do you think about how your decisions impact the lives of others?

NativityAs he was thinking – 20 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Now, let me clarify – by Virgin birth, we’re not talking about the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

By Virgin birth, we are referring to the virginal conception. It simply means that Mary became pregnant with the baby Jesus without any relationship with any man. It was a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah. Someone asked me – “Do you have to understand the virgin birth to be saved?” No – the thief didn’t know it. But if someone were to explain it to you as a Christian, you better believe it.

What was Joseph’s reaction? 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, Joseph could have dismissed the dream and gone about his life but he submitted himself to God’s plan. Many times we cannot understand God’s plan. We want to take the easy way out but there’s so much peace in trusting God’s plan. It is a sacrifice that is worth it.

Illustration: Dad refusing to go to the big church in order to take the small church in an obscure part of the country. Why? Because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Application: How would you have responded to that vision? Would have taken God at His Word? Would you have taken the narrow road? There’s so much joy in saying – “not my will but Your’s be done.” The buck stops with the Word of God.

3. HE STAYED WHEN HE COULD HAVE BAILED OUT.

25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: We read that verse so quickly without thinking of it. The angel had commanded Joseph in verse 21 And she will bring forth aJoseph naming baby Son, and you (Joseph) shall call His name JESUS (Yahweh is salvation)…” Joseph could have hung out until Mary had the baby and then slipped out. It’s too much. It’s not what I signed up for. He had to stick around and give this baby who was not His own, the birthright of being the first-born.

People like to say – “I’m just not going to promise anything. That way, if I don’t show up, you can’t blame me for it.”

Application: Do you sacrifice for your family, church family, lost, and others?

We can never sacrifice too much. Jesus did that!

Do you know Him? Have you received His sacrifice for your sins?

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