Sunday, December 17, 2006

3rd Sunday - Advent - FAITH

WELCOME

We welcome you to the House of Faith Ministries, if you are visiting.

We are temporarily stopping our current sermon series entitled, “Our Constitution & Bylaws”, so that we may have an Advent Sermon Series for the month of December in preparation for our Christmas Eve.

The first Sunday in Advent focused on HOPE, and we spoke on the Hope of the Wise men.

Last Sunday was PEACE / COURAGE and we spoke on the Courage of Joseph.

Today we are going to look at the FAITH of Mary.

SCRIPTURE READING

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.”


The Main Idea

The Faith of Mary is revealed in the Christmas story.

· Mary Was A Teen Believer
· Mary Was an Honored Believer
· Mary Was A Courageous Believer

Mary teaches us that we too can be used by God to change the world.

We learn from her that . . .

· Faith is not age-dependent. (You’re never too old or too young!)
· Faith positions us to be part of the greatest event in all human history.
· Faith means do what God says regardless of the cost.

INTRODUCTION

· Jessica Simpson
· Kelly Clarkston
· Hillary Duff

If you recognize those names it is likely that you have a teen in your home.

These are the celebrities who fit into the category of “I wanna be her!”

They are pretty. They are successful. They are famous. We all agree, most girls would like to be like them?

But watch that list and you will find that it changes overnight.

Names come and go so quickly it can make your head spin. While a few stars have staying power, a girl who is cool and popular today may be forgotten tomorrow.

Today we are going to talk about a teenage girl who will never be forgotten.

She has been popular with every generation and every culture where people have gotten to know her. Her name is Mary, and she tends to get a lot of media exposure every year around Christmas time.

In most ways, Mary did not fit the normal criteria we use in ascribing celebrity status to someone.

We know that she was not wealthy.

We don’t know how attractive Mary was.

And she was unknown outside of her home town.

But there was something about Mary that captures our attention and affection. She had an inner beauty that impressed even God!

Her inner beauty was so powerful that she was chosen to become the mother of the greatest celebrity of all times: Jesus, the King of kings.

One way to describe Mary’s inner beauty is to talk about her faith, for it was her faith that made Mary stand out from all the other contenders in the pageant to select the mother of the King. As we read just the first part of her story we discover that

· Mary Was a Teen Believer
· Mary Was an Honored Believer
· Mary Was a Courageous Believer

Mary teaches us that we too can be used by God to change the world. We learn from her that . . .

· Faith is not age-dependent.
· Faith positions us to be part of the greatest event in all human history.
· Faith means do what God says regardless of the cost.





MARY WAS A TEEN BELIEVER
(Faith is not age-dependent)

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

Mary Had Mature Faith Even As A Teenager!

As we read this story, we are impressed at how mature Mary’s faith was at such an early age. Mary was a teenager when the angel appeared to her, most Biblical scholars agree, between thirteen and fifteen years of age, which was the typical age for engagement, or betrothal.

The message he brought would change her life in a radical way but she responded with such strong faith that we have to conclude she had been cultivating it for quite some time.

Many of the heroes of the faith in the Bible had a strong faith in God at an early age. Think of . . .

· Samuel. God called him when he was but a young boy and he responded with childlike faith

· David. As a teenager he attributed his success over a lion and a bear to the Lord. He defeated Goliath because rather than fixing his eyes on the giant he saw the greater reality of the presence of the Lord of the Armies of heaven and Israel.

· Daniel was perhaps only 16 when he and his companions were taken into captivity. Yet, despite their youth, they had such a deep faith in the Lord they were willing to face death rather than worship false gods.

Faith is not age-dependent!

You don’t have to wait until you are old to become a hero of the faith.

In fact, age will not guarantee anything at all.

Many young people are more mature spiritually than people decades older than them.

The book of Ecclesiastes urges us to start following God when we are young (12:1)!

Mary Believed In The Personal God of Israel!

The key sentence I want to emphasize here is: The Lord is with you.

Mary’s faith was not in a creed or a religion or a denomination.

She believed in the Lord God of Israel.

Sadly, the same could not be said of most of the religious leaders of Israel at that time. They had a relationship with their religion rather than a relationship with the Lord

A personal relationship with the Lord God is what sets Biblical faith apart from the religions of the world.

The writer to the Hebrews, in describing faith said:

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

God is a person, not a power or force without consciousness (He can be pleased) and faith begins when we believe that He exists and that His basic orientation toward us is to reward us, not punish us.

Hear that again: reward us, not punish us.

God is love, and the central command of the Bible is that we should love Him in return.

Why do we feel sometimes that God is punishing?

Because life in general can attack us, come against us. Bad things happen to good people.

But the reality is this; Jesus said “I came into the world, not to condemn, but to save.”

If we do not turn to Christ, we live in condemnation, because the world in Jesus’ words has already been judged and condemned, and those who are without Christ will perish with the World.

What we sometimes think is God’s punishment in our lives, is more likely the results of the fall, and condemnation which incurred from it as opposed to God’s punishing.

Jesus came to save, not condemn.


It is clear that Mary responded to God’s love and believed in God.

Today, we do the same thing when we believe in Jesus Christ. As this passage will teach us Jesus is God who became a man.

The Bible explains that He did so in order to take the punishment of our sins and to offer us eternal life.

Jesus Himself said:

John 3:16 – 18

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

As an ambassador for Jesus, I urge you to believe in Him now!

You do not have to change your life first.

You don’t have to wait until you’re older.

In fact, follow Mary’s example – she had mature faith even as a young teenage girl.

Now, in order to appreciate the strength of her faith we must observe that Mary was a virgin when the angel visited her.


Mary Was A Virgin!

The young woman to whom the angel was sent was a virgin – a young woman who had not yet had sexual relations.

The Greek word (parthenos) may be translated “girl” or “virgin” but, in this context virgin is the correct translation because in verse 34 that fact that Mary had no sexual intercourse is stressed.

The angel’s message was that Mary was about to become pregnant by supernatural, not natural, means.

The virgin birth is not an incidental fact about Jesus – it is central to the fact that He was at once both God and man!

Only as God could Jesus reveal God to us (Hebrews 1)

Only as God could He take upon himself the sin of the world

Only as man could he identify with our humanity, weakness and temptation (Hebrews 2:18)

Only as God and man can He stand as our advocate before the throne of God (Hebrews 4:14-5:3)

Mary Was Engaged to Be Married.


Mary was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.

Since betrothal often took place soon after puberty, Mary may have just entered her teens.

This must have been a wonderful time in life for Mary as was making preparations for her wedding day. But the angel’s announcement was going to throw her wedding plans into chaos.

According to Jewish law, betrothal established a legal relationship between a man and a woman, binding upon both parties (Deuteronomy 20:7; 22:23-27).

It took place after the conclusion of the marriage-contract between the parents, and was performed by the exchange of something of a certain value between the parties.

The interval between betrothal and marriage was usually one year, during which time the woman and her property judicially already belonged to her future husband, and unfaithfulness on her part was considered adultery.

According to Old Testament Law the penalty for adultery was death by stoning!

However, because Israel was at this time under Roman domination, the Jews did not have the authority to carry out capital punishment.

So Mary did not face death but she faced divorce, for that is what it took to terminate an engagement to be married.

She also faced the social shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

Joseph was a descendant of David.

To the Jewish ear, this was a significant fact, for God had promised that His promised King would be born of the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:11-16).

Although Joseph was not Jesus’ physical father, Jesus would have a legal claim to the throne of David through the right of adoption.

MARY WAS AN HONORED BELIEVER

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

The angel declared that Mary was highly favored, a declaration that is repeated in verse 30 “you have found favor with God.”

The word favor comes from the root word for grace. Mary was not being rewarded for something she had done but was being selected by God for a special purpose and blessing.

The angel would explain that her supernatural pregnancy was the grace gift God was about to give her.

While Mary did not earn the right to be selected for this honor, there can be no doubt that God selected Mary because of character qualities He saw in her and because of her faith in Him.

The Angel Declared That God Was With Mary

This was to reassure her that she would not be alone as she undertook the task ahead.

The angel of the Lord told Gideon that the Lord would be with him when he was sent out to save Israel from the Midianites (Judges 6:12).

The same thing had been said about David when God the Spirit fell upon him and empowered him to lead Israel.

As an unwed mother, Mary faced the possibility of rejection by Joseph, her own family and the community.

But she would never be alone, for the Lord would be with her.

In a similar way, those who follow Jesus are never alone.

God will never send you to do something in service of Him without providing the resources and support you need. When He commissioned us to make disciples of the nations, Jesus reassured us that He would be with us to the very end of the age (Mathew 28:16-20).

Paul writes that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:31-39).

Only one person was chosen to bear the child who would become King.

But everyone who believes in Jesus becomes part of God’s most amazing work in all human history – that of bearing the news of Jesus to all the people of the world.

MARY WAS A COURAGEOUS BELIEVER

Luke 1:29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”


The third aspect of Mary’s faith was how courageous she was in obeying God.

Try to imagine what the experience was like for Mary. Her world was about to be shattered.

· She would have to face her fiancĂ©, her family and her neighbors with the news that she was pregnant – news which meant she could be stoned for adultery.

· But when she tried to explain to them that God was the Father of the child, she could be stoned for blasphemy!

How difficult it would have been for Mary to tell her parents and future husband that she was pregnant.

Mary Was Understandably Startled

Mary was greatly troubled, bewildered by the angel’s words and was understandably afraid.

We’re not told what form the angel took when he appeared to Mary but when Zechariah, the husband of Mary’s cousin, was visited by an angel he was “startled and gripped with fear” (Matthew 1:12).

The angel told Mary to not be afraid and reassured her that she had found favor with God. Then he made his amazing prediction.

The Angel Delivered God’s Word To Mary

Try to hear his words as Mary first heard them:

You will be with child and give birth to a son.

For most of us, it is a joyful moment when we hear that we are pregnant. And today, we can find out fairly early in the process whether the baby is going to be a boy or a girl.

But Mary found out she was to have a boy even before she got pregnant!

You are to give him the name Jesus. Mary was to give her baby a name that was very common among the Jews.

In Hebrew, it was a form of Jeshua, Joshua or Jehoshua.

The name is a contraction of two words “Yahweh” and “shua” and means “Yahweh saves,” or “Yahweh is savior.”

Joseph would be told in a dream that the child was to be names Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The angel now declares that this child would be quite literally divine!

He will be called great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

The “Most High” is God, as verse 35 makes clear when the angel says He will be called the Son of God!

Being the “son of” someone meant that you shared that person’s bloodline, or as we now know, their DNA. While God, of course, has no bloodline, the statement meant that Jesus shared the same spiritual essence as God. He has Deity!

And He would fulfill God’s promise to send Israel a Messiah, the One who would forever occupy the office of King of Israel.

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Every Jewish man and woman would have recognized these words as referring to the promised Messiah (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2).

Mary could not have fully understood what she was told. Her human son would be divine and would serve as King over a never-ending kingdom.

Luke tells us that when Mary learned something new about Jesus she treasured what she had heard and pondered it in her heart (Luke 2:19).

But first, she wanted to understand how she could possibly get pregnant!

Mary Asked For An Explanation Of How She Would Fall Pregnant


Luke 1:34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary’s question was not one of unbelief! She believed what she was told. She didn’t even ask for some kind of confirmation, as Zechariah had. She simply didn’t understand how she could possibly become pregnant.

She did not laugh, as Sarah had laughed when she was told she was going to bear a son. She did not dismiss the angel’s words. She simply asked for clarification about something she believed was going to happen.

The question arises, why did Mary anticipate having a baby before she had sexual relations?

When told she was going to have a son, why did she not simply assume that the angel meant she would have a baby after she and Joseph were married?

It is doubtful she had Isaiah 7:14 in mind, in which God said a virgin would give birth to a son and call him Immanuel.

But something in the tone of the angel’s message led her to understand that she would immediately fall pregnant, before she was married.

The angel answered Mary’s question by explaining that . . .
Mary Would Become Pregnant Through The Miracle-Working Power of The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit would come upon Mary and create the child within her womb. That is why the child will be the holy one who is called the Son of God.

The image of the Most High overshadowing Mary reminds us of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the deep at creation (Genesis 1:2). We also recall the cloud of the glory of the lord that descended upon the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34, 35).

Although Mary had not asked for a sign, the angel offered proof to Mary of God’s power by pointing out that . . .

Elizabeth’s Pregnancy Was Proof Of God’s Power

With quiet faith Mary accepted the angel’s explanation and submitted herself to the Lord.

Mary Obeyed The Lord

Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Knowing the enormous price she was about to pay, Mary surrendered herself first to the Lord and then to His plan. Notice that although we have made much of the cost to Mary, she says not a word of it!

She said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

There’s a wonderfully childlike aspect to her faith.

With absolute trust Mary bows herself to the will of God and declares herself to be His servant. Her words must have brought great joy to the heart of God. He has always longed for His people to give themselves so unreservedly to Him.

Mary also surrendered herself to the Lord’s plan for her life, as costly as it was going to be: “May it be to me as you have said.”

Paul praised the Macedonian churches for following the same sequence when they gave sacrificially to help other Christians in need:

2 Corinthians 8:5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.

They gave themselves first to the Lord, then they gave their money.

God wants us to first give Him ourselves and then give Him our obedience.

In all of history there is only one man who bears the honor of being the first man to walk on the moon. In fact, he is the only man ever to walk on any other heavenly body than earth. No-one else can lay claim to that fame, and no-one else will ever be able to. This unique place in all of human history belongs solely to Neil Armstrong.

In all of history there was only one woman chosen for the honor of giving birth to the King of kings. While generations of women may have desired the honor, it was reserved for just one woman. That unique place in all of human history belongs solely to Mary. But we can participate in the ongoing miracle of bearing Jesus to all the world.


The Word of God was designed to lead us into an ever deepening relationship with God.

So, let’s follow in Mary’s footsteps of faith.

Have You Begun To Believe In God?

The question is: what will you decide concerning Jesus? I urge you to believe in Jesus and begin your eternal life now!

Is Your Faith Based Upon The Word Of God?

In this story we see the principle that faith is always based upon the Word of God. Biblical faith always has an object, it is not some kind of free-floating phenomenon. Faith is a response to a declaration by God or about God.

For the Christian, faith is never a blind leap! It is always an informed step of trust. Faith always has an objective basis – it is always based upon the Word of God! Read carefully the description of faith given in Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

The source of what we hope for and what we do not see is the same source that tells us that the universe was formed at God’s command: the Word of God!

Faith is a choice we make to believe and obey something God has said.


If God has said it – you can believe it!

But do you know what God has said?

Go to the source to find out for yourself by reading the Bible daily.

Are You Bowed To the Will Of God?

If God has told you to do something – you can do it!

Jesus told us that without Him we can do nothing but that if we connect ourselves to Him the way a branch connects to a vine, then with Him nothing is impossible.

If God has told you to do something – do it now!

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