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Faith Despite Circumstances

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Luke 1:26-56

A Faith Despite Circumstances

v    Have you ever made a decision that could have cost you everything?

In 1516 M. Luther was reading Romans and he got to verses 16-17.  He was struck by those words reiterated by Paul from the book of Habakkuk, “The righteous will live by faith” Those words catapulted Luther into what we call the Reformation. He began by tacking up the famous 95 theses pointing out the errors that existed in the Church at that time, but it quickly snowballed into an all-out reformation

In 1521, just 5 years after it started, Luther was ordered to go before a church council to explain his preaching and writings that were contrary to the church’s teachings.  The site of the council was in the German city of Worms. Here Luther defended his writings before the Emperor Charles and all the dignitaries of the Empire. Towards the end of the council, the Emperor and dignitaries had had enough and demanded that Luther recant all that he had preached and written. And it was then that he made his timeless reply:

I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as day they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture . . . I can and will not retract . . . Here I stand . . . I can do no other. So help me God, Amen!!

This is a great statement of faith in God.  One that looked right into the face of the circumstances and despite them chose God.

There was no reason other than his faith in God that Luther should have made this statement.  His circumstances were faithless.  He was facing excommunication, defrocking and death by uttering those words.  After the council, Luther was declared an outlaw which meant that he could be killed by anyone without threat of punishment. Yet Luther trusted God and His Word more than the threats of man. He made a decision that cost him everything!

In our text today, we have before us a situation similar to the one Luther faced.  An announcement that tests Mary faith in the face of some dire circumstances. An announcement that comes from the messenger angel Gabriel again…

READ 1:26-29

A Faithless Circumstance

Ø     Here we see Gabriel again

§        He has been busy

·        6 months previous he was in the temple with Zechariah

¨     Before that, we meet him one other time is Scripture, 500 years earlier

Ø     But it is interesting what context we see him in

§        turn to Daniel 9:20-27 (pg. 1389)

·        Daniel doing his devotions in Jeremiah

·        Gets to chapter 25 or 29

·        Yahweh comforts him by showing him that the exile is coming to an end

¨     That God is going to restore His people

·        Yahweh then goes further and through the 70 week prophecy shows Daniel that a greater restoration is coming

¨     A spiritual one involving His son, the Anointed One

Ø     He will come to put an end to sin, atone for wickedness, bring everlasting righteousness

v    Gabriel is the Messianic herald

Ø     So it makes sense that Gabriel is sent once again at the coming of the Anointed One

v    Gabriel is sent to a young teenager (12-14) named Mary in the small city of Nazareth

Ø     Nazareth is described by Kent Hughes in his commentary as…

§        A shoddy, corrupt, halfway stop between the port cities of Tyre and Sidon; overrun with Romans and Gentiles

·        Nazareth was a nothing of a town on the backside of Israel

¨     And this is where Gabriel is sent to declare the birth of God’s own son

Ø     Nathaniel in John 1:46

§        Can anything good come from Nazareth?

v    But Gabriel none-the-less is sent to little Nazareth

Ø     And he greets Mary in V. 28

§        This is where the “Hail Mary” comes from

·        I believe this text has misinterpreted by some

¨     They prescribe glory and honor to Mary

Ø     When in fact it is pointing to the honor that she has been given of carrying the savior of the world in her womb

§        Mary has two reactions to what Gabriel said

·        1) She is greatly troubled

¨     She was disturbed as any teen would be having this experience

Ø     But she does something else too…

·        2) She wonders

¨      The literal sense of the Greek word is that she kept pondering the meaning of what Gabriel said

Ø      She mulled it over

§         Continued to think about what Gabriel said

Ø     Used in Lk 3:15 about people pondering whether John was the Christ

v    Mary thought what this message is going to require from her

v    And what this message is going to mean for her

v    What Gabriel states next is what is required from her…

READ 1:30-38

v    Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that she will become pregnant with a very special child

Ø     First, Gabriel announces that He will be the son of the Most High (v. 31)

§         Uses the same language as Isa 7:14

·        The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel

¨     God’s very own son

Ø     Secondly, he tells her that His name is special ~ Jesus

§        Means “Salvation” or “The Lord Saves”

Ø     And lastly, he tells Mary that He will inherit David’s throne and have an eternal kingdom

§        A very clear reference to 2 Sam 7:8-16

·        A watershed in Messianic prophecy

¨     The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son.

v    Mary got the picture

Ø     She understood what was being required from her

§        She was going to become pregnant with the long awaited once and future Davidic king of 2 Samuel

§        The long awaited savior, the Messiah of Isa 7

·        She is not so surprised that the messiah is coming…

¨     But that she will be His mother

Ø     You can imagine what was going through her mind

§        Where to start, what question to ask…

READ v. 34-38

A Faithful Question

v    And she started with a very simple, logical question

Ø     “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

§        Perhaps she knew the Isa 7 text that tells of the virgin birth

·        But haven’t you ever known something for a fact, but still wanted to know how it was accomplished

¨     Illustration: Magic trick

Ø     Tear up 50 dollar bills then unfold it back to original

§        How did he do that?

Ø      That is all Mary was asking, and Gabriel answers her in a very delicate yet mysterious way

§        V. 35 ~ The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you

·        This same mystery that surrounds our first creation out of dust

¨     God is able to bring life where there was none previously

v    It must be noted….

v    Mary asks a question the same as Zechariah…

Ø     The difference is Zechariah’s displays doubt, whereas Mary’s does not

Ø     Zechariah asked for a sign (1:18) “How can I be sure of this?”

§        God does not respond to a “Prove it to me” attitude

·        The spirit of this question is same that we find in Luke 11:16, 29

¨     Others tested Him by asking for a sign

Ø     Wicked generation asks for a sign

v    This approach is a “prove it to me” approach

Ø     God does not honor that      

§        He does not honor that approach

·        We say…“I am not going to do anything until you prove that you are there”

¨     And this is how many people approach faith in Jesus

Ø     Prove it to me

Voltaire is reported to have said, "If a miracle occurred in the market place of Paris and in the presence of two thousand men, I would rather disbelieve my own eyes than the two thousand."

Facts alone, irrespective of how well they are presented, will never bring a man to Christ

v    And that is exactly what Paul is telling the Corinthians

Ø     1 Cor 2:11-12, 14 (pg. 1773)

·        There are truths that you will never understand until you put your faith in Christ

¨     In other words…

Ø     There comes a time where you have to place your faith in Christ to fully understand what Jesus has done for you

§        You can only understand so much pre-conversion!

v    As happens often in Scripture…

Ø     Because Mary trusted God, God gives her a sign

Ø     V. 36 ~ Elizabeth is going to have a supernatural birth as well.

§        Proving that nothing is impossible with God

·        Not Elizabeth’s pregnancy…

¨     Not her miraculous pregnancy

v    That is a lesson that we all need to learn

Shortly after Dallas Seminary was founded in 1924, it came to the point of bankruptcy. All the creditors were going to foreclose at noon on a particular day. That morning, the founders of the school met in the president's office to pray that God would provide. In that prayer meeting was Harry Ironside. When it was his turn to pray, he prayed in his characteristically refreshing manner: "Lord, we know that the cat­tle on a thousand hills are yours. Please sell some of them and send us the money."

While they were praying, a tall Texan came into the business office and said, "I just sold two carloads of cattle in Fort Worth. I've been trying to make a business deal go through and it won't work, and I feel that God is compelling me to give this money to the Seminary. I don't know if you need it or not, but here's the check"

The secretary took the check and, knowing something of the financial seriousness of the hour, went to the door of the prayer meeting and tim­idly tapped. When she finally got a response, Dr. Lewis Chafer took the check out of her hand, and it was for the exact amount of the debt. When he looked at the signature, he recognized the name of the cattle rancher. Turning to Dr. Ironside, he said, "Harry, God sold the cattle!”

v    That is the type of God we serve…a God of the impossible

Ø     But even though Mary had a faithful response…

§        She still had a lot to think about…

·        Her circumstances!

¨     She had to make a decision that could have cost her everything

v    She had to have thought what this message is going to mean for her as a betrothed teenager

§        She was facing grave consequences…

·        She is going to be Pregnant & Unwed

·        Could mean denunciation

¨     Her family could have disowned her

·        Could mean Divorce

¨     What would Joseph think about her situation

Ø     Betrothal much more serious than our engagement

·        Could mean Death ~ Levitical Law

¨     Certainly ostracized in the small town

Ø     We all know that news travels fast in a small town

v    In spite of all these circumstances Mary remained faithful

Ø     She made a decision to trust Yahweh

§        The circumstances of life are always assailing our faith

·        Paul talks about this in Eph 6:13

¨     Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ø     Faithfully standing your ground regardless of circumstances is what the Christian life is all about

Colin Smith, pastor of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois relates the following story…

I have vivid memories as a kid of my father taking me to an auction sale, telling me, "Don't scratch your nose at the wrong time, son." He said to me, "Always remember this: whenever you go to an auction sale, make sure you know your upper limit price."

That is ingrained in me. The great danger for us is that we walk into the Christian life knowing clearly our upper limit price. We like to set our own upper limits. We say, “This much I am willing endure for the Gospel. This much I am willing to give. Only this much embarrassment am I willing to endure”

However, Jesus does not allow us to set that. "If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel's, you will keep it," said Jesus [Mark 8:35].

Our calling is to a life of unconditional obedience where the price is unknown.

v    Even though the upper limits are unknown to Mary…

Ø     She utters one of the most beautiful statements of faith in all of Scripture…

A Faithful Response

Ø     1:38 ~ “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”

§        Ranks right up there with Hab 3:17-18

·        Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

¨     Alex Grant, pioneer missionary to China, gave a short sermon

Ø     Read Hab 17-18 then stated…

§        “What could the Devil do with a man like that?”

 

Ø     The answer is…nothing!

§        If you have the attitude of “Regardless of circumstances, I will stand with the Lord”

·        There is nothing that Satan and his minions can do to you

¨     And this is exactly the attitude Mary displays when she says…

Ø     “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”

v    RQ: But how was she able to have this incredible faith in God?

Ø     Simple…She knew the God who she worshipped

§        READ v. 46-56

 

v    Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth

Ø     The baby leapt in Elizabeth’s womb

§         And Elizabeth confirms the sign Gabriel gave her by saying

·        V. 45 ~ Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

v    In response to that Mary bursts out into one of the most beautiful songs of faith in Scripture…The Magnificat

Ø     Q: How was she able to have this incredible faith in God?

Ø     The Magnificat shows that she knew the God who she worshipped

§        Mary knew what God had said

·        She knew God’s Word

¨     Modeled after Hannah’s great prayer song after the miracle birth of Samuel

¨     12 OT references

Ø     How many people today could recite 12 Bible verses

A New England teacher quizzed a group of college-bound high-school juniors and seniors on the Bible. The quiz preceded a "Bible as Literature" class he planned to teach at Newton High School in Massachusetts, generally considered one of the better public schools in the nation. Among the most unusual answers from his students were: "Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers" and "Jezebel was Ahab's donkey."

Other students thought that the four horsemen appeared "on the Acropolis," that the New Testament Gospels were written by Mat­thew, Mark, "Luther," and John, that Eve was created "from an apple," and that Jesus was "baptized by Moses." The answer that took the misinformation prize was given by a fellow who was academically in the top 5 percent of the graduating class. The question: "What was Golgotha?" The answer: "Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the apostle David.”

§        Although these are funny to hear, It is sad to realize the Bible illiteracy

·        And knowing God’s Word is the bedrock of our faith

¨     How can we have faith in a God we know nothing about!?

Secondly…

v    Q: How was Mary able to have this incredible faith in God?

§        She remembered what God had done

·        [He] has done great things (v. 49)

·        He has performed mighty deeds (v. 51)

¨     Recalling everything from the exodus, to the Judges, to the conquest of the Promised Land, to the return from exile

·        We need to recall the great deeds of God in our life

¨     Illustration:

Ø     Back from Japan

Ø     God pursued me

§        Drew me back

v    Q: How was she able to have this incredible faith in God?

§        She knew God

·        Look at how she describes God…

¨     Merciful

¨     Generous

¨     Faithful to the Covenant

¨     Holy

¨     All-Powerful

Ø     Can we declare this about God in our lives?

§        I hope so!

¨     And most importantly…Savior

Ø     And this is the all-important way in which we can know God

§        Through Jesus as savior

Ø     Mary recognized the need for a savior

§        May we all recognize that we are in dire need

·        And come to the knowledge that Jesus is..

¨     The way the truth and the life

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