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A Troubling Word

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Prayer

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a Word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

The Grace of God

When the learned, and wealthy John Selden was dying he said to Archbishop Usher, “I have surveyed most of the learning that is among the sons of men, and my study is filled with books and manuscripts (he had 8000 volumes in his library) on various subjects. But at present I cannot recollect any passage out of all my books and papers whereon I can rest my soul, save this from the sacred Scriptures:

“’The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purity unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works’ ” (Titus 2:14).

Luke 1:26–29 ESV
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. 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.
She was not troubled at the appearance of the angel of the Lord; she was troubled at the word that he spoke. What awaits you when “the Lord is with you?”
Luke 1:30–33 ESV
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
An engaged woman - a virgin - is told that she is going to be a mom, and not just any mom, she’s going to be mother of “the Son of the Most High,” the heir to “the throne of His father David!” Maybe you wouldn’t know what that means, but she did!
Luke 1:34 ESV
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Lit - Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω; . The word, “andra,” can mean either a man in general, or a husband. Most translations that I have read give it the more general reading, but either would be acceptable, because she was a good fiance - she and Joseph were waiting for the wedding day!
That’s why her question, unlike Zechariah’s “How shall I know this?” about John, was met, not with a judgment, but with an explanation. She wanted to know how this was to come to pass; was she supposed to veer from her obedience and honor of her father and mother and go to Joseph?
When God tells you that He is going to do something, the first thing that you must know is that He is watching over His Word to perform it, not to break it. God will not lead you to sin in order to do His will.
Luke 1:35–38 ESV
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 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.
What did Mary give up by saying “I am the servant of the Lord?”
James Swanson, Barbara Aland, et al., The Swanson New Testament Greek Morphology: United Bible Societies’ Fourth Edition, 4th ed. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2002), .
What will you give up by saying “yes to Your will and yes to Your way?”
“It’s not all in vain - ‘cause up the road is eternal gain!”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Discipleship
You complain that you cannot believe? No one should be surprised that they cannot come to believe so long as, in deliberate disobedience, they flee or reject some aspect of Jesus’ commandment. You do not want to subject some sinful passion, an enmity, a hope, your life plans, or your reason to Jesus’ commandment? Do not be surprised that you do not receive the Holy Spirit, that you cannot pray, that your prayer for faith remains empty! Instead, go and be reconciled with your sister or brother; let go of the sin which keeps you captive; and you will be able to believe again! If you reject God’s commanding word, you will not receive God’s gracious word. How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 66.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 66.
What can we do at St. John’s if we trust in the goodness and severity of God? If we walk in “the obedience of faith?” What can we do in our community if we trust in the goodness and severity of God? If we believe that He will punish the guilty and in the words of (ESV)
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 66.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 66.
What would that belief - that trust in the goodness and severity of the Lord look like? I want us to start finding out this new year. I want us to experience it, for ourselves, for our children, for our community. I want us to be an example to the churches in Gary, to the churches in our district and Synod.
Christ gave us an example. (ESV)
1 Peter 2:20–21 ESV
For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
The same God who commands you is the same one who comes to you to enable you. The same one who picks you up when you fall, is able to keep you from falling.
Won’t He do it?
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