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Impossible Favor

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Without God, all things are impossible. God alone gives life and breath and everything for “by Him all things consist.” Without God’s favor through Jesus’ birth, our sins could never be forgiven, and a divine relationship would never have been possible. Matthew 19 tells us about a rich man who greatly desired salvation and asked Jesus...
16 “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
This Christmas, we are celebrating the impossible. Jesus, fully God and fully man, came to earth as a baby with one great purpose in mind… to forgive His children’s sins, our sins.
In this morning’s text, we will discover that Mary was favored and that Joseph was favored. Does God still favor people today? What does His favor look like? And how does His favor make a difference in my life? To answer these questions, we need to locate Luke 1 in our Bibles. In Luke 1:26-56, Gabriel made an impossible announcement to Mary. Mary was favored by God...

Mary was Favored (Lk 1:26-56)

Luke 1:26–37 (ESV)
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Pause. Mary found favor with God!
Because we are human and live on earth, our blinders cause us to interpret Scripture according to what we see and know in our limited range of view. Some people believe Mary found favor with God because she was a Godly person. Some people even worship her as a saint. If we consider only this passage, I can understand how those people might come to that conclusion.
In order to understand why Mary was favored, we must consider other passages and also what Gabriel and all the other angels knew about God. All God’s angels live in Heaven... the angels deeply know God and experience His wonders every moment of every day. Angels wholly know who God, in fact, every time angels appeared in the Bible they communicated about God’s power. Just last week we read one example of this when Zechariah doubted Gabriel’s message in Luke 1:19 (ESV)...
19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
Gabriel reminded Zechariah that God is all powerful. All the angels know this.
If Mary had any goodness in her, if she deemed herself worthy to stand in the presence of God, if she was righteous in and of herself, she would have boldly and confidently stood before him. She might have even responded, “I am glad you finally recognize this, Gabriel. I deserve to be Jesus’ mother!” Instead Mary was troubled/fearful of the angel. Gabriel didn’t arrive to worship Mary...
Gabriel arrived to cause Mary to worship God.
Gabriel and all the other angels who daily live with God, fully believe that God is the only one worthy of worship. All the angels to direct glory to God. Mary was not a saint. She did not consider herself to be good. In fact, it was God’s goodness to a sinner, Mary that caused her troubled response.
Who was she to to be favored by Gabriel’s presence?
Who was she to be favored by a direct message from God?
Who was she to bring the Messiah into the world: to nurture him, love him, and be in God’s presence as long as Christ was on earth?
Mary was troubled.... she didn’t deserve to stand before God and she certainly didn’t deserve to even stand in the presence of God’s humble ambassador. God favored Mary in her lowest state. As Romans Romans 5:8 declares...
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God decided Mary in her lowest state should bring the Messiah into this world. Mary, like David, knew that she only existed because God is merciful. In Psalm 136:23 the Psalmist wrote:
It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever;
It is impossible for us to be good. It is impossible for us to earn God’s favor, this is why Christmas is so remarkable....
In our lowliest state, God chose to favor us.
God had no reason to favor Mary above other women. This is why verse 37 is so remarkable... Gabriel told her that, “nothing will be impossible with God.” With God, the barren womb is open, with God, the virgin birth was possible, and with God, lowly sinners experience favor.
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.
God was doing wonderful, magical, and impossible things through her, God’s servant.
Let’s continue reading from Luke 1:39 where Elizabeth declared that Mary was favored by God.
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Then, Mary declared her worthlessness, God’s mercies, and strength, something she would not do if she had any goodness of her own...
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
Sixteen times, Mary pointed Elizabeth and us, by way of Luke’s record, us to worship God.
Favor has everything to do with God’s great things!
Mary and Elizabeth were connected in these remarkable things. Both were connected to messages by the same angel, both had miraculously conceived a child, both were connected to Jesus’ birth, and both believed that God does impossible things. God broke 400 years of silence when Gabriel spoke to Zechariah and Mary. Mary was favored and...

Joseph was Favored (Mt 1:18-25)

Matthew 1:18–25 ESV
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Here again we find a Godly person. Joseph was described as a just man in verse 19, and in verse 24 he obeyed God. Joseph wasn’t favored because he was Godly. Joseph was favored because before the foundations of the earth, God chose to save Joseph from his sin. Favor began as God’s choice.
Joseph’s lineage had also been carefully preserved. All Israel had gone through very turbulent times since the reign of Solomon. It was incredible that Jesus is proven to be the son of David through both Joseph and Mary’s carefully preserved records.
Joseph was favored…
God chose him beforehand, that he would love God and keep His commandments.
God set him apart to love God.
and Joseph found favor because of his wife, Mary.
With the time that is left this morning, I want to answer two questions.

What does God’s favor look like today? (Eph 2:8-9, 1:11-14)

Mel Walker was a guest lecturer in some of my college classes and was a gifted author who just recently went home to be with the Lord. He wrote an article entitled, “What is God’s favor?” and I love his answer to that question.
God’s favor, or grace, is God giving us the ability to do something which is humanly impossible for us to do. For example, it is only by God’s undeserved favor that we can experience eternal life, and it is only by God’s grace that we have the ability to live for the Lord. - Mel Walker
Mel’s definition comes straight out of Ephesians 2:8-9. Today, God’s favor is still the same… God compassionately gives his great kindness to needy and undeserving people. God “gives His people the ability to do something which is humanly impossible for us to do.” (article)
Without God’s favor, eternal life would be impossible.
Ephesians 1:11–14 (ESV)
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Without God’s favor, strength to live for God would be impossible.
So He gave us the Holy Spirit, and prayer, Christian companionship, and His Word. This is why Christmas is so special: it is a reminder of God’s favor on us, through Jesus Christ and that favor is LIFE CHANGING! Mary’s life was drastically changed because God looked on her with favor. This brings me to the second question...

How can God’s favor make a difference in my life? (Lk 1:46-55, Ps 18)

God’s favor is not impossible!
I wonder if Mary believed God’s favor on her was impossible: her words make it seem that way. Consider her confusion when Gabriel spoke to her in verse 28 and her response in verse 34. Mary did not think she was qualified to earn God’s favor in this way. She was unwed and a virgin. Then consider her words in verses 48-49...
Luke 1:48–49 ESV
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
She was humble/poor. No one who mattered in the world knew she even existed. Her YouTube channel had zero followers. There was no way God would favor her and if we are honest with ourselves we can identify with Mary. Life gets us down… ll kinds of life situations discourage us. Fear of sickness, sickness, long term health issues, job challenges, relationship issues, all these things at times seem impossible for us, the odds were too great, there is no way out, no way God could possibly...... (pause) then the angel spoke to Mary....
28 “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
WOW! in Mary’s lowest position God favored her. In our humblest and most impossible situations (all of life… we we are at our weakest when we are 1 - human and 2 - alive on earth) In our humblest and most worthless state we should crave and believe in God’s favor.
This morning maybe you are asking, “How do I get God’s favor?” If that is a question on your mind, Psalm 18 has the answer.
In that Psalm, David wrote, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” God’s favor comes when we respond to the call to love the Lord. David said, “I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised.” “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help. He heard my voice.... then the earth shook and quaked, smoke came out of his nostrils and fire from his mouth. He caused darkness of waters, thick clouds in the skies, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered them. He took me, He drew me out of many waters, He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me, But the Lord rescued me, because He delighted in me, for I have kept the ways of the Lord.”
How do I get God’s favor? First, there is nothing at all we can do. God causes us to love him and when we respond to His love and solely delight in him, he will like a dragon utterly destroy those who have made themselves our enemies. He will shake the earth and move mountains and cause fierce storms Psalm 18 describes what God will do to show His favor upon a single person! Let that sink in for a moment! All He requires is that we respond to His love.
God’s favor is not impossible, and...
God’s favor causes us to rejoice!
Consider the excellent example Mary set for us in Luke 1:46–55 (ESV). Mary, overwhelmed by God’s power and deep love for he, could not do anything but rejoice in God’s favor!
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
When we delight in God and are filled by the Spirit, rejoicing should automatically should spring from our lips. When God does something so marvelous, so wonderful, and so impossible in our lives, spontaneous praise should erupt from our mouths. Zechariah spontaneously rejoiced when God showed him favor. Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit, and rejoicing erupted from her lips. Even Elizabeth’s unborn baby, just beginning the final trimester in her womb lept for joy. Wow! If an unborn baby can leap for joy because of God’s favor, how much more should we who are gathered today or joy? God’s favor causes us to rejoice.
God’s favor causes obedience!
In Matthew 1:24, Joseph obeyed when he woke from his sleep. He “did as the angel commanded him.”
In Luke 1:38 Mary responded in obedience when she said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
In Psalm 18:21–24, David said,
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. 23 I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. 24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
This is the message of the Gospel. Jesus birth changed everything!
In the preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament in 1534, John Calvin wrote:
“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.
This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.
It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.
For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.”
Concluding Thought:
To us, many things appear to be impossible, but Jesus’ birth changed everything! We, through Jesus, have been favored by God! We don’t deserve anything, but God deserves everything.
Prayer Ideas:
That we would recognize our lowly state
That our lowly state would cause us to rejoice as wonderfully as Mary did!
That God’s favor would inspire and command our obedience.
Connect everything to Jesus/Salvation!
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