Motherhood: Woman of God, 30 December 2018

Motherhood: Woman of God
Series—Mary Christmas
Luke 2:21-52

Series Overview: Mary may be the most underrated, godly character in the Bible (at least for Protestants!).

Big Idea: Moms—and Mary, in particular—do more than simply give birth.

Welcome to in-between Sunday. You know, that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s. You’re not sure if the decorations should be up or down. Is it ok to still listen to Christmas carols? Half of the world seems to be on vacation while the other half tries to work amidst the gnawing sense that gifts need to be returned and hopefully there’s some deals on leftover Christmas stuff. The space between.

The same, of course, can be said about our place in history. Throughout Advent—the season of waiting and coming—we’ve noted how we look back at Jesus’ first visit to our planet and anticipate his return. We’ve between his first and second coming.

As humans, we tend to focus on milestones, significant dates, memorable times. We all have defining moments in our lives, but usually we are living between those occasions. For example, it’s probably not your birthday, but you had one this year…or will tomorrow.

It’s been said that fathers are celebrated once a year while moms have two holidays: Mother’s Day and Labor Day! Although we are months away from either, we’re going to look at the life of the most famous mom of all…Mary.

Her story began about nine months before the birth of Jesus, a day we celebrated last week, but her work was just beginning. She was the only person at both the birth and death of Jesus. We don’t have time to look at every mention of Mary in the New Testament, but we’re going to continue our study of the beginning of the gospel or good news of Luke in chapter 2 and see Mary the mother, a woman of God.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:21)

Jesus was the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which means “Yahweh is salvation.” It was a common name at the time, but note it was not chosen by Mary or Joseph, but rather Gabriel the angel. Mary and Joseph kept the laws of Judaism.

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
(Luke 2:22-24)

Jesus was dedicated by His parents to the Lord using the offering of the poor, a pair of birds, though middle classes also made such sacrifices.” Fortunately for us, we do not have to slaughter animals in the process of dedicating our children to God, but this was the Old Testament Law.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Luke 2:25-26)

The common shepherds were the first to visit Jesus. Simeon, however, was a wise, godly elder empowered by the Holy Spirit which is significant, especially before Acts chapter two. He was given a promise by God, and the LORD always keeps his promises…and Simeon was no exception.

Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: (Luke 2:27-28)

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Jesus was a Jew. His culture was Jewish, but his mission would include the Gentiles, a radical concept for Israel. All the nations will see God’s plan of salvation. The glory of Israel is the Messiah, the bearer of promise. Imagery from the prophet Isaiah is evident here.

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

That’s not the kind of blessing I’d want to hear as a parent! This king will clearly be different than Caesar. Suffering has been a part of first-century life and not only will it not end anytime soon, Jesus will share in the suffering. The Messiah will live among his people. The kingdom of God will confront the kingdom of the world, and confrontation is never pretty.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

Like Mary, here’s another devoted, godly woman. Talk about surrender! She worshiped, fasted, and prayed night and day. That makes our hour on Sunday look so trivial.

I love that Luke included this widow in his account.

Luke has told us Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles. We have seen young and old in this story. The great thing about our faith is it’s available to everyone: boys, girls, men, women, black, white, brown, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Democrats, Republicans, …the story of Jesus can become anyone’s story.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (Luke 2:39-40)

Now we come to one of my favorite parenting stories in the Bible! There’s plenty of context missed in reading this story 2000 years later, but it’s astonishing on the surface. We jump forward twelve years.

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. (Luke 2:41-43)

This is the reverse of Home Alone! Mary and Joseph head home, leaving Jesus behind. Have you ever lost Jesus? It’s easy for us to get so busy and distracted that we’re not even aware we’ve left him. Perhaps even last week you left Jesus in the manger while you focused on the food, gifts, or even the family. It was his birthday, yet we opened the presents! When we’ve lost Jesus, we need to search for him in prayer, in the Bible…and not given up until we find him.

Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. (Luke 2:44-45)

Obviously, this wasn’t a three-person journey. People often traveled in large groups to avoid bandits along the path, among other things. This was an annual pilgrimage. But you would expect a “good” parent to know whether or not their twelve-year-old was with them on such a trip. It seems likely Mary and Joseph returned without the rest of the party, a potentially dangerous journey to a potentially dangerous city.

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:46-48)

Have you ever blamed someone else for your mistake? I love the humanity of Mary. She blames Jesus but she’s the one who left the city without her young son! I believe the Bible is true and it’s raw moments such as this that verify it for me. You can’t make this stuff up! For the record, Jerusalem is 90 miles from Nazareth.

I supposed Jesus could’ve responded by saying, “Why did you leave without me?” Instead, Mary’s perfect Son offers an even more radical reply.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)

Mary had said, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you,” yet Jesus was focused on his Heavenly Father. Jesus knew his mission, even as a boy. He considered his time in the temple necessary. It will certainly not be his last visit there.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)

Jesus was an obedient son. Of course! This would be the end of Jesus’ story from Luke until some seventeen years later.

Here again we see Mary treasuring all these things in her heart. She knew from before his birth this child was special. She was the mother of the Messiah. It’s hard to imagine the responsibility, the opportunity, the challenge, the blessing. Mary never forgot.

I want to briefly note two other motherhood moments as we conclude our series
Mary Christmas.

In the second chapter of John, Mary tells her son at a wedding, “They have no more wine,” prompting Jesus to miraculous turn about 150 gallons of water into the finest wine.

In the third chapter of Mark, we see Mary and Jesus’ brothers looking for Jesus. His response: “Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” It was not meant to slam his family, but can you imagine how they felt?

So What?

Moms, you can relate to Mary better than anyone. You know the joys and heartache of not only parenting but doing what only moms can do. We can only imagine the conversations she had with Jesus, the questions she asked, the haunting words of Simeon throughout His growth, and the mystery of His identity.

Parenting is really a stewardship. As humans, we often think things belong to us. That’s my car. Those are my toys. I give my money. This is my body. Those are my kids. The reality is everything we have is a gift on loan from God. The car might become totaled, the toys broken, the money lost, the body decayed. And even our children are not ours. This became especially real on my daughter’s wedding day. I was asked, “Who gives this woman to this man?” and I said, “Her mother and I.” Our girl was no longer ours, but now given to our son in-love.

Mary watched Jesus grow from a babe in a manger to a circumcised infant to a twelve year-old teaching in the temple to a miraculous wine-maker. She must’ve been so proud when he taught and amazed when he healed. I imagine she was offended when he redefined his family as whoever does God’s will. She was devastated when he was tortured and then executed on the cross, stunned when she found his tomb empty, and overjoyed to see him after the resurrection.

Such is the roller coaster of parenting…the roller coaster of life. 2018 was filled with many average, uneventful days. There were also defining moments—both good and bad, some expected and some surprising. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict 2019 will be the same! There will be highs and lows, ordinary days and extraordinary ones. We will have opportunities to influence what happens next year, but so many things are simply beyond our control.

For followers of Jesus, that’s ok. God is sovereign. God is in control. Nothing surprises Him. 2018 was not unexpected for God and neither will be 2019. Like a drone soaring high above a tour bus on the highway, God can see not only this moment but those behind and ahead of us.

We are in the in between—between the first and second comings of Jesus, between Christmas and New Year’s, almost between 2018 and 2019—but God is here…and there. He is good and faithful, even when it doesn’t feel like it (and I had several moments this year when it didn’t feel like it!). The Kingdom of God is advancing, even as the kingdom of this world continues to succeed.

As I wrap up my final sermon of 2018, I want to challenge you with two things:

Give thanks. I know, Thanksgiving was last month, but now is a great time to reflect upon God’s blessings. No matter who you are, there’s plenty of reasons to be thankful. Tomorrow at 7 PM we will gather together here and do exactly that. It will be a time of reflection, a time of sharing, an opportunity to testify of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I think you’ll be encouraged as you hear stories of what God this year in and through our church family.

Give yourself. Surrender. Let go and let God. This is a radical idea, especially in our culture where we think we’re in control of so much of our lives. As I’ve often said, Jesus didn’t come to start another religion. He’s not looking for people to agree with doctrinal statements or impress others with their biblical knowledge. He showed us what it means to be human and asks for nothing less than total surrender. If you think Mary was offended when Jesus redefined his family, imagine how she felt when he said,

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

Did Jesus mean we are to hate our family? Certainly not. He meant in comparison to our devotion to God, our love for our family and even our own lives must be minimal. He continued,

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27

He’s looking for 24/7/365 followers, men and women who have died to their agendas and surrendered to God’s will. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” That means every day of 2019 belongs to Jesus. Every penny in your piggy bank, purse, bank account, and investment portfolio belongs to Jesus. Your plans for others—including your family members—belongs to Jesus. Your dreams for the future, your hopes for our church, your political preferences, and your talents belong to Jesus. Every second on the calendar is subject to interruption because it belongs to Jesus.

Today we close with a popular song many of us have sung countless times, yet putting the lyrics into practice is far more challenging—and rewarding—than simply singing, “I Surrender All.” I’m waiting for someone to write, “I Surrender Some” or “I Surrender All When I Feel Like It,” but that’s not what Jesus requires of His followers. He doesn’t recognize part-time disciples. He’s looking for people who are willing to count the cost, suffer, and be all-in, no matter what.

Mary was all-in. Mothers have to be all-in when they give birth, but throughout her life she was passionately devoted to God, a wonderful example for all of us. Simeon and Anna are also examples in our text of true followers of the LORD. Even at age 12 Jesus was committed to the Father’s will.

As we prepare for the new year, it’s my hope and prayer that we would passionately pursue God like never before—as individuals and as a family together—in 2019. Let’s resolve to know God better…and make Him known.

I Surrender All

Credits: some ideas from The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

A Radical Command, 18 September 2011

  • Big Idea: Jesus demands everything—and He can be trusted.

  • The Bible

  • When I was a young boy, we used to sing this song called The B-I-B-L-E. The lyrics were, “The B-I-B-L-E/Yes that’s the book for me/I stand alone on the Word of God/The B-I-B-L-E.”

  • One of the core values of our tribe, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, states

  • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. Joshua 1:8

  • Do you believe this book? It’s so much more than just pages of stories or wisdom. It is God’s precious Word. It is our guide for life. As some have said, it is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

  • For thousands of years people have been studying the Bible, seeking to know, understand and apply it. As Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel following Moses’ death, God told him

  • Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

  • Did you catch that? It is a command with a promise. I don’t know about you but I don’t like random rules. I want to know why! God promised Joshua prosperity and success if he read and obeyed the written Word.

  • So again I ask do you believe this book? Maybe you’re still not sure it’s trustworthy. After all, it’s thousands of years old and surely it’s been changed over time, right? The science of textual criticism evaluates manuscripts based upon their written date, the time span from the earliest copies, and the number of copies. No ancient book is even close to the Bible in terms of its preservation and authenticity.

  • The Bible is true. It can be trusted. There is nothing like it on the planet. Don’t take my word for it, though. Billions of people for generations have not only studied and obeyed it, many have given their lives to preserve and share it.

  • The All-Important Question is do we believe this Book?

  • If the answer is yes, the next several weeks will be challenging. See if you don’t believe it, you can ignore what it says and comfortably enjoy our weekly family reunions together. Belief, however, demands action.

  • A few weeks ago I told the story of the Great Blondin - the man who invented the high wire act. He crossed Niagara Falls again and again; blindfolded, carrying a stove, in chains, and on a bicycle. Just as he was about to begin yet another crossing— this time pushing a wheelbarrow—he turned to the crowd and shouted, "Who trusts that I can cross pushing this wheelbarrow?" Every hand in the crowd went up. Blondin pointed at one man:

  • "Do you trust that I can do it?" he asked.
  • "Yes, I trust you can." said the man.
  • "Are you certain that you trust me?" said Blondin.
  • "Yes" said the man.
  • "Absolute trust? Absolutely certain?"
  • "Yes, absolute trust, with absolute certainty."
  • "Thank you," said Blondin, "please get into the wheelbarrow."

  • True faith requires action.

  • Do we believe this book? Do we believe what it says about the church? The cross? Mission? Decisions? The lost? The poor?

  • Our passage for this morning is very short. Jesus said to His followers

  • In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)

  • You can look at the original Greek, examine the context, and do whatever you want to twist it, but you can’t really change the message: following Jesus requires giving up everything. No buts. No excuses.

  • That’s radical! He demands total devotion.

  • My wife demands total devotion. An occasional affair is unacceptable! Should God demand any less?

  • David Platt notes

  • Even his simple call in Matthew 4 to his disciples—“Follow me”—contained radical implications for their lives. Jesus was calling them to abandon their comforts, all that was familiar to them and natural for them. He was calling them to abandon their careers. They were reorienting their entire life’s work around discipleship to Jesus. Their plans and dreams were now being swallowed up in his. Jesus was calling them to abandon their possessions. “Drop your nets and your trades as successful fishermen,” he was saying in effect. Jesus was calling them to abandon their family and their friends. When James and John left their father, we see Jesus’ words in Luke 14 coming alive. Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation.

  • When we gather in our comfortable church building to worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.

  • Video

  • Is it all about you? When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die…so he can truly live.

  • Francis Chan illustrated this idea of comfortable Christianity like this. He said, If I ask my daughter to do something (“Rach, clean your room”), I am not satisfied if she come back later and says that she has memorized what I said, or that she got her friends together to discuss what my request means or what it would look like if she cleaned her room, or that she made a poster or needlepoint with my command on it.” Commands are to be obeyed.

  • John Stumbo of the Alliance writes,

  • Have you wondered why the Church in places like China and Vietnam has grown rapidly and vibrantly, even in the face of terrible persecution, while many churches in America struggle just to maintain the status quo? In China and Vietnam believers have few resources and even fewer trained pastors. Most congregations have no facilities, and members often are persecuted by hostile government officials. There are not even enough Bibles for every Christian. Yet the Church moves triumphantly forward.

  • In the West it is a different story. We do not lack resources. There are millions of dollars available to build spacious buildings and to fund evangelism and discipleship training. Bible colleges and seminaries train thousands of students every year, and many congregations have two or more well- trained pastors. There is no dearth of Christian literature, and every Christian home contains not one, but many, Bibles.

  • I am firmly convinced that the reason for our spiritual impotence in the midst of material affluence is simple. We have been discipled toward knowledge, believing that a mature Christian is one who knows a lot about Christ and the Bible. Christians in places like China and Vietnam have been discipled toward obedience. In their paradigm, a mature Christian is one who obeys all that he or she has learned of God’s Word and of Christ.

  • Are you pursuing the American Dream of Jesus’ dream for your life?

  • What do you have?
  • Do you really have it?
  • Does it have you?

  • Pearls

  • This is a very heavy message. Who wants to give up everything? It all begins with our understanding of God. He is not out to ruin your life, but instead He wants you to experience the most abundant, exciting, joy-filled life imaginable. Really.

  • The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?" Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face.

  • "A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

  • As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. James if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

  • Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere - Sunday School, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

  • Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"

  • "Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you."

  • "Then give me your pearls." "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess - the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She's my favorite."

  • "That's okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night."

  • And he brushed her cheek with a kiss. About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"

  • "Daddy, you know I love you."

  • "Then give me your pearls." "Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."

  • "That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

  • A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"

  • Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you."

  • With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

  • Jenny's father is like our heavenly Father. He also is waiting for us to give up our dime store stuff and seek Him first ... so He can fling open the windows of Heaven and pour us out such a blessing that we will not have room enough to hold it.

  • Next week we’ll look at the context of this radical verse and see that Jesus literally wants us to give up everything.

  • Treasures
  • Time
  • Talents
  • Future
  • Relationships

  • What do you most fear right now? What can’t you surrender? There’s a good chance that it is an idol in your life. God wants it, not because He wants to rob you of your joy, but so that He can BE your joy.

  • Take My Life

  • The word “consecrate” means to solemnly dedicate to God or sanctify.

  • Frances Havergal, at age 36, received a book called, "All for Jesus", which stresses the importance of making Christ Lord over every dimension of one's life. On Advent Sunday, Dec. 2, 1873, she saw the blessedness of consecration and made a full surrender of her all to Christ. Not long after she was visiting ten people in a house, of which she writes: "I went for a little visit of five days (to Areley House.) There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted, but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, 'Lord, give me all in this house!' And He did just that. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying; then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced; it was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration; and these little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished wit h'Ever, Only ALL for Thee!'" (Havergal Manuscripts)

  • Chris Tomlin said of the hymn “Take My Life,” “This hymn sums up what we all want to say to God: Take everything about me…take all I am and all I own—it’s yours Lord. Louie and I penned these simple four lines of refrain to amplify what we felt the writer was wanting to communicate, and to give us the chance to step back from the numerous lines of the song and voice our all to the Father.”

  • As we sing, I want to challenge you with two things. First, I invite you to lift your open hands in front of you, offering everything to God. Second, pour out your heart to God. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. He’s not out to get you. He’s out to bless you, but when we are clinging to what we have, there’s no way He can give us anything. When we surrender, we lose, but we also gain. Like baptism last week, we must die in order to be resurrected. He gives and takes away.

  • Conclusion

  • This week I challenge you to ask God to reveal to you whatever is holding you back from being completely surrendered to Jesus, a fully-devoted disciple.

  • I also challenge you this week to get into the Word. Read through the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

  • Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

  • We all want to prosper and be successful. Let’s get into the Word and discover all that He has for us.
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