Luke 1:26-38 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.
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.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
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.
Counting the Cost
The Lord has been showing me much, of late, about what it means for us, who have truly trusted in him to be our Lord and Savior, to have the kind of relationship with our Lord that he called each and every one of us to have with him.
Yesterday he gave me a picture of the persecuted church in the middle east, and how they truly understand what it means to live lives which are apart from their sins, and which are separate from the world, and which are wholly unto God, unto Jesus, committed to serving him in faithfulness and in obedience to his will and to his ways, no matter the cost.
Then today he is giving me the example of Mary, and of her faith, and of what it cost her to obey the Lord and to submit to his purposes for her life. For, this was no simple task for Mary to say “Yes” to God. For, just like the persecuted church in the middle east, Mary knew that saying “Yes” to her Lord could cost her her life.
Just think with me for a moment about the enormous faith that it took for Mary to believe the message that the angel gave her. Let’s try to put ourselves in her shoes. How would you or I likely respond today if we were visited by an angel from heaven and if we were told something of the magnitude that the angel told Mary?
Yet, Mary did not doubt the angel’s message, or that it came from God. She only inquired as to how this was going to take place, since she was a virgin. She just wanted to understand the practical side of it, I believe so that she would know what to expect and what part she was to do in it all. And, that made perfect sense, especially considering the nature of what she was told.
And, after the angel answered her question, she still did not doubt. She didn’t argue with the angel or try to bargain with God, nor did she go through a whole list of “What if this happens?” or “What if that takes place?” before she made her decision if she would accept the assignment.
Instead, she responded to the angel by saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Wow!
What it Cost Her
The laws back then for those who worshipped the One True God were not like they are today. For adultery, which is what that would have been considered to be, was punishable by stoning to death. Certainly she knew this.
Also, she was engaged to be married, but back then an engagement was a legal contract, and legally she and Joseph were married, just without the consummation of the marriage, which would come later when her husband had a house ready for her. So, even if he did not have her stoned to death, he could certainly have divorced her, which is what he did plan to do until he also was visited by an angel who helped him to change his mind.
And, then there was her reputation at stake, too, for everyone would certainly assume that she had committed adultery, and she would publicly be put to shame, and her family could reject her and put her out, and her friends and relatives and community could reject and persecute her, too.
So, saying “Yes” to her Lord, and accepting his calling on her life, was not a decision that would likely get her accepted by others, for who would believe her? Joseph did, once the angel talked with him. And, Elizabeth did, too, and I am certain there were others, but she was most likely shunned by many.
Parallels to Us
When we believe in Jesus Christ, and we accept him as Lord and Savior of our lives, his Holy Spirit comes to live within us. So, Jesus Christ lives within us, not in the same way he lived within Mary, but still we are the body which carries the life of Jesus within us.
In many countries throughout the world, they know that to believe in Jesus Christ, and to have him living within them, is punishable by death. If death is not required, many of them will face enormous rejection, and perhaps even divorce, or losing their jobs, or being kicked out of their homes and families. So, they know that they are risking such rejection and persecution, and maybe even death, and yet they choose to believe in Jesus anyway.
In America, we have not yet had such rejection as that, but that does not mean that those who truly walk with Jesus Christ do not face persecution in America. We do. Most of it doesn’t result in death, but we can face false accusations, slander, rejection, divorce, family members deserting us or pulling away from us, loss of jobs and income, etc. And, much of this comes not from the world, but from others who also profess faith in Jesus Christ.
And, if we are truly following Jesus with our lives, we can suffer loss of reputation, too, for such dedication to our Lord is not the norm in America. The norm is more worldly. So, if one truly separates himself from sinful practices and from worldliness, and if he is truly committed to Christ in all that he does, willing to lay his life down for the sake of Jesus, then he is considered strange, odd, crazy, out-of-touch with reality, an extremist, etc.
Since so much of the church in America is worldly, and is following many of the ways of the world and its practices, if you are a follower of Christ here who is sold out to the Lord, like Mary was, no matter what, then you will stand out, and you probably won’t get included much in gatherings, and you probably, too, won’t have many friends, because people will not want to be around you, because you don’t do the things that they do.
So, Why Say Yes?
Why did Mary say “Yes” to God? Why do Christians throughout the world choose to believe in Jesus Christ knowing that they may be put to death, or tortured, or rejected, or abused, or persecuted for their faith? Why do we, who live in America in a worldly culture, even within the church, say “Yes” to total commitment to Christ, to leaving sin and worldliness behind us, and to complete surrender to our Lord to do whatever it is he commands us to do?
We say “Yes” because Jesus Christ is the only way to God and to heaven. He is the only one who can give us eternal life. He alone has the power to forgive us of our sins, and to deliver us out of our bondage to sin, and to free us to walk in holiness and righteousness. He is the only one who can give us a life truly worth living, with purpose and direction, which will result in his praise and glory and our fullness of his peace and joy.
We say “Yes,” too, because we revere God/Jesus for the holy God that he is. We say “Yes,” because we love him, and because we are so thankful for all that he did for us in giving his life up for us so that we could be free from our slavery to sin. And, we say “Yes” because we want the freedom that he offers from the control of sin over our lives and the wonderful life he has promised us in him where he completes us, and he satisfies the deep longings of our souls.
Also, we say “Yes” because we are completely convinced of the Spirit of God as to God’s holiness and righteousness and of the necessity that we also walk in his holiness and righteousness if we want to have eternal life with God. But, it isn’t just because we want to be with our Lord forever, or because we want to go to heaven when we die, but because we believe fully in who Jesus is and the life that he has to offer us, and we want that life, even if it means death and persecution and rejection.
And, lastly, we commit ourselves to walking in obedience to our Lord in his ways and in his truth because of the impact that we can have on other people who also need his love and grace in their lives. So, we willingly lay down our lives in order to see others go free, and we share the truth of the gospel, even if it means death or rejection, because we know that those who believe the gospel, and who trust in Jesus, will also have life in Christ and freedom from sin and peace and joy beyond human understanding.
Basically, we say “Yes” because Jesus is the only one with the words of eternal life, so to whom else would we go?
A Believer’s Prayer
An Original Work / July 31, 2012
With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.
Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.
Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.
Friday, December 14, 2018