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Our Momentary Problem with God's Solution

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
December 4, 2023 1:00 am

Our Momentary Problem with God's Solution

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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December 4, 2023 1:00 am

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Turn your Bibles to the book of Matthew chapter 1.

You probably already know the whole story. Matthew chapter 1 verses 18 to 25, the account of Joseph's struggle with the fact that things did not go as he thought they would at first. So let's turn to that chapter and pay attention to what God is teaching us and teaching Joseph and what we learn about our Lord.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which translated means God with us. And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Let us pray. Father, we thank you for the mercy and the eternal plans that you have had for us before the foundation of the world. You planned the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ for our own salvation. Father, we praise you for the fact that you know us and that you've come to redeem us, and you've done that work. We praise you now in Jesus' name. Amen.

You may be seated. I'm going to give you the proposition of the sermon before I start. The proposition is this, that God has prepared a holy child to save us from our sins. Not that person's, but our sins.

And only God can prepare our hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. You know, there have been eight military coups in Africa. You know what's happening in the Middle East to a degree. We see what has happened thus far in Ukraine.

And then, of course, areas in Southeast Asia. There's conflict, civil war, shortage of food, inflation struggles. The world has yet to find a social, economic, or political messiah. People are still looking for that messiah.

But the wages of sin continues to be death, and we see it every day. The hearts of people, generation from generation, refuse or don't want to admit that they need a savior. They need repentance.

They need forgiveness of their sins. Yet God has prepared a holy child to save us from our sins, and only God can prepare our hearts to receive him and to know him. So this scripture begins set by these words, now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. God prepared Jesus to come, because the word Jesus, you know, means the Lord saves, Jehovah saves. God prepared Christ, the promised messiah, and that word, messiah, or Christ, means the anointed one. So the anointed savior of the world has been prepared for us and sent to us by the Lord Jesus, by God himself. Now history presents that personal conditions demonstrate that we humans need repentance, and we need to forsake our sins and turn to him and turn from our self-centeredness and turn to serving and loving Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.

God has prepared Jesus Christ for this sinful world and for us as sinners. Matthew, Jesus' disciple, describes this preparation of an earthly father and a home for the Lord Jesus while he was on earth. Joseph and Mary were betrothed. They were engaged.

They were to be married. There was a joyous day that was going to arrive, and Joseph believed. He believed in holy matrimony. He believed in the covenant of marriage. He believed in that as a follower of the living God. He knew the scriptures. He knew what the promises were, and he looked forward to what God had promised and begun with Adam and Eve and promised to every generation that marriage was holy and a covenant before the living God, and that to be married and to have children and to raise a family was pleasing to God himself. So Joseph is described in this text as being a righteous man.

We know that has two meanings. Joseph was known in the city and town of Nazareth to be a just man, a man who looked for equity, a man who treated other people fairly. He was righteous in that sense. He had a good reputation in the community, but Joseph also knew there was another righteousness. He knew about the righteousness that was connected to Abraham, a righteousness that was based on faith in the living God, and he was righteous in that sense.

God chose him to be the earthly, illegal father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so he trusted in the righteousness that would come through faith in the living God and the Savior to come. So Joseph was, obviously, he was enamored with Mary. He was a young lady in the town of Nazareth that his eyes had been set up on, and he was enthralled with her and had great plans. They were betrothed, each other already, and they had made their vows, which is different from our engagements, much more complicated, and it's a pre-statement of what you're going to do.

Basically, it's saying, I promise and vow to you my faithfulness, and that is a betrothal. Sometimes it would be like 18 or maybe 12 to 18 months between the times that you made those promises to each other before God, before the marriage was complete. So that was why it was so exciting, like in some of the parables of the New Testament. It was exciting that the maids were waiting, and they didn't know when the bridegroom would come because it was going to be a surprise. So that's what was taking place in the life of Mary and Joseph.

There was going to be a surprise event one day that wedding feast would take place. So Joseph dreamed of married life with Mary. He dreamed of this beautiful young girl who was also a descendant of David like he was. So he had his heart and his eyes set on Mary. The horrible news came to Joseph, we don't know how exactly, maybe her father went as man to man and told him of a problem, that she seemed to be with child.

Righteous Joseph struggled in his heart. Can you imagine how a man who had his heart set on marriage and a wife, a young woman who had done the same, and they were, he struggled with. How could she be so dishonest? How could she be so impure when he thought she was pure? How could it be that he didn't see the deceit in her eyes when he looked into her eyes? How could he deal with this unthinkable thing?

Joseph had to struggle. He knew this relationship was ended. One thing he could do was publicly take her, like in Deuteronomy 24, he could take her before the majesty. He could dispose her sin, her unfaithfulness, and she would face some serious consequences, although they were reduced under the Roman rule that was there. But still he loved Mary, so he was looking for another way, another option. And that option is that he could write her a bill of divorcement, even though they're only betrothed. It was a vow that they'd taken. He would write her a bill of divorcement and quietly as possible send her away.

Think of that. He knew that if she was sent away that way, she would be a woman with great shame. She would be a single mom.

It would be devastating. But he knew that he could not marry her because of what appeared to be her unfaithfulness. The relationship was already destroyed. If he married her, how could he trust her? If he married her, how would he know that the next child was not his own? It was a dilemma.

You can imagine what a man would be thinking and the young lady would be thinking. So out of love for Mary, he would not shame her. He would avoid it.

He would just send her away quietly. That was the decision. That was the struggle of every day and every night of Joseph as for he heard this news. Joseph's plan, he thought, was the best of two options that were there before him, the best of two solutions. But God had a different option. God's plan was Joseph, go marry her.

Take her as your wife. God doubly prepared Joseph to take Mary in his heart and take her into his home as his wife and welcome the Christ child. First, there was the verbal witness, the verbal testimony that Joseph heard. Joseph struggled, but God sent an angel to speak to him directly about this in a particular dream. Jesus received direct verbal revelation from the living God. And we can look at what he said, what was said there to Joseph.

The opening salutation was do not be afraid. And we've heard those words before. Mary heard those words and Isaiah shook at the very thought of God's presence as he came into the presence of God. And so Joseph knew that God was speaking directly to him and he did have fear, a holy reverent fear. This was no ordinary dream and Joseph knew it. The presence, the power, the authority of God was in this dream. The angel spoke the word of God to him. The revelation that reminded him of who he was. You are a descendant of David.

That is your heritage. And the Messiah was going to come to the line of David. And Mary and Joseph, they both knew that they were both descendants of King David.

That's where their lines were, their bloodlines. So then the explanation was revealed. Mary was pregnant by the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The conception was caused by God sending over his Holy Spirit to impregnate her. And Mary was going to bear the promised son of God. Though this was a miraculous conception, the eternal son of God was brought into the human world by a supernatural conception. The next revelation was that this child would definitely be a son.

Now there was no ultrasound taking place in this situation. But Joseph knew by this revelation that the child would be a son. And it was a miraculous disclosure, to say the least. Then Joseph was also told that he was to carry out that fatherly role, that legal fatherly role that was very cultural in that day, that he was to name the child Jesus. It was a command that was given to him by the angel. So the Hebrew name, Jesus, we know that means Joshua. And we know how Joshua was seen as the deliverer in the Old Testament because, taking up after Moses' leadership, he led the children of Israel across the Jordan River on the dry ground of that river as it opened up. And he led people around the city of Jericho and miraculously those walls fell. Joshua was a deliverer.

He was leading. But this is a different Joshua. This Yeshua, this is Jesus, the one who has been promised long ago. And the purpose of Jesus' birth was different, a different deliverance, because it said, for he will save his people from their sins. Now if you notice this, it says he will save his people from their sins. His people, this is a claim to divinity. This is saying that Jesus is God himself who is going to save all of his elect, all of the children that he's going to woo to himself, all the children that the father has given the son, this son is going to bring to himself. Jesus was going to save his own. So this is a massive revelation to Joseph.

It is one of the difficult for us to take in and for him to take in. The child would be the savior of believers in the past and the present time with Joseph and in the future with us and beyond our times. This is exactly what Paul was telling the Christians in Corinth in chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians. He said, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. That's who this Jesus is. And the salvation was not from Rome.

It was not some historical figure who was going to arrogantly come and control the globe and like at the Tower of Babel, the globalists were in control. No, Jesus is not saving us from those kinds of things necessarily. No, Jesus came to deal with our personal sins, with yours and mine, the ones that we still have, the ones we had when we were born in our original sin. So God has got a plan that is marvelous. It's our sins. It's your sins.

It's mine. And like Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus, he makes a statement there. And I was going to read one verse, but I think I ought to read a couple of verses. In Ephesus, in Ephesians chapter 4, Paul is talking to us and he may be talking to you in these verses, talking about our sin, but he's talking to the Christians there and he says, look, it's not those people way over there that we said, oh yeah, they have sins or these people have sins, but it's us that Christ is coming to deal with. And he says to the Christians there, let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice.

Then he flips to a positive statement on that. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you. This is why Jesus came. He is our savior. He came to deal with my corrupt attitude, my wayward thoughts, where I might clamor for this or you might clamor for that and might think, well, my opinion is the correct one. My way is the right one.

He says, don't do that. Go before the Lord, confess your sins, be honest before him, have him examine your heart. And so each of us, we have our own sins.

It is not just those out there, maybe someone who sinned against you, but it's our sins that the savior has come to redeem, to pay for, to cover for us. I guess when you were about this high, you might snatch a toy out of your brother or sister's hand. You might still remember that.

You may still kind of resent that. I don't know. But children can be there and they can just be little angels right at each other's throats. And you wonder, no wonder Jesus' brothers and sisters had a hard time believing him. You know, they may have been great resentment at the fact that he was a perfect child. You know, why is he perfect? Why does he do anything wrong?

How can he be so blameless? Well, he was a son of God. Mary and Joseph knew that.

But yet, how would you deal with a perfect brother or sister? And so here, later on, we do believe that Jesus' brothers and sisters did come to faith in him. And one of them wrote about that, his half-brother in the book of James. In the book of James, James puts his finger on what Jesus was teaching. He put his finger on us, on my heart and your heart. And here's what he says, why we need Jesus.

James 4. But what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasure that wages war in your members? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder.

You're envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and you quarrel. Joseph knew it, and we know it. We need Jesus who's come. We need him as our Savior. We need him every day to deal with the little and larger things in our lives. He needs to deal with the sins of our hearts, not just other people's hearts.

We desperately need the Savior. The second confirmation came to Joseph as a witness. It was not a verbal witness. It was a written testimony. Isaiah 7.14. Matthew records that in this part of scripture. And Joseph, knowing the Old Testament prophecies of Christ, certainly recalled the promise. And the promise in Matthew, I mean, Isaiah is, behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means God with us. Joseph knew that promise. He could recall that because he was a righteous man.

He was looking for his Messiah to come, and now he finds that he is there. So what does it say? The written text says a virgin shall be with child.

Wait a minute. Joseph is hearing that what the angel told him verbally is being confirmed in scripture or was confirmed in scripture in writing. Two testimonies. It says that the virgin shall bear a child. Oh, so that means that it was Mary. Mary was faithful.

Mary was submissive servant to the Lord Jesus Christ, and she was even so submissive that she was willing to take the possible shame and accusations against her as a virgin woman bearing a child. And he shall bear a son. Is it exactly what the angel had revealed? That's what that scripture says, as Joseph recalled that.

And they shall call his name Immanuel, God with us. This is the description of the Messiah who would take away our sins and the description of Yeshua who would take away sins of his people, and we would be forgiven by him. So Joseph took this as certainly as extra comfort. One, that this was the Messiah, the God who was with us, but also I think possibly in the way that, wait a minute, I'm going to be raising this very son of God?

Yeah, I need God to be with me in my parenting, in my training. It has multiple implications for Joseph. Matthew Henry put it this way. He makes this observation about Immanuel, God with us. He says this, our great happiness is that God's eternal design was to bring God to be with us and later to bring us to be with God.

And that's truth. That's what Jesus' salvation is to do. The birth of Jesus Christ explains two important issues. How do we understand the nature of Jesus Christ? Is Jesus a man? If he's a man, is he not sinful?

And if just another man, then how can he forgive us of our sins if he has his own sins? Jesus is fully human because he was born of Mary. He went through the nine months of pregnancy in the womb of Mary.

Jesus later on would know the temptations and the trials that we face. He was fully human but without sin. But Jesus was also fathered by the Holy Spirit, so he is divine. He was fully divine and he humbled himself to voluntarily take on life and to be born of a woman. He was sinless and being the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, he has the authority and the power to forgive sins, forgive even our sins. So Jesus had two natures. He's fully God and he's fully man.

Jesus also is known as the second Adam. Jesus lived that perfect life. Jesus kept all the commandments, the commandments that you and I cannot keep.

He kept them perfectly. He obeyed every command of God in the Scriptures and more than we could know. He perfectly obeyed the Father in heaven on our behalf.

So Paul is explaining this and he says in Romans 5, for as through the one man's disobedience, the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous. The perfect man Jesus is able to completely save us, thoroughly save us. And so he is the blameless Lamb of God who came to give his life for you and for me. He offers himself to the world.

Matthew Henry again put it this way. Jesus came to save not in their sins but from their sins, from our sins. God prepared Joseph and Mary.

They were God's servants, humble servants, and he prepared them for the pregnancy and then for the parenting of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Joseph was obedient to that heavenly vision. The command of the angel, he heard it loud and clear. He believed what God had said. It was very clear that Joseph was to be a servant of the Lord and he demonstrated that in his own actions, his next actions.

I was talking a couple of weeks ago with Pastor David Ling, one of our partners in the Southeast Asian, and I was sharing about this text and I thought David gave me two really good insights and I want to share those insights from Pastor David Ling. He talked about the work of God in Joseph's life and in our lives. And one thing we learned from this account is that without God's work, we cannot be used of the Lord. Without God's work in your heart and life or in my heart and life, we cannot be used of the Lord. And that was true in Joseph and Mary's life. But there's a second thing that Pastor Ling shared. He says, only God's word helped Joseph understand. We may come up with the problems that we don't know how to face and I know we will sometime in our life and we may be baffled and we may only see this option or that option, but maybe God has another option.

So only God's word helps us understand more and more how to live our lives. Joseph had that momentary problem with God's solution and God's solution was Mary, the young lady. The truth had been revealed. Verse 24 says, and Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and he took Mary to be his wife. Clarin notes this about Joseph. He says, the betrothal was God's will. It was not a mistake. What great news for Joseph and for Mary.

It was a momentary problem, but God had the solution. Carefully and joyfully, I am sure Joseph woke up. He went and made the arrangements for that wedding banquet and people came and he took Mary into his home.

The joy was twofold. Mary was pure. She was faithful. So the love of his life was deeply submissive to God. She was a woman who was willing to take all kinds of trouble and accusation and be submissive and be the handmade of the living God.

So his heart was set on a godly woman, a woman of purity who had a servant heart before the Lord Jesus Christ. But there was another joy and the other joy was that now the promised Savior who came to deal with our sins was actually coming and he would be the legal father over that home and he would be the guiding that son. The virgin conception of Jesus, Yeshua, was taking place. God's promise of eternal son was coming in the flesh and salvation was sure.

It was real. He was here. The Messiah was here and Joseph was looking at this first and foremost. So Joseph had the privilege of naming his son, actually Mary's son. So he called him Jesus.

The Lord saves. And Immanuel, yeah he knew that name, God with us, Immanuel was being carried by his bride, Mary. And that child, that son of God, was becoming flesh. Salvation could and was being accomplished because the Lamb of God who was to give his life was being born through Mary. Joseph was seeing the covenant of marriage that it really was. His marriage to Mary was then and forever to be for the glory of God and it was for the glory of God.

But Joseph also saw something else. He saw that the covenant of grace was being completed and fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. Our joy today is that our Savior has been born. He has come.

He has lived that perfect life. He has paid that sacrifice. Our Savior has come and he's coming again one day.

So that is our joy. Romans 11, 33 expresses the situation very well. It says, oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways. How could we ever figure out how God could become man unless it was revealed to us in the scriptures? Whatever our present situation or whatever our present problem might be, it is God who knows how to help us with that problem. Maybe it's not the options that we see, but God may have another option. And that's why we need to run to the word of God and search it and see what God would do and pray and seek his way. But one thing is for sure from this text, God has prepared the holy child to save us from our sin. And only God can prepare our hearts to receive and welcome Christ himself. So we could say, and have this be our prayer in some form, prepare our hearts to believe in you. Prepare our hearts to obey you. Prepare our hearts to worship you.

Johann Sebastian Bach said this, wrote this, Jesus, joy of man's desiring, holy wisdom, love most bright, drawn by the our souls aspiring so sore to uncreated light. That is our Lord Jesus. Let us pray. Father in heaven, we thank you for your mercy that we is so undeserving in our own sins and sins that continue. We thank you that you come to redeem us and your redemption is perfect and complete. We thank you that in this marvelous miracle of a virgin conception, you have come into the world and you're coming again. Oh Father, set our hearts and lives on you. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-03 20:17:40 / 2023-12-03 20:28:18 / 11

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