Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie, encouraging you.
If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. Okay, grab your Bibles or find the app on your phone or your tablet and turn to Luke chapter one. The title of my message is, With God, Nothing is Impossible. Well, Christmas is here, right? And there's all the reminders that it's time to get out there and shop and remember to get this for someone or get that for someone else. And then there are the telltale signs of where you're at in your age as each Christmas comes. For instance, if you're really young, you believe in Santa Claus. As you get a little bit older, you don't believe in Santa Claus. You get a little bit older, you become Santa Claus. And finally, you look like Santa Claus.
That's where I'm at at this point in my life. I heard a story of a Sunday school teacher that went to Israel and decided to buy one of those little olive wood nativity sets. They had Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus and the wise men and the camels and so forth. So she packed it up and was going through the airport and the security people stopped her. And they were carefully going over every figure in her nativity set.
She was kind of surprised by this and she finally asked, Why are you paying so much attention to all these figures? And my nativity said, and the answer from the security guy was simply, We must make sure there is nothing explosive in them. But you know, that makes a really good point. There is something explosive in the power of the story of the birth, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the apostle Paul says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. And the word that Paul used there for power is from the root word dunamis.
And we get our English word dynamite from it. So Paul is effectively saying there is explosive power in the story of the gospel. So I want to talk about that story. In fact, I want you to read with me right now the Christmas story. I often read from the New Living Translation. But I'm going to be reading from the New King James Version because I love the structure of the translation when it comes to this particular passage.
So let's read together. I'm reading Luke chapter 1 verse 26. Now, in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary and the angel came in to her and said, Hail, you are highly favored. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.
When she saw him, she was troubled at this saying and considered what better of greeting this was. And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth the Son and call his name Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
He'll reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. So Mary asked a very legitimate question. She says to the angel, How shall this be, seeing that I do not know a man? And the angel answered and said, The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One born in you will be called the Son of God.
And indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. Verse 37, For with God nothing will be impossible. And then Mary said, Behold the maidservant of the Lord.
Let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her. Okay, let's unpack this amazing story.
Strip away all the tradition and get to what really happened. So we're introduced to Mary. As you know, more girls have been named after Mary than any woman who has ever lived. Mary is such a special woman for so many reasons, but here's something to think about. Mary is the only person who was present at both the birth and the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus entered the world as her son, and he left the world as her savior. He was conceived in her womb, and then later he came into her heart. So where was Mary when this message came to her?
She was living in Nazareth, according to verse 26. Now, here's the problem with the Christmas story. Not with the story itself, but the way we sometimes choose to interpret it.
We have made it too beautiful. There's too much fairy dust on the story, and we miss what it really was saying. We've overly romanticized it, and as a result we have lost the power of the story of the birth of Jesus. And that starts with Nazareth. What was Nazareth? I don't know if you know this, but it was a city that was renowned for its wickedness. And this is not the first time an angel went to a wicked city. Remember, the angels were dispatched to Sodom to warn them of the judgment that was coming and to deliver Lot and his family. And to this wicked city known for its sin, the angel comes.
And to sort of confirm this, remember when Nathanael was told that Jesus was from Nazareth, he actually said, can any good thing come out of Nazareth? You know, certain cities are known for certain things. As an example, Rome is called the Eternal City. Paris is called the City of Lights. New York is called the City that Never Sleeps. And Las Vegas is called Sin City, right? Nazareth could also be called Sin City. Not only that, but it was sort of a non-place, meaning it was a small place that was between two other places.
It was a place where Roman soldiers would stop on their way to somewhere else. And because they spent a lot of time in this city, let's just say to put it delicately, more than one young woman found herself pregnant. And so here in this godless place lives this godly girl living a godly life.
And this brings me to point number one. Mary lived a godly life in an ungodly place. I don't know where you find yourself right now. Maybe you're surrounded by non-believers.
Maybe in the town or the village or the city where you live. It's known for its sinfulness and you wonder sometimes, how can I live a godly life in a place like this? You can do it with God's power just like Mary did. You know, sometimes we may think that certain sins cannot be resisted.
It's like that song said, simply irresistible, right? No, all sin can be resisted. 1 Corinthians 10, 13 says this, There is no temptation taking you, but such is as common to man. But God who is faithful will not allow you to be tempted above your capacity to resist, but will with that temptation make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it. Go back in your mind for a moment to the last time you were tempted this sin. And if you gave in to that sin, ask yourself this question. Was there a way out? Could I have resisted it if I had chosen to?
And the answer of course is yes. Mary shows you can live a godly life in an ungodly place. I would also add she was very young when the angel came to her.
Maybe as young as 13 or 14 years old. And by the way, the Bible is filled with the stories of young people that changed their world. Jeremiah was but a boy when the Lord called him to be a prophet to the nation Israel.
You remember those three courageous young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would not bow before the golden image erected by King Nebuchadnezzar. And then of course we think of others who took their stand in their youth, such as Stephen who we looked at not too long ago from our series in the book of Acts, who courageously stood up for his faith and actually lost his life in the process. So if you're young, I want you to know this. God can really use a young person. Let's not forget the fact that the last great spiritual awakening that we call the Jesus movement was largely a youth awakening, a youth movement. That's why Paul wrote to young Timothy and said, Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young.
Be an example to all the believers in the way you live and your love and your faith and your purity. You know, I started out preaching when I was very young. I became a Christian at the age of 17. I looked like this. Then I started preaching when I was 19. I looked like this. You can see that I sort of turned into a hippie. And I started pastoring our church when I was 20. In fact, here's a photograph of me signing a wedding certificate for a couple I married. By the way, what was I thinking with the suit?
That is one ugly suit. But I got started young. I was willing to take risks. I was willing to do something unexpected. And I'm just saying to you, God can use young people because they're willing to do something that is a little bit out of the box or to do something fresh, something that hasn't been done before. You know, when you get older, you become set in your ways.
You go to the same restaurant and you sit in the same spot and you order the same thing off the menu, right? I remember that when I was younger, I used to love to go on roller coasters. At least I went on roller coasters. And one day, and this may have been in my 40s, I just said, I'm not going on a roller coaster again.
I hate roller coasters. We were in Maui recently visiting our church. Harvest Kumalani and a bunch of my family decided to jump off this rock. Now the last time we were there a couple years earlier, I jumped off the rock with them.
And this time I looked down, I said, I don't want to jump off that rock anymore. See, when you're older, you're less willing to take a risk. But when you're younger, you're willing to say, let's see what the Lord will do. You might be a young person like Mary living in a godless place and you're seeking to live a godly life, and I want you to know your life can make a difference. Mary was a nobody in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere.
But here's the good news. God goes out of His way to use people like this. God uses nobodies to tell everybody about somebody. If you don't believe me, ask Mary and Joseph when you get to heaven.
Think about this. The Lord handpicked this young, maybe 13 or 14-year-old girl to fulfill Bible prophecy. Isaiah 7-14 says, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will call his name Immanuel. Do you think that Mary, hearing that passage, ever thought to herself, you know, I think I'm going to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. I think I'm going to be the virgin prophesied of in the book of Isaiah.
I seriously doubt that was the case. But she was the fulfillment of this promise that God gave. God chose this young, unknown girl in a relatively unknown city to bring about the most known event in all of human history. And it reminds us that God keeps His promises. There are over 500 passages in the Old Testament pointing to the arrival of the Messiah. We're told in these passages written before He was born, how He would be born, where He would be born. They talk about His crucifixion, His resurrection, and much more. And it just reminds us that God keeps His promises.
That's good to know, isn't it? Don't hesitate to hang on to the promises of God. The Bible says that the Lord has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises in 1 Peter 1. I think of the promises of God a little bit like gift cards. You know, gift cards are very popular now to give to people for the Christmas season. And if you're like me, you probably have a lot of unused gift cards. I read that $200 billion a year is spent on gift cards, and so many of them are left unused. Now, I have to admit to you that some gift cards I receive are cards I don't want to go to this place. I received a gift card from a place called Liverworld. Why would I want to eat at Liver... What would I buy at Liverworld? I made that up. There's no place called Liverworld. But I did get a card for a place called Kale Cats and Priuses.
That's a nightmare to me. Don't want to go there. And then I got another gift card for Dog Strollers R Us. Now, if you listen to me preach, you know that I have a particular dislike for people pushing dogs around in strollers. Also, I don't love cats.
I love some cats, not most cats. Don't like Priuses. They go too slow in the fast lane. And kale is the most worthless thing they've ever put on our plate. We used to call it garnish. Now we call it a meal.
What is going on? I digress. Anyway, unused gift cards.
Take those gift cards and use them. Take the promises of God and claim them for yourself. God keeps His promises just as surely as there were hundreds of promises in the Old Testament pertaining to the birth of Jesus. There are also so many promises in the Bible pertaining to the return of Jesus.
Jesus said, I will come again. I want you to look at Mary's reaction when the angel comes to her. She's honestly surprised and humbled. Verse 29 says, When she saw Him, she was troubled at His saying, considering what manner of greeting this was.
The word that is used here for troubled can be translated disturbed, confused, a failure to function. I mean, imagine, there you are, Mary. Maybe she's doing some chores.
Maybe she's sweeping the floor. And all of a sudden, this angel appears to her and gives her this message. Her life was about to change in one of the most amazing ways imaginable. And she's responsive to what God wants to do.
And let me also say this. This wasn't just any angel. I mean, it's a big deal to have an angel appear to you. But this was Gabriel. Gabriel is a mega angel. There's groupings of angels, rankings of angels. And Michael is the archangel. He seems to be the top dog in the angel world. I remember the Bible says that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, that would be Michael.
But Gabriel's right up there. Gabriel appears in the Old Testament book of Daniel, speaking to the prophet. And now Gabriel is personally delivering the significant message to Mary, telling her that she is going to be the mother of the Messiah.
That brings me to my next point. Mary obeyed and magnified God. Mary obeyed and magnified God. You know, she could have said, ah, no thank you. No one's going to believe that I am pregnant, and that it's been supernaturally done, and that I'm the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. They're going to think that I've been immoral, and I go out of my way to live a moral life.
No thanks, get someone else. But to her credit, Mary obeyed. She says, let it be as you want. And she does what the Lord tells her to do. What an incredible thing this is.
And then she does ask a legitimate question. How is this going to work out? How is this going to happen? I love the response of Gabriel when he says in Luke 1 37, with God, nothing shall be impossible. Maybe right now I'm talking to someone who is facing what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle. You have a problem that is so big, you don't know how it will ever be resolved. I want to remind you that God is bigger than your problem, and I want to remind you that with God, nothing is impossible. Maybe you have a marriage that's unraveling. You've done everything you can to save it, but it's hanging by a thread. In fact, the thread's on fire, and you're saying it's too late.
We're headed to divorce court. Hold on, don't give up. For with God, nothing shall be impossible.
Maybe you have a prodigal son or a prodigal daughter, or a prodigal husband or a prodigal wife, and by a prodigal, I mean they've walked away from God, and they have no interest in spiritual things, and you're praying for them, and you feel like they'll never return to the Lord. Don't give up. Don't lose hope. Why?
Because with God, nothing shall be impossible. Maybe you've been given bad news from a doctor. They've told you there is no course of treatment left for you.
Get your affairs in order. You're going to die. Well, listen, God decides when we will die, but let me also say to you, don't give up hope. Keep praying.
Why? Because with God, nothing shall be impossible. Let me shift gears now to another main character in the Christmas story that is often forgotten or ignored, and his name is Joseph. In my estimation, Joseph is the unsung hero of the Christmas story, bringing me to my next point. God chose Joseph just as surely as he chose Mary.
Let me say that again. God chose Joseph just as surely as he chose Mary. God the Father in heaven chose Joseph to be the stepfather, if you will, or father figure for Jesus on earth.
Who was Joseph? Well, we know he was a carpenter by trade. So this is what we might describe as a blue-collar worker. This is an average kind of a guy. This is a hard-working guy. This is a guy that goes out and chops trees down and frames houses and builds tables, and he taught Jesus to do the same.
I mean, think about this. God said, this is the man I want to represent me to Jesus on this earth, and Joseph was a good father figure for Jesus, and he did some amazing things as well. He bravely stood with Mary. She says to Joseph, Joseph, you're not gonna believe this, but the angel Gabriel appeared to me and told me I'm gonna be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, and I will be the mother of the Messiah. Joseph loved Mary.
He knew she was a godly girl. Frankly, he wasn't buying it. So he decided to put her away privately.
He wasn't going to expose her. His heart was broken. He loved Mary, but he said there's no way this is going to work, and so now the angel of the Lord comes to him as well. We shift gears over to Matthew chapter one, and we read this in Matthew 1 20. While he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and shall bring forth the Son and call his name Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins. Now, Joseph, just like Mary, could have said, uh, no, thank you, because no one's going to believe this. Joseph knew when he went down to the construction site the next day and they heard that Mary was pregnant that they weren't gonna believe his story, and in fact, Joseph went through life with people believing that his wife had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and Mary went through life with a reputation of being a loose girl.
She sort of had that scarlet A on her, and it was so unfair because it was the very opposite. In fact, on one occasion, the Pharisees said to Jesus, well, at least we weren't born of fornication. They were effectively saying, hey, at least we weren't born out of wedlock, like your immoral mother.
Man, those are funny words. How ridiculous, but yet this is exactly what God was doing. She was the fulfillment and she obeyed, and Joseph was willing to obey as well, and Joseph did a couple more amazing things, actually fulfilling Bible prophecies. An angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream, telling him to flee from Herod to Egypt.
Remember, King Herod was having those baby boys murdered in his attempt to stop the Messiah. Joseph did not wait till morning. He obeyed God and he moved. After Herod died, Joseph and the family returned again to Nazareth, and the Scripture said that Messiah would be called out of Egypt and he would be a Nazarene. So Joseph's actions not only protected his wife and his adopted son, but it prepared the way for God to fulfill many more prophecies. Hey, who knows why God has directed you to maybe do certain things, things that don't always make sense in the moment, but things that were actually the will of God.
Has God called you to take a step out of your comfort zone and do something unexpected, follow the example of Mary and Joseph, two young people that God used to change the world? Let's think a little bit about the virgin birth. Some would say, well, I have a hard time believing in the virgin birth, and I don't think it's really essential. I think if you believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, you don't have to believe in the virgin birth as well. Well, I would beg to differ with you on that because first of all, the virgin birth is clearly taught in the Bible, and either you're gonna believe the Bible or you're not gonna believe the Bible, and number two, to simply believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and not believe that he was supernaturally conceived and then when the virgin would be effectively to say he was a sinner like everybody else. See, if there's no virgin birth, there's no sinless Christ, and if there's no sinless Christ, there's no atonement, and if there's no atonement, there's no forgiveness, and if there's no forgiveness, there's no hope of heaven. So as you can see, believing in this biblical teaching of the virgin birth of Jesus is essential as a follower of Jesus.
Now let me close with three thoughts. Why did Jesus come? Why was Jesus born? Was Jesus born in the manger so we could all go shopping and spend billions of dollars?
No. Jesus was born in that manger and came to this world to bring life in all of its fullness. Jesus said in John 10, 10, I have come that you might have life in that more abundantly. Jesus came to bring you a meaningful life, a life with purpose. You see, medical science seeks to add years to our life, but Christ adds life to our years.
He gives you a life that is worth living. Right now, people get all excited about what they're gonna get under the Christmas tree, thinking that's gonna bring them some kind of fulfillment, but I would venture to say that you will forget all about the gift you're gonna receive. Do you even remember what you received last Christmas?
Probably not. No, it's not about the gift under the tree. It's not about if you get this thing that you think that you want. It's about a relationship with God. Jesus came to give you life in all of its fullness. Number two, Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. To give his life as a ransom for many. If you wanna get real technical, he was born to die that we might live. Jesus was coming on a rescue operation. That baby was gonna die on a cross.
I know we don't like to think about that, but that's actually why he came. Jesus himself said in Mark 10 45, the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Lastly, Jesus was born in a manger that we might be born again.
C.S. Lewis put it this way. The son of God became a man that men might become sons of God. He was born in that manger so I could come into a relationship with God through him. He offers to us the gift of eternal life. The Bible calls this the unspeakable gift. If I was offering you a gift for Christmas, let's say I'm gonna give you my green Bible for Christmas. Here you go, Merry Christmas. If you want this gift, you need to reach out and accept it.
Open it, enjoy it. In the same way, God offers you this incredible gift because at this time of the year, many find themselves depressed, despondent, lonely, hurting, and I think it's because they're expecting Christmas itself to satisfy them and really what you're looking for is Jesus. It's interesting, when I was young and I came to Christ at the age of 17, I mentioned that earlier, the thing that drew me to Christ was the hope of finding the meaning of life. I wanted to know why I was on this earth. I wanted to know what I was here for and I found that in him and I knew that I would go to heaven when I died but that was not the most appealing part of the gospel to me at the age of 17.
Well now, at the age of 69, that's changed. Now the part that I sort of took for granted has become more and more valuable to me, that part called eternal life, that gift that God has given to me because I'm closer to the end of my race than I am to the beginning of my race and I'm so thankful that I have this gift. Truly, what Christ gives us is the only gift that keeps on giving.
No batteries required. We just have to receive this gift. Maybe you find yourself like Mary as a nobody living in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere but I want you to know that God knows all about you. God loves you and he desires to have this relationship with you. You might say, well Greg, I've made some bad decisions. There's no way that I could ever change. Well listen, you can't change yourself any more than a drowning man can save himself. You need God's help. You need to call out to Jesus.
Again, this is why he came. He was born in the manger so you might be born again. My question to you is have you been born again? I've actually heard some people say, well I'm a Christian. I'm just not one of those born agains.
Well hold on, you cannot be a Christian without being born again. What is the context of that phrase? It was given by Jesus to a religious leader named Nicodemus who came to him at night and Jesus said, truly I say to you, you must be born again.
Or literally born from above. You say, what does that mean? It means that there comes a moment where you admit to God that you're a sinner and you have a spiritual rebirth. You have a fresh start. It can happen for you right here, right now because the same Jesus that was born in the manger and then died on a cross and then rose from the dead is standing at the door of your life right now and he is knocking and he is saying, if you will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in. Have you asked Jesus to come into your life yet? Have you asked him to forgive you of your sin?
If not, he'll do that if you'll call out to him. The Bible says whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved so I'm gonna stop now for a prayer and I'm gonna pray a simple prayer and I'm gonna ask you if you want Jesus to come into your life, if you wanna find the meaning and purpose of life, if you wanna have the assurance that you'll go to heaven when you die, I'm gonna ask you to pray this simple prayer that I'm about to pray out loud after me. You can pray it in the quietness of your heart if you want to. But the main thing is you need to pray this prayer.
I can't pray it for you. So it's a simple prayer I'll lead you in. If you want Jesus to come into your life, if you wanna find the meaning of life, if you wanna go to heaven when you die, if you want your sin and guilt removed, pray this prayer after me. Just pray these words. Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner but I know that you're the savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin now and I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer.
In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries, follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally, go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
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