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Why Following Jesus is Difficult: The Story of Joseph, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
December 22, 2020 9:00 am

Why Following Jesus is Difficult: The Story of Joseph, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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December 22, 2020 9:00 am

Joseph tends to be a background character in the Christmas story. But through this ordinary carpenter, we see a clear picture of what it really means to follow Jesus.

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Today on Summit Life, Pastor J.D. Greer talks about a pretty important man in Jesus's life. Four things you see in Joseph. Trust, absolute obedience, acceptance of a sentence of death, self-denial, and willingness to embrace inconvenience. So where, where does the strength come from, church, to do those things?

Joseph didn't have any emotional moment of surrender. No, no. This was the beginning of a lifestyle of those four things. Joseph tends to be a bit of a background character in the Christmas story. After all, we do focus more on Mary and the angels and shepherds and wise men. But today on Summit Life, Pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer is going to spend some time unpacking Joseph's side of the story.

I mean, he got his own visit from an angel too. Through this ordinary carpenter, we'll see a picture of what it really means to follow Jesus. It's part of our series called Upside Down Christmas and Pastor J.D. titled this message from Matthew chapter one, Why Following Jesus is Difficult, The Story of Joseph. Make no mistake, to actually follow Jesus is difficult, very difficult.

You see, there's a great irony in the Christian life. Following Jesus ushers you into a life that is simultaneously the most joyful and the most difficult life on earth. To actually go all the way with Jesus, you've got to have a strong grasp on why he is worth it. And that's what you're going to see in Matthew one and two. Matthew's going to show you right out of the gate.

He's going to show you what it looks like to follow Jesus and how you gain the motivation to actually do it. Matthew chapter one, let's begin in verse 18. Matthew 1 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. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to put her away quietly or divorce her quietly. Can you imagine for just a minute how painful and humiliating this was for Joseph? Well, of course, as you could probably understand, Joseph doesn't believe her. He's like, oh right, the Holy Ghost got you pregnant. But Joseph was, for whatever it was worth, he was a pretty good guy and he was kind, so he arranged to break the betrothal quietly.

Legally, by the way, he could have had her stoned. Verse 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.

The Holy Spirit. And she will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel, which means God with us.

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife, but he knew her not until she had given birth to a son, and they called his name Jesus. So this pregnancy ruined both of their reputations in the community. Mary did not get the storybook wedding she had always dreamed about with her dad walking her down the aisle and all of her friends and all of her family present. I mean, not only that, eventually they're going to have to leave their family.

They're going to have to flee their homelands. They're going to have to get rid of everything because of Jesus. Why did God do it this way? I think the Holy Spirit is laying out the pattern from Jesus' birth for how people are going to have to follow him. So I'm going to give you four elements from Joseph's life about following Jesus that are not, listen, that are not just an inspiring example from the past.

They're a compelling example in the present. This is how your life is going to look if you actually follow Jesus. Number one, what following Jesus looks like. First one, letter A, trust and absolute obedience. Trust and absolute obedience.

Joseph had to believe the impossible and to risk everything on the fact that the impossible was true. Here's the second thing, B, acceptance of a sentence of death. Acceptance of a sentence of death. Mary's out of wedlock pregnancy put her under a literal death sentence in Jewish law. Here we go, letter C. The third thing, self-denial. Self-denial. Verse 25 tells you that Joseph did not know Mary or have sex with her until after the birth of Jesus.

So not only did he have to wait a year in betrothal, he waited another year after she finds out she's pregnant before he is able to be together with his wife. That's significant, I think. Right? Following Jesus means denying yourself some of the things that you might otherwise enjoy. Here's the last one, letter D, willingness to embrace inconvenience.

Willingness to embrace inconvenience. Do you realize how much Jesus' birth complicated Joseph's life? It messed up his relationships with his family. It messed up relationships with his friends, his job. I mean in those days if people in your community did not like you, then they wouldn't bring you their business.

Eventually, by the way, he had to move and start over. I'll tell you this, serving Jesus is rarely convenient. Sharing Christ is rarely that convenient for me.

Whether that's reaching out to a neighbor or striking up a conversation with a guy next to me in a plane, it's rarely convenient. This week, sitting next to a guy on an airplane, I just had a couple of really intense days of ministry. And I sit down next to there and it's just one of those things, the guy sitting next to me, I'm feeling the Holy Spirit say, you know, you need to strike up a conversation with this guy. And I know that you think that I do that because I'm a pastor, I'm an extrovert, and I just really enjoy this. I know that's what you think. You're like, oh, if I was a pastor, I'd do it too.

I don't do it. I'm sitting there thinking, oh, I just want to, I mean, God, I need to rest. I just want to read my book. That's all I want. The next hour, that's all that I want, God.

And you know, Jesus is like, yep, I hung on a cross naked for six hours on a Friday and you need a break. Let's go ahead and talk about that one for a while. I strike up the conversation, not because it's convenient, but because it's the great commission.

It's what he told us to do. Here's one other one. It is inconvenient for me to take a stand on what the Bible teaches about the sin of homosexuality and things like that. I can't tell you how many times I have thought, you know, it'd just be easier if I just avoided those topics altogether and just shut up about them and just been like, you know what, that's a personal preference. It's a controversial issue. Let me just talk about love and Jesus and all that kind of stuff and then just forget about that.

If you don't think that I feel that all the time, then I don't know if you understand, understand how I see our culture going. This is not getting easier. But I'm gonna tell you this, if you're gonna follow Jesus, you might as well go ahead and get used to it. Because if you follow Jesus, just like Mary and Joseph, you're gonna be misunderstood, mistreated, maligned, and ultimately persecuted.

And it's just gonna get worse in the days to come. Four things you see in Joseph, trust, absolute obedience, acceptance of a sentence of death, self-denial, and willingness to embrace inconvenience. So where, where does the strength come from, church, to do those things?

This is really important. Because unless you get this next principle I'm about to give you, you're never really gonna make it in a sustained way. Because ultimately, if you don't have the motivation, motivation comes from the word motor, the motor to do it, then you're just never gonna make it.

Right? Because once you have the motor in place, you can endure all kinds of sacrifice and pain. I'll give you an example. If right before you got on an airplane, I handed you a big old bulky backpack, said I need you to wear this in the seat while you're on the plane. First of all, you should never take packages from strangers. But second of all, it would be, I mean, you're cramped, you know how much leg space it is, last thing you wanna do is wear a big bulky backpack sitting in the seat. It would be horribly inconvenient, you wouldn't be willing to do it.

Unless I somehow told you that I knew that at 30,000 feet, that plane's going down and that's your parachute. Then all of a sudden, it doesn't become a drudgery, it becomes something you're really grateful for and you gladly wear it because you know the value of it. So where does the strength to follow Jesus come from? I see two different things in this passage. First of all, you see the word behold in verse 23. Behold in Greek is the word idou, which is an extremely strong word.

It's like saying, look at this. Because when you see this, you're gonna have the strength to do what God's asking you to do. So what is he telling him to look at? Behold, watch, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means God with us. Two things I see. Number one, I see a kept promise or letter A, a kept promise. A kept promise. You see, that verse is actually a quote from a prophecy given in Isaiah and it's kind of a strange one.

So give me just a minute to unpack it for you. Originally, that prophecy, now follow this, was given to King Ahaz in Judah in about 700 BC when the armies of Syria were about to attack and destroy his kingdom. Well, Ahaz was so wicked that he knew he couldn't ask God for help, so he just refused to pray. Well, word came through the prophet Isaiah that God was not going to allow the kingdom to be destroyed even though Ahaz was wicked because God wanted to keep his promise to Abraham. And so Isaiah tells Ahaz that God is going to protect Judah even though they don't deserve it and to prove that Ahaz, God is going to give Ahaz a sign of it. Well, unbelievably, Ahaz does not want a word from God because then he'll feel like he's obligated to obey what God says and I already told you he's really wicked. So Isaiah says back to him, you don't get to make the rules, here's your sign, all right.

God is going to accomplish his purposes whether you want him to or not. Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son and they will call his name Immanuel. Now, the word virgin in Hebrew can mean one of two things. It can mean a girl who's never had sex or it can also mean simply a girl of marriageable age.

In this context, everyone would have assumed that it meant a girl of marriageable age and they would have been like, big deal. I mean, that's the sign a young woman will get pregnant. I mean, that happens all the time. That's like saying the proof of this prophecy is that the dogs will bark and the birds will chirp.

Right? Big deal. It happened. Somebody in Ahaz's household had a baby and that was the sign.

But it didn't seem that impressive. And watch this, for 700 years that prophecy was kind of a mystery in scripture because it seemed just kind of random and out of place. But now, through the angel, God says, this is actually what I was talking about. It's not just that a young woman would conceive, but a virgin, the other meaning of that word.

A girl who's never been with a man, she's going to conceive. That's a little more impressive. And in that miraculous birth, I'm going to deliver Israel from all of her fears and I'm going to fulfill to the fullest all of my promises to Abraham. You see, Ahaz was thinking simply of a deliverance from one invading army. God was promising ultimate deliverance from all of his enemies. In that moment, watch, Joseph saw that God was faithful to keep to the fullest all the promises he had made. Even though the times looked dark, even though it looked like Israel had been overrun by her enemies, God took an obscure prophecy and brought ultimate fulfillment through it. And that showed Joseph that God always keeps his word to the fullest.

Here's what you should see from that. God keeps all of his promises then, God keeps all of his promises now. A lot of you ask, is God really active in the world? How could what's going on in the world be anything but random? I mean, you watch the news, I watch it.

You're like, this looks out of control. How could it be anything but random? If God is really involved in this, why is it such a mess?

Or maybe you ask that about your life. Where's God been in my life? Is God really out there?

How could God really be active? Here's the sign, a virgin conceived. And by the way, the virgin didn't just conceive, she gave birth to a baby who would grow up, who'd be crucified, who would then be resurrected from the dead.

There's your sign. A lot of you base your faith in God on the fact or lack of faith in God and the fact that he hadn't done what you wanted. Your trust in God should not be based on how well he has fulfilled your expectations.

It ought to be based on the signs that he has left for you. And the signs that he's left for you is behold, a virgin conceived. And behold, that virgin gave birth to a baby who would be resurrected from the dead.

So I see a kept promise. Number two, I see a remarkable name. A remarkable name. That baby is given two names in these verses, Jesus and Emmanuel. Now the first name Jesus indicates what he does. The second name, Emmanuel, indicates who he was. Jesus in Hebrew means, literally, God saves. Yah, shua in Hebrew. Yah, Jehovah, shua saves. Emmanuel means God with us.

Emmanuel with us, El God. In those two names, listen, Joseph got a picture of the glory of God. Listen, the most foundational doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. He was born of a human, Mary, so he was fully man. But because he was virgin born, she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, thus making him fully God. By the way, if you're new to Christianity, that does not mean that God came down and had sex with Mary.

It means that miraculously he implanted in her by the Holy Spirit a baby that was hers, thus making him human, but he implanted it by himself, making him God. He was fully man and fully God. He was born as a man because he had to be a man to be our true representative on the cross. He lived the life that we were supposed to live as a man.

He faced everything that we faced and passed every test that we failed. And then he died to death that we were condemned to die. He took our place on the cross as our representative, and he could only do that if he was fully man and had the same flesh that you have. So he was born as a man to die in our place. But he was also fully God, and he had to be fully God for a couple of reasons. First, the only one that was capable to save like this was God. But the other reason he had to be fully God is because the whole point of the creation was because God wanted to have a relationship with us. In the Garden of Eden, after God created Adam and Eve, do you remember what it said that God did with them every night?

Because he came down and he walked with them. The whole point has always been about God being with you. He is not a distant judge that you serve out of fear. He is a loving father that you commune with and walk with and a friend that you lean on and depend on. Do you know God this way?

See, many of you, you've never gotten out of the judge thing, the distant thing. Do you understand? Do you walk with a God who is there to bear your pain, to bear your sorrow, to commune with, to walk with you as a friend, to go through life with you? Could you say God is with me, God is in me, and I walk with God? That's the whole point of him becoming God with us. It was seeing these two names, seeing God as Jesus and Emmanuel, that gave Joseph the strength to follow Jesus.

Here's why. Because the little secret here is that everything that God, watch, is going to have Mary and Joseph go through, he, God, is going to go through for them. Mary and Joseph, just like Mary and Joseph, Jesus would be misunderstood and falsely accused. The religious establishment would despise and condemn Jesus.

Like Mary, Jesus would carry about in his body a death sentence from being falsely accused, except he actually would die in shame, bearing the curse for somebody else. In self-denial, he would take upon his back a bloody cross and open up his hands to have nails driven into them so that we could be saved. He took our sin.

He bore our shame. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him, smitten, stricken by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions.

He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. Essentially, Joseph, listen, is being invited to share in the sufferings of Jesus. Listen, if you're going to follow Jesus, everything that Jesus experienced on earth for you, you got to be willing to experience for him. That's the whole point of God with us. He is inviting Mary and Joseph to share in his sufferings.

Let me prove that to you and prove to you that you're the same as Joseph. The Great Commission, which that's how Matthew ends the gospel. You know what the Great Commission starts with, the phrase?

You might never put this together. How's the Great Commission start? Matthew 28 18. Behold, Ido, I am with you always, Immanuel.

He starts and ends the gospel with the message of Immanuel. And because God is with you, you will go throughout all the world bearing inconvenience, shame, persecution, a death sentence for his name, and you do it joyfully because you go with him. He is the treasure that makes the sacrifice worth it. He is the only treasure that makes the sacrifice worth it. And if you are not in love with the treasure, you'll never put up with the sacrifice. Jesus explained that in one of my favorite parables. It's the shortest parable he told. I think I probably shared it with you a lot, but in Matthew 13 44. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which a man discovers and then rehides and then it says for joy over what he's found and goes and sells all that he has to purchase that field. Let me kind of stretch that out just a tad for you, show you what it means.

Let me just put it in modern day terms. You got a guy who's taking a shortcut home and as he's walking through this old abandoned field, he stubs his toe. He turns to look and see what he stubbed his toe on and he sees a box sticking out of the ground. So he begins to move the dirt around it and as he uncovers it, he discovers that it's a treasure chest. He opens up the treasure chest and in it is a treasure of inestimable value. It's like the last shipment of Twinkies, you know, that that this is it right here.

There are millions upon millions of dollars worth. So what's the guy do? One of the things I love about Jesus's parables is quite often in Jesus's parables he puts in shady characters. Have you ever noticed that?

This is one of those cases. The man, right, does he go and tell the guy who owns the field? No, he covers it back up, right?

So you can't see it. Then he goes to his buddy who owns the field and he's like, hey man, I'd really like to buy your field because the guy has no idea the treasure's in there. And the guy's like, well, why do you want to buy my field? You know, it's just a piece of, you know, and the guy's like, I don't know, man, it's just, I like it.

You know, the trees and the grass and the dirt on this makes me feel peaceful. The guy's like, well, it's been in my family. I don't really want to sell it. So he quotes him some astronomical price. Before the guy can get the price out of his mouth, this other guy yells, sold! Runs back and he says he begins to sell everything that he had, everything, which means all of his investments, all his car, everything.

He's getting rid of all of it. And then Jesus uses two words that you would hardly ever use for somebody who is losing everything they have ever possessed. He uses the words for joy. Why joy? Because, watch this, because the joy of what he was obtaining outweighed the pain of what he was losing. And the joy that he found in the treasure made the sacrifice of giving everything else seem almost inconsequential. And Jesus, watch, brings together both of those things into one. That the Christian life is simultaneously great joy because of the treasure you find.

You walk with Jesus. But it's also pain because you have to sell everything you have in order to be able to obtain him. Which means, listen, if you lack the ability to sacrifice, it's not that you need to strengthen your self-discipline. It's that you need to strengthen your joy. Because when the joy is present, so will the sacrifice. When you have the strength to be joyful, that's when you'll have the strength to sacrifice. Here's what I'll tell you. Every single one of you in here, every single one of you, has the power for great sacrifice.

All of you. Has nothing to do with how strong your will is. It's just that for many of you, you've never seen the value of the treasure. If you understood the value of the treasure, then sacrifice would not be a problem at all. We don't know much more about Joseph. That's the last time he appears in the Gospel of Matthew in any significant way. And by the time Jesus is an adult, he is no longer around.

Which means he most likely died. But he passed on to us a legacy for how we could gain the strength to follow Jesus. Joseph's life tells us it's worth it. God keeps his promises.

Jesus is worth the pain and the shame and the shattered dreams and even death if it comes. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer and a message from our series titled Upside Down Christmas. Well, Pastor JD, this time of the year is really critical for ministries like Summit Life as we close the books on another year. And I think for a lot of people that's kind of surprising because they don't really know what is involved in funding a ministry like this.

You know, radio is one of those things that unless you're involved in the industry, you probably don't realize how much goes into these programs, getting it to your ears. When you give to Summit Life, you're making sure that that cost doesn't get in the way of anybody who wants to learn and grow through these messages. We want anybody anywhere to be able to tune in and hear the words of life for free. It's your gift that helps people just like you or just like the truck drivers we hear from or just like the young moms or dads or the college students or even the prisoners that are able to hear the gospel because your sacrifice has made that possible. And so we want to invite you to join with us today in that mission. Maybe you could think even around this time about giving an extra year-end gift so that we're able to enter into this new year with momentum and able to explore some of the new areas that God is opening up for us to be able to go on the air in these places to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Will you join with us today by making an important year-end donation?

There's just a little over a week left before the end of the year, so your gift right now is more important than ever. And to say thanks for your support, we brought back the popular 2021 Summit Life Day Planner. Now this is so much more than just a day planner.

Of course there's space for you to record all of your notes and to-do items, but we've also included a Bible reading plan that'll take you through large sections of the Bible over the next year. We'll send you a copy today with our thanks for your gift to the ministry. Simply mention the 2021 Planner when you give by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or it might be easier to give online at I'm Molly Vitovich. Tomorrow find out how three pagan philosophers were among the first to work to worship Jesus. I think you know where this one is headed. So we'll see you Wednesday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-15 23:37:18 / 2023-08-15 23:47:45 / 10

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