The Virgin Birth

December 19, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Incarnation, Luke | 6 Comments
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In the ongoing series of theological concepts to discuss with our kids during the holidays, we have mentioned:

1. Incarnation
2. Advent
3. The Condescension
Now we come to:
4. The Virgin Birth

This can be a tricky one with kids, and – especially when it comes to really young kids – you may want to leave the subject of virginity alone, or at least use a tremendous amount of tact and delicacy. Use your own judgment. You will know what your own kids can and can’t handle and understand. However, the miracle of Mary’s pregnancy, despite having no husband and having never “known” a man (Luke 1:34), is a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith.

First, it shows the miraculous power of God, because babies just aren’t conceived this way apart from His supernatural action. Second, Jesus Christ, although conceived in the womb of a sinner, was not “conceived in sin” the way every other human being (sons and daughters of Adam) has been. Jesus was not only holy, sinless, and righteous in all His earthly deeds, thoughts, intentions, and words, but was sinless in His essence and “person.”

Perhaps you could explain to your children that the appearance of a newborn baby requires a mommy and daddy, except for this one time – which we celebrate at Christmas – when a baby was born whose Father was God.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:26-37

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

We will continue the series by looking at the humanity of Jesus next time.

Growing up Perfect

October 26, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Luke | 4 Comments
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Even as the birth of Jesus heralded Good News for the helpless and the hopeless, Jesus Himself quickly became “the hunted,” as His earthly parents were forced to flee to Egypt for His safety. Luke did not record this event in Jesus’s life, but he did document the family’s observance of the Levitical rites of purification under the Old Testament law.

And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female. And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

Leviticus 12:4-8

Under these laws, a woman was considered unclean for 40 days after giving birth to a boy, and for 80 days after giving birth to a girl. Her separation from the Tabernacle had hygienic reasons and spiritually symbolic reasons, but why would a sin offering have been required? Not because having a baby is a sin, but as a reminder that our sin nature is transmitted by birth.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Luke 2:21-24

The fact that Joseph and Mary went with the bird offering instead of a lamb shows that they were not wealthy, and that Jesus was not born with a silver spoon in His mouth, despite the claims of some of the prosperity preachers. (I don’t know if you’ve purchased a lamb lately, but they aren’t cheap!) This also shows the humanity of Jesus, and that one of His Divine missions was to fulfill all righteousness and to perfectly keep the Law of God.

Now we meet Simeon, another elderly person (like Zacharias and Anna) who had been praying and waiting for the Messiah.

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Luke 2:26

Most people tend to think of “Christ” as Jesus’s last name, but really it is a title: the Anointed (Messiah/Christos) of God. Jesus was God incarnate, and He was also sent by God the Father, to both the Jewish people and to gentiles.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name [was] Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Luke 2:25 (emphasis added)

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Luke 2:32

Here is what Simeon prophesied about the life of Mary:

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 2:34-35

This remark about a sword piercing her soul referred to the ongoing conflict of loving her human Son and of knowing something of His Divine calling. Try to imagine the tension of having a Son Who was sinless and Who would have recognized the sin of His earthly parents acutely, and still having the responsibility of exercising parental authority over Him.

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

Luke 2:39

Here, once again, the Holy Spirit had Luke emphasize Jesus’s perfection under the Law.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

This is a good picture of what parents should be nurturing in their young children. Growth is promoted by nourishment, exercise, and protection. Strength in spirit means spiritual “toughness” – learning the principles of faith and separation. Fullness of wisdom means intellectual instruction. The grace of God is given by God, obviously, but it is to be explained and illustrated to children by their parents.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

Luke 2:41-50

Note the “must” and note the “business” to get an idea of the way we ought to view church attendance and ministry. As far I know these are the only two recorded questions asked by Jesus during the first 30 or so years of His earthly life, and they speak a world of information about our reason for living this life: carrying out our Father’s business, in community, and considering it unthinkable to do otherwise.

Character and Integrity Part 3

August 28, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in character and integrity, Luke | 12 Comments
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Who are your three main enemies? They are the devil, the “world,” and your flesh. The devil wants to lie to you, and deceive you. Your flesh wants you to please you, and not to please God. The world wants you to be fake – something you’re not – so that it can somehow make money at your expense.

It is important to be what God wants you to be. When you are fake, God knows it, and that is damaging to your integrity. When you are fake, other people know it, and that’s damaging to your character. Let’s look at the example of Mary in the Bible, and see what we can learn about her character and integrity.

Mary lived in Nazareth, a disreputable place.

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:45-46

There are places today with a reputation similar to Nazareth. I grew up in a small town that is kind of the “Nazareth” of North Louisiana. Nazareth in Mary’s time would have been the kind of place where a teenaged girl could have easily been bored, seeing the merchants and traders going to and from Jerusalem. That boredom could have led to temptation and promiscuity and immorality for many of the teenaged girls who lived there.

However, Mary was engaged to be married, and she was a virgin. The angel Gabriel came to visit her. He told her that she would conceive and bear a Son, and that she was to name Him Jesus, and that this Jesus was the Son of God. Mary was probably around 13-15 years old at this time.

Contrary to Roman Catholic dogma, Mary was not sinless. She, like all of us, was a descendant of Adam. Of all the people ever to walk the face of the Earth, only Jesus was without sin.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Mary called called God her Savior (Luke 1:47). She knew she was a sinner, and she knew she needed a Savior.

Even though she was a sinner, Mary is a good Bible example of someone with integrity. She kept her virginity. She was saved.

Let’s look at her character. In a previous lesson we learned about the things which spoke well of David’s character.

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I Samuel 16:28

We can compare this description of David to Mary.

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Luke 1:28

People who knew Mary might have wondered about her character. God knew she was a virgin, but what do you think people said when they found out she was pregnant before she got married?

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

John 8:39-41

People who knew about Jesus’s birth and childhood accused Him of being born out of wedlock. That was a reflection of their opinion of Mary, too. However, Mary surrendered her character to the Lord.

Character has to do with your name – what other people think of you – but we can’t always control that. What happens when you have integrity, but other people are wrongly smearing your character? I have three school-age daughters, and I can tell you from what I know of their experiences that all children can be mean, but girls can be meaner than boys – especially when it comes to gossip.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Even though Mary could predict how her miraculous pregnancy would affect her character, she said, “That’s fine with me, Lord.” Mary considered herself a handmaiden, and, in Mary’s day, handmaidens had to serve – and they had to serve joyfully.

Can you say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy Word?” Before you begin to hope that God would never do something to you that would embarrass you the way Mary’s pregnancy embarrassed her, remember: He already has. His Word tells you to do all sorts of things that are going to make people think you’re weird. And some of those things are going to affect your character – in the short term.

Are we willing to look in the Book and see it what it says? Are we dressing immodestly? Do we tell lies? Do we put ourselves in places of sexual temptation? Are we actively hoping for some strong temptation to come along, so that when we fall, we can blame the temptation, and not ourselves?

Many Christians say, “I’m saved – but I’m going to mess up once in while.” If we call ourselves Christians, then we had better stand for the Name of Christ. When I fill in the blank on a form that asks what religion I am, and I say, “Christian,” I don’t want to be responsible for someone else saying no to Jesus, based on my character.

Mary not only surrendered to the Lord, she was happy about it. As soon as she heard about God’s plan, she went to see her cousin, and she sang a song of praise about it. Her song is found in Luke 1:46-55. It is often called the “Magnificat.”

The word “Magnificat,” comes from the same root which gives us our word, “magnify.” To “magnify” something means to “make something bigger” or “to give someone glory.” Mary’s song magnified the Lord. She was interested in making herself seem smaller, and the Lord seem bigger. Mary would not have been happy with the way this part of the Bible is often used today. The Roman Catholic Church has a well-known prayer referred to as the “Hail Mary.” It comes from a combination of Luke 1:28 and 42. The Catholic prayer says, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” But Luke 1:28 tells us that the “hail” with which the angel greeted Mary, was just that: a greeting – not a description of sinlessness. Mary was not “full of grace.” She was a sinner, saved by God’s grace, through faith. When the Bible calls her “highly favored” it means that Mary was the recipient of grace given to her by God.

Note that Luke 1:32 does not say, “You will be great…” It says, “He shall be great..,” referring to Jesus. And Verse 42, which says, “blessed art thou among women,” has Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin – not the angel – speaking.

So, what was Mary’s secret? How could she be so happy, so excited, so obedient… knowing that her character was going to be questioned? For one thing, Mary loved the Word of God – she knew the Scriptures.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

Remember, Mary did not have a Bible. She would have gone to the synagogue to hear the Word of God in the Old Testament being read aloud. Mary hid the Word in her heart – she memorized it. In her song, she quotes from the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. Luke 1:50 has part of Exodus 20:6 in it. Luke 1:51 has part of Isaiah 40:10 in it. Luke 1:53 has part of Psalm 107:9 in it. If Mary could memorize Bible verses without even owning a Bible, how much more should we be able to do it when we can have access to a Bible any time we want!

It grieves me to see people – especially teenaged children – get up after a Sunday School class, and leave their Bibles laying on the floor. We have to wonder if Mary would have gone out of the synagogue and left her written copy of God’s Word, if she had had one, laying on the floor.

So we see, Mary could face the possibility of having people say bad things about her – to fail to see her true character – because she was not being fake. She was being real. She understood that her life needed to be given to obeying the Lord joyfully. The secret of having that joy was (1) surrendering to God’s Word and His way; (2) magnifying the Lord; and (3) knowing the Bible and memorizing it.

Unlike David, other people didn’t always say, “The Lord is with him/her…” However, when it comes to Mary’s character, think about the people who whispered about Mary, and said bad things about her behind her back. And then ask yourself, “Who do we recognize as the earthly mother of our Savior?” Bible students for centuries have honored the name of Mary for her Godly character, but we do not know the name of a single one of her critics. I’d say that’s pretty good character.


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