“A Sermon for President’s Day” by Rick Sons

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” John 8:34-36

As many of you know, I was a history major in college and even today, the study of the past still seems to occupy my interest. For hours and hours each week, I sit at the laptop and read how history has helped to mold the world today.

My wife will tell you that she has difficulty watching movies with me as I set with the laptop and check everything for accuracy. To this day I can’t watch “Gone with the Wind,” as it is full of incorrect information.

History is full of stories and each story has purpose. So, what’s the single greatest American History story?

This is a hard question to answer because, to each person or historian, stories hold different places in the heart and there are so many stories from which to choose.

Sometimes it is the same story told in different ways.

With the upcoming holiday tomorrow (President’s Day), this may not be the greatest, but it would have to be in the top five.

The day the sixteenth president of our country said, that as of January 1, 1863, no people could be sold in America anymore; no brown children sold in the market; no weeping mothers sold away from their children; no husbands and fathers torn from their wives and children; no more; done; the end.

It was the end of slavery in this country. The end of a way of life for many and the start of a new journey for others.

A tall skinny kid from Kentucky, who grew to become the President of the United States, got shot in the head for it (and I think he knew he would be murdered for it), but did it anyway because he knew it was right.

It was right to let all people be free, no longer to be bound or held captive.

This is a great story, but not a new one.

John 8:34-36 says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”

So, what is a slave?

A slave is not determined by color. In the history of the U.S., blacks were slaves, but only because Africans were selected and imported as slaves, mainly for economic and demographic reasons.

Slavery was created to supply much-needed labor for the colonists, but not because they were deemed inferior. It was only over time that slavery became associated with the dark skin of Africans, which led to the colonists’ feelings of superiority and racism.

A slave had no liberty or say in vital issues. To be a slave meant to work while being subject to every will of the owner.

Slaves were abused physically, emotionally and mentally. They were broken down in almost every way possible.

Some of the basic rights that slaves were denied were: the right to speak their opinion, to right to get married, the right to keep their kids, the right to work for themselves, and the right think the way they wanted or do what they wanted.

A slave was to be seen but not heard; he had no freedom.

A slave was in bondage under the guardians and custodians who were in charge of them.

Slaves had no identity; they could not use their African names, so slave owners gave English names to the slaves. There were only given first names, as they were considered property and not people deserving of surnames.

After Emancipation, former slaves adopted new names. They did so either to take on a surname for the first time, or to replace a name or surname given to them by a former master.

A number of African-Americans changed their names out of the belief that the names they were given at birth were slave names. (Slaves believed that the slave name would keep them a slave in the eyes of the civilized world.) Many slaves took the name of Lincoln after being freed, and some even though they could not read took names from Scripture that they had heard.

They were free, but this freedom came with limits.

For some, they still called themselves slaves (free slaves) as they still felt they were in bondage and the only life they knew was now gone.

So, let’s ask: who else is a slave?

Obviously, all of us who are sinners are slaves.

Some of us are slaves to our own thinking, slaves to pride, slaves to anger, slaves to worry, or slaves to money.

We were not sold into slavery; some of us walked into it by our own power and choosing.

We were slaves to sins in bondage, and slaves to the world but Jesus saved us by grace and through his love we can be free. Jesus redeemed us so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters to be children of God.

To be children of God, there was an urgent need that we must be born again, regenerated, sanctified, and washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

To those that believe in Christ and receive Him, He gives them power to become the children of God. We must open our hearts and allow Jesus to occupy us because in Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves, but sons – heirs of the kingdom.

In saving us from slavery, He had to die. Jesus knew the outcome and He knew, that to free us, it would cost Him His life.

Being saved and set free is to receive a new identity. In Jesus, we do not lose ourselves, but we become our true selves in Him. In Christ, we are fundamentally new and belong to the Kingdom of heaven.

The language, values, and customs of this world feel foreign to us. Like the slave, we do not want to appear as a slave in the eye of the world. We have been born again for another world; to a greater kind of existence.

That tall skinny guy from Kentucky did the right thing even when he knew he would get a bullet for it.

Thanks to a skinny kid from Kentucky, whom we know as Abraham Lincoln, all people are now free to live and no longer fear being in bondage.

Thanks to Jesus, we are no longer slaves to sin because He defeated the power of sin’s hold in our lives.

We are no longer slaves to our self, our shame, our past, our rejection, our sins, or the sins of others. We are free. Truly free.

Through Jesus, His freedom is limitless; it removes every chain, every burden.

Our freedom was not freely purchased; it cost the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is His death that won our freedom.

Jesus, who was no slave, but the King of the universe, became slave to death to defeat it.

What is the greatest story in history? It is the story of freedom and you can choose which chapter in this part of history you like best.

No longer slaves – that has a nice sound.

All we need to do is walk in the freedom and victory of Christ. The idea of slavery may seem alien in this century, but it was very much a reality in centuries past – not just in our history but throughout the whole world.

Men, women, and even children, who could not fend for themselves, were sold to slavery in order to pay their debts. They did not have any rights of their own, but were shackled to a life of bondage without even a shred of hope.

Today, don’t allow yourself to become a slave to worry, fear, doubt, anxiety or your past. You are free, no matter what your current situation is; remind yourself that you are a rightful child of God.

Remember your identity in Christ and live free.

We are no longer dead in our sin, we are alive in Christ Jesus.

“Suffered Under Pilate, Suffering for Us” by Pastor Andy Braams

The political landscape in the U.S. is very divisive right now. I will add that it is not as divisive as it has ever been because if you look at the first fifteen years of the presidency, you have Jefferson harshly attacking Washington and Adams, you have scandals and misunderstandings that light the fuse of hostility time and time again, and you even have a sitting vice-president (Aaron Burr) shoot one of the most brilliant minds this country has ever seen (Alexander Hamilton).

But sometimes the level of divisiveness is very apparent. This week, we saw the end of an impeachment process against the current president. We witnessed an absurdly partisan State of the Union where nearly one-half of the participants were less than unengaged (if that is even possible), a partisan act by the president who gave the nation’s highest award to a man who alienates one-half of the country, and the leader of the chamber where the speech was made tear up the script that is constitutionally required to be given to Congress.

And because of these facts, most will say that they are suffering through another election cycle. That is, the actions of others create a tension that causes us to suffer. But tension in politics is nothing new. And neither is suffering. In fact, much of the suffering in the world is directly related to politics – and you are I are responsible.

The suffering of which I speak is not just emotional turmoil that can disappear if we turn off our televisions and radios. It does not disappear if we cut off communicating with others. The suffering is real because of sin. The suffering is real because we think that we are in control. The control we seek may not be an office like a councilman or councilwoman, it may not be that of a mayor, or of a representative in our democratic republic, but nonetheless we all seek control. And by we, I do not mean the collective. I mean you – individually. And I mean me.

The control you seek, and the control I seek, is because of sin. It is the control of our lives instead of yielding ourselves to God.

And thus, Jesus suffered. In the truest sense, Jesus suffered because of a political situation. But in the fullest of measures, Jesus suffered because of our sin. And He did not just suffer, He suffered greatly. Why? Because we do not want someone else over us – we want control. Thus, as Matthew wrote in Matthew 27.18, “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him (Jesus) up.”

This series is about the constancy of God in the midst of the cultural changes around us. As such, we are focusing on the timeless truths of the Bible, with specific attention being given to certain doctrines of authentic faith as packaged in the Apostles’ Creed. But as much as the world has changed, and is changing, one other constant exists besides God – the nature of our sin.

And so, for the purpose of covering our sin, not His, Jesus suffered and died. As Matthew 27.26 says, “Then he (Pilate) release for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to be crucified.”

Why does the suffering of Jesus matter? Why did this phrase need to be included in the Creed? Let’s take a closer look.

When We Are Lord Over Others, Jesus Is Not Lord Over Us

I need to clarify this statement. Leadership is important. People need leaders, and many great leaders exist. And leaders will ask us to do things that may seem beyond us. Leaders may push us to do things that are uncomfortable. In fact, I would argue that a good leader must do this, at least occasionally. Certainly, Jesus did that. And Jesus still does that.

BUT, in Mark 10, Jesus says that some leaders “lord it over them” (v. 42). That is, some leaders simply want the power. They have selfish motives. And if a leader is only desiring power, then that leader is probably not willing to submit to Jesus.

On the other hand, a humble leader, or a servant leader, still leads. These leaders may still require a great deal of their followers, but they do so in a way that respects, and even lifts up, others.

In Matthew 27, we find that Jesus has been betrayed and has been handed over to the governor of the area. Verse 3 then tells us that one person who has misinterpreted the power of Jesus now ends his life. That is, Judas kills himself because he wanted power. He wanted authority. He wanted to end the Roman rule and wanted to have an important part of reigning with the new leader – the Supreme Leader, Jesus.

But that was not Jesus’ aim – at least, not during His first coming.

Then, the story turns to an encounter with Jesus standing before Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 27.11). Jesus does not give an explicit answer. Meanwhile, the religious leaders – who thought more highly of themselves than they should have thought, accused Jesus of various crimes (we see a similar process before the high priest in Matthew 26.57-68).

Again, Jesus gives no answer. The governor, Pilate, is amazed.

A few verses later, Matthew provides a unique detail. Pilate’s wife sends him a message as he is about to release a prisoner. The message is essentially to make sure Jesus goes free.  But Pilate does not really care. He goes through the motions of a tradition (the prisoner release), but if he really wanted to do so, he could have simply released Jesus. Yes, it would have caused him trouble with Rome, but doing things for Jesus is not always meant to be easy – in fact, it is rarely easy.

Pilate was more concerned about maintaining order. He was more concerned with staying in control. But Pilate also did not want the responsibility (“he took water and washed his hands”Matthew 27.24). The religious leaders wanted control. And let’s be honest, most of the time, we are the same way. The problem is that when we focus on ourselves, we may maintain a level of authority, but we must ask ourselves: Are we doing this for our benefit so we can be lord over others, or for the sake of others because He IS Lord?

Jesus Suffered Under Pilate, So His Blood Would Cover Us

Read Matthew 27.27-31: 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Roman army was known for their efficiency. They would march nearly 18.5 miles per day carrying all of their equipment which included supplies and tools for building their siege towers. The Romans were also brutal and particularly so when they retaliated against others.

But it was more than mere brutality – for many empires of the past have been horrific in their brutality. But Romans turned their brutality into sport (such as in the Coliseum) and games.

 

The point of their games was not only to torture the prisoner, but to humiliate them as well. Thus, the king should have a crown (of thorns in the case of Jesus). The king should have a beautiful robe, so Jesus was given a robe – which when pulled off would have pulled at the scabs from His wounds.

The game in this picture was similar to a board game we have today. Only, instead of moving a piece around the board and drawing a card, the place you landed told you what you got to do to the prisoner and perhaps what you were to use in doing it. In Matthew 27, we see a few things they did (crown with thorns, strike him with a reed, etc.). But it is the word scourged (v. 26) that is the most troubling. This word reveals the action of the beating with the whip with multiple strands that had the bone and metal embedded.

If you have seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, it is this scene that is the most difficult for people to watch. He truly suffered. But the truth is – the movie cannot fully represent what happened to Jesus. I know I have told this before, but the story is worth repeating. During the filming of this scene, Jim Caviezal, the actor who portrayed Jesus, was actually hit with the whip a couple of times. Most of the lashes hit a post which was behind him, but a couple of blows did land directly – and it hurt! And yet, we can assume the director yelled, “Cut,” and the action stopped. For Jesus it did not stop. The suffering would only intensify. And He went through it for us.

The people who cried out for Jesus to be crucified made a strange statement on that day. As Pilate sought to distance himself from the situation, the Jews cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27.25).

Ironically, Jesus’ suffering under Pilate was done in preparation of the greater punishment of the crucifixion, by which the blood of Jesus was poured out to cover us. But sadly, if we treat His suffering, His death, and His blood with disdain as the people in this chapter of the Bible do, our sin is not covered. His blood is meant to cover us, but it only does so if we believe.

Jesus Was Willing to Suffer For Our Sake. Are We Willing to Sacrifice Our Desires For His?

The story of Jesus’ suffering includes others. It includes the suffering of Pilate’s wife, as I mentioned above, but it also includes Barabbas. Barabbas was an insurrectionist and was in jail awaiting a likely execution, but Pilate honored a tradition to release one prisoner – leaving the choice to the people. Did they want Barabbas? Or did they want Jesus?

When Pilate sent for Barabbas, we can only guess what he was thinking. But my guess is that he was probably thinking it was time for his death. But that was not the case because Jesus was there to take the suffering of Barabbas too.

Jesus experienced suffering on many levels that day. He was tortured physically. He was bearing the burden of our sins spiritually. And Jesus suffered emotionally having been betrayed and abandoned in the Garden.

But Jesus came knowing He would suffer and die. And He invites us to do the same. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” (1)

The following is a selection of verses that capture this idea well.

Romans 12.1: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Galatians 2.20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 3.8-11: 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

2 Timothy 3.12: Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,…

Or in the words of Jesus as recorded in Luke 9.23-24: 24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

But notice that Jesus said that such suffering will bring God’s blessing.

Matthew 5.10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

We are not to seek the suffering, but we are to be prepared for it. Again, Paul says, if we are living for Jesus, we will be persecuted! And Jesus said, we will be blessed because of it.

Jesus suffered. We must be ready to suffer as well. But if we do, we are to do so for standing for the truth – a truth that is represented by the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,…

CONCLUSION

We talk about suffering through another election season. And maybe it is a form of suffering. But Jesus suffered. He suffered because of a political system. But He suffered because of sin.

Many walk away from faith because God allows suffering. But God does not simply allow us to go through it…He willingly endured it Himself. That is love. And because of that love, He has made a way for us as well, but that way will include suffering. But remember, no politician, no friends, no coworker, or anyone else can truly hurt you. They may hurt the body, but Jesus said, we are not to fear those who can kill the body because they cannot kill the soul (see Matthew 10.28).

JOURNEY

Our JOURNEY letter for today is once again JJESUS.

We have heard what Jesus did. And we have heard that we are called to do the same. But one key is what makes it possible. The key to understanding suffering relates to the timeframe. We may suffer in the short term, but something better awaits (c.f. 2 Corinthians 4.16-18). Yes, Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, but we must remember what Jesus told Pilate first, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18.36).

NEXT STEP(S)LIVE.  Last week, I said our step was to LEARN. As we take time to LEARN that God truly has a plan, we can confidence in He is still working at the right time, in the right way, using the right person, for the right reason. And that is true, even when the result is suffering – as long as the suffering is for His sake.

(1) – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 99.

“Born of Woman, Conceived of God” by Pastor Andy Braams

Memories are important to us as people. It is one of the main reasons that we travel. But as much as our personal memories mean to us, sometimes we remember things about others that are more meaningful.

I have mentioned my trips to Kenya many times. And I have great memories of things that I have seen, people I have met, and experiences I have had. One of my favorite sites is this mountain – named Sapache (in Samburu), which means, “the big something.” One memory I have of a trip to Kenya was something I was nowhere near, but it involved this mountain. The memory is of Roger sharing his Bible story and an elder thanking Roger for sharing about the truth of the God of the mountain. The elder of the village said, “We have worshipped the God of this mountain, but now we know who He is.”

We all do that in some ways. We all care deeply about something or perhaps even someone, whom we really do not know well. We celebrate without knowing why. For instance, tonight, people around the country will either be overjoyed or bitterly disappointed by the outcome of the game. But why? Most of the people have never met any of the players, and if they have met them, they do not know them personally – as in, they have never had them over for a meal.

The reason is that we must worship. We all worship someone or something. And tonight, that worship will be about a group of men playing a game on a field. And I will be one of the individuals who will be watching intently – not because I have to do it, but because I want to watch.

And God knows we will worship, and thus, He had a plan to allow us to focus our worship on Him – a plan that the Bible declares was revealed at just the right time, in just the right way, using just the right person, for just the right reason.

Thus, in a world that is changing faster than we can even consider possible, we can know that God is a constant. We can know that His Word stands true not just in a certain time, but for all time.

Galatians 4.4-5 captures the essence of this truth perfectly. “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

So, God had a plan for Creation. He had a plan for the birth of Jesus. And thus, we can rest assured that He is still carrying out His plan today.

The text for this week is “who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” At Christmas we focus on Mary’s role, and I will mention her, but the focus for this post is God’s role – not just in the birth of Jesus, but in the entire process which we first see in Genesis 3.15, but the plans were actually in place before that!

Of course, we call the beginning of a pregnancy the conception of the child. Thus, when we hear conceived of the Holy Spirit we think of the Spirit’s role in Mary getting pregnant. And that is absolutely true. And it must be true as we will see in just a few moments. But before the Holy Spirit helped to conceive a child, He was part of conceiving a plan. And that is where I want to begin as we break down this text in Galatians 4.

God Conceived Just the Right Time

You may remember the quote from AW Tozer I shared a few weeks ago – what we believe about God is the most important thing about us. If you believe that God had the timing of Jesus’ birth measured, then you should have no concerns about our world today. On the other hand, if you think that Jesus was born at a random time in a random place, well, then be very concerned because that means that God has no authority over anything.

Now, I am going to use a few verses to show the truth of this point, but I am going to introduce you to a little bit of deeper theology today. First, we see in Genesis 3.15 the first specific mention of one who will come to oppose Satan. God is talking to the serpent after the initial sin of Adam and Eve, and says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The word offspring can also be translated as seed. The point here is that someone one day would come from Eve and that person would ultimately defeat Satan. But for God to say this, He had to already know. This is where the theology comes into play.

Theology has a term called lapsarian. The term relates to the Fall of Man. The issue is when did God know that man would sin? A few theories abound as to the timing of the Fall and each of the theories has slightly different prefixes such as supra- and infra- (i.e. supralapsarian or infralapsarian). These theories help distinguish what God knew about the Fall of Man and how and when He developed a plan based upon that knowledge. If you want to dig deeper into this, by all means do, I just want you to know that a lot of people spend a lot of time researching and debating the finer points of this particular doctrine.

What we need to know is that God had a plan (however and whenever it was developed), and that He carried out that plan. But verses such as Ephesians 1.4 says that a decision was made before the foundation of the world (and verses like this are why the debate occurs). Nonetheless, God’s plan was carried out – at just the right time.

Why was Jesus born when He was? Let me briefly provide a few thoughts.

      • The language was right. The Greek language was known in much of the western world which made it easy for people to share the message of the good news of Jesus.
      • The Peace of Rome (Pax Romana). The Romans had conquered much of the western world which made travel easier and much safer than it had ever been. In fact, the Romans built five superhighways that led from Rome to the furthermost parts of their empire (“all roads lead to Rome”).
      • The religious timing was right. Judaism had been saved by the Pharisees in the 2nd Century B.C, but the people knew this religion could not save them. And while Rome had brought peace in their own way, that did not mean that people were not oppressed. Thus, the expectations for the messiah to come were high.

So, God had a plan. And He executed that plan at just the right time.

God Conceived Just the Right Way

God sent forth His Son. He did not choose a man to be the Messiah. He sent His Son as the Messiah. Granted, Jesus was fully man, but He was also fully God. Mathematically, this is difficult to understand, but conceptually it has to be that way. If Jesus was the offspring of Joseph and Mary, then Jesus would be fully man (like you and me), but He would not be fully God. He would only be made in His image (again, like you and me, Genesis 1.27).

But if God just sent His Son without being born like children are, then Jesus would not be man. He would only be God. But as it is, God’s plan was not only conceived in theory by Him, but the manifestation of the plan included the conception of a child completed by God in conjunction with the normal human reproductive process. That is simply a fascinating concept. It simply does not make sense that someone could be born of a virgin, but God not only foretold it (Isaiah 7.14), He did it! No other way could work as I will prove in just a moment. But first, we move to the next point.

God Conceived Just the Right Person

In this case, I mean Mary. Of course, Jesus, the Son of God was just the right Person in the truest sense of this expression. However, it took a special person to make the birth possible. First, the person had to be female because children are delivered from females. So, approximately 50% of the population is removed from consideration. Second, the person had to be a virgin. So, another large percentage would be removed. Third, the person had to be of a particular lineage (per God’s promise to David – 2 Samuel 7.14) which was fulfilled by Mary being the descendant of David’s son, Nathan (Luke 3.31). But this woman would also have to be married to someone whose ancestor included David (as Joseph’s was through Solomon, Matthew 1.6). Now, we have really narrowed down the possibilities. But this special person would also have to be humble (because of her responsibility, Luke 2.47), strong (because of the ridicule she would face (Matthew 1.19, Mark 6.3), and full of faith (Luke 2.46-47). The possibilities for this person has become very narrow now. Furthermore, this person would have to be alive at the just the right time according to the plans of God. So, do you think Mary’s birth was random? I don’t.

All of these factors had to be true. Perhaps, several people were possibilities. But likely only a few could have met all of those factors. But God knew just the right one and He found favor with her (Luke 2.28,30).

God Conceived Just the Right Reason

Some might argue that God did not conceive the reason; rather, He provided for the reason. That argument would fit with the theological argument (re: lapsarianism) I mentioned above. Regardless, God made a way. And that way was made by His mercy because He know we could not keep the law.

The end of verse 4 says that Jesus was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. That is, Jesus was not born immune from sin. Because He was the offspring of Mary, He is human. And as human, He was obliged to keep the law or be condemned like everyone else who has ever been born because we cannot keep the law. But again, God sent His Son. He did not choose someone to be His Son. The Son was known and was sent. The Son perfectly kept the law and, therefore, those who receive Him are redeemed and receive the greatest of all gifts – being adopted by God as His child.

What is amazing about this passage that is lost to us in this day is that it is within a larger passage about Jews and Gentiles. Jesus was born as a Jew, but He was not sent only for the Jews. He was sent for all mankind – because all of us are obligated to the law. Paul further captures this idea in verse 6 when He wrote that God’s children can cry out, “Abba, Father.” The translation would be so much better if it said, “Abba, Pater.” Paul’s point is that the Jews cry out Father, and the Gentiles say, “Pater” (Greek for father), but the word itself does not matter – what matters is that God is the Father of both because of what His Son has done.

With that truth, let us recite the first few parts of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary…

CONCLUSION

So, God conceived a plan. And a part of that plan, according to Luke 1.35, was for the Holy Spirit to conceive a child who was born to a woman. And the birth of Jesus was at just the right time, in just the right way, to just the right person, for just the right reason. So, with the evidence established, let me make a very bold claim.

Bold Claim:  You cannot believe that Jesus is truly Savior if you do not believe He was born of both God and of a virgin. If Jesus is only man, then He does not have the power to save. But if He was only God, then He has not been tempted in every way, and could not have truly died for our sins.

You may argue the timing of Jesus birth, although the Bible would say you are wrong. You may argue that Mary could not have been a virgin, but if so, everything else must be a lie as well. You may even argue that you do not need a savior. But God knows differently and so He has offered one to you – it is simply up to you to receive the gift He has offered.

JOURNEY

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

God did not just conceive a way. He conceived the way. And that way is Jesus because Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6).

NEXT STEP(S)LEARN.  The LEARN this week is about trust. Change is all around us, but Galatians 4 shows us that God is in control. Take your bulletin and read through these points again and again. Read the passage I gave you. Go back and read from Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and John 1 and see how God orchestrated everything as He said. Take this week to learn to trust, so that in the coming weeks you are ready to do even more.