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 Sermon Date: Dec. 12, 2010

Sermon Title: Flight Plan

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-38

Small Group Text: Luke 1:26-38 Be aware of God’s favor For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Titus 2:11

What a marvelous word, “grace.” In this Scripture passage, grace refers to God’s unmerited favor and its power upon the human heart to reproduce itself in human activity— bringing more life-affirming grace into the human experience. The Bible teaches that God’s grace toward humanity predates even creation – residing in His eternal plans for the salvation of the world. But in time, divine grace took on human form through the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. And how fitting that the announcement of his coming was accompanied by a message of “grace!” The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. [30] But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. Luke 1:28-30

To be “highly favored” in this context is rich with meaning, combining the ideas of grace and special honor as demonstrated through God’s good will, kindness and peace toward Mary. There was nothing inherently meritorious about Mary that would commend her to be the mother of this child. No doubt, there were other good and godly women in Judea at this time. Gabriel’s description of Mary as one who had “found favor with God” is indicative of a divine choice based solely upon God’s gracious goodness toward Mary and not on the basis of her spiritual character or on anything she had accomplished. How wonderful that this privilege of receiving God’s unmerited favor was not unique to Mary alone. This same grace – God’s message of good will, kindness and peace – is toward all people upon whom His favor rests. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:14 His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure. [6] So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. Ephes. 1:5-6 (NLT)

God has highly favored even us. And this is a phenomenal privilege that engenders the awesome responsibility of presenting ourselves to God as available to carry out His purposes in the world. (Romans 12:1-2) Play a part in God’s plan (Luke 1:31-33) Many people move through their days as if God is virtually irrelevant. On the other hand, there are people who see life events through spiritual eyes within the context of God’s faithful care and guidance of everything He has made – toward the fulfillment of every plan He has established. When lived out consistently, this perspective can reduce stress and even pique interest in discovering God’s activity in the affairs of everyday life. Evidently, Mary had shared this perspective. 


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She was a young girl, characterized as righteous, pure, and engaged to be married – presumably with all the normal anticipation that would accompany her wedding. But suddenly, this humble, modest, inconspicuous girl was called by God to play a role in the salvation of His people. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, [33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Luke 1:31-33

The angel described Mary’s son in ways that could only be understand as characteristic of the long awaited Messiah – the King over Israel of which the prophets had spoken (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:8-17; Psalm 89, 132; Isaiah 9:5-6; 11:1-5, 10; Jeremiah 23:5-6) . In this one birth, God and humanity would be perfectly blended (Philippians 2:5-8) . In Mary’s son, all the promises and purposes of God would come together to accomplish salvation for His people. Here’s a thought: The beneficiaries of God’s grace will always have a role to play in God’s salvation plan. As did Mary, we need to see God’s activity in our daily lives as appointments to further His work on earth. In fact, obedient participation with God is the proper response to His grace toward us. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- [9] not by works, so that no one can boast. [10] For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephes. 2:8-10

Note the words “for us to do.” This literally means “in order that we might walk in them.” God had prepared a path for Mary to walk – a life course that not only accomplished His purposes but also afforded more meaning and significance than anything she had ever planned. And the same is true for all willing believers. We are God’s workmanship in whom and through whom He carries out His purposes as we walk along the path of good works He has already established for us (Phil. 2:13; see also Matthew 5:16; Col. 1:10; 1 Tim. 6:18; Titus 2:7; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 10:24; James 2:17-18; 1 Peter 2:12) . Mary was a young, poor, female—characteristics that, in her day, would make her the least likely candidate for any major divine appointment. But God chose Mary for one of the most important acts of obedience ever demanded of anyone. Apparently, ability, experience or education matter little relative to one’s potential for significant impact upon the world – at least from God’s point of view. We should never limit God by attitudes of mistrust or doubt. In doing so we may short-circuit phenomenal opportunities to be used by Him in marvelous and impactful ways. Be engaged in the conversation A calling from God does not preclude challenges and problems. Nor does His grace ensure that our every whim or desire will be fulfilled. In Mary’s case, the divine calling had the potential to derail her life. Gabriel announced that, prior to her marriage, Mary would become pregnant. The child’s father would not be her fiancé. In fact, conception would take place without the involvement of any man by the normal course of human procreation. Obviously, this was difficult for Mary to comprehend. The child could not have been conceived already since she was still a virgin. Mary's faith was tested. "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" Luke 1:34

This seems less a question of doubt and more a question of the manner by which this conception would take place. Unlike Zechariah’s response several verses earlier, “How can I know this is true? Prove it!”, Mary took for granted that Gabriel’s words were factual. Nevertheless, she was confused regarding the process; and she felt free to express her puzzlement. Instead of a chiding rebuke (1:19-20) , Gabriel echoed an Old Testament prophecy and added that the Holy Spirit would be God's enabling agent who would make Mary's act of selfless service possible. He would “overshadow” Mary with His personal presence – an Old Testament concept that traditionally referred to God’s presence with his people. Beyond this Gabriel was not specific. The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. [36] Even Elizabeth your

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relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. [37] For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:35-37

Ask questions and seek direction "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. Isaiah 1:18

God invites dialogue from honest and obedient hearts. This may take the form of prayer, spiritual counsel, or reflection upon God’s word. Negotiation is not of the essence here; but rather, conviction and confidence that come from interaction with God’s truth. The miraculous mystery of Jesus’ conception remains to this day. But the knowledge of God’s promises and the ministry of His Holy Spirit comforted Mary in the difficult months that followed. And God’s promises and His same Spirit have inspired and comforted countless believers through the ages – who also faced difficult callings and ministries. They have seen, first hand, that God can do the impossible (Jer. 32:17, 27) . Be submissive to His plan Mary affirmed her part in God’s plan: "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. Luke 1:38

Mary willingly submitted to God’s calling, referring to herself as the Lord’s servant (Greek, doule; literally a “slave”) . In this confession, one can hear, not only obedient submission, but also a longing of expectation to see God’s will accomplished in her life. What beautiful faith! Zechariah, godly and mature (Luke 1:5-6) , doubted and needed a sign to prove God’s supernatural power. But Mary, young, inexperienced and a virgin, never doubted God’s power to accomplish the supernatural conception of her child. What makes Mary’s attitude especially admirable is the fact that she could anticipate the ridicule attached to an unwed mother in her culture; or worse yet, the humiliation of being socially marginalized as mentally ill by her claim that the pregnancy was from the “Holy Spirit.” And yet, she willingly submitted to God’s plan and entrusted the outcome to His divine purposes. Submit and obey as He directs Though our particular roles will differ from Mary’s or even from each other’s, we know from Scripture that every believer has a divine calling. It may take the form of a longterm life-goal or it may be as simple as daily opportunities to demonstrate love and grace toward others. But it will always demand a spirit of submission to the word and will of God. Rest assured that our obedient submission will result in fulfilled lives – to the glory and honor of God. If this sounds counterintuitive, it is! The paradox of responding properly to God’s favor is summarized by Jesus. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35

And while responding with obedience to the word and will of God may seem burdensome in the moment (it certainly did to Mary) , we can be confident that God is faithful and has ordained that we will share in His eternal life and glory – forever! For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. [18] So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:17-18

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12.12.10 Comm  

12.12.10 Comm

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