And Behold, You Will Conceive In Your Womb And Bear A Son, And You Shall Call His Name Jesus…

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”

Luke 1:26-35 – Scripture of the Day (January 31, 2014)

Earlier in the chapter, an angel had announced to the elderly priest Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would have a son, John (Luke 1:5-25).  Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel now appears in the town of Nazareth of Galilee to her relative Mary, a virgin who was betrothed to one of King David’s descendants, a man by the name of Joseph.  Most likely in her teenage years at the time, Mary is disturbed when the angel greets her and tells her that the Lord is with her and favors her.  Gabriel tells her to not be afraid because she has found favor with God, and then foretells her conception and pregnancy which would result in a son, Jesus.

Gabriel then informed Mary that her son would be “great,” and would be called “the Son of the Most High” (v. 32).  This would be what Jesus would come to be called, for at the time prior to his human conception he was known as the eternal “Word” (John 1:1-14).  The angel foretold that the Lord God would give to Jesus the throne of his ancestor David, a genealogical fact recorded in Matthew’s genealogy (Matt. 1:1ff).  Jesus receiving the throne of David would be the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy God gave to David through the prophet Nathan centuries earlier (2 Sam. 7:12-16).

Premillenial dispensationalists talk a lot about how Jesus will reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years, but God’s messenger Gabriel gave a different prophecy to Mary when he foretold that Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob “forever,” and “of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).  So much for a reign of one thousand years…

The Jews of Jesus’ day made an erroneous assumption similar in one respect to the error of today’s premillenialists in that they also thought that Jesus’ kingdom would be a physical one (Luke 17:20-21; Acts 1:6).  In reality, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  It is a spiritual kingdom manifested today in his body, the church (Eph. 1:22-23).  Just as the church is said to never die (Matt. 16:18-19), so this kingdom will last forever also (cf. Dan. 2:44).  The members of the church are the citizens of this kingdom, this spiritual Israel (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:4, 6, 9; cf. 1 Pet. 2:9).  If we as Christians grow to be like Christ as God directs us, an entrance into the eternal kingdom will be abundantly supplied to us (2 Pet. 1:5-11) at the end when Christ delivers the kingdom back to his Father after having conquered all his enemies on the day of Judgment, including death (1 Cor. 15:24-26; cf. Rev. 20:11-14).  However, if we fall back into unrepentant sin we will be taken out of the kingdom on that day and will be cast into hell (Matt. 13:40-42; cf. Rev. 20:15; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Mary understandably wanted to know how this could happen, considering that she was still a virgin.  Gabriel then told her that her conception would be miraculous, that it would happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that the child to be born of her would be Deity, the Son of God, holy and set apart from the rest of the world.  Despite the erroneous teaching of Catholicism that she would perpetually stay a virgin even after the birth of Jesus, the New Testament very clearly states that after his birth Mary fulfilled her betrothment to Joseph by having sexual relations with him in marriage that would result in more children (Matt. 1:24-25; cf. 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; 7:3-10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19).  However, she miraculously conceived Jesus as a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the birth of the Messiah (Matt. 1:18-23; cf. Is. 7:14).

Let Us Run With Endurance The Race That Is Set Before Us…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 – Scripture of the Day (January 30, 2014)

Contextually, the writer of Hebrews had just finished talking about the giants of faith whose lives are recorded in the Old Testament (Heb. 11).  These men and women, while not perfect, nevertheless sacrificed much to obey God, some of them even sacrificing their lives, because they desired to live in that heavenly country.  He then mentioned Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” who made the decision to endure and “despise” (literally, “think little of”) the most painful, humiliating death of his day because he too was focused on “the joy set before him.”

If you are doing your best to put Jesus and his will first in your life, no matter what, you know that it’s not easy at times.  Persecutions happen (2 Tim. 3:12).  At times you suffer in various ways for doing what God wants you to do.  If you’re like me, you think about giving up during some of those hard times.

However, most of us can say what the Hebrew writer went on to point out to the Christians of his day:  “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4).  He’s right.  Some of those Old Testament giants of faith “were tortured, refusing to accept release”; they “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment”; they “were stoned…sawn in two…killed with the sword”; they “went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…” (Heb. 11:35-38).  Jesus himself died in a horrible way to save us from our sins.  Compared to that, the burdens we face seem quite small.

That’s why we are told to “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:3).

You Are The Salt Of The Earth…

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:13 – Scripture of the Day (January 29, 2014)

Salt is basically good for two things:  enhancing the flavor of food and preservation.  If Jesus considers his disciples to be “the salt of the earth,” that basically means that we make the world flavorful for God, and thus preserve it (keep it in existence longer.)

Think about this, Christian.  Your obedience to the gospel helps make this world more tasteful to God.  He has delayed ending the world in order to give you and everyone else around you time to repent (2 Pet. 3:9-10).  That’s how much he loves you.

There’s something else to consider, however.  What do we do with food that has a taste of which we don’t approve?  We first spit it out of our mouths, and then we throw it out.  Do we want God to do that with us?  If you are “lukewarm,” that is, a Christian-In-Name-Only, a so-called “disciple” who shows up at church on Sunday and lives a sinful, worldly life throughout the rest of the week, God will do exactly that:  “spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).  That’s why Jesus gives us that warning about being “thrown out” (Matt. 5:13b).

What kind of salt are you?  The kind that makes this world tasteful to God and thus preserves it…or the kind that has lost its taste and is about to be thrown out?  The choice is yours (Josh. 24:15).