Friday, 23 October 2015

Daily Reading: Luke 1v39-56 'Salvation for the fearful'

Some events are so significant that where we were when they happened becomes etched on our memories. Just like 9/11 - I was teaching year 11 History in Bolton and we spent the afternoon just watching the life changing events of our generation unfold before our eyes. Life has never been the same since; we now live in a world where terrorism is a constant threat and where the war against it seems never ending.

Some events change not just one life but everyone’s. As Luke writes his account of the life of Jesus it is tempting to ask why he includes so much detail. It is because understanding who Jesus is, is crucial. The events Luke records aren’t just the historical events of his generation but they have reverberated through time. They are the events of history. The big question as Theophilus reads Luke’s account and as we read it today is will I understand, will I see their significance, and will I let it affect me?

There are two things we’re going to think about from this passage; one is where salvation comes from and the other is how we should respond to it.

Salvation is of God.

You have to say right at the outset that there are some pretty amazing things happening in these verses. We have read about; angels bringing messages, people being struck dumb, the barren and the virgin falling pregnant. They are not every day things and am I seriously just expecting you to believe it?

The Bible is a book that is primarily about God. What is it that makes God, well God? All powerful, all knowing, all capable… Now if you believe in God, if you believe God exists by his very nature God can do the impossible. If God is God then sending angels, and the barren and virgin conceiving are easy tasks.

God is the Bibles hero and no where more so than in the verses that we had read to us this morning. In v26 we saw God in action, the movement from God’s plan through history, promised thousands of years before, narrowing down, down and down to a young woman who God favoured as he called her to be involved in his plan. Just like the satellite images that narrow from a continent, to a country, to a town, to a suburb, to a street, to your house.

But what is God’s plan that he calls Mary to be involved in? God will act to save people. It is not to send a set of rules for people to live by, a tick list of to do’s that mean our performance related pay is eternal life. That has never been God’s way.

Just think about the Ten Commandments for a minute, why were they given? They weren’t a divine aptitude test; they weren’t a way of determining who God should save. They were given after God had already saved his people; they were God’s gracious way of showing the response people should make to being saved.

God’s plan here in Luke 1 is not to send a list of rules; he could have done that with Gabriel and Zechariah in the temple. No God’s plan is to send someone, his Messiah, his promised one not to bring a set of rules, but to live by them and save people. That’s why Elizabeth’s baby jumps in her womb, its not because he sees Aunty Mary, it’s because the Messiah in Mary’s womb is here. That’s why in (43) Elizabeth, this godly lady, refers to her relatives unborn child as “my Lord”. She is amazed as she exclaims the Messiah is here, God’s saviour. God’s way of saving people is not rules or laws it is Jesus, God made man.

God is acting to save, that’s why in (47) Mary begins her hymn of praise telling out what God has done by acknowledging that “God is my Saviour.”

But as God comes to save it is worth asking who needs saving and why?  Does the world need saving?  The world that Mary paints in her hymn is an exciting one isn’t it? A place where the proud are scattered, rulers brought down, the hungry fed, wrongs are righted. It is a world where God brings justice. It is what happens as God keeps his promises (55) to his people as far back as Abraham, and this hymn is loaded with promises and verses from throughout Israel’s history. God as he comes in Jesus brings change, a new kingdom.

Does the world need a Saviour? I guess we’d agree it does. But what about me? Do I/you need a Saviour? Reality proves we do.  And look at these verses; Mary herself says that she needs a Saviour, that is how she describes God, as her personal saviour. Now Mary hasn’t led a sex, drugs and rock n roll lifestyle, in fact Mary is very godly woman, but even she needs a Saviour. And if Mary needs a Saviour then I certainly do.

The world needs a Saviour and I need a Saviour. Why? Because actually the problem with the world is not out there it is in here. Our hearts are a Pandora’s box waiting to be opened, we keep a lid on it most of the time, but when for just a second we don’t there is hatred, bitterness, greed, selfishness, jealousy waiting to come flooding out, all symptoms of the real problem which Jesus will later diagnose as our hearts, and the Bible calls sin.

The reality is that I need saving and the great news, the news that causes Elizabeth to shout out and Mary to sing, is that God hears our cry and responds. God saves not by giving us rules or religion but by sending a rescuer on a rescue mission, by sending a Saviour – Jesus.

The question is do I recognise that I need saving? Why does it matter? because there is also a warning here in what this passage tells us about God. God is Saviour but he is also judge, he extends mercy but he also scatters the proud, dethrones those who rule themselves and sends away the self-reliant rich. Am I prepared to put aside my pride and accept that I need saving and that God saves?

Salvation is by faith and prompts rejoicing

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promise to her.”  Faith is what Elizabeth commends Mary for; it is what Elizabeth and Zechariah have shown. Faith is a right response to God’s promises; they all take God at his word because “no word from God will ever fail.”

Faith is belief in action, it leads Mary to say “May it be to me according to your word.” and then (39) to hurry to Elizabeth’s.  Faith is taking God at his word, it is why in her hymn of praise she sees what God will do (51-55) and by faith praises God as if it has already happened because “no word from God will ever fail.” These are future promises connected with the Messiah’s coming but Mary by faith praises him for them, because they area as good as done.

Salvation is from God but salvation is by faith, Mary takes God at his word. We can’t save ourselves we need God to do it for us in Jesus but the right response is faith. It is by saying yes I believe Jesus is the Messiah, God’s answer to my problem, so I will act on that belief. I will take God at his word and admit my failure, ask him for forgiveness and live with him as Lord. That is faith!

Faith is seen in action not in nodding. It is what Luke wants Theophilus to do, to know the certainty, to take God at his word and to live its reality.

God is a promise keeping God, he saves through Jesus. And salvation comes by taking God at his word – just like Mary did. If God keeps his promises I must live in the light of those promises; that I am saved by grace not works, that I am no longer guilty before God, and that he will bring in his kingdom and I am to live by faith as a member of that community whilst I wait.

Salvation is from God by faith and it produces joy. Do you notice that both these ladies cannot help but rejoice. Elizabeth’s is an exclamation born of amazement and Mary’s rejoicing overflows into song.

To be saved by God, to know that God loves me so much that he sent his son to rescue me even before I acknowledged my need of rescue. To know that we don’t need to achieve, to do, but to have faith that Jesus does it for us, that he makes us right with God and pays for our rebellion. To know that we are part of that kingdom to come, how can that not produce rejoicing? Not a fixed inane grin, not an occasional singing but a life of continual worship because we know this world is not all there is and we rejoice in the knowledge that we have a Father who saves us through faith.

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