“How is Your Praise Life?”
December 17, 2006
Praise overflows from seeing and believing God's grace in our lives.
I. Do you see God's blessings? (Luke 1:26-37)
II. Do you believe God's blessings? (Luke 1:38-45)
III. Do you overflow with praise? (Luke 1:46-55)
MessageAll the way back in the early 1990's I attended a meeting focused on how Christian's can be more involved in our government. I do not remember anything we talked about, where we meet, the people who went to the meeting, how I found out about this meeting, but what I do remember is how one man closed in prayer. In his prayer he praised God for who he was, for His character, for Jesus Christ, for His work on the cross, for salvation, and many other things. He kept praying for several minutes and then he totally shocked me. He stopped. He did not once ask for anything. He did not once ask for God to revolutionize our government with Christian men and women. He just praised God. Period.
That prayer influenced me more than anything else in the meeting. It influenced me to be a person of praise when I pray, not so much a person of always asking.
I wonder what is your prayer life like? Is it mostly "God please give me this, please help with that?" Or is it mostly "God you are awesome, God you are great?"
One of the values we have in our vision statement at Trinity is to depend on God in prayer. How do we depend on God in prayer? This mornings passage I think will reflect the predominant attitude that we should have in prayer.
So we will take a look Luke 1:26-55, the beginning of the Christmas story, and answer that question.
Let's read the beginning of this story and see how.
Luke 1:26-27 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
The six month was the time that had elapsed in Elizabeth's pregnancy, who was Mary's cousin. Elizabeth in her old age was promised six months earlier by the angel Gabriel to bear John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Christ.
God sent Gabriel to a country girl in the little podunk town of Nazareth out in the back desert of Galilee. Because of that I am encouraged for I was born and grew up in East Otto, NY, population 1093, and I think that includes mostly the cows.
Contrary to what our culture expects, Mary is a virgin, although she is engaged, but not married yet, even though the culture considered those pledged to be married as actually married. Of course the promise of the virgin conceiving fulfills, what the prophet Isaiah had predicted some 700 years earlier, that a virgin would conceive, a bear the one called Emmanuel, God with us.
One other important point to note is that Joseph is a descendant of David. The prophets of the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be from the family line of David.
Let's read verse 28.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Now, I don't know if Gabriel opened the door and went in or just appeared in the kitchen, but he was polite enough to say, "Hello, you are favored or blessed because the Lord is with you."
The Greek word for highly blessed is charitoo. It means show favor, grace, or blessing. Some have translated this to be "full of grace." Then they deduce that since Mary was "full of grace" she must have never sinned and was not born in sin. Hence she was sinless. The major problems with that are that the word "full" is not in the Greek text. Secondly, Paul said in Ephesians 1:6,7 that God "charitooed," graced, all believers, through the work of Jesus on the Christ to forgive our sins. God's grace certainly did not make us sinless, just forgiven.
Now let's see how Mary responds.
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. In this case it is fortunate that Mary was not carrying a home defense weapon, but she was greatly disturbed, probably wondering "who in the world are you?" and "where is the phone, I must call 911!"
But Gabriel is a polite intruder. Let's read 30-33.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He 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, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
Gabriel responds to her shock, by simply saying, "Don't fret, you will just be the mother of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who will rule over Israel forever." By God's grace Mary is chosen among many to be the one to bear the very Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Let's see how she responded.
34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
Mary, doesn't ask for a sign to know this is true like Zechariah, she doesn't tell the angel he is crazy, she just asks in what manner will God do this since it won't happen in the normal biological manner.
35 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. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."
The angel said the power of God through the enabling of the Holy Spirit would bring this about. The word "overshadow" leaves the way God did it kind of vague, but we do know that is was the miracle of the Eternal Son taking on human flesh, yet not giving up His divine nature. Jesus was both God and man at the same time.
Then in verse 36 Gabriel gives evidence of God's power by telling Mary that her relative Elizabeth, who was past the age of child bearing, was going to have a child, too. Hence, even though Mary didn't ask for a sign that this would be true, God gives her a sign anyway in the revelation that Elizabeth was with child.
So in this first section we see God's amazing grace and blessing in Mary's life. Mary was blessed, because the Lord was with her.
Do you recognize how blessed you are? Once in a nursing home there was a thanksgiving celebration, which the nursing home residents were asked to share what they were thankful for. Some expressed their thanks for a place to stay, their families, etc. Then one little lady piped up, "I am thankful for my teeth, one on top and one on the bottom so I can chew my food!"
Do you look at your life like this lady, seeing yourself as blessed? Or do you focus on the 30 missing teeth?
If our eyes are open we will see God's blessing in every atom, molecule and cell of our life, especially in Jesus' death on the cross for or sins and His resurrection.
Now, let's move on in the story and see how Mary responded.
38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Mary tells Gabriel she is the Lord's servant, or bondslave. Mary trusts in the Lord's promise to her with the result that she voluntarily submits her life and body to her Lord and Master. She trusts in the Lord even though she was likely to be ridiculed, ostracized, and possibly divorced by her husband.
Now let's read what Mary does after the angel left.
39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth.
So this young teenage girl heads to south probably to the town of Hebron some 50 to 70 miles away. This is probably a 3 to 4 day trip for her. That sounds like a rough trip, but she is motivated to see Elizabeth because of the angel's message to her. Of course she needed to talk to someone who would understand what she had been through.
Let's look at Elizabeth's response.
41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
It appears that the Holy Spirit moved the baby, John the Baptist, in her womb in such a great way that Luke describes the baby as leaping. The baby was supernaturally given "vertical" or "ups" (that's for all you basketball players) in her womb. When that happened Elizabeth was filled or empowered by the Holy Spirit in a special way.
Now let's see the result of that filling.
42In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"
The Holy Spirit moved on Elizabeth powerfully thus she shouted out that Mary was blessed among all women because she was bearing Christ. Notice that Elizabeth called her the mother of my Lord. The Greek word for Lord (kurios) is often used to translate Yahweh in the Greek Old Testament.
Let me say that sometimes in our circles we say that Mary was only the Mother of Jesus, but not the Mother of God. I once proclaimed this to a friend of mine in seminary. He responded by asking me if I believed Jesus was God. I said of course He is God and perfect man. Then he asked me, "Did Mary bear God the Son in her womb?" I said yes. So can't we also say Mary is the mother of God? I had to agree with him. Thus Mary was the physical mother of God the Son. However, I have never read in the Scripture that Mary was born sinless, or she was taken up to heaven without dying, or that we should pray to her as some would say. This is mere speculation. And the speculation contradicts other Scriptures.
Now back to verse 45. Elizabeth shouts that Mary is blessed because she believed God's wonderful promise to her. And why did she believe she an unbelievable promise? I think it was because she had immersed herself in the Scripture as we will see in her upcoming prayer. She knew these things had been predicted, she passionately longed for them to happen, therefore she believed when Gabriel came to her.
That leads me to a second point of application. Do you believe in God's grace in your life? Someone once said, "Some people complain about the thorns among the rose bush, but others thank God for the rose petals among the thorns. Do you believe God's grace through his Son, His rose in your life, or do you focused on the thorns of the curse all around us, hence disbelieve His grace?
We've seen Mary's response to grace in her life, she believes. Now let's look at the overflow of her faith.
46 And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
These three verses are the first section of the next ten verses of the song she composed. We know that because her ideas in these verses are parallel. In these verses Mary alludes to at least 12 Old Testament verses. That is why I say she was immersed in the Scriptures. Thus she glorifies and rejoices in her Lord God, her Savior. Which by the way shows she is a sinner. Mary is just glowing that even though she was a born into a lowly position in life God intervened with this enormous privilege.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me--
holy is his name.
50His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
Can you feel the gratitude she has toward her God? She is bubbling over with gratitude that she will bear the Son of God and for all time she will be called blessed. God has mercy on whom He wishes, but Mary heartily acknowledges that he extends mercy to those who humbly bow before Him. And this is true for all people in all generations including ours.
Now let's read the third section.
51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
Praise keeps pouring out of Mary's soul as she reiterates what the Scriptures always teach, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." God did not choose a rich girl from Jerusalem, but he chose a poor girl from Nazareth to bear His Son. May we be overwhelmed like Mary and honor God for his grace.
Now let's read the last section.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
Mary finishes her praise song by recalling how God promised to be merciful to Abraham and the Jews. Now he has delivered that promise.
Did you notice that in this last section that Mary's prayer was all praise? Did she ask for one thing? No. She had several reasons to start praying. She could have prayed, "Lord help me not be criticized, help me explain this to Joseph, give me money to care of Him, make me a good parent," etc. However, Mary's song revealed the main emphasis of her prayer life--praise.
Is your prayer life like that? I make an analogy to a cat verses a dog. In general a dog is all about his master. Our dog, Jake, is all about us. He wants to be with us, he wants to play with us, he wants to lick us, he basically stares at us, wags his tail and says you are so great.
In contrast, from my experience, cats will rub up against your leg every once in a while, but you are only a great god when they are in the mood.
Is your prayer life more like a dog or cat? Does your prayer life ever resemble Mary's prayer life? Does your marriage and family have a prayer life filled with gratitude? How can you add to that, whether a parent or child? How about your small group? Your ministry team? Your group of single friends? How about our church?
So to conclude I want to offer you a chance to respond to God's Word. Maybe right now you feel the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart regarding the matter of praise. Maybe the Spirit is showing you that you have been more like a cat rather than a dog. So I would like to ask anyone else in a moment in response to the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart to stand up. By standing up you are asking God to show you how to make the changes needed in your life and you are showing your desire and willingness to change. I will give you about 3 seconds to stand up and then I will close us in prayer. Therefore, if the Spirit is tugging on your heart you can stand up now.