X-MAS FILES SERMON SERIES
THE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF MARY
DECEMBER 8, 1996
Your spouse bails out on you after seventeen years of marriage and leaves you alone with two children. You ask, why me? Your company downsizes and releases you. You ask, why me? On the other hand this scenario works in the same way. When good things happen to others, we often ask, why them? Let’s say you are an average looking single guy who wants to date someone. No, you are not GQ quality, more like Land’s End. You see this geek looking guy dating a Cindy Crawford clone and you ask yourself, why him? Or ladies, you see a gorgeous 5’8”, size 6 and you get to know her and find out her favorite food happens to be chicken fried steak and cheese cake. She tells you that she can eat as much as she wants whenever she wants and you say in disgust, why her? Or you have worked for your entire life and you don’t have very much to show for it financially. You watch the news one night and you see a guy who has never held a job for more than three months win the Texas State Lottery and you say to yourself, why him?
Try this one, the God of the entire universe descends and is born as a baby to live among the people he created. When you contemplate the fact that God had a whole world of women to choose from, you wonder why he would choose a poor, peasant Jewish girl named Mary. The question does beg to be asked, why her? Why did God choose to use Mary? After all, He could have chosen anyone. Why Mary?
That is the question we are going to be asking and answering today. Why Mary? Why did God choose to use this girl? If we can discover why God chose Mary, maybe God can use us in some ways we never thought possible.
Mary was the only person present at Christ’s birth who was also present at His crucifixion. Mary was the woman who saw Jesus come into the world as her son and leave the world as her savior. There are one or two billion “Hail, Mary”s said daily. Why do more than ten million people make the trek to Guadeloupe and pay homage to “our mother”? Why is it that more little girls are named after Mary than any other historical figure? Mary is one of the most intriguing and misunderstood personalities in the biblical record. Some people magnify Mary. And many people who magnify her are ignorant regarding what the Bible says about her. The Bible never says that we are to venerate Mary. The Bible never says that we are to worship Mary. The Bible never says that Mary was sinless. Others minimize Mary, I think, in a reaction to those who magnify her. They think of Mary as little more than a figurine in a nativity scene. Or they think of Mary as a long bomb at the end of a football game. Or maybe they sing her name as they are singing some old hits from the Beatles like “Let It Be” or “Lady Madonna”.
The Bible says that Mary was an ordinary woman with extraordinary gifts given to her by God and she presented herself usable to Him. I know we have many people in different stages of a spiritual pilgrimage. Some of you are seeking. You are investigating Christianity. Others of you have been disillusioned by organized religion and you are just checking out church again. Still others have just made a faith decision. Many here have been walking with God for a long, long time. Today I am going to talk about one of the most exciting truths of scripture, being used by God himself. God could use angels. God could drop leaflets from heaven. But for the most part, as you check out His historical record, you see that God uses people like you and like me to further His purposes on the planet.
Have you ever been used by God? There is nothing like it. Your self-esteem will increase. A new dignity will develop in your life. Your soul will be satisfied. Do you present yourself usable to God?
Through my freshman year at Florida State University I sat the bench for fifteen straight games. I wanted to play and every time my coach would look down the bench, I would give him that “I’m available” look. My bench sitting teammates knew how much I wanted to play and now and then during a heated contest they would imitate the coach’s voice and say, “Ed, get in the game.” And I would begin to take my warm-ups off and they would bust out laughing. So would I. I was waiting for the coach to tap me on the shoulder and put me in the game. The word used means to be put into action. God wants to put you into action. God has placed you where you are to be used by Him in an extraordinary way. I want to show you how you can be used by God.
First, if we want to be used by God, we have got to be humble. And if you look at the life of Mary, you see that Mary reflected humility before God. Why did God choose Mary? Because she was educated? No, she didn’t have any education. Maybe God chose Mary because of her socio-economic level. No, she was poor. Maybe God chose Mary because she was mature. No, most people think that Mary was fourteen or fifteen years of age when she had Jesus.
Mary was living her life. She was engaged and a virgin. No big deal. She had a lot of stuff going on in her heart. The neat little house with the white picket fence with a honeymoon package first. The Bible says that an angel went to her one day. Luke 1:28ff. “Greetings, you are highly favored. The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words. But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary….” I want to stop right here. If an angel ever sees me, or walks into my life, I hope that they assure me not to be afraid. “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” She was humbled before God. Humility means that your recognize who you are, a sinner, what you have, nothing and where you would be without God, nowhere. That is being humble before God.
Mary was someone who faced her fears. If you want to humble yourself before God, you have got to face the fearsome foursome. Mary faced four imposing fears. The Bible says that she was greatly troubled. This word troubled in the Greek is pronounced des pes er roso, which means petrified. It means that she was wigged out, freaked out. The the angel said not to be afraid. Mary had to face four fears and these are the same four fears that keep us from being used by God.
First, she had to face the fear of change. If God uses me, it will alter my life. Secondly, she faced the fear of criticism. “What would my friends say? What would Joe say? What would the world say?” The third fear she faced was the fear of the supernatural. Being used by God and an encounter with an angel. That frightens me. The fourth fear was the fear of inadequacy. “God can’t use me. I am not smart enough. I am too young. I don’t know enough of the scriptures. Surely God can’t use me.” God works through ordinary people in extraordinary ways. Extraordinary people are just ordinary people who face the fearsome foursome.
I just talked to a friend of mine recently who is one of the great leaders of this church. He looked at me and said, “There is nothing like being used by God.” And this is a guy who has made deals all over the country and the world. And he said that there is nothing like being used by God. And I am here to tell you that is true. If you want to ride the ragged edge of adventure, if you want to feel true faith, if you want to know what your life can mean and can be, present yourself humble and usable before God. Face the fearsome foursome, step back and watch what God does. Ordinary people.
Let’s take a quick fly over the Bible. How about Moses? He was an ordinary guy, the Mel Tillis of the Bible. He stuttered. He was a Hebrew hick. And God told Moses that He was tapping him on the shoulder. Moses humbled himself, faced his fears and God used him to lead millions of people. Moses, an ordinary guy that God used in an extraordinary way because he faced his fears. How about Joseph? Joe was an egomaniac as a kid. His brothers tossed him in a big hole. From there he went to a prison. And as you read the Bible you think that God had forgotten about Joe. Poor guy. No one believed in the dreamer. Yet God tapped him on the shoulder. God used him as he faced his fears and He moved him from the prison to the palace to the pinnacle of Egyptian leadership. Joseph.
Simon Peter is another guy that is ordinary. He was a braggadocio fisherman. One minute he was saying that he was going to follow Jesus and the next minute he was doubting Jesus and cursing the name of God. Jesus didn’t give up on him. He tapped him on the shoulder. Simon Peter faced his fears. He was used by God and became one of the great preachers and leaders of the early church. Are you facing your fears? Are you doing battle with the fearsome foursome? Mary did and you can too, empowered by God.
Mary was a lady who was ambushed by God’s grace. She faced the fearsome foursome. She also was ambushed by God’s grace. We have got to be ambushed by God’s grace. See the word favor in the scripture that I read. The word favor comes from the term charity. Charity means grace. God gives us not what we deserve. God gives us what we need. We are all trophies of God’s grace. And I am going to tell you something. God’s trophy case is not complete until you are there. There is a spot in God’s trophy case for you.
As a little kid I used to look at a trophy case in our church and see all the trophies that our church had won. Volleyball. Baseball. And I thought that it would be great for our little team to have a trophy in the trophy case. And there was a spot there open for just that purpose. One day we won a trophy and the leader of the trophy case committee placed our trophy right there in that spot. We used to walk by just to look at the trophy we had won. Are you a trophy of God’s grace? He has a spot for you right there in His trophy case. All you have to do is come to a point in your life where you humble yourself before God, when you face the fearsome foursome and when you say to yourself that you need and want God. The moment you do that, you are in the trophy case. You are ambushed by God’s grace.
Look what Mary said about herself in Luke 1:48. “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Mary didn’t say when the angel showed up, “I’ve been waiting for you. Where have you been? Of course, you are going to use me, the best female ever.” God was the sovereign initiator. It was God’s idea. God thought it up. Mary was ambushed by God’s grace and she humbled herself and God used her.
I Peter 5:5. “God opposes the proud.” God does not spend very much time communicating to those who want to preserve the autonomy of their lives. He opposes the proud, “…but he gives grace to the humble.” When you talk about humility before God, when you talk about being ambushed by God’s grace, you have got to talk about repentance. If you don’t have repentance, you can’t be used by God. You can’t become a Christian until you repent. Repentance means to make a 180 spiritually, to turn from your sin and turn toward Jesus Christ. It is easy to see who are really Christ followers and who are not. It is easy to separate the tire kickers and the spiritual window shoppers from those who really want to follow the Lord. All you have got to do is ask them one question. Do you want to be used by God?
Just give them an opportunity to be used by God. Those who are spiritually window shopping say, “Well, I am not sure that I have the time. You know, we are busy carpooling the kids back and forth. I need to play golf with my foursome. We are out late on Saturday evenings.” I have got to put a big question mark about whether they really know Jesus Christ personally when they have that kind of reaction to an opportunity to be used by God.
Conversely, ask a true Christ follower if they want to be used by God. Whoa. They are ready to go. “Show me where to serve. Show me how high to jump, how fast to run. I am ready to do it.” They know the thrill of being used by Him. We have got to be humble. That is the first attitude that God wants us to reflect. We have got to be humble and present ourselves as usable before God as we face the fearsome foursome and as we are ambushed by God’s grace.
There is a second attitude that we need to reflect. We also have to be responsive. Luke 1:38. “Mary said, I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to do whatever he wants.” Notice that Mary was willing. She was willing. Have you ever told God that you are willing to do whatever He wants you to do? Make this your prayer. God is not like the modern day packaging people. He does not disguise the implications of following Christ in fine print. God says that He will put it right out there for us. It will cost us something.
As you study the life of Mary, you will see that it cost her her reputation to follow the Lord’s call. Think about it guys. Let’s say that your were Joseph. Put yourself in his sandals. You are engaged. You know that Mary is a virgin. Then she walks up to you one day and says that she is pregnant and that you are not the father, God is. And also, the baby will be the messiah. Think about the people talking and saying that Mary has gone insane. She is claiming that her baby is going to be the Son of God. And Mary also knew the law. If you became pregnant while you were engaged, the Jewish law demanded that you should be put to death by stoning. She was dealing with some heavy stuff.
People always get hung up on the virgin birth. The virgin birth is a miracle from God. But that is really about a level four miracle. A level ten miracle is the fact that God became man. If God became man, and we know He did, then the virgin birth is no problem, a lay-up for God. It is a supernatural event. Biology can’t explain it. Mary says that she is willing to do whatever He wants. It cost her her reputation. It also cost her her comfort.
Those of you who have had children know how uncomfortable it is about the ninth month of pregnancy. She had to take a long journey on the back of a donkey, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I got carsick on a tour bus two years ago taking that journey. Can you imagine riding on the back of the donkey? And Mary is all alone. She is fourteen or fifteen years old, having a baby in a cave for livestock. It cost her her comfort. It didn’t fit into a nice little honeymoon package. No white picket fence and a dog called Rover. Yet, she told God that she wanted to be used by Him, responsive to His will.
I love Luke 1:46. “Mary responded, Oh how I praise the Lord…” She was willing but also she was worshipful. Oh, how I praise the Lord. She bursts forth in a song of praise. “…How I rejoice in God, my savior.” She was enthusiastic. And if we are not enthusiastic about being used by God, then I wonder if we are really doing what God wants us to do. The word enthusiastic comes from two Greek terms.
En, which means in and theos, which means the study of God. Thus when we are enthusiastic, we are in God. And if we are in God, we are enthusiastic. If we are not in God, we are not enthusiastic.
Many of us are enthusiastic in a worldly sense. We are enthused about the wrong things. A lot of us are enthused about sports. We are addicted to sports. A lot of us don’t really worship God at church, we worship God at Texas Stadium, at Reunion Arena. We don’t memorize scripture, we have our quiet time with the sports page while watching CNN and ESPN. Or maybe we memorize the Wall Street Journal. We memorize interest rates. Some of us worship God at the malls. North Park, Irving Mall, Vista Ridge. A sale. An opportunity to buy something. We worship things. We worship success, parties, promotions, perks and the corner office. And we think that will give us happiness and satisfaction. We are enthused for a nanosecond and then it is over and we ask where the next game will be played, the next sale held, the next investment opportunity.
One day I am going to face God. One day you are going to face God. He will simply ask me and ask you what we did with the gifts that He has given us. Some of us will say, “Well, God, I really love the Dallas Cowboys. I arrange my entire weekend around the Cowboys.” “God, I really love going from mall to mall to mall.” “God, I got a 20% return on my money one year.” He will say that is fine and good, but did you really present yourself useful to Me. God will say that He was tapping you on the shoulder, calling you into the action. “But, God, I didn’t feel the tap or hear your voice.” You know why? Because of diversions. The first word within the word diversion is the word dive. You take that dive and swim around in all the diversions of this world.
Are you really enthused? Are you really responsive to God’s word? Can you say that you praise the Lord and what to do whatever He wants you to do? Can you say like Mary, I rejoice in God, my savior. Look what old David said in Psalm 40:8. “I desire to do your will, oh my God.” People always want to know God’s will. They take Bible study classes and they take notes on knowing God’s will. And I think it is important to know God’s will. But it is not the most important thing about the will of God. God is God and He will communicate His will to you. Most of it is written down in the Bible. He will speak to you through prayer and from His word. The most important issue is doing God’s will. Are you submitted to doing His will? Not just knowing it, doing it.
A lot of us are sly. We will play games with God. We will say, “OK, God I want to know Your will and if Your will fits into my agenda, if it doesn’t mess up my reputation, if it doesn’t cost me anything, if it doesn’t get me out of my comfort zone, then I am there God. I will follow You, God.” But if His will means that we have to sacrifice some time, some money and some comfort and take on more problems and more responsibility, we get into the spiritual window shopping thing.
Are you willing to do whatever God wants? Are you willing to follow God’s will? He doesn’t disguise it. He is saying, here it is. Where are you today? Do you want to be used by God? Do you really want to be used? God wants to use you. I don’t care where you are, what you have done, how inadequate you feel. God will use you if you open your palms upward and say, “God, I want to be humble. God, I want to be responsive.” Once you have seen God use you, there is nothing like it.