Born to be God
By: John Ankerberg Show
Jim Shaddix Message
December 20, 2015
Good morning, Brainerd Faith Family. It is great to see you. Merry Christmas to you. Let’s study God’s Word together and worship Him through that. So let me ask you to open your Bible to Matthew Chapter 1. We want to turn our attention this morning to a familiar story that really is foundational at the very heart of the Christmas story, the story of Christ’s birth.
Matthew Chapter 1. If you came in today and don’t have a copy of the Bible, I hope there is someone close to you that would let you look on with them as we journey through this passage of Scripture together.
I want to read God’s Word over you beginning in Verse 18 of Matthew Chapter 1. Hear the Word of the Lord.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called His name Jesus.”
You know, in my estimation, there are certain truths in the Bible that if they are true, and if they are really true, they are what they say and we believe those, they trump everything. And I think if those things are true, then there are lots of other things that maybe people wrestle with about the Bible, questions they ask that we would have confidence enough in based upon those foundational truths to know that somewhere out there, there is an answer. There is some reconciliation.
Let me give you a couple of examples. I think creation is one of those truths. I mean, if God really made all of this and all of us from nothing, then in my estimation that trumps everything. And there are questions out there that people ask like, well, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? That somewhere, if God is creator and He really made all of this, there is answer for that. There is some reconciliation for that. And not only that, if it is true that God made the world and He made you and He made me, doesn’t it follow that we would spend our entire lives seeking to know this God and follow Him? This is why it makes absolutely no sense, it makes absolutely no sense. Think about it. For someone to say they believe that God created the world and yet not be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I don’t get that. There is no sense in that.
Let me give you another one: the resurrection. I mean, think about it. If Jesus really rose from the dead, He defeated death, He overcame the grave. He is alive today. If that is really true, then that trumps everything. I mean, game over, right? There is bound to be somewhere underneath that an answer for questions that people ask like, what about the people in the tribes of Africa who have never heard the gospel? Are they going to go to heaven or are they going to hell? I have to believe that if Jesus rose from the dead that somewhere out there, there is reconciliation for that. Don’t you agree? I mean, think about the foolishness of somebody saying, oh, I believe Jesus rose from the dead and then it makes absolutely no impact on their lives. They just go ahead and live their lives like they want to.
I want to tell you something. I think the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is another one of those truths. This is the story we read just a moment ago. I mean, if it is true, as the Bible claims that Jesus was born to a woman who had never had sexual
relations with a man and obviously didn’t live in the day where she could be medically impregnated, if that is true and Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin, then that trumps everything and it merits not only my allegiance to this Jesus, but my pursuit of knowing Him in every possible way that I can. It doesn’t make sense that we would embrace a truth like this and then it not have an impact on our lives, right? I mean, think about that. This is other worldly stuff we are talking about. This is supernatural stuff: creation, resurrection, the virgin birth. And if God did this stuff, then that has incredible ramifications for not only how we view Jesus, but what we do with our lives as a result of that.
So I want us to think about that this morning because obviously Jesus thought this issue of the virgin birth was a pretty important question or issue for people to reconcile in their minds. You might remember a little bit later in Matthew’s gospel (I think we will put this on the screen) Jesus asked the question of a group of Pharisees related to the virgin birth. This is what He said, “What do you think about Christ? Whose son is He?”
You see, Jesus knew that the answer to that question was important for people understanding who He is and what they did with their lives as a result of it. And here in Matthew Chapter 1 Verses 18-25, Matthew answers that question for us and He tells us in this narrative of the Christmas story that Jesus is the divine Son of God, born to a human woman who had never had sexual relationships with a man, entered this world supernaturally and consequently, that merits our keen attention. And so let’s see how Matthew answered this question.
Now what I want to do is, I want to start off in kind of an interesting place. I think it is important for us to acknowledge and have on our radar how many people get messed up when they come to this issue of the virgin birth. Even many of us as believers in Jesus Christ, it is so easy to get sidetracked when we come to this issue and get sidetracked in such a way that we never actually really get to the real issue at hand. And by the way, I am convinced that that is the reason that this issue of the virgin birth is nothing more than a sentimental part of the Christmas story to many of us because we get bogged down in some things God never intended us to get bogged down with.
I want to show you what some of those things are. Just a couple of them to give you examples. We get bogged down, I think, in the defense of the supernatural. Have you ever had any of those conversations with somebody? Feeling like you have got to prove this. You have got to give some apologetic, some rationale for how this could happen.
Did you notice in the story we read just a moment ago that the Holy Spirit through Matthew doesn’t try to do that. He doesn’t come here to this place and try to build a case. And by the way, building a case for something was not outside of Matthew’s purview. It wasn’t outside reason. And sometimes there is a reason for us to have a conversation, apologetic conversation about a defense of the virgin birth. But Matthew doesn’t do that. But he did do it in the previous 17 verses. In the first 17 verses of his gospel, he put a legal document on the table: the genealogy of Christ. Why? Because he wanted to put some proof on the table that Jesus of Nazareth was the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. So Matthew could have done this. He could have given evidence that this virgin birth thing was a reality. But he didn’t.
When you come to the story we read a moment ago, did you notice he simply acknowledges it. He simply states it and he simply writes it as a given fact. Look at it in Verse 18. He says that “when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, when they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” So there is the first time.
Look at Verse 20, the angel shows up and appears to Joseph in a dream. And he says, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Boom. He just says it and moves on. He doesn’t try to build a defense for it. He doesn’t try to build a case for it. He doesn’t try to apologize for it. He simply states it. This is reality.
Now, let me tell you something, Church. That is where we have to understand, when we come to this passage of scripture, there is obviously something going on here that is more important than us trying to give a defense for the supernatural activity of a virgin giving birth to a baby. Matthew doesn’t get bogged down to it. The Holy Spirit through Matthew doesn’t want us to get bogged down with that.
Let me tell you something else that we get bogged down with. We get bogged down not only in the defense of the supernatural, but we get bogged down in the dilemma of Joseph. Have you ever done that? Have you ever just…don’t get me wrong. Joseph had a dilemma. This guy was in a pickle, wasn’t he? I mean, he was between a rock and a hard place, no doubt. But what I want you to see is that dilemma of Joseph is not the point of this story. It is not why this paragraph is in the Bible. I mean, think just a moment about Joseph’s dilemma. I mean, he was basically legally married to this woman. The Jewish wedding or the Jewish marriage really had to two parts to it. It had the betrothal which is mentioned here in Verse 18 and then a little bit later on, the marriage could be consummated and part of that would be what you and I know as the ceremony. But in Jewish understanding, the couple was legally married at the betrothal. They were husband and wife. That is why this paragraph refers to Joseph as the husband of Mary and refers to Mary as the wife of Joseph. They were legally married. And yet the consummation of that marriage was not to take place for some time and Mary shows up pregnant. And that creates a dilemma. It creates a problem for Joseph.
But here is what I want you to know. This issue of a supernatural birth would not have been a big deal for most Jewish people. Why? Because supernatural births were common in their history. I mean, Isaac, the Son of Promise was born to a woman who was 100+ years old. That physically, biologically happened. Samuel, one of their greatest priests was born to a woman who was barren, as was one of their most famous judges named Samson. They had seen stuff like this. Plus, the rabbis were taught that the Messiah would come, His birth would come with some extraordinary circumstances. So they were used to this kind of stuff.
However, the problem for Joseph didn’t have anything to do with the way that Mary got pregnant. It was simply the fact that she was pregnant. Joseph was wrestling here, not with the virgin birth. He wasn’t wrestling with how she got pregnant. He was wrestling that she was pregnant. And his dilemma was compounded with this description that Joseph was a…you see it in Verse 19…a just man. Listen, in Jewish tradition, a man in this kind of situation had every right to do three things. Number one, he could shame this woman publicly and that is what was done most of the time. Number two, he could divorce her and that is what was done most of the time. And Number three, he even had the right to demand that she be put to death by stoning according to the Jewish law. This was a guy that could have done all of those things.
But you see, Joseph’s dilemma was a conflict of shame and character. It wasn’t a conflict with how she got pregnant. It was a conflict with the fact that she was pregnant. And that reality brought these two things together in Joseph’s life: shame and character. And that conflict created the problem.
But you understand, Matthew doesn’t dwell on that. And yet here is what happens in so many people’s lives. It happens in so many Christmas sermons. It happens in so many retelling, Christian retellings of the Christmas story. We come into this story and we try to identify with the humans in the story, don’t we? It is just natural for us. And so we look at Joseph and we say, boy, any application we have got, we have got to draw from Joseph. We can’t identify with Mary. She is a virgin that got pregnant, so we have to identify with Joseph. And so we work through, okay, his dilemma and we try to resolve this conflict. We have to look at his character and how he navigated all of that. And no doubt, there is some stuff we can learn from that.
But you understand that as this story moves along, Joseph’s dilemma is not the issue here. He handled it well. He handled it nobly. Certainly there are some things we can be encouraged with, but that is not why this story is in the Bible. And we need to make sure that we don’t get bogged down with it.
So, it begs the question. Why is it here? Why do we have this story in the Bible? And that is where we come to the place where we see the big deal of what is going on with the virgin birth. We come to the place where we see why this story is in the Bible. So I want to make sure that we get that today. I want us to see that.
Let’s look together at the big deal of the virgin birth. And basically, what I want to do is, I want to give you three reasons, I want to show you three reasons in this passage of scripture that the virgin birth, first of all, why that story is in the Bible. But secondly, why it was necessary that it did happen. And that is the most important thing, that we understand why this virgin birth is crucial for our faith and the implications that has for our lives.
Now, let me just tell you, I love it when a text of scripture actually tells us why it is in the Bible. It actually points out to us and says, you know, it is kind of like a big red arrow flashing, this is it. Now not every text in the Bible does that. But this one does. It actually tells us why we have this story in the Bible and more than that, it tells us why this virgin birth had to happen; it had to take place like this. You see this red arrow flashing in Verse 22. Look down at your Bible. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.”
Now, think about it. Listen to those words right there. “All this took place.” You know, it is as if the Holy Spirit through Matthew is saying, here is the big deal. Here is why this is in the Bible. Here is why Brainerd, this is important for our faith. “All this took place,” he says, “to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” And at that point, recorded in Verse 23 in our New Testament here, Matthew quotes the first of what will become many Old Testament prophecies in which Matthew sets out to show that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. And this first one is from Isaiah Chapter 7 Verse 14. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.”
Now, let me give you the first reason why the virgin birth was necessary. The virgin birth was necessary in order for God to be present with us. Let me say it again. It was necessary, the virgin birth was necessary in order for God to be present with us. The opposite of that is that we draw, if the virgin birth didn’t happen, then God would not be present with us. That has incredible ramifications for our lives.
Now, I think to understand this, the best thing that we could do is actually make sure we understand why the prophet said this. So, I want you to take a little journey with me this morning. Hold your place right here in Matthew Chapter 1, or put your bulletin in it or some type of marker because we are coming right back here. And I want you to flip over in the Old Testament to the largest prophetic book in the Bible, the book of Isaiah and find Chapter 7. Now if you don’t know where Isaiah is, take a moment to look in the Table of Contents in your Bible. That is why it is there. Find the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament and then Chapter 7. And I want to show you something here. We are going to read this verse from the prophetic book in just a moment.
But let me give you a little bit of back story. In fact, if we were going to read the back story this morning of what is going on in Isaiah, we would have to go over to II Kings Chapter 16. I don’t want you to go there, I just want you to note that and know that II Kings Chapter 16 actually tells the story, it tells the narrative of what is going on here in Isaiah. And when you come to the book of Isaiah, basically what you have is what Isaiah said back there when he was prophesying in II Kings Chapter 16. So this is kind of the manuscript, if you will, of his prophesy.
Now, what was going on? Well, this is a story about the wicked king, Ahaz who was king of Judah at that time. He was one of Judah’s most wicked kings. He was also one of the last kings of Judah before the nation fell into captivity and this guy was bad news. I mean, he set up idols in all of the land. He established or reestablished the worship of a false god named Molech. He was so bad, Ahaz was so bad that he even sacrificed one of his own sons as a human sacrifice to this false god, Molech. He wasn’t anything like his father, Uzziah, who is mentioned here in Isaiah 7 Verse 1 who was one of Israel’s most righteous kings. He was bad news.
And there were a couple of other kings, neighboring kings, they are mentioned also here in Verse 1. Rezin, king of Syria, Pekah, king of Israel. These guys were in cahoots with one another. They wanted to dethrone Ahaz and take over all of his stuff so they were conspiring against him. Ahaz got wind of it and so he decided to do something about it.
Isaiah came to him and said, Trust in the Lord. God has promised to be with you. But Ahaz didn’t listen. Instead of trusting God, Ahaz turned to a neighboring king, (?) of the Assyrians who would ultimately take over them and he sought his help. And so Isaiah comes to Ahaz and he speaks to him in rebuke and prophetic discipline from God, telling him primarily this one thing. God has said to you, He has told you that He will be present with His people and you have not listened. And so Isaiah says what is recorded in Verse 14 of Chapter 7 that we saw recorded in Mathew Chapter 1. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.” Interesting. Let me stop there for a moment and just tell you, in the language of the Old Testament, the word “you”, the second person pronoun is actually in the plural. It is not in the singular. You say, well, what is the significance of that? God wasn’t talking just to Ahaz. He was talking to His people. And through the nation of Judah, He was talking to all of His people of all time saying, God is going to give you, us a sign that He is going to make good on His promise to always be faithful to His people and be present with them. That is what he is saying here.
And so, in Verse 14, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” And that is why in Matthew Chapter 1, when Matthew quotes this verse, he then tells us what the name Immanuel means. We sang it a moment ago in the song. You saw it on the screen, you spoke it with your lips. Matthew Chapter 1 Verse 23, he quotes Isaiah 7:14 and then he says, “which means,” do you see it? “Which means God with us.”
Now what was Isaiah doing? He was saying to Ahaz; God has said this from Day 1 with His people. He has said He will be faithful to them. Yes, He will bring discipline for their disobedience along the way, but He will be faithful to His covenant with His people and He will make good on His promise to be with you as a people. And Isaiah said, the day is coming, the day is coming when the divine is going to give you a sign, an indication that this will always happen. This will always be the case. And here we find ourselves on the Eve of a new year, 2016, thousands of years removed from when this prophecy was given, and when it was fulfilled. And that promise is still a reality because it was in the virgin birth that the Holy God of heaven walked out of heaven and He entered this world and He became one of us which was necessary to happen by supernatural means. And this virgin birth checks off that box.
And do you know what that means? That promise is good today. As a child of God, a man or woman, boy or girl who has embraced this Messiah, this Savior, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, we stand as a people who have the assurance today that when we put our heads on our pillows at night, this is a reality, God is with us. This is why the gospel of John begins this way, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” and then John says in Verse 14 of Chapter 1, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is God’s entrance into this world, but even more than that, listen, more than His entrance into this world, His entrance into our circles, into our lives, in the lives of His people, to be present with them. And the only way that could happen is through this supernatural birth for God, the Holy God of the Universe, this supernatural God to enter this world, the virgin birth was necessary for God to be present with us.
But watch this. Contrary to a lot of people’s understanding, God simply being present with us was not end game. God’s goal here was not just simply so we could have Him with us. And you have had conversations like that with people, haven’t you? You know, you have maybe tried to have a gospel conversation with them and tell them about Christ and they kind of, you know, they kind of put you at arm’s length and say, oh yeah, I know all that. The man upstairs, He is always with me. I always…whatever is going on in my life, He is always with me. And there’s a lot of people who would like to think that is end game. That is what this is about. God is with us and if He is with you then you are good. If He is not with you, then you are not good.
But I want you to see that this text tells us simply being with us was not God’s goal in this. And that leads us to the second reason for the necessity of the virgin birth. Look at it. The virgin birth was necessary for us to be saved from our sins. The virgin birth was necessary for us to be saved from our sins. That was God’s goal. That is why He was going to be faithful, to be present with His people so that He could do something for His people that they could not do for themselves. And that is, that He could forgive their sins.
You may know someone who say, Oh, I don’t need God’s presence. I could do without Him. And even if someone could say that or would say that or does say that, because that was not God’s end game, they will never be able to say they can do this. They will never be able to say they can do something about their sin problem.
Now let me show it to you. The angel had already told Joseph this before Matthew tells us this was all done to fulfill this prophecy. We saw it back up there in Verse 21, “The angel says to Joseph, she will bear a son, Mary will bear a son and you shall call His name Jesus.” And Anna Grace and what she was saying a little bit ago told us what this name Jesus means. Yahweh is salvation. The Lord saves. That is what the name Jesus means. And that is why God gave His Son in His entrance into the world this name because it was a name that screamed loud the reason that God was going to be present with His people and that is so that He could save His people. You see it there at the end of Verse 21, He would save His people from their sins.
Now, do the math on this. You understand that God’s standard for getting into heaven is perfection. Did you know that? Did you know that there is nothing and there is nobody that is going to get into heaven that is not perfect?
Now, if you have never heard that before, I hope that creates a little angst in your heart this morning because if you have never heard that before and nobody has ever told you that, that ought to bring you to the place where you are saying, I am trouble. I have a problem. Because that is exactly the condition of each and every one of us. But that is true. I can’t back off of that. I can’t change it. This is what God’s Word says, He is holy, He is righteous. He can’t have anything to do with sin. And so that means His standard is perfection and there is not anybody or anything that is going get into His heaven, be in His presence that is not perfect. And that creates a problem for you. It creates a problem for me.
This is why God had to come do something about our sin problem. If we were going to be in a relationship with Him, if we were going to experience His presence, if we were ever going to get into His heaven and His standard is perfection, somebody has to help us. There is going to have to be some way to meet His righteous standard. And God talked about the way He was going to do this way back at the beginning of the world when Adam and Eve first sinned. Do you remember when God came and He was pronouncing His discipline upon Adam and Eve and Satan and creation and all of that in Genesis Chapter 3.
Well, when we He was talking to Satan, He said something very interesting. And this statement is actually categorized as the first gospel, the first presentation of the gospel or hint of the gospel in all of the Bible. One of the things that God said to Satan was, I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. Now some Bible translations use the word “seed” at this point. God said, “I am going to put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.” Well, there is a little problem with that. Biologically, women don’t have seed. Men do. And that is why in the sexual relationship, the seed is passed through the woman and the birth process takes place. It begins at that point.
But notice, here in the book of Genesis, God said, I am going to do something. I am going to do something in this deal, and that is going to involve the day coming when a woman has seed, not a man. Do you know what He was doing there? He was making a prophecy about what He would do about your sin problem, about your imperfection and mine, about this problem of His standard being perfection to get into heaven, get into a relationship and us not being perfect. And what He said was, I am going to bring something about, someone about who is not affected by this sin, that from this point on will be passed down from generation to generation from the first Adam. And that is exactly what has happened. That is why you are in a mess. That is why I am in a mess. Because this sin nature has been passed to every single one of us through the natural birth process. Unless we blame Adam for all of that, every one of us have chosen to take that sin nature and willfully sin against our God. And every single one of us, every person that has been born into this world naturally has had that same problem. Imperfection, stained by sin, separated from God. But God said a long time ago, I am going to make a way. I am going to do something out of the ordinary. I am going to do something supernatural. A woman is going to have seed. And therefore, there is a perfect, perfect individual that is going to be born into this world that will do something about your problem and mine. And that is why Jesus was born to a virgin. He came into this world untainted with that sin nature. And then He lived a life, Beloved, listen, He lived a life that you couldn’t live, I couldn’t live. He died a death that we should have died because in dying that death, He took your sin and He took my sin on Himself and He incurred the wrath of a Holy God against sin. Remember, He has to punish sin. He can’t have anything to do with sin. He had to punish it. Jesus, this One who is the perfect sacrifice, born to the virgin Mary, without that sin nature lived a holy life and took that Holy Life to the cross and He took your sin with Him and He took my sin with him. And He died there on our behalf. And this is why, this is why Paul described the gospel like this in II Corinthians Chapter 5. He said, “For our sake, for our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin.”
Let me put the persons in there, the people in there, for our sake, God made Jesus to be sin, the One that knew no sin. Why? So that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. Let me translate that. So in Hi, we might meet God’s standard of perfection to be in relationship with Him. That doesn’t mean you are perfect in this life. You have still got that sinful body hanging around as long as you live in it. You are going to mess up. That is a reality. But do you understand, this is the way that God looks at you. If you are in Christ and Christ is in you, then when God looks at you, He doesn’t see your imperfection. He sees Christ’s perfection, His righteousness. He came, Beloved, to make a way for us to be in right relationship to Him and the only way that could happen was for this God who entered this world to be present with us, to do it in such a way that He was untainted by the sin that He came to save us from. And if you are here today and you have never understood that or you have understood it but you never embraced it, I want you to know, this is God’s way to forgive your sin. And it is the only way. This is God’s way, to take your sin and to remove it as far as the east is from the west, to cast it into the sea of His forgetfulness. He does that through the person of Jesus Christ who took your sin. He took your sin to the cross and died there. And then He rose again to give you His righteousness, to give you back the life of God that you were created to have. And I plead with you today, I plead with you today, don’t walk out of this room, don’t turn this recording off before you cry out the God in repentance and faith and trust Jesus and Jesus alone to save you. There is no other way. But this is the way because of this virgin birth. Change your mind about your sin. Change your mind about Jesus and trust Him and Him alone to save you. That is the invitation of the gospel for you today. The virgin birth was necessary for God to be present with us. But not just for Him to be present with us but for Him to save us from our sin.
Now, Church, I want to finish talking to you, talking to us, those of us who have already named the name of Christ because there is actually a third reason that this virgin birth was necessary. And it grows out of this passage, but it is woven through really all of the New Testament. And that is this, the virgin birth was necessary for us to fulfill our mission. To say it another way, the virgin birth was necessary for us to do what we were left on the planet to do.
Now I want you to think about it. I want you to think about the implications for God’s presence and His power for our lives. I mean, think about these first two things. The virgin birth was necessary for God to come and be present with us. And the virgin birth was necessary for Him to unleash all of His power to accomplish he forgiveness of our sin. And you know, that shows up when Jesus actually commissioned us to do what we have been left on the planet to do.
You know the passage well. Matthew Chapter 28, we refer to it as the Great Commission. This is Jesus when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. He came to them, Matthew says, in the last chapter of this book that we are studying and he said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” And then He said to His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Now, most of the time, we get that. And He says, disciple them, mature them, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Most of the time that, if we get that far, that is as far as we go. But I want you to notice what else He said. Do youremember it? Do you see it here on the screen? Jesus says, “And behold,” and any time He said that, it is kind of like putting it in bold, underscoring and italicizing it, underlining it. Here is something that is key to all of this. “Behold,” what did He say, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Now what is He talking about? He is talking about His presence with us. He is talking about the fact that He left heaven and He came and to be present with us so that He could bring about the forgiveness of our sins. And He sends us out and He tells us, now, you go and tell other people about this.
But let me show you how this presence and power come together in John’s version of the Great Commission. Jesus appeared to His disciples. John records in Chapter 20 of his gospel that Jesus said something very interesting to them. He Said, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent Me,” alright. Now keep the presence and power. How is God present with His people? He sent Jesus. He entered this world in the person of Jesus Christ. He sent Jesus and Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, even so send I you.” Translated, if the Father has sent Me to be incarnate with you, I am sending you to be incarnate with other people as well.
And then this is what John said happened. He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. And Jesus gave His disciples what was necessary for them to be empowered with His presence and this gospel that they went with. And then this is what He said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now listen, we can’t just blow by that verse. That is an incredible statement. You say, does that mean that I determine as a Christian who gets the forgiveness of sin and who doesn’t? No, that is not what Jesus was saying. But He was saying this: Just like the Father sent Me with His presence and His power, I am sending you. I am giving you the Holy Spirit. And I want you to go be incarnate with other people. And because you are incarnate with them with this gospel, you present this gospel and this gospel is the only way for people to be forgiven of their sins, then you are going to be able to authoritatively say to someone, if you repent and believe in Jesus, your sins are forgiven. If you don’t repent and believe in Jesus, your sins are not forgiven. And in doing that, Jesus said to His disciples and through those disciples to the disciples in this room today, I am sending you to be present with other people. Bryan, do you know what that means? It means we have got to get out of here. This is not where we primarily do what we have been left on this planet to do. You get that, right? We are going to get to do this for all of eternity in heaven. This is not why we are primarily here. This is important. It is important for us. But it is not why we are primarily here. We are primarily here to go out of this place and go to Panama, like we saw in the video and go to the Ivory Coast like we talked about last week, and go across the street to a neighbor and go to a fellow student, go to the cubicle next to us at work, go to New York City to plant churches, to go and be present with people. And you can satisfy your conscience all you want. You go to church and read your Bible and show up in meetings like this, but Beloved, listen, this is not what the virgin birth compels us to do. The virgin birth compels us to leave the comfort of places like this and go wherever people are who don’t have the gospel and share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Clearly, empathically, authoritatively saying to them, if you will believe this gospel, your sins will be forgiven. If you don’t believe this gospel, your sins won’t be forgiven.
So I ask you, who do you need to go be present with this Christmas season? How can you go be present with people who need this gospel so that they, too, can experience the forgiveness of sins?
Joseph woke from sleep, Verse 24 says, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and he took his wife. But he knew her not until she had given birth to a son and he called His name Jesus.
May God give us grace to do as Joseph did, to do as the Lord has commanded us to do. Beloved, this virgin birth compels us to fulfill the mission that God has left us on the planet to fulfill.
More Articles You Will Love
John Ankerberg Show
Founder and president of The John Ankerberg Show, the most-watched Christian worldview show in America.