- Sermon Notes
The Gift of God’s Favor
December 17-18, 2022
There was a survey taken several years ago asking people to answer the question, “Who was the most influential person in all human history?” Some of the names are predictable; Socrates, George Washington, Alexander the great, Thomas Edison, Mohammed, FDR – Franklin D Roosevelt, etc. But it should come as no surprise that the number one answer to the question, “Who was the most influential person in all human history?” was Jesus Christ. He is still today not only the most influential person in world history, but even now in our modern times.
What does it mean that Jesus is influential? It means He has made an impact on your life; that He has influence because He has affected the course of your life; He has brought change in how you live.
Is there in your life a before and after Christ? There was your life before Jesus reconciled you to God and the life you are now living after Jesus brought you to have relationship to God. How many have a ‘before Jesus life’ and an ‘after Jesus life?’
The wisest thing you could ever do is to have Jesus influence your life. Think of all that He wants to do for you and in you. Through Him you have eternal life, through Him you have the favor of God poured out on all you do; through Him you have the words that will change the course of your life. Jesus reconciled sinners to God that they might have their sins forgiven, yes, but there is so much more! God redeemed you and reconciled you so that you will walk in newness of life. In other words, that God would transform your soul into that which is beautiful!
How has Jesus influenced you personally? It happens when you hear His words and receive them, but not just receive them, to set the course of your life according to them. That is influence. When you receive Him as your King, He influences your life.
Here’s an example; in Isaiah, we read that the Messiah will be called Wonderful Counselor. His wisdom is high, His counsel is amazing, and if you take hold of His word, it will impact every area of your life. You will have wonderful counsel to guide your life.
The message of Christmas is about recognizing how much God has done for you. God changed the world that day of Christ’s birth and is still changing the world today; but He is changing it by the beautiful, transforming work he does in the soul – one soul at a time; for those who receive Him as King.
In Luke 1, Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she would carry the Son of God. Her response to what the Lord has done is a powerful example for the one who has been transformed by the beautiful work of God on the soul.
I. God’s Favor Deserves a Response
- When Gabriel spoke to Mary, he said to her, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”
- The favor of God is upon us also. “God so loved the world that He gave… His only begotten Son…that you would have everlasting life.”
- God wants you to have life. Not just everlasting life, but life here and now — and life to the full!
- When Mary recognized what great things God had done for her, she responded to God’s favor with what is famously called the Magnificat – Mary’s psalm, a declaration of the greatness of God.
Luke 1:46, 49, And Mary said, “My soul exalts in the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”
- When we consider what great things God has done for us, we should respond, even if our response can never be equal in value to what He has done for us.
Illus – In exchanging gifts at Christmas it’s common to compare the value of what you gave against what you received and if they aren’t close to the same value, well, that’s just not right!
- But there is simply no way that anything we give to God could possibly compare to what He has done for us.
Illus – When the wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the gifts were of tremendous value. The wise men knew, however, that the gifts were only small tokens in comparison to the gift God had given them. But bringing a gift was the right response.
At one point, Jesus healed 10 lepers at the same time, only one of them returned to give thanks to Jesus. That small gift of saying thank you was not equal in value to being healed of leprosy, but giving thanks was the right response.
Whatever we do for God will not be equal in value either, but it’s right; God’s favor deserves a response.
This is what you can do in response…
A. Let life be done according to His Word
- Mary responds to the angel by saying, “Let it be done according to your word.”
- That’s a right thing for you and me to say as well. “Let your word be done in my life, let it accomplish your purpose in me.”
- God’s word has purpose, and He sent it in power to accomplish that purpose.
- It’s such a right attitude of the heart when you say, “Let my life be done according to Your word, O Lord.”
- When you live according to His Word, it brings godly, heavenly direction to your life.
- God’s word transforms you from who you used to be and toward who God wants you to be.
- One of the things that make Christmas stories powerful and moving is when someone with a cold, hard heart is transformed.
- Can people change? That’s the point of the miracle stories of Christmas. Some people refuse to change. They have convinced themselves that however unpleasant, difficult, or angry they may be, well, that’s just the way they are… God made them that way. Oh, so it’s God’s fault now?
- The whole point of Christmas is that God sees the wretched condition of man and sent His Son to redeem lost and broken sinners.
- But then, once God has reconciled that sinner to Himself, he begins the beautiful work of transforming the soul so that you are changed from whatever unpleasant, difficult or angry person you once were into a person transformed by the miraculous power of God.
- That’s why every miracle story of transformation has greater meaning at Christmas!
Illus – Nephew Fred, “A Merry Christmas, Uncle Ebenezer! God save you.”
Scrooge, “God save me from Christmas. It’s another humbug.”
Nephew Fred, “Christmas a humbug? Come, now. Surely you don’t mean that.”
Scrooge, “And I’m sure that I do mean that. Merry Christmas, indeed. What reason have you got to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
Nephew Fred, “What reason have you got to be miserable? You’re rich enough.”
Scrooge, “There’s no such thing as rich enough, only poor enough.
Nephew Fred, “Don’t be so dismal, Uncle Ebenezer!”
Scrooge, “What else can I be when I live in a world full of fools babbling ‘Merry Christmas’ at one another? What’s Christmas but a time of finding yourself a year older and not a day richer? There’s nothing merry in that.”
The story is powerful because Scrooge is transformed from a miserly, selfish, cold-hearted, lonely man into a generous, loving, and warm-hearted friend.
Illus – In the life of David there was a time when he ran into a grumpy old man named Nabal who returned David’s kindness with a grumpy, sharp rebuke. That man’s cold and hard heart doesn’t change, however; and the story doesn’t end well. That’s not a Christmas story.
- In John 4, a Samaritan woman with a sinful past meets Jesus and her life is transformed.
- Then there’s the woman caught in adultery. Jesus showed her mercy and love and she was transformed as well.
B. Let your soul be stirred within you
- In verses 46-47, Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Real and lasting change doesn’t happen without the transformation of the soul.
- What type of soul do you have? Jesus gave a parable and said that there are different types of hearts. Some hearts are hard and cannot receive anything from God. Others are so distracted by the worries and cares of this life that it chokes out anything God is wanting to do in their lives.
App – The heart that is hard doesn’t receive anything from God and doesn’t give anything to God either. Others have a good and honest heart. They receive the word of God with joy, and it bears fruit in their lives, 30, 60, and 100 fold.
Psalm 42:4, These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me.
- Mary’s soul was stirred within her. Her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. By the way, there are some who believe Mary was without sin as Jesus was without sin, but notice that she says, “God my Savior.” She needed a Savior like all of us need a savior.
Illus – Mark Lowry wrote a song that captures this truth beautifully… “Mary did you know? That your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered would soon deliver you.”
II. Keep Receiving Your King
- In verse 53 Mary declares, “He has exalted those who are humble. He has filled the hungry with good things.”
- We need to be continually filled. This is where many people miss out. They have a moment of revival and then fall away
- God increases the capacity of your soul so that you keep seeking for more of God, more of God’s peace, more of God’s joy, more of God’s purpose in life
- In other words, keep receiving your King!
A. God’s work on your soul is beautiful
- The things of the world appeal to the flesh but cannot satisfy the soul and the soul is the most important part of us. The soul is eternal. The flesh is temporary.
Romans 6:21, Therefore, what benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death.
Galatians 6:8, But the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life, even eternal life.
- That’s the real meaning of Christmas, that God saw sinners in their distress and in their brokenness and sent hope.
- But God does so much more than just redeem a sinner, he does that which is beautiful on the soul…
Isaiah 55:1-2, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.”
B. Jesus is the Joy of Man’s Desiring
- The theme of the season is to be joyful and there are many things about this “wonderful time of year” that touches something very deep.
Illus – The smell of pine needles, the taste of eggnog, all the lights on the houses, the Christmas songs, etc., all make this season a wonderful time of year.
- These things are special because they touch a deep need in the soul. We have a need for family to be together and to be at peace, for the glow of a fire, hot chocolate warming deeply, because we are trying to fill the longing of our hearts. These things are like a touch of heaven.
- There is a longing in the soul for something better than what this world has to offer, the soul seeks for more.
C. The joy of the Lord is our strength
- We need the joy of the Lord that satisfies the soul and then we need to stay in that place where the soul is satisfied.
- Mary’s psalm speaks of all the wonderful things the Lord had done for her.
- And we can say the same thing. What great things the Lord has done for us.
- All other major religions of the world have man saving himself by his own works; only faith in Christ gives us “the greatest gift of all” eternal life simply by faith.
Psalm 126:1-3, “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us; and we are glad.’”
Illus – Many years ago we sang a very simple praise song with those very words, “The Lord, has done great things for us… for he has filled our mouths with laughter, filled our tongues with singing, the Lord has done great things for us…. And we are glad, so very glad.”
Luke 1:26-38 NASB
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
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