This past summer, I visited the Soudan Underground Mine in Northern Minnesota.
It’s an old iron ore mine up on the Iron Range that closed in the 1960’s and then became a tourist destination.
And you can explore the mines on the old railway underground
(Mine Photo 1)
But before you go down into mines, you listen to instructions about going down into the earth.
And they tell you…
“Listen, you’re going to get in this old, rickety mining elevator”
This isn’t the elevator at Macy’s here.
It’ll be pretty dark.
And then you’re going to go down…a half mile underground.
It’ll take THREE minutes to get down there.
This isn’t a 10 second ride.
You’ll feel some shakes, your ears popping…
And then we’ll arrive.
If you don’t want to do this, now’s your time to back out.
And if you’re not much of a risk taker…or you’re claustrophobic, or a worrier…
You have to ask yourself…do I trust the person telling me this?
I can’t say I was all that worried…but for the small part of me that was…
I told myself, what I always tell myself if I go on a rollercoaster…
Okay, they do this…a hundred times a day…they’ve been doing it for 50 years…
Which means this thing could break any second now
No just kidding.
No, I trust the person who’s going to bring us down…because he said he’s been doing it for years…and it’ll be just fine.
And, well, obviously I survived.
This afternoon, as we look at the original Christmas story together, you’re going to see that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is told that she’s going to have to face something quite challenging
Mary is going to have to decide if she trusts where, and whom, the message is coming from
(Big #1, little #26)
(Luke 1:26-38) – NIV
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her
WHY WE DON’T FOLLOW #1: DOUBTING THE DETAILS
And so the angel Gabriel comes and tells Mary that she’s going to give birth to the Son of God…who will live & reign forever.
And Mary, rightfully says, “Um, how will this be?”
Which, in her defense is different than, “That can’t happen!”
It’s kind of like saying, “Okay, you’re an angel, God sent you…I’m sure you’re right…but like, um, how…cuz…you know…the whole virgin thing..”
It’s like where you believe, but there’s a level of doubt because you’re unable to see (or understand) exactly how it’s going to work out.
And I find that this is one of the main reasons people are hesitant to follow God when He calls them to.
Maybe God has been nudging you to follow Him lately…
Maybe He’s calling you to trust Him by taking a new job, or moving, or in getting married…could be anything.
And a lot of us get stuck in what I would call “doubt of the details”
Like, Mary, in general we believe God…but we’re unsure about the details.
We say, “God, I believe you want me to do this…but I just don’t see how it would work.”
But unlike Mary, a lot of us get stuck there.
Because we can’t completely see HOW God would do it…we won’t go forward with Him.
And for others in the room, you’ve been unable to follow God because you still have doubts about the details of the Christian faith.
You don’t have all of the answers yet.
Some of you have intellectual doubts about God.
Maybe doubts about the creation of the universe.
Or doubts about the Bible.
And so even though you may feel God telling you to follow Him, your doubts have kept you on the sidelines.
You lean towards believing, but because you don’t have 100% belief, you haven’t fully surrendered your life to God.
You’re caught in the middle.
Not an atheist…but not a follower of Jesus either.
I always like to remind people that everyone on earth has faith. Everyone.
No one has absolute proof that Jesus was born of a virgin, that Jesus was the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins.
And no one has absolute proof that He didn’t do those things.
Faith is like a continuum.
If this side represents being 100% sure that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sins
And this other side represents being 100% sure that He was just an ordinary man…and not the one true Savior.
You need to ask yourself where you are on this continuum.
I think a lot of people get really near Christ…
They look at all the stars and say, “There has to be a God”
They see people who’ve been transformed by God…and it makes them want to believe.
They hear music like they heard today, “And they can almost feel God”
But, they’re not at 100% belief.
Maybe they have a doubt about the virgin birth…or a doubt about something else in the Bible
And so they don’t surrender their life to Him…they don’t become a follower.
But if you think about it…what you’re saying is, “I 90% believe in you, but 10% of me doesn’t.”
But then many of us come to a conclusion that doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think hard about it.
We say, I 90% believe in God, but because it’s not 100%, I won’t believe in you.
But remember, everyone has faith.
Think about what you’re saying.
You’re saying, I will therefore base my life, not on the thing I have 90% confidence in, but on the thing I have 10% confidence in…
And we live as if He never came on Christmas
And we do that because we think it’s faith vs. no faith.
But it’s not. It’s faith vs. faith
Everyone takes a leap of faith.
Do you want to jump the extra 10% to Jesus…or do you want to leap 90% back to believing this was all just an accident?
For most people, it’s a significantly smaller leap of faith to believe that Jesus is who He said He was.
You’re never going to know 100%, and you have to take a leap somewhere.
So take the smaller leap.
Like Mary, have faith even when you have doubts.
In just a minute, I want to talk about a second hesitation we have to following God
But for now, let’s take a moment and sing of the fact that God was willing to come and be with us.
And as we sing, I want you to think about where you are on that continuum…and maybe you’re closer to following God than you think.
WHY WE DON’T FOLLOW #2: WE KNOW IT’LL BE HARD
Some of us hesitate to follow God because of our doubts.
Like Mary, we say, “But yeah, how will this be?”
“I don’t fully understand it”
But others of us share a similar hesitation Mary most certainly had
We don’t follow what God is calling us to…because we know it will be hard.
And this could be any of us.
Maybe you’re a Christian…and God is calling you to walk away from a particular sin in your life…
But you know, to do so, to obey Him…would be incredibly hard.
Maybe God is calling you to do something that will require risk and sacrifice…
But you know, it would be difficult
Or maybe you’re hearing this, and you feel that Jesus is calling you to Himself…He wants to be in a relationship with you…
But you know, that if you were to give your life to Christ…it would require a lot of changes
Of your lifestyle, your beliefs, everything…
And that just feels rather impossible
And trust me, Mary, was feeling the same sort of thing.
Let’s just think practically here.
Mary is a teenager… most likely, something like 15 years old.
She is betrothed to Joseph…not married.
Betrothal was like engagement, but even more serious.
To break a betrothal was akin to getting a divorce.
So, you tell me, what’s going to happen when she comes to Joseph, and says, “I’m pregnant.”
What’s Joseph supposed to think?
In fact, in the Book of Matthew in the Bible (another book about Jesus’ life), we’re told that when Joseph found out she was pregnant, he had in mind to divorce her quietly (he’s thinking she committed adultery).
When Mary was hearing the angel tell her she was going to be pregnant, she would have known what was coming.
In fact, according to Old Testament, Jewish women could be stoned if they were assumed to be adulterers.
Even though few adulterers were actually stoned, all of them were shamed, as were their children.
Mary would have known that if she accepts this Word from God…it’s going to bring difficulty and shame on her…and her family, for perhaps for the rest of her life.
And so think about this, all of Jesus’ growing up years, in that small town of Nazareth, where everybody knew everybody…
People would have shamed Mary for “being an adulteress” even though she wasn’t.
People would have shamed Jesus as a boy…
They would have said, “You don’t even know who your real father is”
What’s He supposed to say?
“No, you don’t understand, my mom was a virgin…”
Do you think they believed Him?
It would be decades before Mary was vindicated…and proven to be the Godly woman she was.
So when God called her to obey, she would have known difficult years lie ahead..
And yet she followed His instructions anyway.
You don’t think Mary had dreams and plans of her own?
She probably had a script for her life.
She was probably planning out her wedding to Joseph…in the midst of doing her baby registry at the Nazareth Target…
Dreaming about how the whole town coming together to celebrate their wedding
But instead…she had to wear a wedding dress from the Nazareth Maternity Store
And no one likely came to her wedding, because she was the shame of the town
This looked nothing like the script she had for her life.
But still she said to the angel… “I’ll do it. I’m the Lord’s servant”
Because She knew it was right…
And she knew something great would come of it!
Great things never come easily
And I believe something great will come if you trust in whatever God is calling you to do next…
As we sing this next song…I want you to talk to God…and ask Him what He’s calling you to.
Even if you never talk to God…
Just close your eyes, and talk to Him in your head.
He cares for you…and He will hear you.
BELIEVE LIKE MARY!
Mary is a powerful example for us.
God sends an angel and tells her some amazing things.
But, like all of us, she has some doubts…
And like all of us, she knows that if she obeys God…it’s going to be hard.
But she believes.
She puts aside her doubts and fears…and she believes!
She can believe the message…Because God said it.
This goes back to the underground mine.
I was willing to get into that elevator to go underground because I trusted the guy who said he’d been working there for a few decades.
He had a big beard and looked like he knew what he was talking about.
Mary is willing to both BELIEVE this and DO this…because it came from God
Look at verses 37 & 38 again:
(Luke 1:37-38) – NIV
37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
God’s Word will NEVER fail.
If God says it, “It’s going to happen. It’s trustworthy.”
Even if God comes to a 15-year old virgin and says, “You’re going to have a baby who will be the Messiah”
It’s going to happen.
If God says it…it’ll happen.
And I want you to ponder the greatest promise of them all that God has offered to you regarding His Son Jesus.
After Joseph begins to think about divorcing Mary, here’s exactly what the Bible says in Matthew:
(Matthew 1:20-21) – NIV
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
This is the most important part of Christmas.
The REASON that God sent His Son to earth to be born of the virgin Mary, was to save us from our sins.
This is THE central teaching of the Bible…and THE main point of Christianity.
So if you hear anything today, hear this.
The Bible is clear that we are all sinners…sinners that need saving.
We all make mistakes…and hurt other people, and even sin against God.
And because God is a holy God, there must be justice for our sins.
If there wasn’t justice for the evil in the world, God wouldn’t be worth worshipping.
And that justice, that punishment, is hell.
But God is so in love with you, that He doesn’t want to be separated from you
(John 3:16) – NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And so the main teaching of the Bible is that you will never be good enough to go to heaven.
It says that Jesus was born of a virgin and grew up to die on a cross.
And on that cross He was taking the punishment for your sin.
And if you BELIEVE that He died in your place…and you surrender your life to Him…
You will be saved.
Forgiven of your sins.
But you have to believe…turn your life over to Him
This isn’t just granted to everyone.
But if you turn your life over to Him, He will come into your life, change you, make you new, and completely transform you!
And not only that, you will then be saved for all of eternity…and when you die, you will go to heaven to be with him forever.
And it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done.
If God Says He will forgive you, then He will do it.
What did we read?
NO WORD FROM GOD WILL EVER FAIL!
If God says it, He will do it!
Even if it feels like it can’t be true, it is.
God doesn’t make promises that are too good to be true.
If God says it, He will do it!
Even if you can’t understand it… …
If God says it, He will do it.
If God is telling you to surrender your life to Him and become a believer and follower of Him…do it.
Even if you sense it will be hard.
This is where we have to say, “If you really died for me, if you really love me this much…”
“then I’ll let go of all of my conditions…the demands I’ve put on my doubts…
“Like Mary, I’ll trust you…I’ll follow you even if I know it’ll be hard…”
And if you know you need to give your life to Him today…let’s do it.
Let’s just have everybody bow their heads and close their eyes…for just a minute.
If you want to make that decision to believe that Jesus died for you, and let Him into your life…to be forgiven … in a minute…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “God, I believe only you can save me, and I want to surrender my life to you”
This is how you can be forgiven, go to heaven, and have a relationship with God…it’s by making this decision.
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you and you’ve never done this before.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him for the first time, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are. (you can stay standing for a minute as others join you)
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME.
If God himself is prompting you to do something right now, don’t disobey that.
Stand up. God is talking to you!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
This is just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you who are standing for just a moment
I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, one of our leaders is going to pray, but right before they do that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.
I’m going to go out there with you…and I want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
If you didn’t stand up, but you know you made this decision too…just come out with us.
All right, one of our leaders is going to pray
But for now, would you please had out there with me.
Go ahead. We can all go together.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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