A Humble Vessel - Part Two
November 26, 2017 | Randy Smith
A Humble Vessel-Part TwoLuke 1:39-56
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
I hope all of you are enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend! Though there are a minority that either ignore this holiday or even protest it, most Americans gather with family and to some degree uplift the virtue of being thankful. However this is the point where many people stop.
They are thankful for their health and can be grateful for good genetics and trained doctors and advanced medicines. They are thankful for their food and show appreciation for the farmers and their ability to earn a paycheck. They are thankful for their families and express gratitude for caring parents and mutual love and the opportunity to be together. Yet how many people are thankful for the ultimate source of all blessings? James 1:17, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above." Moreover, how many are thankful specifically for who God is? We'll come back to that.
Christians should not need to be convinced of the need to thank God, but many professing Christians in my experience have missed understanding Mary, the birthing mother of Jesus, from a proper biblical perspective.
On the one end, the official dogma of the Catholic Church has venerated her to a status that is clearly not biblical. Introducing doctrines such as "The Immaculate Conception" and "The Assumption of Mary," Mary has been given a redemptive and divine place alongside Jesus Christ.
Students of the Bible, in recognizing this idolatrous heresy, have swung so far in the other direction that Mary is downplayed or even ignored altogether.
Over the past couple weeks; I have encouraged you not to think of Mary too highly, but also not to think of her too lowly. Mary is not the star of Luke 1. That place belongs to Jesus Christ. But the spotlight is to remain of Mary to see how she, as she said herself in verse 47, worshipped her Savior.
And that goal continues this morning. We do not wish to venerate Mary, but we do wish to learn from Mary as she venerated Jesus Christ. And to do that we specifically need to look into Mary's heart. It's a heart that most pleases the Lord. It's a heart that God desires and produces within all His children. It's a heart of brokenness and humility - what I specifically would like to focus on this morning. I can honestly say after this study that Mary has moved into one of the top places among my favorite biblical heroes. And that's something I rarely hear from other evangelicals, especially those of the male gender.
Any why? It's because of Mary's heart. Not a mother's heart for a son, but a sinner's heart for the Son of God. She is a role model of pure love and childlike faith. There is humble acceptance of God's call for her life. There is a meekness that we often do not see from other believers. And her brokenness is not the result of a grievous sin, but rather the acknowledgement that she is in general a sinner.
Sure she didn't capture Jericho like Joshua or write the Psalms like David or get vomited from a fish like Noah or save a nation like Ester or reach a continent for Jesus like Paul, but she did listen to the Lord and as a bondslave of the Lord fully submitted to His will. She might not have ruled for Christ, but she allowed Christ to rule within her.
Last week we began looking at "Mary Song" (verses 46-55). Upon receiving the news that she will be impregnated with Jesus Christ, despite all the uncertainties and fears, she immediately burst out into praise.
That is how broken people operate. They see themselves worthy of nothing and acknowledge all good things coming from the hand of a gracious God. Praise, as we learned last week, is the natural and spontaneous overflow of a heart that adores the greatness of God. Humble people worship God. Proud people are too busy worshipping themselves.
Listen to the praise in verses 46-47. "And Mary said: 'My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." Doing what? Exalting and rejoicing. In whom? In the Lord and in her Savior. From where? From her soul and from her spirit. In other words, deep from within her heart.
Now into verse 48. "For He has had regard for the humble [there is that word!] state of His bondslave ; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed."
Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her book entitled "Brokenness" said this, "Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will - the absolute surrender of my will to the will of God. It is saying "Yes, Lord!" - no resistance, no chafing, no stubbornness - simply submitting myself to His direction and will in my life."
Clear evidence of Mary's brokenness is seen in verse 48 where she called herself a "bondslave ." It's a favorite self-designation that she also used in verse 38.
"Bondslave," the Greek word is "doulos." This Greek word, "doulos," is the most servile term in the New Testament. It speaks of one whose will is swallowed up in the will of another. It is a slave who is bound to his master unto death. He is one who has only the will of his master in mind. A bondslave does not belong to himself. He has no rights.
Sadly, most of our English versions translate this word "servant." That's a shame because in their desire to avoid using a very degrading word and to eliminate any misconceptions readers are not led to the heart of this biblical concept. Servants are not slaves. They are two different stations of life. At our core we are slaves of Jesus Christ. Not slaves that are beaten and unfairly treated by their Master that often operate against their will, but rather slaves that love their Master, fully trust their Master and volitionally put their Master's will above their own. It is an obligation, but it is also a desire. "Doulos" is a very powerful word. Interestingly, Mary called herself a slave to the microscopic baby forming within her womb. Christians, you are a slave of Lord Jesus Christ. Sound harsh?
You see, it is pride that keeps us away from Jesus. Salvation is faith to give our lives to Him to begin a relationship - that's humility. And it's pride that keeps His followers from obeying Him as Master. Think about it. Does Jesus ever give you a bad command? Do you think you have more freedom when you become a slave to your will or to the will of others? Are you wiser than Him? Is your freewill a blessing or possibly a curse? Anytime you do not acknowledge your slavery to Christ you hurt yourself. Moreover, you commit cosmic treason, idolatry, by putting some other master above Him.
It takes humility to be a bondslave of Jesus Christ because being a bondslave always involves an attitude of surrender.
Look how Mary continues her song of praise in verses 49-50. "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM."
Do you see the change in Mary's praise? What we see is that Mary first starts off thanking God for the blessings in her life, but then immediately goes to adoring and praising God for His character for who He is.
This is the level of praise that is incredibly absent from many churches and probably many Thanksgiving tables. Sure, we are taught to thank God for the gifts and blessing He delivers. But that is where the praise often stops. There is another level we must reach that sees all good things wrapped up in the character of God. The unbeliever is taught to be thankful. Children can thank Santa Claus. Employees can thank an unfriendly boss for a raise. Students can thank a government they despise for a grant. Acknowledgment for what God gives is wonderful. Acknowledgment for who God is allows your heart to reach its greatest climax in worship.
Broken people see God's gifts come upon themselves as people who are not worthy. They see God's gifts delivered from God's pure heart that seeks the best in the recipient. They see God's gifts as a means to bring glory to His name through the specific contemplation of His character.
The refrain I've heard often since our testimony time here on Thursday morning was the God-centeredness of the comments. The words transcend the circumstances and both in good and tough times; God was viewed as the sovereign and merciful King of the universe that is reigning in the hearts of people in this church. I believe God was highly honored by what all of you had to say.
The more broken we become, the less we see of ourselves and more we see of God.
In verses 49-50, Mary made it about God, praising God for three of His attributes. First, His power. "For the Mighty One has done great things for me." Second, His holiness. "And holy is His name." And third, His mercy. "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM," a quotation from Psalm 103:17.
What a great heart for God! What brokenness!
C.H. Spurgeon said, "Learn this lesson: not to trust Christ because you repent, but trust Christ to make you repent; not to come to Christ because you have a broken heart, but to come to Him that He may give you a broken heart; not to come to Him because you are fit to come, but to come to Him because you are unfit to come. Your fitness is your unfitness. Your qualification is your lack of qualification."
Or Roy Hession, "To be broken means to have no rights before God and man. It does not mean merely surrendering my rights to Him but rather recognizing that I haven't any, except to deserve hell. It means just being nothing and having nothing that I call my own, neither time, money, possessions nor position… Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God."
Are you getting a picture of a broken heart? The first part is being able to sense the struggle that we all experience. We naturally gravitate to pride. Why was my family slighted at church? Why did this disease hit me? Why does someone else get more attention? The list continues. You see, the proud heart allows the infringement upon our ego to lead to the nasty sins of jealousy, complaint, discontentment and bitterness.
Yet we must see these blows to our pride as divine opportunities that increase humility when they are appropriated in the right way. We are all so good about proclaiming the benefits of the divine trials that God sends our way, but sometimes so bad at really accepting them when are hit by the trial ourselves. It's the Spirit of God that wields each of these trials as instruments to bring us to a point of brokenness. More remorse over our sin. Most understanding of God's character. More selflessness. More submission to Christ. More compassion for others. More brokenness.
In a world engulfed in self-promotion now made so easy with the advent of social media, it's becoming increasingly hard for someone identified as a bondslave of Christ to get self out of the way and allow Christ to really shine through me and function as a channel where His power can really flow through me. That is how God operates. He opposes the proud, but works through the broken.
Look at verses 51-53. "He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed."
We do see this principle throughout biblical history, don't we? Remember Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Absalom, Saul, Diotrephes, Haman, Belshazzar, Judas, Jezebel and Satan? Those who exalt themselves in this life will be humbled. And those who humble themselves will be exalted. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas. 4:6).
Complete reversal of human values. Descending to greatness. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 5:3). Looking down on others because one refuses to look up to God. Down is up and up is down. Humble teenaged girl from Nazareth to be the mother of Jesus. The life of Jesus Christ Himself!
How about those famous verses from Philippians 2? "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5-11).
Going low that God might bring you up.
DeMoss again, "Brokenness is the stripping of self-reliance and independence from God. The broken person has no confidence in his own righteousness or his own works, but he is cast in total dependence upon the grace of God working in and through him."
In verses 54-55 Mary said, "He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever."
You see, proud people think they can earn their salvation. Or they believe God owes them salvation. Broken people do not operate this way. Like Mary, they know their unworthiness and they know their Bibles. They know the only hope they have of salvation is what Mary says in verse 54 (and verse 50) - God's mercy.
Like Mary said in verse 55, they know about the covenant God made with "Abraham and his descendants" a long time ago when He said He would create children for Himself from all the nations - children that would receive God's undeserved forgiveness on the basis of their faith just like their father Abraham. All sin would be removed through the sacrifice of the One that Mary was bearing, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we consider the depth of our sin and the undeserving mercy of God, it goes without saying that God's people should lead the way, like Mary, in praising God from a humble and broken heart.