My relationship with Jesus is my responsibility:
Like any relationship, It’s always better when you’re in proximity. I don’t benefit from a quiet time unless I do it. Unless I read God’s word, the Holy Spirit has little to draw on.
It’s discipline and not just desire that determines where my heart and mind will go. That sounds awfully regimented, but what I discovered was that God loves it when we are intentional about spending time with Him, even when we don’t feel like it, we are tired.
At the end of the day, it’s you that puts your head on your pillow. God is with you every day and when we prioritise time with Him it provides God with opportunity.
The biggest part of your walk with Jesus happens outside of Sunday:
When you can’t go to church regularly either because of geography or lockdowns or the pause button’s been pushed, remember that you don’t stop being a follower of Jesus just because you can’t meet on a Sunday.
Think about this for a moment. (Luke 10)
Jesus ran the classic first century Jewish Rabbi model with the twelve that went something like this:
Rabbi: Hey guys, watch me do this a couple of times.
To Students: Now you all have a go while I (Rabbi) watch. 10:1
Rabbi to Students: Let’s talk about how that went. 10:17-24
When the Rabbi is satisfied that the students are living and doing as he has shown them then he would send them out to make their own students and they would become Rabbi’s.
This is the model Jesus set for us (Matt 28:11). Sometimes coming to church can just become an intellectual exercise with no real profit because there is no ‘doing’ during the week. This is like reading the best book you can buy on weightlifting, reading up on technique, safety, challenging yourself and then never touching the weights or engaging with them. You may know everything there is to know about weightlifting and even debate the best methods but never know the strength that comes with using them.
You may have heard the classic line of ‘I didn’t get much out of church today’. More than likely there wasn’t something there to be had for that person because God is still waiting for them to implement something He spoke to them about some time ago, though God is patient, He does allow us to wander around the same mountain a few times until we are ready for a change.
Being a disciple doesn’t mean that we are theologically or even ministerially trained. You only need a little information about Jesus to follow Him and well, maybe that’s why some look back so fondly at their first few years of being a Christian, it was simple and enjoyable before their spiritual formation got bogged down.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says to us Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Italics mine).
The biggest part of our Christian lives happens outside of two hours on a Sunday, whilst we don’t want to neglect meeting together, we can still do that, it may just mean being that little more disciplined and intentional about meeting with others and stepping out into what God’s next step for you is this week.
Gabriel carried a message to Mary that would change her destiny forever. It wasn’t an easy message. One of carrying a son, which would be good news to anyone who was married, but she wasn’t yet married. This news would be scandalous, she would be ostracised, disgraced and shunned by friends’, family and neighbours. In Jewish law being pregnant outside of marriage was a stonable offense. Even her fiancé would need Gabriel’s intervention to prevent him from sending her away so she wouldn’t be disgraced or worse.
What did Mary feel as she digested the news? The angel Gabriel’s news wasn’t one where everything would be ok, if anything the news put Mary into an extremely awkward position that threatened her life and reputation. Mary’s answer though was to believe the angel and with a simple ‘I am God’s servant, let it be done to me as you have said’ (Luke 1:38).
Maybe Mary’s servant heart towards God is what He saw in this rural teenage girl, her humble attitude to say to God, 'even if it costs me and my reputation is ruined and my life is threatened, I will obey you because You say you love me’.
Gabriel’s opening statement to Mary was one of surprise; ‘Greetings favoured one!’ (Luke 1:28) this warm greeting would have taken anyone by surprised. It implies not only has God thought about Mary, but He favours her, He’s taken the time to see her and has a fondness for her.
As a woman who had not had relations with a man, let alone her fiancé, this must have been more than puzzling for Mary. Why would the coming King, the angel talked about, be required to be born of a virgin?
Unlike their male counterparts, women weren't required to learn the scriptures. Most were illiterate, but there was opportunity for women to hear God’s word at synagogue. Had Mary heard where in scriptures several hundred years prior Isaiah proclaimed:
"Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
Jesus’ birth to a virgin teenage girl in rural Israel surprised most and is still shocking today. God took the tradesman’s entrance into the world He created. By humble means, the Saviour not conceived by the corrupted sinful seed of man but pure and clean of the Holy Spirit, produced the coming Saviour and King bringing God’s coming kingdom into the world.
If we could ask Mary today what lessons she learned from her life as a servant of God, maybe just maybe she would say ‘Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him’.