“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
Brothers and sisters, we will get to have a closer look at Mary’s faith through today’s Scripture passage. Even though Mary could not comprehend angel’s message, she denied her own human thoughts and accepted the angel’s message from God. That is how she could participate in God’s ministry of bearing the Son of God by obeying God’s Word.
What kind of faith is the proper faith in God? It starts by believing the Word of God and it ends by bearing spiritual fruits by faith in God’s righteousness. So we need to begin accepting the Word of God by obeying it. We can reach the righteousness of God by believing what God calls the Truth as Truth. This means reaching God’s righteousness through accepting God’s Word by obeying it. Without believing in the righteousness of God, there is no way to have proper faith. To take for example, faith in supernatural body experiences such as seeing visions and speaking in tongues are questionable for being the proper faith. God is telling Mary what the proper is faith that leads to His righteousness. When we see Mary accepting God’s Word, we can take a guess what her faith was like.
Mary was a virgin at that time. She was engaged to a man named Joseph. All of sudden an angel came to her with God’s Word as it is written, “And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David’” (Luke 1:28-32).
Mary heard God’s Word through the angel. But she was dubious. The angel’s message from God was too overwhelming for Mary to digest. She was at her home when the angel came in and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:29-33).
When she heard that Jesus Christ would be born through her, she became speechless rather than surprised. It was quite alarming to hear that a virgin was going to have a baby, and it is more shocking to imagine that would happen through Mary herself. She said from human’s point of view, she was fertile but couldn’t have a baby since she hadn’t slept with any men before. The angel told her that her relative Elizabeth, who was originally barren, conceived a baby by the power of God’s Word, and that with God nothing is impossible. Then she denied herself and her thoughts and accepted the will of God saying, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”
Likewise we choose to believe that the gospel word of the water and the Spirit removed sins of all believers at once even though our own thoughts are resistant to the idea that our sins can be removed all at once. We become born again when we put behind our prejudice and stereotypes and believe the gospel of the water and the Spirit through Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, the faith in God’s righteousness comes through the Word of God after the denial of our own human thoughts, doubts and prejudices. We can accept it by obeying God’s Word of righteousness. As the power of the Most High fulfills God’s will, we become God’s children by faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that washes our crimson sins clean and white as snow. Brothers and sisters, to have faith in the righteousness of God, we need to give up our human thoughts and turn away from them. As you can see in today’s passage, Mary put her human thoughts behind and accepted God’s will into her heart. When she accepted and confessed her faith saying, “Let it be to me according to your word,” baby Jesus was conceived in her and born to this world.
Mary could not have accepted God’s Word with her own thoughts, but she denied herself and obeyed the Word. This is the faith in God’s righteousness, by which we can bear Jesus in our hearts. We feel thankful before God’s Word that came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Who can conceive baby Jesus in the heart? It is those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and believe the Word of God will come true exactly as it is written, and it is not those who believe according to their own thoughts that can conceive baby Jesus.
We Should Reexamine Our Faith
What is genuine faith? I tell you once again that it is something that can be attained by denying our own human thoughts. It is accepting God’s Word with an obedient heart. Then we can receive the real blessing of salvation by faith. Brothers and sisters, remember Peter, who threw the nets all night, but caught no fish. When he said, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5), and threw the nets, he caught a lot of fish just as the Lord said. If you really want to be Christian with genuine faith, you should discard your own thoughts and believe God’s Word as it is written. We need to accept God’s Word into our hearts as a whole. Only then baby Jesus can be born in us, grow with us and become our King and Shepherd to lead us.
There is not a person who can perform the righteousness of God without faith in God’s Word. Do you think Mary could accept God’s will and obey it if she had acted based on her human thoughts? Absolutely not. Can we attend Jesus in our hearts with our human effort, putting God’s Word aside? Mary accepted only God’s Word to conceive Jesus Christ. What she did was just accepting God’s Word, but the Word of God enabled her to conceive and bear Jesus.
When you receive God’s Word into your hearts by faith in its power, the Word of God turns into powerful tool to make miraculous changes in our hearts. Our life of faith is not based on our human thoughts, but based on God’s Word, which will lead us before God and help us follow the Lord.
This is the faith that follows God’s Word. When we live by the Word of the Lord and not by human standards, the power of the Word enables us to do God’s work. Brothers and sisters, didn’t we get out of sins just by accepting the Word of God, and not by our own efforts? We received salvation from all sins by accepting the gospel of the water and the Spirit with an obedient heart. When we accepted God’s Word into our hearts just as it is, all our sins were cleansed as white as snow, and we could live a genuine life of faith. In the meantime whether we realize it or not, we are His righteous vessels that live according to His righteousness. We become completely separated from the world without our knowledge.
Brothers and sisters, we should attain genuine faith by knowing God’s Word. No one can have genuine faith by human efforts. In other words, it should start from accepting the Word of the Lord into our hearts. When our thoughts conflict with God’s Word, we should always deny our human thoughts and follow God’s Word. From there the faith that pursues God’s righteousness begins and enables us to bear real spiritual fruit. The Word of God we believe has the power to keep us going with genuine faith. We can enjoy all the blessings from God by faith.
Mary became a blessed woman because she accepted God’s Word that the angel delivered. That is how she could conceive baby Jesus. Our Lord granted her the favor to conceive baby Jesus. Luke 1:28 says so: “Rejoice, highly favored one.”
Who Is God’s Favored One?
The angel greeted Mary, “Rejoice, highly favored one.” Then who gets such a favor from God? Our Lord favors those who are poor in heart. God favors those who do not have self-righteousness, those who give up their own righteousness to have God’s righteousness. Those people treasure the gospel of the water and the Spirit and cherish God’s love rather than human love. Those people acknowledge God as the Most High and accept God’s Word believing in the power of His Word. Those are the people with poor spirit, and God’s favor falls on them.
God talked to Mary through the angel. Mary responded to Him by emptying herself and saying, “I am Your lowly maidservant, Let it be to me according to Your word.” Our Lord visited the lowly maid and bestowed the grace of salvation on her. God blessed those who know their lowliness with salvation of peace. Brothers and sisters, how lowly are we before God? We should realize how lowly we are before the holy God, but many of us are not aware of our lowliness. Of what can lowly humans boast before the holy God?
God called Jacob as a worm (Isaiah 41:14). We are all like earthworms that come out on rainy days and wriggle along the muddy ground. God also calls us maggots (Job 25:6). We are such lowly creatures. Nevertheless God granted His grace of salvation to people like earthworms and maggots. God plants His righteousness in the lowly hearts and becomes the source of power for those who depend on His righteousness and live by faith. Those who are loved by God know how lowly they are. But those who do not receive any favors from God think they are righteous and just.
However, God’s righteousness is far greater than that of anyone on earth. God is holy and righteous, and He is the God of love and righteousness who removed all our sins once and for all by sending His own son to be baptized by John the Baptist to wash away all our sins. Therefore our Lord is the holy one who fulfilled all God’s righteousness. His baptism and the blood are more than enough to show God’s righteousness, and those who believe in His righteousness are as righteous as God. Brothers and sisters, God favors such people.
We are originally as lowly as earthworms, but we are too proud to admit our lowliness. Humanism has exalted human righteousness too high. During the Renaissance and thenceforth humanism prevailed. During that period of time, humanism became dominant as a reaction to theocentrism that emphasized God’s authorities and neglected humans. But originally theocentrism is the right idea. It is true that humans are lowly creatures while it was wrong for the religious leaders of the Medieval Age to misuse their godly authorities for their own benefits. It is not even possible to compare our lowliness with God’s loftiness. God’s Word is the absolute Truth, but we are always changeable and full of weaknesses.
To Receive God’s Favor, We Should Be Committed to God’s Word
Who gets favor from God? Who received the grace of salvation when Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Most people who belonged to the high class at that time such as the Pharisees, the scribes, the high priests, the kings and the religious leaders couldn’t receive salvation. However, those who were aware of their lowly states, Mary for example, received God’s favor. The shepherds also received His favor. While the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in the fields at night, suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
As you have seen so far, those who receive God’s favor were people who depended on God’s righteousness and trusted His Word as a whole. They didn’t rely on their own righteousness. Brothers and sisters, who received salvation? Only those who knew their true ugliness; those who knew the greatness of God; those who knew the fact that God saved them from sins by the gospel of the water and the Spirit found favor with God. Do you believe this? Such people receive God’s favor.
Brothers and sisters, now we should reexamine our faith in God’s Word. You should ask yourself, “Do I trust God’s Word?” If your answer is ‘yes’, you are favored a one. If you do not believe in God’s righteousness through His Word, you are denying His Word, and you belong with non-believers. Let me ask you this; who would be happier; those who found favor with God or those who have not? It would be the favored ones, of course. What is the favor? It is God’s free gift. Salvation is a free gift from God. Why not receive the free gift? I want you to know that God favors those who like free things.
Do you know how much grace they enjoy for being demanding and persistent before God? Those who like God’s favor get their sins cleaned by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and go to Heaven. Those who seek and believe in God’s grace live a blessed life under God’s love. On the other hand, those who do not care for God’s grace live the opposite life. Those who reject God’s favor will go to the hot place. Just as Mary received salvation by believing the Word of God’s grace, we can all be saved from sins by faith in God’s grace. I hope all of you will find favor with God.
Brothers and sisters, it is good for us to be blessed by God. We cannot live without His grace. We cannot survive without His help. Even though we cannot see His protecting hand over our problems and troubles we have throughout our lives, we definitely need it. All human beings need to find favor with God. We should not forget His favor. In every matter of life praying to God, ‘God, please help me this way.’ ‘May God bless!’ Those who seek God’s favor even in small things like that are wise people and real worshipers of God.
Whom did God favor? Those who found favor with God are: really insufficient people; those who know their insufficiency and lowliness; those who have poor spirit; those who really need God’s help, and those who yearn for God’s grace. God wants everybody to find favor with Him, but only those with poor spirit can receive His favor.
God’s Word Has Power
What did the angel say to Mary? He said the power of the Highest would overshadow her. He is saying that God’s power, not God Himself will overshadow Mary. It is similar to God’s creation of light. When God said, “Let there be light,” the power of God’s Word enabled the light to come to existence so that we can now see during the day. With the power of His Word, “Let there be light,” at the time of creation of the heavens and the earth, light still exist millions of years later.
“The power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God,” said the angel. (Luke 1:35) Our God overshadowed Mary with His power, which enabled her to conceive, bear, nurse and take care of baby Jesus. God also told us through His angel that His power was going to save Mary from sins, making her His people and a blessed person clothed in His righteousness.
The power of God’s Word that was given to her by the angel enabled the Virgin Mary to conceive Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, people who receive salvation are those who lean on God believing in the power of salvation which God has already fulfilled. Baby Jesus can be conceived in anybody who received the remission of sins by believing in God’s Word of salvation and its power. Jesus Christ comes into the heart of those people. Brothers and sisters, believing in the power of God that removed our crimson sins all at once by the gospel of the water and the Spirit is to welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts. Jesus Christ is already inside those who believe in His power.
Within the hearts of us as believers of the gospel of the water and the Spirit, He makes our faith and our knowledge of His Word grow. Bible says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52), and so should our faith after we welcome Jesus Christ as our Lord.
Our faith should not be stagnant, but should keep growing after we become born-again by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. God is the one who makes us keep growing. His wonderful power makes us grow. God continues nurturing us. He continues protecting us with His Word. He keeps healing our wounds. Why does He do that? It is because Satan and demons keep harassing us and hurting us. God is the one who keeps curing the wounds, putting bandages on them, providing nutrition and pouring blessings on us. Brothers and sisters, just as the power of God overshadowed Mary for Jesus Christ to be born, God’s power removed all our sins. The powerful Word of God not only carries our sins away but also makes our faith grow. Besides His power heals our wounds daily and empowers us to serve God and follow Him. Brothers and sisters do you believe this? Jesus Christ was born and stayed on earth for thirty-three years to fulfill the salvation work for us.
Jesus Christ lived on this earth for thirty-three years. During His life on earth, He saved believers of the gospel of the water and the Spirit from sins and granted them salvation. He is now sitting at the right hand of God, blessing those whose hearts are poor and humble. God is the one who lives forever, heals, nurtures, blesses the born-again and makes them grow fulfilling His wills.
Dear beloved saints, God’s Word is still in effect. God’s favor shown by the birth of Christ is not over, but His amazing grace of saving lives will continue tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and in the future. God keeps our faith growing and sends us His blessings continuously. Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ did not die permanently on the Cross, but He rose again from the dead. He is now sitting at the right hand of God as the Master of the heavens and the earth. He is also the Judge and the King of kings, and His blessings will last forever. He blesses those who He chooses to bless, curses those who He chooses to curse, and He will be with us as our King and God.
Earthly kings even with the most powers are mere humans and death is the end of them. However, God is the God of power and His name is Jehovah. Jehovah means “the existing One.” When Moses asked God what His name is and what he should say to people in Egypt, God said, “I AM WHO I AM. I have no creator, no beginning no end. I am Jehovah God.” Jesus Christ is God, who is eternal and immortal. We cannot do so, but God has such powers. Do you believe this? It is hard to believe from our human point of view. It must be truth since God said so.
Everything except God was created. Even the Devil and demons as well as angels are God’s creatures just like humans. But with humans God saves, blesses, nurtures and takes care of us. I give thanks to God for that. Brothers and sisters, we have received the remission of sins through the righteousness of the Lord, and now we have faith as small as mustard a seed. I believe God will keep our faith growing. I want you to believe that God does His work through us; He saves numerous people through us; He has us serve others and He blesses people through us.
“Let It Be to Me According to Your Word”
Luke 1:38 reads, “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
It is written in the Bible that Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” When Mary heard the angel’s message, she put everything under God’s care by faith. Right at that moment what God told her was fulfilled and the Word of the Lord and the blessing became hers. Saying, “Let it be to me according to your word,” aloud means receiving God’s Word and being ready for His blessings. Just because God said so, Mary accepted God’s Word as it is. Since the Word of God is power, she took every Word of God into her heart. ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’ As a result of her commitment, she was blessed with all the Heavenly blessings. You should know this.
Brothers and sisters, we too can be blessed people like Mary by believing the entire Word of God. I mentioned that because of her faith everything that would be done according to God’s Word brought all the blessings to her. So Mary praised God as you can see in Luke 1:46-48:
“My soul magnifies the Lord.
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”
She foresaw that all generations would call her blessed. Because Mary praised the Lord with her soul and received God’s Word, she was able to enjoy all God’s blessings. Her spirit had rejoiced in God her Savior because she believed that God had regarded her lowly state out of His mercy. God favors people like Mary, regards and blesses the lowly from generation to generation.
We are not any different from Mary. We heard God’s Word just like Mary heard it through an angel. From whom did we hear God’s Word? In the past, God sent His messages through His angels, but now He uses His people and His servants. The angel named Gabriel was running God’s errand. Gabriel was a messenger angel.
Just as God talked to Mary through His messenger angel, Gabriel, God’s Word is now being delivered by the born-again Christians and the servants of God. All you have to do is to receive God’s Word confessing, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Brothers and sisters, did you believe God’s Word when God’s servants delivered it to you? Believing the delivered message is the same as what Mary did. If Mary had not believed the angel’s message, she would not have received God’s blessings. By the way, God’s Word cannot be heard without messengers. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). If your faith is not based on the Word of God, the faith will never grow no matter how hard you try with your own efforts.
If the angel had not showed up before Mary and if she had thought to herself that God would bless her anyway, she would not have received any blessings. Only by the Lord’s gospel of the water and the Spirit, she could trust God’s Word saying, “Let it be to me according to your word,” and by this commitment she received the remission of her sins and all the Heavenly blessings.
Jesus Christ said to John the Baptist, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). In other words, He was saying it is proper to remove the sins of all people. The ‘righteousness’ in this verse is ‘Yi’ (義) in Chinese character. What is amazing is that this Chinese character consists of two independent characters, 羊 (yang, which means ‘sheep’) and 我(wǒ, which means ‘I’). This Chinese character gives us a picture of Abel’s sacrifice. Each and every one of us also can be righteous when we go before God holding up high the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
God came to this earth and did things that are right. Jesus took away people’s sins by His baptism and gave Himself to God as a sacrifice to pay for the death penalty on the Cross for sinners to be saved; otherwise humans would go to hell because of sins, become slaves to Satan and demons, suffer from sins and cannot receive any blessings. That was the right thing before God and the message of the Lord that saved us. Jesus came to this earth for that reason.
Jesus, who is God Himself, was baptized. Right at the moment when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River about two thousand years ago, all of our sins were carried on to Jesus. Do you believe that all your life time sins were handed over to Jesus? Do you believe that you are saved with your heart’s conviction and with your mouth’s confession (Romans 10:10)?
“Behold! The Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sin of the World!”
Brothers and sisters, where are the sins of the world now? Who has taken all those sins? Jesus Christ took care of our sins by His baptism. After He was baptized by John the Baptist to take away our sins, He preached the gospel for three years. Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Jesus didn’t condemn the adulterous woman who got caught in action. Why was that? It was because Jesus had already taken all the sins of the world and could not judge her with worldly standards.
Besides, she was a woman with poor spirit. She was fully aware of her lowliness-as low as earthworms; her sins and her poor state. She knew she did not have any righteousness in her and waited for punishment from Jesus. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” He did not condemn her. Why? He is saying, “I took care of your sins, so you no longer have sins. I already knew you would sin.” Do you also believe this? As in this example, Jesus became the Savior to all of us
“Let it be to me according to your word.” If you have welcomed Jesus Christ into your heart with such prayer, for the Word of the Lord saved us and adopted us as His children, you are children of God. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to the hearts of God’s children. He makes our faith grow through the body of the Church just as baby Jesus grew in Mary’s womb. Then He helps us bear Jesus Christ and grow with Him. Therefore you should know by now that Jesus Christ has been watching over us to protect and to bless us ever since we were born again, even though He doesn’t seem to be very much involved in our lives. Brothers and sisters, it is way above our understanding that God Himself became our King, our Master and has been leading our lives.
Beloved brothers and sisters, there are so many words in the Bible other than “Let it be to me according to your word.” After we become born-again Christians, our Christian life doesn’t stop there, but rather starts from there; we should grow up spiritually, deny ourselves to trust God, fight against the world and love the Lord more than anything else in the world. We may love what is in the world, but we cannot help but loving the Lord more. His love is far greater than any other love in the world. I love You, Lord. Brothers and sisters, even as we frequently fall, get hurt and scratched, remember that Jesus Christ removed our sins and blessed us. The Lord is the only one who can give us real rest and blessings. Brothers and sisters, He loves us. When we understand His love and come before Him with love, He transforms our lives in His powers and awesome blessings. The Bible says, “Though your beginning was small, Yet your latter end would increase abundantly” (Job 8:7). For the faithful, the end will be more prosperous than the beginning. God promised us that He would bless us to be prosperous. Do you believe this?
Brothers and sisters, God blessed Mary and she would be called blessed by all generations. However, when she first conceived baby Jesus, it was very embarrassing for her. To have a baby out of wedlock was not something she could feel proud of. But when Jesus was doing His ministry, a certain woman said to Him in a loud voice, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” (Luke 11:27) Mary was a very lowly woman in the beginning. All humans are originally lowly. I wanted to tell you that Mary turned into a really blessed and glorified person with times as she accepted God’s Word and the Word of God came upon her.
Accepting Jesus Christ seems like nothing in the beginning, but as time goes by, God molds us into bigger and stronger vessels that hold God’s blessings. Brothers and sisters, God never forsakes us. God always protects us. He never stops nurturing us. He also pours out His blessings one after another. I want you to remember God did not leave Abraham no matter what he did. God doesn’t abandon us no matter how we stand before God. Keep in mind that God blessed us the same way. What changes from time to time is our mind, but God’s Word and His blessings are always with us regardless of our conditions. God’s blessings were upon Mary forever. I want you to believe that God’s blessings for you and me will be upon us forever as well.
I am going to wrap up my sermon. I hope you will be reminded of God’s amazing grace through this Christmas. Let’s have the faith that turns the blessings in God’s Word into our own. All God’s Words carry blessings. God gives us faith to trust His Word. I thank God and give Him glory and praise for such faith. I hope you will have a meaningful Christmas and enjoy more blessings from God in the New Year. I wish there will be invisible blessings such as spiritual blessings and growth in your faith as well as visible blessings. Understand that God allows everything on earth according to our faith, and receive God’s Word with anticipation and trust from your heart. I pray that God’s work and all His glory will be manifested through us, and God’s glory will come with blessings. Thank you, Lord.