Friday, October 23, 2009

Having Jesus In Your Heart - 2

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us better to be followers of Jesus Christ.


“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. "Joseph, son of David," the angel said, "do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:18-21 (NLT)


Joseph was captured in the middle of competing claims. He was betrothed, which was a contract between two families, which included promises of money, living arrangements, and the woman’s virginity. Then there is her pregnancy. We can only wonder who, if anyone, accepted the testimony that the Holy Spirit caused it. Then, Joseph knew that divorce was necessary in these circumstances. But then, because of his great love for her, he wanted to do it very quietly, without the public humiliation the law allowed. Joseph thus becomes complicit in the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in the house of David. His love might also explain why he believes Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Then Joseph has a powerful dream, indeed a vision in a dream. Joseph believes this dream to be of a different kind than you and I experience. And in fact, it was: before the Lord’s glorification, He had His angels give messages to people on earth this way. Then Joseph didn’t divorce her! This was extremely unusual!

Joseph was thrust into this muddle of conflicting ideas, feelings, expectations, hopes, and realities. He was just a carpenter from an insignificant town, not a hero ready to conquer such powerful forces. Maybe he was of royal lineage, but that meant nothing in his present life.

Think back to some ordinary time in your childhood. Perhaps remember when you finally learned to ride a bike without falling over. In a sense, you forgot the process of balancing that is required. You just knew how to lean into a corner, how to shift side to side as you pedal. In fact, you can’t ride a bike so long as you try to control the balancing with your thought. Once your mind and body gets it, you are able to let go of thinking about riding, and you are successful.

We learn our own particular way of balancing in our spiritual life as well. Balancing your life between yourself and others, balancing between yourself and the Lord, and balancing the stuff of your earthly life and your spirit all correspond to physical balancing.

Early on you were told about your spirit, and you were told about the importance of loving your neighbor, and you were told about the Lord. This is really important information. And yet it is a lot like being told how to ride a bike. It takes a while–in this case, years–to master the balancing act. And you have to know what you are doing so well that you no longer have to think about yourself, or others, or the Lord.

Likely you know someone who has never been given that information, or whose sense of balance has been harmed. It is sad to see the mistakes they make. Their lives are tragic wreck after wreck. And it is amazing to watch as a person gets accurate information about themselves and others and the Lord, and learns how to balance. Everyone is happy in the end as the person develops great relationships that work.

It seems Joseph had gotten to this state. He was so sure of himself, and so clear about his love for Mary, and so trusting in the Lord that he first sought a balanced solution, and was then able to do exactly what he was commanded to do. And, wonderfully, it matched what he really wanted to do: marry his beloved.

Notice it wasn’t his conscious thought that made it possible for him to find the balance and blessing that resulted. He had to let go of his plans, his thoughts. He had studied the Word and had lived a righteous life (which is a word meaning “right wise” which might have more meaning for us). This prepared him–like riding a bike again and again until you “get” it-–to be open to the Lord's ideas. He was able to balance his own ideas with the Lord's plan. And Matthew makes it sound like it was easy for Joseph, just like riding bike–once you have learned!

The Lord wants to give us as long as we need on the earth to learn how to do this. The quicker we learn it, the more fun riding through life we will have. The bigger hills we will be able to climb. The more adventures we will be able to go on. We will survive the crashes, broken chains and flat tires, and be able to go on. So keep practicing what the Lord says! You’ll get it eventually!

Practice using the name “Christian” in describing yourself. Try and try again, even though you feel awkward and you fall down. Jesus Christ will reveal himself to you, perhaps dramatically like a vision in a dream, or subtly, as when you found how to balance on a bike. Using the name Christian over and over will happen because you acknowledge that Jesus is the source of the balance in your life. That is how we have Jesus in our hearts!

1 comment:

Brian Donald Smith said...

Clark,

Thanks for the thoughts. Its a nice way for me to start my morning.

Brian