Sunday, December 12, 2021

Satan's Rebellion or Obeying God's Design: Joseph obeyed God, What is your Choice?

Today we gaze through the window of obedience. And we see the historical Christmas saga in how it plays out for an average everyday human named Joseph. Joseph is a bit of a mystery to us. We get a few mentions of him in scripture. We know he’s a carpenter. We know he lived in Nazareth. We know he was engaged to be wed to Mary. We know he planned to divorce her. And we know that he fell asleep and had a vision of an angel who told him he should marry her, because the child within her was from God.

Does all this seem wild and strange to you? I know it does for me. It’s just odd, the entire historical account. But I know I believe every word of it. It’s interesting, I can’t quite explain it. But I do understand why it’s difficult for some people to comprehend.

I understand why it's hard to believe in Jesus. It's actually outside our common thinking processes as humans. At least it appears that way at first. It's mystical, esoteric, and it "feels" foreign to our thinking. That's by design actually, if you were taught in the public schools, a very secular mindset is programmed into you, developed by people like John Dewey. If religiously based philosophical ideas seem foreign to your mindset, yes, it's by design.

But then again, there's something else at work in religious thought.

This may seem very odd to you, but stay with me, within Christianity, God has placed a catch to displace the arrogant, the self-righteous, and those enamored by their own genius. The Bible calls it a stumbling block. Check this out: It's actually designed to appear fantastical.

I kid you not. It's intentionally playing out in strange and mysterious ways to trip up people who are arrogant and prone to sneer.

Why exactly is this stumbling block set up? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps to prevent false converts? I can only speculate.

But it's written out like this, in 1st Corinthians, and it helps us to understand why the Christmas saga seems so strange.

"Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." -1st Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT

That makes it difficult. And it's apparently supposed to be difficult. One could call it a miracle even. And that’s indeed what happened that night two thousand years ago in the middle-east, in a small city called Bethlehem. A miraculous event took place, something that broke the laws of nature temporarily.

I often wonder to myself, why do so many refuse to follow Jesus? Why are so many so determined to live in hell?

But this question, the source of it, it goes to the nature of reality, the universe, and everything.

We are all always answering a question, and making a choice every single day, to either align ourselves with God's master design or to rebel. And to rebel is insanity. There is no escape from God. There is no victory over his power. There is nowhere to go. It's madness. The other choice is of course to obey God. To change, and live by God’s ways. It’s our topic today, it’s called “obedience.” No one likes that word, do they? No, they don’t.

But it goes to the issue of freedom, free will. The fundamental issue is free will: What will I choose? What will you choose? Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? The entire construct of our current fallen reality seems set up to pose the question to us over and over. Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? And we make the choice everyday.

Yet we're caught in a state of fallenness, default, as a rebel. And somehow we must turn ourselves to God, and access that power, and experience a rebirth, in which we follow a new way, the way of truth.

And it does end. Our window of opportunity is between birth and death. Most have already made it.

8 billion people, the question before all of us, what choice shall we make?

When we look to the example of Joseph, we see a gentle, impressive, complete obedience. Joseph simply did what God commanded. And that is astonishing. It’s not the normal. It’s the exception to the rule. He married the pregnant woman. He cared for her. He raised Jesus as his own son. And then he disappeared. In the gospels we see mention of Mary, Jesus’ mom throughout the gospels. But no mention of Joseph. Many believe he died somehow during Jesus’ upbringing. Very interesting.

Take a look through the window of obedience. How does your own story compare to the obedience of Joseph? Are you one who is prone to obey God quietly? Or are you more like one who comes kicking and screaming? Or do you quietly disobey God, and hope no one notices? We all make our choice everyday, rebellion or obedience.

What course will you choose? Rebellion? Or obedience? Let’s talk about obeying God, what does it mean?

We’re going to look at 5 ways we can cultivate a mindset of obedience to Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.

1. Living by the leading of the Holy Spirit – In the big things - do you really check every decision you make with God? That is the first challenge I pose to you today. Whenever you have an important decision to make, pray and ask God, Lord, what should I do? What is the right way?

2. Living by the leading of the Holy Spirit – in the little things – Everyday, ask the Lord, in your mind, throughout the day, Lord, what can I do for you today? What should I do next? Where should I go next? And allow the Holy Spirit to impress on you where to go and what to do. It’s very practical what we’re talking about here.

3. Making the hard choices – Often times in life we are faced with two choices, an easy choice and a hard choice. Often times the hard choice is to resist a temptation, resist an indulgence, and the easy thing to do is give in. Learn to get in the habit of making the hard choices. You find a wallet, you turn it in with the money in it. You hear some gossip, you refuse to repeat it to anyone. You see someone who needs help shoveling, but your tired, but you go anyway, and help them. Make the hard choice.

4. When you make the wrong choice, don’t give up – If you make a wrong decision, you slip into sin, don’t give up. Just run right back to God the Father, ask forgiveness in Christ, repent, and keep going. Don’t quit just because you slipped into sin. Keep going.

5. Seek God’s strength in your weakness – the word of God says God is glorified through our weakness. It points us and others toward God as the only hope. So when you feel weak and miserable and hurting, seek God’s strength. We can’t do it without him. Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. Seek God, He will help you, in your weakness.

In conclusion today, be like Joseph, who was humbly, gently obedient to God’s will in difficult circumstances. He obeyed God. And did as he was told. That was hard, I’m sure it was. Can you obey God? Or will you find yourself destroyed in the rebellion? Will you rebel? Or Can you drop your weapons and quietly obey God? That’s beautiful to the Lord when we do that.