December 14, 2014
"Used By God"
Pastor Kenny Lee
"Used By God"
Pastor Kenny Lee
One of our church member’s relatives suddenly died recently. He was older. One thing that occurred to me as we are going through this time of Christmas is, “Where did that forty years go?”. When I was in school, I couldn’t wait to get older. I couldn’t wait to graduate. I couldn’t wait to go onto the next stage in life. Now I’m a middle aged man and realized I missed out on my youth. I missed out on my childhood. Someone really took me off guard recently when they asked, “What did you want to become when you were a child?” And I was like, I don’t know. So I looked at my own children. They’re both eight and six. How much more time do I have with them? The oldest one, maybe ten more years. That’s it. Until they go off to college. Maybe I’ll have more years if they’re unemployed. Which is okay. Then they’re going to get married and then they’re going to have a life of their own. That’s it. I’m going to miss the opportunities where they are. So with that said, how about you guys? Some of you guys are in high school. You have very few years left with your mom and dad. Remember that in that stage your life, the relationship you have with your mom and dad – that’s it. And then next thing you know, you’re a middle aged man or woman just like me. People, you have to make Christianity a reality in your life. You know, not video gaming. Not going on you tube. Not to amass the most knowledge. It’s through a relationship. Relationship with your father and mother. Relationship with people next to you. Starting off with your relationship with God. That’s how we are designed. We are social beings. We need to have an urgency in this.
People used by God
As we are reading through Matthew, we kind of skipped over genealogy part. We start here with verse 17. Like I said during Children’s Corner, what do I like about the Bible? What do I like about God and His story? What I love about it is the fact that it’s real. It’s so real, it talks about it not in terms of a galaxy far away. But rather, “Here’s who Jesus is”. It talks in generations. It talks in genealogies. In talks in names. Jesus’ grandfather was this person. His grandmother was this person. Jesus’s mom and dad were these people. It talks about it in those terms. But what I want to concentrate on today is this. How are we to be used by God? What kind of person are used by God? That’s what I really want to focus on today. Because of the fact that as we grow up in life, some people who are even semi-religious want to be used by God right? That’s why a lot of people who win Grammy Awards, other awards say, “I want to thank the Lord Almighty. I want to thank God”. Isn’t that what they say too? They want to be used by God too. I’m sure a lot of us want to be used by God as well. So, it’s really important to see -What kind of family does God use? What kind of person does God use? So we’ll get into that.
It’s relevant to the time of Christmas, where we see the birth of Jesus. It’s obvious that the family where Jesus comes from is used by God. So how does Christmas begin? Christmas begins with God. The birth of Jesus begins with God. So in verse 17, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” It’s God who called Abraham from where he was and to come follow Him. That’s where Christmas began. Starting from God to Abraham. Abraham to David. David to the deportation to Babylon. From the Babylonian deportation to Christ. It’s God working through the family. As we look at how God works through a family, the first thing we note is what kind of family does God work through? Well, when we look at the line of Jesus, it’s a kingly line! Jesus comes from King David! And that’s pretty cool. And I’m sure it’s like this in many cultures but especially in an eastern culture here, a Hebrew culture – it’s very similar to my culture. Where your name has so much significance. Even in my generation where you talk to a Korean person, you get asked “What kind of Lee are you?”. I’m that kind of Lee and that kind of Lee. It was even worse when I wanted to get married. On my side my parents asked, “What’s her last name?” It’s Chung. “Oh really, who did they descend from? What part of this place do they live?”. And even on the day of our wedding, I got asked, “How many doctors do you have in your family? How many this do you have in your family? Engineers? Lawyers?”. Things like this mattered so much to them. It was almost like, a resume. And so when we look at the genealogy of Jesus we think – “That’s right. He’s the Messiah. He should come from a line of Kings!”. And He does. But is that why this family that starts with Abraham and then ends with Jesus, that’s why God would use that family? No, I don’t think so. Why? Why do I say that? Remember, Jesus comes from a wonderful family. He came from a line of kings. Consider the Hans. The Hans are from a line of kings. It’s good family! Jesus too. He came from a line of kings. A king that was anointed by God. that is pretty impressive. But let me go through the genealogy with you. We have to because it says, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations”. So we actually have to go through the genealogy a bit. Let’s see what Matthew highlights.
If I were to write a genealogy of Jesus, you know what I would do? You know that weird uncle we all have? He’d kind of be out of the picture. That odd cousin? The black sheep of the family? He’d be quietly omitted. That person that married this person. And that person that got divorced. Ah, that would be swept under the rug. Especially if I was talking about my Lord. My King. Matthew doesn’t do that. Let me give you some highlights. When we read in the genealogy, Perez and Zerah are there. Nice lads. Nice boys. Except for the fact that their mother was Tamar. Who is Tamar? Well Tamar is this woman whose husband died. And then another husband died. And then she didn’t have any kids so long story short – what she did is she dressed up and she kind of disguised herself as a cultic prostitute and she slept with Judah. Who is Judah? Her father-in-law. Woah. But there’s more. There’s Boaz. Boaz is great. Do you know who Boaz is? He’s a kinsmen redeemer in the book of Ruth. Who is his mother? None other than the Canaanite prostitute who helped save two spies from Israel. That’s his mother. A Canaanite prostitute. David’s in the line too. We have to show David too right? But what does Matthew write about David? David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. Who is this wife? Her name is Bathsheba. But the Bible doesn’t say Bathsheba does it? What Matthew says it deliberately – Solomon’s mother is the wife of one of David’s good friend, Uriah. So what am I trying to say here? You may have a great family. You have a wonderful family. When you look at it one way. But when you look at it another way, not so much. The family God uses is a family that knows that they need God. That they can’t rely on their family. They can’t rely on their family lineage. They can’t rely on their family tradition. They can’t rely on the fact that their daddy is a pastor. An elder. Three generations of missionaries. They can’t rely on these things. What I am saying is that you can’t rely on that. Who cares if everyone if your family is a pastor. It doesn’t matter! You can’t rely on that. You can’t depend on that. You need to know that a wonderful family isn’t so wonderful. The reality of who you are, where you come from, and at the end I need God. I need Christmas. I need to know that God has come into this world to save me. That’s what kind of family God uses right? Because that’s the kind of family that produces people that God uses. And what are the people who uses? What I want to do today is talk about a person that is not really talked about all that much? In most families its like this. You always talk about the wife. You always talk about the kids. But the father is in the background. It’s like that here too. You don’t usually hear about Joseph. But here in this section of scripture, from 18 and down, it talks a lot about Joseph. Because clearly God used Joseph. We’re going to see what kind of man he was and what kind of person is used by God. What can we learn from Joseph?
Joseph trusted God’s word
The birth of Jesus took place in this way. First, Mary the mother of Jesus was betrothed to Joseph. It was an arranged marriage. Their two fathers would come together and agree that their households coming together was a good plan. So Mary and Joseph were promised to one another. And that promise was good as any legal document. That’s why it says verse 19, “And her husband Joseph”. Even though the ceremony did not take place and they didn’t consummate the marriage – but the fact that they were betrothed, it was legally binding. How old was Mary? Mary was probably about fourteen, fifteen years old. And they usually waited about a year or so for the actual marriage ceremony. So what happened was that somewhere between being betrothed and the actual marriage ceremony, the Holy Spirit gave Mary a child. Here I want to talk a little about something. For example, Muslims don’t understand the concept of Mary and God and Jesus. They just can’t get that concept so they just say, how can Mary have a relationship with God? They just can’t grasp that thought. But the fact of the matter is that God gave Mary a child. It wasn’t this weird interaction the Holy Spirit but rather that the Holy Spirit gave Mary a child. And so because of that, Jesus Christ 100% God and 100% man.
Joseph is described as a righteous man. He’s a just man. And why do I say that? We got to understand that Mary and Joseph got together and started talking. Remember, Mary has a child. But Mary didn’t know any man, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Can you just imagine the thoughts that are going through Mary’s head and Joseph’s head? Can you imagine the conversation? Can you imagine the feeling that Joseph would have? This little girl – fourteen, fifteen years old. A single mother has a child. And Mary is like, “Joseph, sir, the Lord has given me a child. The Angel came to me and told me this and I am with child”. Would Joseph respond, “Oh, bone of my bones. Flesh of my flesh. Of course!”. That’s not the case! We always think that somehow in 1st century Palestine, that somehow these Archaic folks are more spiritual. More apt to accept these things from the Angel and all that. No! Not at all. They’re just like you and me. They can’t believe things like that. So do you think Joseph believes that? No! Not at all! And Joseph’s like, “Come on! That’s not true! What do you take me for? A sucker?? I know how biology works”. Just imagine the feelings that this man having – especially during this time when women were considered just a little above a slave. Women couldn’t even testify in court. They weren’t even considered a viable person. What I love about Joseph is this. When we look at it superficially, Joseph did no wrong. Joseph was heinously wronged! But in verse 19 it says, “Being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Although you may be right. You don’t have to show the world that you’re right. You don’t have to go, “Oh! Look at me! I’ve been unjustly treated! This woman is bearing another man’s child!”. Note what it says again. I think it’s really important for us to learn this. “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly”. He wanted the divorce to be done really quietly. We are in an age where, that is just so bizarre. In our righteousness, we have to let our righteousness be known don’t we? No. But what I love about Joseph is that He put God’s word above all. Joseph is going down the street, back to his village. And I’m sure he’s like thinking so much. How am I going to resolve this quietly? How can I take all this in? And the Bible says,
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”
Christ our reward
What Joseph was willing to do was put God’s word above all else. Why do I say all else? We don’t realize what’s going on here. It takes about nine months for a baby to be born. These people in this community knew much better than us. You know why? It’s a small community and on top of that you know what they do? They interact with one another all the time. They’re always in each others’ faces. It’s a small provincial town. So they’re always bumping into one another. And Joseph was a carpenter. We look at carpenters as something really highly skilled but Joseph was a poor man and how do we know that? When he went to the temple, he brought pigeons instead of goats and sheep because he couldn’t afford it. And so we realize that Joseph was not a man of great wealth. He didn’t have money. What am I trying to say? For Joseph, reputation meant a lot. Especially in this culture. What would his reputation be for marrying this woman who already has a baby? Look at that man. That man had violated that woman even before marriage. His reputation was on the line. It’s a small village and everyone will be looking at him. Pervert! But you know what Joseph does? He puts his reputation aside. He puts his thoughts aside. And what he does is submits to God’s word. Joseph remember? It said, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son”. That’s you. That’s your wife! Take her. Love her. Be good to her. Take the humility. Not only that, Joseph was able to set aside his own desires. His rights. He gave up his right. In first century Palestine when they married, they really married. The marriage ceremony took three to five days. It was all drinking. And it was partying like crazy. It was a really festive occasion. And in the middle of the ceremony, the husband and wife would go into a room and consummate the marriage. Completing the marriage as it were. It was Joseph’s right as a husband to do so. But what Joseph does is put his rights away. Because in front of God, what rights do we have? Verse 25: “but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” You look at that and you’re like, “Man, that seems unfair!” All that burden. All that work. Reputation is ruined. It’s not like Joseph got more money out of it. He didn’t get anything out of it. What is the reward? The reward is Jesus. The reward is God in the end. At the end of this whole verse, it says “And he called his name Jesus”.
It’s funny because some person emailed me and asked, “You know Pastor Kenny. I know that when we go to heaven, somehow we’re going to be rewarded for everything that we do”. And he’s right. We are going to be rewarded for what we do. But the reward isn’t what you think. We think that we’re going to be rewarded with what – more money? More gold? If you don’t have a monetary system, what good is it? If diamonds were plentiful, then would diamonds hold their value? No. They would probably skip diamonds instead of rocks. So what is the reward? Well, the reward is Jesus! The reward is God! Let me explain. Younger people may not know this. Actually, maybe you do. Because we all have infatuations. Justin Bieber! Or whoever is that new heartthrob. You have that. And even for me, while I was dating my wife from New York, it took a lot of money to go back and forth. That’s why I was like, “Man, just for economics sakes I gotta marry her fast!”. But the thing is, I had to see her all the time because the very reward was to be in front of that person! You ever see the Ellen Degeneres or Oprah? They gave guest stars like Fergie! And the fans go crazy. They’re so excited. They would give anything and everything. Jesus Christ is your very reward.
That doesn’t sound too impressive? You know why? It’s because you don’t know the reality of what Jesus Christ has done for you. You don’t realize what God has done for you! if you could just think for a moment. Take your time out of yourself and think about this! The fact that God through generations and generations and generations and generations, would plan so that you, we would not be damned. That God so loved the world that out of the only child that He had, He would send Christ and sacrifice Him to this wretched world. To save wretched people like you and me. Jesus Christ had everything. And literally became a baby. Raised by people that He created. Would live His life. He would go on to die on the cross. He would rise again. He ascends into heaven and sends us the Holy Spirit. You know why we have insecurities? Fears? Because we don’t believe. Can you imagine if you knew? If you knew that God Himself loves you so much that He would send His one and only Son to save you? How about if you actually believed that? How about if you actually knew that? And your life. Your worldview comes from that. Not from your experiences. But the realization that God sent His one and only son, namely Jesus whose name means deliver. Savior. How about if you believed that? Then we’d be saying – “Oh, come. Let us adore Him. Oh, come let us adore Him.” Then we would have some response like, “We got Fergie in the house! OMG!”. We would have a taste of that wouldn’t we? See the gift of God is Jesus. if you don’t know. If you’re not excited. If your mouth isn’t watering for that gifts, its because of the fact that you don’t the reality of who God is. That’s why. You may have the saving grace and things like that. But you don’t have the intimacy or closeness. And that’s a problem. For you to make Christmas meaningful, you have to know what it means that God, stepped into time for me. God who is in eternity, created time. Actually stepped into time for me. You gotta know what the meaning of that is for you to know what this means at all.