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I Believe What I Believe

One Solitary Life

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(10/24) Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth Ė His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

This essay was adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in "The Real Jesus and Other Sermons" © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled "Arise Sir Knight!").

Every once in a while, I like to pull that out and remind myself of its truths. The life of Jesus is used to mark all of history. Everything is either BC or AD. Before Christ or in the Year of our Lord. Even our Jewish friends, who donít want to speak of Jesus, use C.E. for the Common Era, or B.C.E. for Before the Common Era. But the common Era is still about Jesus.

The Apostles Creed says as I hope you do, that we believe in Jesus Christ, Godís only Son, our Lord. It then makes 14 statements about this one solitary and unique life that we believe. From beginning to end, Jesusí life was unique.

Napoleon Bonaparte was reportedly having a discussion with one of his generals. The General believed that while Jesus was unique and perhaps a genius, he was still just a man; a very powerful, influential, and wise man Ė but just a man. Napoleon is reported to have replied, "I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religion the distance of infinity."

Letís look at just two distinct points of our Lordís life as listed in the creed.

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. This morning we want to look at the uniqueness of this historical Jesus and consider why this is so important.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

Wow, can you believe that we are just a little over 9 weeks out from Christmas? By a show of hands, "How many of you are ready for Christmas?" Friends of ours are traveling but before they left they did their Christmas shopping and set up their tree. I have told Debbie for years, next year I am going to do it all in October, so I will have two solid months to be in the woods and fields.

Todayís subject is one that we generally focus on only at Christmas. This is one of the most unique doctrines of our faith. We believe that Jesus was born without the agency of a human Father. We believe that His mother Mary had never been with a man when the Christ-Child began to develop in her womb. Just about every ancient creed of Christianity includes this in their statements of faith. It is highly controversial. While ancient religions spoke of the gods cohabitating with humans and having men who were half man and half god like Hercules, only Christianity proclaims that itís person at the core of our Faith is fully God while being fully human and we point to this doctrine called the Virgin Birth.

The problem that people, who study the Bible, see with this doctrine is that it relates back to a promise in Isaiah 7:14. The promise was given to a king that God would raise up a restorer who would be a reminder that God is with us. His name was to represent that truth. Immanuel, our God is with us. The promise was not just to a King but the whole house of David. All of his descendants. The problem was/is that the word virgin, is a word (in Isaiah 7:14) that does not mean, had never had a sexual relationship, but means a young woman or maiden of marriageable age. Why didnít Isaiah use the word for virgin. I donít know. Our word for virgin came from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, not the Hebrew. Are you confused? You should be. This is deep stuff and we will let the guys in the think tanks wrestle with it. You know, the guys who have more letters with periods and commas after their name than they have letters in their name. B.A., M.A., M.Div., Th.M., Th.D., D.D., Ph. D., and on it goes.

And then there is the fact, that no one ever mentions it again in the Bible once you get past the first chapter of Matthew and the second chapter of Luke. John may have implied it but does not mention it specifically. In John 1, he says that the one who created everything became flesh and dwelt among us. Didnít Paul allude to it in Galatians 4:4, "God sent forth His Son, born of a womanÖ?" Maybe, however, this is a common expression of oneís existence. We referred to a statement made by Job in our last series, "Man who is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble." You can use the internet or theology books to study all the questions associated with the virgin birth. We donít have enough time here.

But the church of the first few centuries seriously thought this is of supreme importance and so they included it in all of affirmations of faith. When liberalism was on the rise at the beginning of the 20th century, pastors and scholars assembled to consider what doctrines were absolutely essential to the Christian Faith. The result was a work called the Fundamentals and in that book was this doctrine of the virgin birth. And Fundamentalism began. Like Napoleon, they all wanted to affirm that Jesus was completely unique, beginning from His conception.

Mary was a virgin. and the Hebrew word for a young maiden of marriageable age implied and assumed virginity. Can I speak freely, I mean can I use words that you hear on TV, use in text books, yet never hear used in church? When I was a very young pastor I preached a sermon about Godís gift of sex and was reprimanded by some church leaders who said that the church was not the place to teach about sex. God can in the Bible, but I couldnít. Go figure. Letís go back to Deuteronomy 22:13 and following.

Inside of the vagina is a piece of tissue referred to as the hymen. When it is broken by penetration, there is usually some bleeding. A new husband would be conscious and inspect the sheets or a special cloth used under the bride on her wedding night as proof of her virginity. If there was no blood, he could demand justice and the woman could be stoned to death. This was serious stuff. The whole family of the woman would be disgraced. It was assumed that if she was a young woman and not married that she was a virgin in the Hebrew culture. Her life may have depended on it.

Illustration. We know little about our daughter Amandaís birth mother. We know she was 21 and single and probably left her home when she discovered she was pregnant and moved to Pusan City where she would give birth prematurely and then abandon her baby, our Amanda, at the hospital, to be adopted. Why would she do that? Because being pregnant and not being married would disgrace her family and if she had sisters, they would probably never get married. This is a huge humiliation in Korea. Fathers would often beat the snot out of their unwed, pregnant daughters. Many children are literally left on the streets. You should buy or rent the documentary called, The Drop Box.

Look at Luke 1:26-38. Mary was young, marriageable, but not married, not completely, and she was a virgin. She was betrothed. This is a step beyond engagement where legal lines are set. The pair were considered married but could not consummate the marriage for about a year. This allowed the groom to prepare a home and to arrange a ceremony.

BTW, Christian Cole is experiencing that right now in El Salvador. He is engaged and will have a legal ceremony this December, and a Wedding ceremony next year. Until then he and his bride cannot set up shop. I heard that several Central and South American countries practice that.

The angel told Mary that her child would be created by the same God who created the world in Genesis 1:1-2. BTW, the Holy Spirit Conception is not the Immaculate Conception that our Catholic Friends hold to. The Immaculate Conception refers to a special act of God that made the Mother of Mary to be born sinless so she could give birth to Jesus. This is an unbiblical and heretical doctrine. When she was discovered to be pregnant, Joseph was distressed, Matthew 1:18-25. To both Joseph and Mary, it was stated that the child was conceived without the aid of a human father. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit of God, and it was referred back to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. The Bible says explicitly that Joseph did not have intercourse with Mary until sometime after Jesus was born (Matt. 1:25). Then, yes, they had at least 6 more children (Mark 6:3). Two of them wrote short books in the New testament.

But rumors abounded. It was rumored that Mary was pregnant by a Roman Soldier. Perhaps that is something that stayed with Mary because John 8:41 says, after our Lord said, "You do the deeds of your father. Then they said to Him, We were not born of fornication, we have one Father-God." Many believe that this is like a slanderous put down. As if saying, "You donít even know who your daddy is. You are a bastard, illegitimate" or, "Your parents had a shotgun wedding."

But, "How can Jesus be completely human and completely God? Not some greater than but lesser than god-man." Paul was spot on when he said to Timothy in 1 Tim. 3:16, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, received up in glory." Paul said, we canít deny that this is tough stuff to understand, and to believe. There is no doubt about it.

Now the question of how can a virgin conceive is really simple. It is in the first line of the Creed and the first chapter of the Bible. God is Almighty, and the creator of heaven and earth. He hovered over the earth, said, "Let it be so," and stuff came into being. How He made stuff from nothing will be one of those things we will learn about in Heaven. But for now, the evidence of a divine designer is enough to convince us of the reality of God and that He is the origin of all. Nothing, the angel said to Abraham, Jeremiah, and Mary, is impossible with God.

The question now is, "So what? Why is this important? How is this going to get me through the week?" Most people try to pin the sinless-ness of Jesus on this point. I am not sure how that plays in here. But this is what I believe and am convinced of. This is what I trust in and stake my life on. Listen carefully.

Throughout Old Testament days and the time of the beginning of the Church, it was understood that that Holy Spirit of God performed 3 primary roles.

1. He is the Active Agent in the Work of Creation. Now we know that all three members of the Trinity are said to have created, because the three are one, a great mystery, for sure. By The way, it needs to be noted that the word for Spirit is the same as the word for breath or wind in both the Old and New Testaments. Genesis 1:1-2, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering (or moving) over the face of the waters." Psalm 33:6, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth." Job 33:4, "The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life."

2. He is Active in Enabling men to do the will of God. Judges 6:34, "But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon;" Though we will speak more of this in a few weeks, it was the Holy Spirit that enabled the craftsmen to do their work on the tabernacle, and enabled the Judges to lead and rule Israel. It was the Holy Spirit that came on King Saul, and then left Saul to enable David to be the Shepherd/Warrior King. That is why David would pray after his great sins, "Please donít take your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:11). David knew that He was incapable of leading righteously without the Holy Spirit in his life.

3. He is the Active Agent in Re-Creation. In Ezekiel 36-37, God reminds Israel through Ezekiel that the day is coming in which God is going to give new hearts to the redeemed remnant. And make Israel rise from the dead to inhabit a place of prominence in the New World. To illustrate this Ezekiel had the vision of the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel was to prophesy to the Spirit or the wind, and as he did so the bones came together and the meat and muscles returned to the skeletons and new life was given to the dead. And Ezekiel 37:13-14 says, "Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it," says the Lord."

Though the Apostle Paul makes no reference to the Virgin Birth, he does say this, (Look at Colossians 1:15-23), "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sightó 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister."

Because Jesus is the Fullness of God in a fully human body, He is the only one who can reconcile us to God. Isaiah 59 reminds us that our sins have separated us from our God. We are/we enemies of God. We needed a mediator, a bridge, to reunite us to God. He is as the author of Hebrews points out repeatedly, our great high priest. He is the bridge, who can extend one hand to the Father sand the other to a fallen people and bring us together. He is as Paul told Timothy the one and only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:4). He is the one who can create new life in your dead soul. He is the one who can enable you to do and be all that youíre capable of doing or being. He is the one who will never leave you or forsake you. He is the one who created life and the only one who can give you eternal life. He came that you might have life. He prayed on His way to the cross, Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:1-4) This is why no one can come to the Father except by Him, He is the only one who can give us access to the Father. He is the only mediator. He is the only one who can transform us from death to life.

Is the Holy Spirit Conception and Virgin Birth important? It is absolutely essential to all we stake our lives on in our trust and faith in Jesus.

Letís take it one step further and look at Hebrews 2:17-18, "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

Because He is God in the flesh, He fully felt the testingís, the trials, and the temptations that we all struggle with. He walked, the proverbial mile, in our shoes. He understands how we struggle in life because He had to struggle as a man. So, He is the perfect One to cast all our care on. He has been in our skin. He has sat where we sit, He has felt your pain, and He knows the comfort and help you need, when you call out to him. And call out is what we are encouraged to do. Look at Hebrews 4:13-16. "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because God became flesh, He knows what I feel, how I hurt, and what I need, and He beckons for me to come to Him. Come and pour my heart, our hearts out to Him; to come and find the help we need in Him. Come to Him for reconciliation to the Father. Come to Him for forgiveness. Come to Him to become new creations. Come to Him for life both new and abundant. Come to Him for your identity and for your purpose. This one who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, came to bring you home to your Father. You just have to call out to Him.

He will never reject you, He will never leave you, He will never let you go. He will never let you walk alone. He is the only one who can permanently change your life and your eternal destiny. Thatís why we have Christmas. Thatís why He came into the world. Thatís why and what we believe with our very lives.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman