11.29.15: Not Your Average Joe

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Reflection

  • This was an interesting message for me. It was one of the first times I realized so many people end up landing in the same place preparing sermons as so many other people beforehand.
  • This church was a good church to give a message about strong father figures. It went over very well.

Summary: This sermon was intended to look at the role of Joseph as a husband and a father. It looks at the sacrifices he made, which were great especially compared to the cultural and societal norms of the time. From the beginning, the story of the gospel was a messy, gritty story. The story of Jesus started, and ended, with controversy. Joseph is an amazing example of tenacity throughout his brief introduction in the New Testament.

Sermon: Not Your Average Joe

  • Thanksgiving Talk / Intro
    • Awesome food
    • Black Friday
    • Ohio State (Heck of a game)
    • *REAL* start of Christmas season. (Dollar General)

Church, before we get into the teaching, let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, Lord God I ask that you would be with us in this room here today, I ask that you would let me step out of the way and that your Holy Spirit would guide this teaching. Lord, I ask that, over the next few minutes, you would be with all of us here and you would let us set our hearts on what really matters this Christmas season, your Son, who took on the cross so we could be free. Amen.

So, before we get into the core of the message here tonight, let’s talk about the Advent. What does it mean? Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for Jesus. It’s a chance to look back in the past and think about the season in history when the people of Israel were waiting for Jesus to come back, and it’s a chance for us to think about Jesus’ return now, and to think about how to live for Him. It’s a time to also remember that Jesus didn’t come to Earth as a conqueror, as a King on a chariot, even though he *could have,* Amen church? It’s a time to remember that Jesus, the Son of God, who has been around since the beginning of time, made that decision to come to Earth as an infant, just a little, vulnerable baby. You know that was a choice, right church?

OK, so check this out. Let’s get into our time machines and go back two thousand years. Let’s take a look at Jesus’ life before he was born. Like, well, ALL BABIES, the story starts with Jesus’s parents.  A lot of us probably know this story. It’s part of the Christmas story. We’ve read it in the bible, we’ve seen it in a hundred school plays with these little kids in the perfectly clean robes, and the sheep that look like they’ve been dry cleaned (you know, sheep are DIRTY, right church?) and the nice little, clean manger….well, you get the idea.

But man, when you really think about it the Christmas story, it’s nothing like the school play, is it church? It’s dirty. It’s messy. It’s not clean….it’s not pretty….but you know what…look all around in the Bible, there really isn’t much out there that’s all clean, all nice, and all pretty. But, that’s OK. None of us are all clean, and nice, and flawless, and God can still use us for some pretty awesome stuff. Amen, church?

Today, as we’re starting advent, and getting closer to Christmas, I really wanted to take a minute to talk about one of the unsung heroes of the Christmas story. You know, not a lot is said about Joseph, and to be honest, we don’t know a lot about Joseph… So, let’s set the stage: Mary, a young Jewish woman who will one day be the mom of Jesus, you know, the Son of God, the one man so important in the history of the world that we measure time by how many years BEFORE HIM, and how many years AFTER HIM…..so, she’s just living her life as a normal, young Jewish woman would. She’s trying to do things the right way. She’s trying to live her life as a normal woman would have at the time. She has a heart for God, but man is she in for a shock.

The Bible doesn’t go into really specific details about her relationship with Joseph before Jesus, but we have a pretty good idea of what it would have looked like. We know that Mary was engaged to Joseph. What you may not know is that back then, during the engagement, the rules were basically the same as during marriage.

So, here’s Mary. She’s just going through life as normal, then *knock* *knock* *knock.*. “Mary?” “Yeah,” “Got a minute?” “Hey, I’m an angel from God.” Actually, let’s look at this passage, Luke 1:28-29: “The Angel Went to Her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Then, which, this part I love, because the angel really hasn’t even said ANYTHING YET, scripture says, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” How many times in your life has someone saying “HI” to you “greatly troubled” you. So, you know it’s about to go down. Anyways, then the angel gives Mary the great news. The angel tells Mary that, well, she’s found favor with God, then she’s going to give birth to Jesus, who is going to “be great, will be called the Son of the Most High, who will sit at the throne of David, who will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; and his kingdom will never end.” Mary asks how this is going to happen, and the angel basically say “Don’t worry about a thing, the Holy Spirit’s got this.” Great news for God, Great new for God’s kingdom, great news for US. TERRIFYING news for Mary.

So, yeah, Mary just found out that her son was going to be the most important person ever born. Ever. That’s a lot to take in, church. No pressure. There’s one huge stinkin’ elephant in the room. She’s a virgin. She’s pledged to be married…but she’s not married. I’m not sure if you know how the whole pregnancy thing works, but you can’t really hide that for long, and people kinda notice. Anyways, her and Joseph were very faithful to God, their families were very faithful to God. Heads could roll over this one, amen, church?

So, think about this: Joseph’s relationship with Mary was very public. Anybody here ever live in a really small neigborhood? Yeah, I know you guys DO live in a small neighborhood…same thing. Everybody knows everybody. Not only that, but in Galilee, where Joseph and Mary were from, entire families usually lived together in one house. So, Joseph and Mary weren’t going to run off and get a one bedroom apartment three states away to run from their problems. Like I said…Small town….Everybody knows everybody. You know how fast stuff travels on Facebook? Yeah, this would spread that fast. So, Joseph is going to be married to Mary, who he fell in love with because she: is humble, she has a heart for God, and she wants to serve God, I mean, if that’s not clear, the angel that talked to Mary said “you have found favor in the eyes of God” twice….but then all of a sudden…out of nowhere. “Joseph…not sure how to explain this, but I’m pregnant.”

So Joseph asks the “who the baby daddy is” question and Mary says that “an angel of God had spoken to her and told her that she would conceive a baby miraculously….and that baby would be, pretty much, the most important guy ever.” Church. Let me ask you a question. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. Remember. Joseph didn’t know then what we know now….How many of you think that ANYBODY, EVER, in their right mind would believe that? “Honey, I’m pregnant. The baby’s going to change the world. But, it’s totally not yours. And, we’re not married.” Man, that’s some Maury Povich Jerry Springer stuff right there. Yeah, “uh oh.”

Now, I’m a pretty faithful guy. I believe that God can do great things. I believe that God can do anything, that God can move mountains, that God created everything in this universe out of NOTHING, but if my future wife told me what Mary told Joseph, I’d tell her to get her head examined. Am I right, church? So, Joseph goes off on his own to think about what he’s going to do…and we see in Matthew 1, Joseph makes a pretty big decision.

So, let’s skip over to verse 18. “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

See, church, Joseph had three responses when Mary told him she was pregnant. The first: make a big public spectacle. This is the Maury Povich DNA Test answer. This is what a lot of people did, and what a lot of people still do. After all, this *was* adultery. The punishment if he took this route? The punishment for adultery was death. Mary could have been killed. That’s it. The story ends there. We wouldn’t even be sitting in this room today, we wouldn’t know about Jesus, it could have ended there, who knows how this thing would have played out?

So, Joseph thought about it, he realized how much he loved Mary. He loved her too much to let something horrible happen, so he chose a second option. That second option was a quiet divorce. This may seem pretty harsh, too, but it beats the big public thing. See, here, Joseph wouldn’t have had to give a reason, so other than a little weirdness it would have been more like a “bad breakup” than anything else. Nobody “lawyers up.” Nobody takes sides, you just call it off. That was the nicest of the two “normal” decisions but there was a third decision, that was part of God’s plan .

The last decision, Joseph could listen to God. Right after Joseph makes the call to get divorced, this is what the book of Matthew says, picking up in verse 20, right after Joseph made the decision to divorce Mary, “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

Even though God told Joseph what was up, let’s be honest for a minute. If you were in love with someone, engaged to them, then found out what Joseph found out, could you do what He did? Would you be the one pointing a finger, screaming, and throwing everything Mary owns out into the street? Or would you step up and do what it takes to follow God?

Church, we’re so lucky that Joseph was a pretty stand-up guy. Even though there’s not a lot said about Joseph in the Bible, we can learn A LOT about how to live for God. Amen, church? The first thing we can learn: BE OBEDIENT Church,  Joseph was a man of obedience. Face it, Joseph had EVERY RIGHT to run for the hills. Nobody would have blamed him for walking away. Nobody…but Joseph made his decision to stay with Mary because it’s what God called him to do, even if it wasn’t the popular choice.

How many times have we all been there, church? How many times have we had those big decisions to make where we had to choose what was right or what was *right?* How many times do we have to choose between *law* and *love*? Between *justice* and *grace*? See, Joseph knew he had a pretty good chance of being shamed by pretty much everybody around him when he made the decision to stay with Mary….but he did it because that’s what he was called to do.

I pretty much always talk about “getting outside of your comfort zone.” If you haven’t noticed, it’s basically my motto. Joseph lived this, church. Even if he didn’t agree, or it felt weird at the time, he always did what he could to follow God’s will…even if it could cost him everything.

So, what does this look like for us, today, church? How can we be obedient to God? Remember last time I was here, I talked about me, a big dude like me, jumping on a plane and going to Haiti because God told me to? That’s obedience. I was stinkin’ uncomfortable but I grew so much through that obedience. For you, maybe it’s finally coming clean about something really bad going on in your life and taking steps to get better. For someone else: it could be *specifically* doing what Joseph did, and even though it feels like everything’s falling apart, you just need to be strong and hold your own family together. Obedience comes in many different forms, church. Figure out where God needs you to step up and be obedient, and get busy.

What’s another thing we can learn from Joseph? Be a man or woman of action. Joseph was. And, believe it or not, Joseph is never once recorded in the Bible as saying anything. Not a single word. Does that make him *not important?* No way, man. Joseph did what had to be done without question. When God told him to stick around, to be there for his wife and son, he stuck around. When God told him to take his family to Egypt, he woke up, packed their bags, and off they went without a second thought. Joseph didn’t mess around AT ALL. Look at Matthew 2. Verse 13: “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Why is that a big deal? You know why Herod was such a problem, right? It’s another big part of the Christmas story. Herod was the King of Israel, then found out that Jesus was going to be the “King of the Jews.” Yeah, so he felt a little threatened. Threatened enough that he went on a rampage and ordered his guards to kill all boys under 2 years old.

So, that’s it. God said Go, and Joseph went. He didn’t hang around, he didn’t dilly-dally, he didn’t question God. He never pretended to know more than God. He never even argued. He just went. See, Joseph did his part to help change the world, and he didn’t even have to say a word to do it. He just did what had to be done.

What does it look like when we are people of action? How does our church change when we dig in and do what needs to be done? I’ll tell you how it looks. It looks….stinkin….awesome! Do you guys see this awesome sanctuary we’re in right now? This sanctuary was built by ‘do’ers’. It was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of people who saw God moving at New Hope Church and said “We need a bigger space. We need the chance to reach more people for Jesus. We need to be the hands and feet. We need to be the ‘doer’s that get stuff done.’

But, church, this sanctuary? That’s just one little project. Each and every one of you needs to find an area to take action in your own life. We’re not all called to the same things, but God needs us all to take steps. Maybe you’re struggling to be in the Word every day. Maybe there’s a God Job somewhere in this church calling your name. From what I hear, we need tons of people to help with the kids ministry. You guys do realize that’s the next generation, right? Those are the people we have to pour into. And, if you’re not good with kids, talk to a leader in the church, there are so many areas in this church AND this community that need our help,

The last lesson I want to talk about, a lesson we can all learn from Joseph is this: We need to walk by faith and not by sight. This is what Joseph did, church. It’s pretty obvious Joseph had a lot of faith in God. He believed God enough to stay with Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus. He believed in God enough to stick with his wife and son, as Jesus grew up, always in danger.

But more important than that, Joseph had faith that God was right about Jesus. He had faith that Jesus was the son of God, who was going to do everything God promised He was going to do. Do you realize how crazy you’d look to the rest of the world… to go through everything Joseph went through, on the *off chance* that the kid you adopted, the kid you raised, the kid you played catch with and taught about life, was going to change the entire world as you know it?

Now, ask yourself, “What would MY life look like if I walked by faith and not by sight? If I stopped taking things at face value and trusted in God, what would that look like? If you stopped worrying about the little things and gave them to God, what would that look like? Church, I love Matthew 6, verses 25-34. Jesus says “don’t be anxious about your life…what you’ll eat or drink, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life MORE than this? Look, I take care of the birds, I take care of the trees, I take care of everything around you. Give me your faith, know that I’ll take care of YOU!” Church, where do you need to put your faith in God? Is it money? Is it love? Is it breaking addiction? Somewhere, there’s a place in your life where you’re still holding on to something. Let it go, let God have it. He wants it!

So, we’ve talked about what made Joseph awesome, right church? His obedience to God, his willingness to *GET STUFF DONE* and his faith in God. I think we can say that Joseph is a pretty stand-up guy. That’s safe to say, right, church? What’s funny is that Joseph was silently setting a great example of how to live a Christian life 30 years before Jesus even came into the picture and told us what a Christian life looked like….before Jesus went out, performed crazy miracles, and taught sermons about how to follow in His footsteps, his stepdad was already walking in those footsteps. Sometimes I wonder how would Jesus’ life and ministry have changed if Joseph made that decision to leave Mary? What would have happened to Jesus? How would this whole story have been different? In the Bible, there’s a very specific kind of love called Agape love. If you haven’t heard of Agape love, it’s green and it translates to “A selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love…” Church, I believe that Joseph did everything he did, every decision that Joseph made, was this special kind of love, church. He acted the way he acted, because he was a perfect example of this “Agape” love. What does this love look like?

Let me close with a little example of that kind of love that hits home, personally. Hopefully this will help us set our hearts on how we Christians should celebrate Christmas. So, here I was, in 2008. I wasn’t really close to God at the time. In fact, I was pretty far from Him. Anyways, this is the day before Christmas Eve, I stopped at Target to find a few last-minute presents.

Now, keep in mind, like I said, I’m not even going to church at this point. So, I’m walking through the parking lot,  I’m pretty much broke and using what little I did have to get Christmas gifts. A couple, well dressed, I don’t know who they are, what they want, or why they’re walking towards me….they just hand me an envelope, the guy says “Hey, I just want to let you know that God loves you, man.” and they walk off. So, at the time I’m pretty cynical, and I thought “well, this is going right in the trash. Bet I’m getting invited to some weird church thing. Just what I need.”

So, I’m walking around Target and curiosity gets the best of me. I whip out the envelope and look in it. Three hundred bucks and a message, “You have a purpose in this world. Jesus loves you & God created you for a reason. This is just a SMALL token of His love for you. Have a wonderful Christmas! Remember the reason we celebrate Christmas – John 3:16-17.”

So, here’s the thing. I’m a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. So, my mind starts to process this. A complete stranger, who’s never met me, who knows nothing about me, just gave me pretty much the biggest gift I’ve ever gotten in my life…and WHY? Because. God so loved. That’s why. Because. God. So. Loved. So, I run into the Target pharmacy bathroom and I literally sit in this 6×6 stall totally overwhelmed for a good ten minutes. Who am I kidding? I was bawling like a baby. It was a seriously life-changing moment for me. It was the most selfless thing any stranger’s ever done for me. That’s Agape love. That Agape love is the love Jesus had for us when he took the nails on the cross, when he died so we could be forgiven. But, it’s also the love that Joseph had for Mary when he made that decision to stick it out and be the man she, and Jesus, needed him to be.

Church, as we get closer and closer to this Christmas season, I have to challenge everyone in this room to look at Joseph, the way he lived his life, and take a page out of his book. If you want to get your life in order, you need to be obedient to God, be a person of action, and walk by faith. Let us pray.

Lord, God, today we talked about your servant Joseph, who stepped up to the plate to live a life of faith, a life of obedience, and a life of action. I pray that as we get ready to celebrate your Son’s birth over this holiday season, you help us stay focused on Him and not all of the other worldly things that sneak into our lives during this Christmas holiday. I pray that we take time to reflect on Joseph’s life and we find opportunities to live as he lived, as the men and women we are called to be. Lord God I thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, and the gift he gave us through the cross. It’s in his holy name. Amen.