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James Merritt - Staying Faithful

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    James Merritt - Staying Faithful
TOPICS: Faithfulness

Let me begin by asking you a question. Who's the one person that affects your life every day? I'm talking about a human. Who's the one person that you'd say affects your life every day? Maybe it's your spouse. Maybe it's one of your children. Maybe it's your parents. Maybe it's your boss. Let me tell you somebody that affects my life and affects every life in this room every single day, and I guarantee you, you would've never ever thought about this name. His name is Maurice Ralph Hilleman. How many of you know who that is? How many of you have no clue who that is? Shame on you, shame on you. Shame on me 'cause I didn't know it either until I studied for this message. Because this man is absolutely one of the greatest heroes in American history. And I know you're sitting there saying, can you, who, who are you talking about? Can you repeat it? Yeah, Maurice Ralph Hilleman.

Now I know what you're saying. I'd be saying the same and I probably said what you said, how does this guy affect me? How's this guy impacted my life? How has this guy affected the life of my kids and my grandkids? Okay, I'm gonna ask you a question. Don't raise your hand until I get to the end of the question. How many of you have ever been vaccinated for at least one of the following, measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia or the flu? How many of you have ever been vaccinated by, for at least one of those things? Okay, if you don't leave, I don't want you in our building, okay? Yeah, we've all been vaccinated, right? From the time we're children, we have had a lot of these vaccinations.

Well, Dr. Hilleman was an American biologist. He specialized in vaccinology, and I want you to listen to this. He holds the world's record. He developed over 40 vaccines that are still used around the world and unparalleled record of productivity. As a matter of fact, of the 14 vaccines that are routinely recommended from the time you're born, even up to the time you die, of the 14 vaccines that are routinely recommended, he developed eight of them. If you don't think this guy's a big deal, according to the latest estimate, he is responsible for saving at least 8 million lives every single year. In other words, no Ralph Hilleman, 8 million people would've died this year that are still living.

Some of us would've died had it not been for this man. He may be the greatest unsung hero in the history of this nation. And we're calling our Christmas series Unsung Hero because we're gonna be spending some time with a man in the Bible that very little is said about. In a matter of fact, you boys and girls are here today, you'll be interested in this. The man we're gonna be studying about for the next three weeks is never recorded as ever saying one word in the Bible, never says a word. This is a brand new Christmas series. I've never preached on this man. I've never even thought about preaching on this man in my life and yet it's really interesting. And I really feel bad that I'm not because we hear his name every Christmas. He will be featured in every Christmas play.

And you're gonna see he's a man that certainly deserves to be in what I would call the hero hall of fame. If there's been a hero, it's him. And you know what I'm probably talking about, I'm talking about the father of Jesus. The earthly father of Jesus, his name was Joseph. When you mention Joseph, people think about that Old Testament Joseph. They don't give a lot of thought to the New Testament Joseph. And as you well know, every Christmas, the person we focus on every Christmas is not Joseph. We focus on who? Mary, we focus on Mary, right? We focus on the mother of Jesus, the one that brought Jesus into this world. Go to any Christmas play, Mary will be the leading lady. Go to any Christmas play, you'll hear Mary not only speak, you'll hear Mary sing. But go to every Christmas play and this is what you'll see Joseph doing. Never says a word. I was at a Christmas play when I was in the third grade.

I wanted to be Joseph so bad, you know why? He didn't say anything. He didn't have to memorize any lies. He just stood there. And yet, what is so amazing is that maybe no man played a more important role, especially in his early life. No man played a more important role in the life of Jesus than this man. He was an unsung hero because he did 2000 years ago what very few Jewish men would've ever done under the circumstances. He took a boy that he did not father. And adopted him under very negative circumstances. And he gave his life to feed this boy, clothe this boy, protect this boy, raise this boy, love this boy. And had the unbelievable responsibility of setting an example of what a loving father should be. And yet the amazing thing is you hear very little about him because there's not about, a lot about him recorded in the gospels. There's just a handful of brief mentions.

And again, he never says a word. As a matter of fact, you know how Matthew and Luke refer to him? He's referred to indirectly as, when Jesus is called Joseph's son. Mark never even mentions him. John never talks about him. And when you get past Matthew and Mark, guess what? He's never talked about again in the New Testament. Peter doesn't talk about him. Paul doesn't talk about him. Luke doesn't talk about him. John never talks about him. He has never mentioned again in all of the New Testament. As a matter of fact, you're not the only thing we really know about Joseph, about the only thing we really know. He was just a dude. He was just an ordinary guy, just like most of us in this room. Nothing special about him. No special, real pedigree. No, you know, no inherited wealth. He was just a person.

As a matter of fact, we know that because we're told he was a carpenter. He was a minimum wage, get your fingernails dirty, run of the mill, dime a dozen worker. And yet when you think about it, isn't that just like God? Who are you gonna choose, God? Who gonna choose to be the earthly father of the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Who are you gonna choose? Will it be an emperor? Will it be a king? Will it be a billionaire? Will it be a Fortune 500 CEO? Will it be a president of a great corporation? No, I think I'm just gonna choose, not a priest, not a prophet, not a politician, not a personality, not a celebrity. I think I'll choose a carpenter. You have got to be kidding. You do remember who this is, right? This is your Son. This is the king of the universe. This is the Lord of lords.

Yeah, I know, and I want this to be a carpenter. Let me tell you, I don't encourage all of us in this room. Let me tell you why. Most of us think of ourselves the way we ought to think of ourselves. We're just ordinary people. I'm an ordinary guy, you're an ordinary guy. We grew up in ordinary circumstances. And yet here's what you find over and over and over and over in the Bible, everywhere. God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. And so you may say, well, I'm the nobody. No, nobody's a nobody in the eyes of God. Everybody is somebody. Listen, do you know how many verses talk about Joseph in the entire Bible, 16. This is the earthly father of Jesus. You would think there'd be more verses. You'd think you'd say something. Nope, only 16 verses. And yet, we're going to embark on a three week study of this unsung hero.

Because let me tell you what I discovered. I don't know that I've ever done a series in the last 20 years that I went into with more fear and trembling than this series 'cause I made a commitment. I'm gonna try to get a three week series out of this guy, okay? And I wanna tell you, I thought, Lord, I just hope I've got enough for one sermon, but then I begin to study this man, and the background of this man, and what was said about this man. And I wanna tell you, it is absolutely going to be, you don't wanna miss a week, it is one of the richest things you will ever, ever hear from me because as you're going to see, his influence was a lot stronger and his influence was a lot greater than what you would think. Because here's what Joseph does, maybe more than anybody else in the New Testament, Joseph's going to teach us how to really be a true follower of the Jesus of Christmas.

So let me tell you the lesson we're going to learn from this father just today, you ready? Commitment to the will of God, will bring clarity about the will of God. Commitment to the will of God, will bring about clarity about the will of God. So let me just tell you how this relates to you today. If you're here today and you're facing a difficult decision in your life, and there's not a year I've been in the ministry that I don't have times in the, this year, I know coming up I will face some very difficult decisions. We all do. We'll face difficult decisions, maybe in our work, maybe in our family, maybe in our marriage, maybe in our finances, you got it. Maybe some of you, right, and say, man, I've got this really tough decision.

Well, you wanna make sure if it's really difficult and it's really important, you don't wanna blow it, you don't wanna make a mistake, you don't wanna look back and say, man, why in the world did I do that? I messed everything up. You wanna make sure that you get it right. Well, we're gonna learn today exactly how to do that. Because the same steps that we take when we make a decision are exactly the same steps that he took to make a decision. But he took that one step that made was the most important step and this is why he made the right decision. And it's why we're talking about him today. So, what do we do when we're facing a difficult decision? What is it that we do?

All right, think about it. Step one, we reason what we should do. When you think about it. When something comes up and you've got to make a decision, who's the first person we turn to? We turn to ourselves. What's the first question we ask? All right, what should I do? So, we reason what we should do. So to understand the story of Joseph, it actually begins first with the story of Mary, so let me go back to Mary for just a moment. Three months before Joseph's brought into the picture, three months, before we read about Joseph and angel had revealed to Mary that she's pregnant, Son of God, you're gonna bear the Son of God, conceive by the Holy Spirit.

Now, what you may not know about the story, or you may have forgotten, or you may never notice, as soon as Mary hears this news, she leaves Joseph, she leaves Nazareth and she makes a journey to go visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. And she stays with her for three months until she comes back to Joseph. Now you got to keep that in mind when we pick up the story. By the way, we're in Matthew the first gospel, Matthew chapter one, if you wanna turn there very quickly. We're in Matthew chapter one, we're gonna pick up the story in verse 18. "This is how the birth of Jesus to Messiah came about. His mother, Mary was placed to be married to Joseph, but before they came to together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit".

Now, that may read kind of like, okay, ho-hum, no big deal. No, that would've been a scandal 2000 years ago. That would've made the front page of the Nazareth newspaper 2000 years ago. You say, well why? Well, Mary we're told was pledged to Joseph in marriage. In other words, they were engaged. Now we're not only told that they were engaged, we're also told two things you got to keep in mind. Number one, Mary is pregnant. Number two, Joseph ain't the daddy. Got to keep that in mind. Mary's pregnant and Joseph is not the daddy. Now, we know already 'cause we know the story. Mary has not been unfaithful, she's not had an affair. But keep in mind, Joseph doesn't know that.

So the way the story begins today, by the way, it's not unusual. I mean that story today, it wouldn't even draw a yawn from most people today, why? Because women get pregnant all the time out of wedlock, they're not married, and it's not a big deal, but we all know something else. An unmarried woman that is pregnant, you know, from outside appearances, you assume, okay, this is not a what we call a married sexual encounter. Now, that's not what happened here, but put yourself in the sandals of Joseph. For good reason, Joseph assumed that's exactly what happened. So, get the picture. Mary tell... The angel tells Mary you're pregnant, she leaves, she's gone three months.

Now, three months later she comes back to Joseph. Now, most likely she told Joseph she was pregnant, but she didn't have to tell him because she's got a baby bump. And it didn't come from eating too much Mexican. I mean, Joseph's kind of, he's a smart guy, right? Now, we're not told this explicitly, but it's pretty safe to assume that Mary sits Joseph's down and she tells them this story that an angel had come to her and told her that the Holy Spirit had conceived that child within her. Now, I want you to put yourself in Joseph's position. You're engaged to Mary. You've been a perfect gentleman. She leaves, she's gone three months, she comes back, she is pregnant. And Mary looks at you and says, I have a perfect explanation. This angel came, and you're already doing this, this angel came and told me that he, the Holy Spirit, has conceived a child within me.

Now, let's be honest, you're Joseph, you're not going, of course, that's what happened. You're going, yeah, you know, Mary, that's, never heard that one before. You know, nice try, you know, not buying it because the only thing he knows at this point is two things. His fiance's pregnant and he's not the dad. That's all he knows. Now, today, again, that's not a big deal. We didn't even think about those things anymore, right? But back then, that would've been an absolute catastrophe for Joseph. Now let me explain to you why, so you'll know why this is such a big deal. 2000 years ago in first century, Palestine, Jews saw marriage not just as adjoining together of two people like we do today, but two families.

As a matter of fact, families took marriage so seriously back in the days of Jesus, they arranged marriages, they didn't rely on teenage hormones to decide who they ought to marry, okay? They said, no, this is such a big deal and since you're marriage, your family's gonna join my family, my family's gonna join your family. Here's what we're gonna do. We're going to arrange a marriage. We're gonna find the daughter that we want our son to marry. We're gonna find a daughter we want our son to marry and the son we want our daughter to marry. And we're going to bring them together because they trusted their wisdom more than they trusted their kids.

Now, whether that's right or wrong, that's a whole nother conversation. But according to rabbinical law, here's what would happen. Sometime after a boy would turn 12 and after a girl would turn 13, they would kind of find a match for each other. These parents would find the match, right? And so at this point, it was kind of more of a non-binding agreement. It was kind of a mutual understanding that when the children finally came of age that they would get married. And until that point, until that point, they would be betrothed. And then it would turn into what would be called a formal engagement. Now, that period of time would last somewhere between one, two, maybe three years. So they were betrothed, they weren't married, they weren't quite formally engaged, but it was a done deal.

Now, at this time, the father of the groom would pay a dowry. That would be a mutually agreed upon sum of money to the father of the bride. So, if the son, if I was the father of the groom, I would pay a good sum of money to the father of the bride. In fact, matter of fact, the sum back end that the scholars say, would be about the equivalent of the price of a one bedroom house back in that day. You say, well why was it so expensive? Well, the reason is because the bride was expected to move in with the family of the groom after they got married. So the bride would no longer be a source of revenue or income to the family. So they had to be compensated.

Now the groom would also give a certain, the bride a certain sum, and the groom's family would also give expensive gifts to the bride's family. This was all part of the engagement period. All right, got it, this is the engagement period. So kind of like, at that moment, they would draw up a contract. Between the groom, he would make promises to care for the bride. It would be mainly for the groom. You see, there's another thing that's different back in that day. Today, the bride takes vows and the groom takes vows. Not the way it happened 2000 years ago, only the groom took vows. Only the groom made any promises. He promised to care for the bride, to take care of the bride, and to always stay faithful to the bride. So it would be, back in that day, it would be the equivalent of a marriage license, except at that time it wasn't signed at the wedding ceremony, it was signed at the engagement.

So keep that in mind. Here's your contract, they've already signed the contract at the beginning of the engagement period. Now, what that means was this, yes, you're engaged and yes, you're going to be married, but you can't sleep together. You're not married yet, so you cannot have any sexual relations, whatsoever, until the actual wedding ceremony. And if either one of them or both of them had sexual relations, they would be considered adulterers. Now, everybody got the background of the story because now you're gonna understand the next part of the story., verse 19. "Because Joseph, her husband," he's not quite her husband, he's about to be, but that's what they were called. "Her husband was faithful to the law, yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly".

Now, let's think about it. The first person ever to doubt the virgin birth was Joseph. So if you're one of those people that still today you go, nah, I don't know if I'm buying the virgin birth or not, he didn't either. He wasn't buying it, he just did not conceive, he could not conceive, no pun intended, that she was still a virgin. Because remember, at this point, he's not received a visit from an angel. No angels told him anything. No one's bothered to tell him first of what was going on.

Here's all we know. The contract has been signed, the couple is engaged, Joseph hadn't seen his bride or fiance for three months and she is pregnant. So what does Joseph do? He does exactly what any guy would've done. Anybody would've done. He says, okay, let me reason out what I would do. And it's a tough decision because he faced a big dilemma. Because here's what, I would say 99.9% of Jewish men would've done, here's what they would've done. They would've called the whole thing off. They'd said, nope, I'm not doing this. You know what, I don't care what you say, I'm not the dad and I wanna call off this marriage.

You say, well, is that a big deal? Oh, it's a big deal. Because to call off the marriage, he had to go to the priest and let the priest know why he's not marrying this woman. And then he had to go to the public square and call a meeting with everybody in town that wanted to know. And he would publicly tell what happened. He would tell why he was breaking off the engagement. He would basically be calling Mary out as an adulterer. Now at that point, one or two things could happen to Mary. For sure, if he did that, she would be scorned, she would be humiliated, she would be looked down upon for the rest of her life. No guy would marry her. No guy would have her 'cause no guy wanted to marry a girl that was that kind of a girl. And at worst she could be stoned to death because that's what the Jewish law called for.

So, if it wasn't death, which really Mary would've preferred, she was gonna be disgraced for the rest of her life. Oh, it's worse, her family would be humiliated. They wouldn't just make fun of Mary, they wouldn't just look down on Mary. They'll look down on her mother and they'll look down on her father. And so the whole family would have to be shamed. And oh, by the way, all those gifts that that family had gotten, they had to be returned. They had to be given back because she had not kept her part of the bargain. And that's what Joseph was going to do, why? Because we're told here he was faithful to the law. Now, that's a very poor translation, so let me just give you a better translation. That's not what that literally says in the Greek language. It doesn't say he was faithful to the law. That makes him sound like a Pharisee.

Well, I'm just gone by the letter of the law. That's not what it says. What it literally says is, he was a just, righteous man. In other words, he wanted to do the right thing in the right way. So he says, you know what, I'm just going to divorce her quietly. And you say, well, what's wrong with that? Well, this is something I didn't know till I did this study. And it tells you what a great man he is. If Joseph divorces her quietly, the good news for Mary is she's not shamed, she doesn't take the blame. The bad news is Joseph does. 'Cause here's what that means. If Joseph divorces her quietly, he has to go and he has to tell everybody, I'm the one that fathered this child. I took advantage of her. It's not her fault, it's my fault.

And so, even though I know I'm supposed to stay with her, I'm just not going to stay with her. And 'cause everybody would assume that he was the father and he just had a change of heart, so he was basically just going to say, I've just decided I'm not going to marry her. That's all he would really say, but they'd know, oh, you're not gonna marry her even though you have fathered this child, right? You're gonna run out on her and leave her holding the bag. And so, he would be the one that would be considered a dishonorable person, not Mary, but Joseph. Now think about this, he would take the blame even though he was totally innocent. Does anybody see where this is going? Because 33 years later, his son would do exactly that. His son would die on a cross and take the blame for something he didn't do.

We have a saying, "Like father, like son". Not in this case. In this case, it was like son, like father. Joseph could have demanded justice, but instead he gave grace because he was a just man. Now this is why this is so important in the story, is because he was a just man. What does that mean, what does it mean to be just? It means not just you're willing to do the just thing or even the right thing. It means you wanna really do what God wants you to do. So first step is we reason what we should do. That's what he had done. But God knows his heart and God knows he'll do what I want him to do, so look at step two. We reason what we should do, but then God will reveal what we must do. God will reveal what we must do. Let me just stop right here.

This is where I've seen so many people in my ministry make so many bad mistakes. They don't consult God, they don't think about God, they don't go to God's word, they don't consult the Bible, they don't consult the manual for a living. They just kind of do what they think they ought to do and they blow it over and over and over and over and they make mistakes and they mess up because they rely on their reason instead of relying on God's revelation. They reason first and ask questions later. Joseph is about to do what he thought he ought to do. He was about to do what he thought was the best thing he could do. He said, I know what I'm gonna do. I'm just gonna put her away privately.

I want you to teach you a lesson. When you're facing a tough decision, the wrong question is not this, what should I do? What is the thing I should do? When you're facing a very tough question, the real question is not what's the right thing to do? It's not even what is the best thing to do? That's not the right question. The right question is real simple. What is the God thing to do? That's the question, what's the God thing to do? And Joseph said, okay, what is the God thing? I've said this to you many times, I wanna say it again. The only person God will reveal his will to is the person who's committed to do it before he reveals it. And see, he knew Joseph. He said, Joseph's gonna do, I know he will do what I want him to do.

And God always comes through, if you will stop before you make a final decision and say, wait a minute, Lord, this is what I think, this is what other people have said, this seems like the right thing to do, but Lord, what do you want me to do? If you're sincere, God always comes through. He says, okay, you wanna know, I will tell you. So look what happens in verse 20. "But after he had considered this," in other words, after he had thought it through from his point of view, okay, I think this is the best thing I need to do. "But after he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream".

First time, you read about this angel in the Christmas story. You know one of the things about angels they're pretty cool. It is at least one part of the Christmas story that almost everybody believes because it's amazing. There are more people that actually believe in angels than believe in the virgin birth. Latest survey says 77% of Americans believe that angels are real. In fact, there are some people, I've met a few, there are some people who even say they've encountered angels. I've never have, but I heard about a woman one time who was walking down the street and she heard this boy yell out, "Stop, don't take another step". And about that time a brick fell, landed right in front of her. They just, right in front of her. Well she looked around, she didn't see anybody.

So that's, wow, that's strange, so she started walking down the street again and she's about to cross the street. And again this voice cried out, "Stop, don't cross that street". And about that time, an out of control truck van ran a red light right in front of her, would've killed her. She'd walking, you know, taking that step and she was just shaking. So she said out loud, "Who are you"? And the voice came back, "I am your guardian angel". He said, "I imagine you have some questions for me". She said, "Yeah, I have one. Where were you on my wedding day"?

Now, when you hear the word angel, you may think about a wing creature in a robe. You know, holding a trumpet or a sword. That's not what I want you to think about. This is actually a transliteration of the Greek word Anglo. So we just took the Greek word and put English letters in it. It literally means messenger. And what's amazing is in Matthew's gospel, you'll find out that God uses an angel messenger to speak to Joseph through dreams. As a matter of fact, he does it four times. In the first dream, he says, "Hey, Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit". In the second dream, he says, "Joseph, take your family to Egypt to save the family". In the third dream, he says, "Go back to Nazareth". In the fourth dream, he says, "Do not go back to Judea".

So he's talking to, this is not, this is normal for Matthew. This is the first dream. Here's what the angel says to Joseph, verse 20, "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'll give birth to a son, you're to give him the name Jesus. He will save his people from their sins". Now, I'm gonna be very honest with you, okay? I know what the Bible says, but I'm gonna give you a piece of advice. If you ever hear an angel speak to you out loud and that angel says, don't be afraid, you better be afraid. And you say, well, why should I be afraid? Because there's this big possibility that that angel is gonna tell you to do something you don't want to do. There's a big possibility that that angel's gonna tell you something, and it's not exactly what you wanted to hear.

I mean, you know my story. I don't know that it was an angel that spoke to me in that dorm at Texas University when God called me in the ministry. Here's all I do know, I do know when I got on my knees in that dorm room and I told God I'd do what he wanted me to do, I also let God know up front I didn't wanna do it. I've told you that story before. I said, "Lord, I will go into the ministry if that's what you want me to do". I don't want to do it, I've never wanted to do it. It's not why I went to college, it's never been my dream. It's never been my desire, it's never been my ambition, and it's not what I wanted. If it's up to me, me personally, I would not be here today, but God somehow gave me the grace in my heart to be committed to whatever he wanted me to do.

So why did the angel tell Joseph not to be afraid? He wasn't telling him, don't be afraid of me. What he was saying was, "Joseph, I'm about to give you a mission that may seem impossible. As a matter of fact at first, Joseph, you're not going to want to do it, but let me just give you one assurance, the same Holy Spirit that has conceived that baby is the same Holy Spirit that will strengthen you to raise that baby". And Joseph, in his heart said, "Lord, I don't wanna do it, but if that's what you want me to do, I will do it". And by the way, if you don't think that should have kind of shook, shaken Joseph up, I wanna ask you a question. All you men here, would you really want the responsibility of raising the one that created you? Are you really would want that? I'll pass. Would you really want to be the father of the one that when you're saying the blessing, you're actually praying to Him? I'll pass.

I mean you really want to be the father of the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and the one who controls the universe? He said, "Joseph, I'm gonna ask you to raise and nurture the Son of God, the Jewish Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of lords". And there's a great lesson we're gonna learn here. Here's the lesson, when God calls, do two simple things. Whenever God calls, pick up the phone and just say two words. Yes, Lord. Just pick up the phone and say whatever it is, yes, Lord. So here's the point, Joseph's reasoning, what he thought he ought to do had met God's revelation. What he thought was the right thing and the best thing meant the God thing. And when that happens, Joseph faced the same decision you and I face. When we face a very difficult decision, I'm gonna tell you what the decision is.

You think the tough decision is what you need to do about that situation. That's not the tough decision. Here's the tough decision. Am I gonna do what I think I ought to do or what God wants me to do? Am I gonna do what I think is best or what He knows is best? Am I gonna take the easy way out? Because my our way usually is. Am I gonna take the hard way out? And the truth of the matter is if we're going to follow a God and be a disciple of Jesus, you don't do what you feel like you ought to do, or think like you ought to do, or what somebody else tells you what you ought to do. You do what God says to do. So Joseph has to make the decision and he made the right one, which is why we're even talking about him today.

Now watch this, there's one last step we take. If we wanna make sure we're in the center of God's will, we're in his plan, we're under his protection, we're doing exactly what he wants us to do, we reason what we should do. God reveals what we must do. And then here's the last step. We respond to what God says to do. We respond to what God says to do, right? So even though Joseph didn't realize it, he didn't know it, but here's a carpenter and he is about to fulfill a biblical prophecy. Matthew says in verse 22, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet". And see what Joseph didn't know and what we sometimes forget is this, everything was going according to plan. No, Joseph didn't plan it 'cause it wasn't his plan, but everything was going according to plan.

What Joseph didn't realize was he's about to be a big part of that plan. "But Lord, I'm just a carpenter. I don't make a lot of money. I can't give this kid everything I want to give him. He won't be raised in royalty. He will wear hand-me-downs. He won't have the finest things in life". "I get all that, Joseph, just do what I want you to do. Everything is going to plan". Now watch this, this next sentence tells us what a great man Joseph was. Listen to this, verse 24, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and he took Mary home as his wife". Against all logic, against all reason. Even going beyond what the law said he had to do. Even going against what his own father would've told him to do. Even going against what the priest would've told him to do. Even going against what his best buddies would've told him to do.

"Joseph, you have lost your mind. Nobody's gonna believe that story, they'll never believe it". And by the way they didn't because people after that called Jesus an illegitimate son, you know that. They called Joseph what he was in, Mary, what they thought she was. But against all of that, he said, "Nope, I'm gonna go get all that. I'm going to become the adoptive stepfather of Jesus". And you see, a big part of the Christmas story that we miss is the willingness of one man to raise their child who was not his. Knowing he'd be ridiculed, knowing he would be shame, but he did it anyway. And he only did it for one reason, 'cause that's what God told him to do. And he was such a great man, he said, "Yes, Lord". And make no mistake, I'm gonna say it again. It would be no easy task on any front. I mean, look, at best things are about to get very messy in Nazareth.

Now here's the good news. Yep, Mary's gonna give birth to the Son of God, the savior of the world. She's about to be the most blessed of all women. You know, all that's great, all that's wonderful. But becoming her husband under those circumstances, marrying her just the same, that would be an ask greater than most men would ever answer, 'cause let's go back in time. They are going to live in Nazareth. Think Mayberry, everybody knows everybody. What is said in Nazareth doesn't stay in Nazareth. Everybody knows your business and you know everybody else's business. Everybody knew everybody and every think about everybody. And nobody else had ever received a visit from an angel. Nobody else, an angel didn't go to every door in Nazareth and say, now you leave this couple alone. You treat them with respect because this is the real story. They don't, nobody else got a visit from any angel at all.

And so for all of his life, until Joseph died, until Jesus died, the story was this. Joseph got that girl pregnant and we know what that makes him and we know what that makes her. And this kid was born out of wedlock and he is an illegitimate child. That was always going to be the story because according to rabbinical law, Joseph could only divorce Mary if the child was not his. So by the fact that Joseph married Mary, he was making the implicit assumption and confession, this is my child. And to take Mary back to his house was admitting I'm the dad. So the scandal wouldn't really be on Mary, the scandal would be on Joseph. Now if you don't think this was a great man, let me show you something I'd never noticed before. Watch this, verse 25. "But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son and he gave him the name Jesus".

Now watch this, this is so awesome. He doesn't just go ahead and marry this girl who is pregnant with a child that is not his child. Even though at that time they went ahead and they got married and he had every right to have sexual relations with her, he refrained. Why would he do that? Because he wanted her to maintain her virginity until that baby was born. Nobody knew that. His parents didn't know it, neighbors didn't know it, nobody knew it. Mary knew it, God knew it, Joseph knew it. Unbelievable, I mean, you talk about a hero. You talk about an unsung hero. You talk about an unbelievable unsung hero. Joseph never served a word with his lips, but you're gonna find out today in the next two weeks, he spoke volumes with his life. He was a just man. He wanted to do the right thing, he wanted to do it the right way. And Joseph learned something I want to teach you today. This will be worth coming to church for.

If you're a parent, teach this to your kids. If you're a grandparent, teach it to your grandchildren. Here's the lesson, being righteous is more than just doing the right thing, it's being the right person. Anybody can do the right thing. Anybody can fake it, but it's being the right person. And at the end of the day, the only way to be righteous, now there's only one way, to be righteous, do what is right in the sight of God. And how do you do that? You just stay faithful no matter what. You just stay faithful. Joseph was chosen by God. God knew he is a faithful, just man.

So I wanna close with this. If you're a Marine, you know this. The Marines have a reputation for how they train their soldiers. And when you first go to bootcamp, you get in food line and they give you a tray, but they don't just give you a tray, they tell you how they want you to hold that tray. So you're to hold that tray in a certain position. You have your right hand on the bottom corner, you have your left hand on the top corner, and you always hold that against your chest. If you don't hold that tray that way, every time you go eat, you won't just be verbally chastised, you'll be ordered to do pushups, you'll be given demerits. I mean you really, really, really get chewed out. You've got to hold your tray the same way every single day. And Marines gripe about it and they complain about it until the day they're issued a weapon.

And how do you think they're supposed to hold their weapon? The same way they hold that tray. And what they're being taught from the time they walk into that place to become a marine is do the little things and then you'll be ready to do the big things. What you think's a small thing in a cafe, in a mess hall, can one day save your life if you'll just stay faithful, which no wonder the motto of the Marines is simplify, "Always faithful". So let me just close with this, just like Joseph, every day, you know what God does for us? He puts a tray in our hands and He's asking us this question. So James, how you gonna hold the tray? You gonna be flippant about it, nonchalant? You gonna hold it the way you wanna hold it? Are you gonna hold it the way I want you to hold it?

I know it seems like a small thing. I know it seems like a little thing, but James, if you'll be faithful in small things, you'll be faithful in the big things. And let me tell you what that means, no matter what I tell you to do, no matter how big or small it may seem, no matter how easy or difficult it may look, no matter how much it may cost you, you stay faithful. And one day, people will talk of you, about you the same way we talk about maybe the greatest unsung hero in the Bible who didn't do the right thing, or just the best thing, he did the God thing.

Now let me just close this and tell you how this relates to all of us today. It works the same way in being saved, in being forgiven, in having an eternal life, and have a relationship with God, so what do you mean? Do you know how the world does this? You know how the average person in the world thinks they pull off a relationship with God? They do what they think is right and here's what they think is right. Well, I, yeah, I know what I... I've got to be good, I got to be real good, I got to be very good. And I hope, hope, I hope, I hope, fingers crossed, I hope what I die, I will be good enough that God will let me in.

Seems right, seems like the American way. You get what you earn, you get what you pay for. Seems right, but it's not only not the right thing, it's not the God thing. 'Cause the God thing is not, you got to be good enough for me, that's not the God thing. The God thing is you'll never be good enough for me, but you don't have to be because my Son was good enough for you. And having a relationship with me is not what you do for me. It's accepting what He did for you when He died on a cross and came back from the grave.

So would you bow your heads and close your eyes for just a moment? If you're watching online right now, or you are in this building and you've never ever given your life to Jesus, you have never trusted Christ as your savior and as your Lord, you've never held the tray the right way, would you wanna do that today? Would you like to ask Christ to come into your heart? Would you like to be saved, give your life to him? Say, yes, that's me. I need to make a decision. I wanna know I'm right with God. Joseph is in the Bible, Joseph is in heaven. Joseph we're talking about today because he was committed to be faithful to God. And all you got to do is say something like this:

Lord Jesus, you took from me what I deserved. You took the blame. You took my sins. You died from me. God raised you from the dead. I believe you're alive right now. Lord Jesus, come into my heart, save me, forgive me. I commit my life to you. I trust you as my savior. I receive you as my Lord. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for saving me today.

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