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"The grace of God"

Summary of sermon by Erlo Stegen, 30 Aug 2015

Luke 1:57-80

"57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."

61 They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.

65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord’s hand was with him.

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.

69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[d]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel."

The name John means "God’s grace". He was conceived uniquely. Zacharias and Elizabeth were already old. She was past child-bearing age. They were a righteous couple for the Bible says they were "just". But they had no children. When God sent His angel Gabriel to tell Zacharias that his wife will bear a son, he couldn’t understand how it would be possible and he didn’t believe it. He sinned in his unbelief, saying to the angel, "how can it be?" It was God speaking to him, but he couldn’t accept it. God doesn’t make a mistake. God can do anything.

It is tragic when someone who is known to be righteous, someone you can count on, get confused spiritually.

This unbelief of Zacharias was a great sin. God struck him right there so that he could no longer speak.

God is a God of love and grace, but if you do not believe Him and go against Him you call Him a liar and we will be punished. He does it because you are His child, just like an earthly father disciplines his child if it does wrong. If you sin and nothing happens, it shows that you’re an illegitimate child, and not a true child of God. Don’t doubt God. If you doubt Him you make Him out to be a liar. Don’t take it lightly when God speaks.

When you doubt God you lose out. His grace is more than enough but you will stay in your confusion until you bend your will to His.

There is the story told of some travellers from Europe to America. This particular family had saved up for their tickets. The mother had baked many rusks for the journey. After a while one of the sons begged his father for a little money saying: "I'm so tired of the rusks; may I please go and buy something. The father gave him a crown and the boy went to the shop on board. After a long while he returned happy and his tummy full. His father asked how such a little money could so far. The boy exclaimed: When I wanted to pay for it I was told everything is free. The food is included in our tickets!". God's grace is all inclusive. Don't make yourself suffer!

Zacharias obviously shared his experience with his wife Elizabeth. There was peace and harmony between them. They were an exemplary couple. We don’t hear that she complained that she was too old. When the child was delivered, on the eighth day he was circumcised, and all the neighbours came together. From this we also see the good relationship they had with their neighbours. They had indeed received grace from God above. Their lives displayed God’s grace.

When the child was circumcised, they gave him the name John. The people were surprised for there was no one with that name in their family. God’s way is not our way. He does things in His own way. When they asked the father, Zacharias, he wrote down that his name is indeed John, and everyone was amazed. At that moment God’s grace was revealed and Zachariah's tongue was loosed again and he could speak.

What does it teach us? We should not listen to what people say, but to what God says. Even if they disagree now, if you go God’s way, He will fight for you, and you will be vindicated. Even if people say, "how is such a thing possible?", later they will have to acknowledge that it was God’s working. This is a great lesson for us, that Zacharias doubted, but in the end God’s grace was revealed as he believed God.

In the last verse we read that the child grew and became strong in spirit. God’s power was manifested through him. It often happens that the youngest child in a family is spoilt. John was not only the youngest, but the only child. But he grew up and became strong in spirit. His parents didn’t spoil him. He grew up in a difficult way. He wore clothes of camel’s hair, which is very coarse. His food was honey which he got out himself, and locusts. He became a real man. When his king lived in adultery, he confronted him and told him that it was wrong what he was doing. It cost him his life and he lost his head for it, but he spoke God’s truth without wavering.

How do you bring up your children? Do you spoil them to their destruction or train them in God’s way like John’s parents did so that they grow up and become strong in spirit? We don’t read once that John spoke idle words. What do your children speak about? Is God’s grace manifested in their lives?








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