Are you like most Bible readers who skim past the genealogies? Sometimes we call them "the begots." Here at Christmas, the genealogies of Jesus give us insights. Matthew 1:6, in tracing Jesus's legal lineage, makes this point: "David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah." Those familiar with the Old Testament know the story well. Have you ever heard Jesus' family called "the holy family?" Go back a bit more, and you find that His ancestors weren't all that holy. David was king of Israel, and at a time when kings should have been at the battlefront, David was on the roof of his palace. He happened to see a woman named Bathsheba bathing, and in his lust over her, he committed adultery with her. Not only that, he also had her husband Uriah essentially executed by ordering him into a certain-death frontline situation. The sin would be found out, though, because Bathsheba became pregnant. That child perished, but a future child of the couple was named Solomon. This child became king and - get this - part of Messiah's lineage.
We've heard Romans 8:28 many times. We have it on paperweights, greeting cards, bumper stickers, and more. What God did in the birth of Christ, though, is an example of His Romans 8:28 ability. God endorsed neither David's murder of Uriah, nor his adulterous union with Bathsheba. But He did work David's tragic mess together for good - to bring us Christ.
The message is clear and powerful. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom. 5:20). That's what Christmas is all about. God is so wise, magnificent and gracious that He took a situation as shattered and horrific as what we created through sin and brought out of it the spotless Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Glory to God in the Highest!
I recently shared this devotional with the men of Grace Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC where I serve as pastor.
Probably all of us know of several examples where guys grew up working so hard to gain their father's approval. But no matter how hard they tried, they can never remember a time when Dad said, "I'm proud of you, son," or "Good job." As far as they can tell, they never gained their dad's approval. That may even be your own story. We understand that this reality can have a devastating impact on a young man with ripple effects that last years.
The Bible makes clear that we have a heavenly Father. Gaining His approval is all that truly matters. If we have His approval, it does not matter who else may approve of us. He is #1. And He makes very clear how we can meet with His approval.
Jesus told the story of a man who left town for awhile. Before he left, he gave three of his workers some measure of responsibility. Two of the three multiplied the value of their responsibility while he was away. When he returned, he said to each of those two, "Well done, good and faithful servant." As Christians, we strive to live our lives in such a way that, when we go home to heaven, we hear those words of affirmation from our heavenly Father - "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Here's the thing, though. Jesus taught us that there is none good but God. No one is faithful like God either. So, how can we get to a point where the one who alone is good labels us "good and faithful?"
This is the life of grace. In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul tells of a thorn in the flesh that was given to him lest he should become boastful. Three times he asked God to remove this thorn from him, and three times God said no. Instead of removing the thorn, God said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." We understand that the word "perfect" here is interchangeable with the idea of being "made complete." If I am trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, I am not experiencing the fullness of God's grace and strength that is available to me. He must increase; I must decrease.
My strength to be good will quickly dissipate. My strength to be faithful will run out just as quickly. For me to hear my heavenly Father say "Well done, good and faithful servant," one day, I must give up operating in my own strength and surrender control to Him. Then He works out His own goodness through me, His own faithfulness through me, and works toward making me holy, good, and faithful as He is holy, good, and faithful. The sooner I come to the end of my self, the sooner I will see the strength of God made perfect in my own weakness. And when that happens, I will hear my Father say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."