The Christian Response
What is it like to be a Christian and to have God as a living reality in your life? Some of you may well be asking yourself just this sort of question. Others of you have already become Christians but have perhaps settled down into a lifestyle that is so similar to that of the average man-
The example Mary has left should be a help to us all is seeing what kind of response is fitting for a person into whose life God comes
Mary's life had just been turned upside down. One moment she was just a young girl who was engaged to be married. She lived in the backwoods of northern Israel and was probably looking forward to the ordinary life of a married woman in those parts.
But all that had changed – yes, she was still engaged to be married but life would never now be what she had always thought it would be. You see the angel Gabriel had come from God with a special message for her and it was all about the role she had been chosen to fulfil in God's plan of salvation. She, Mary a virgin from Nazareth, was to be the mother of the Messiah. And she was now pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God had come into her life and his coming brought about radical changes. He hadn't forced his way in because Mary was willing to serve God however he might chose and she said as much:
Lk.1:38 "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
And this meant that life would never ever be the same again for Mary.
You see that's simply the way it is when a person responds to God's call and welcomes him into their lives. Of course it may not be as dramatic as it was in Mary's case but whenever God comes his coming involves change. When God comes it's our priorities that will be altered; it's our hopes and dreams for the future that will have to be reshaped.
A person becomes a Christian by responding to God in the way Mary did all those years ago – we come to recognise that it is he who sets the agenda in our lives, that it is he who determines the "terms and conditions" of our discipleship. Our lives will no longer be our own to direct however we might chose but from now on they will belong to him.
Now this can be a worrying prospect for some but, remember, after all this is God we are talking about. When the One True Living God is welcomed into the life of a human being it will always be to the ultimate profit of that person – but in coming he does not promise us an easy ride floating, six inches as it were, above all the problems of life that affect others.
When God came to Mary he integrated her into his plans – do you get that? All too often we act as though God comes to us so that we can integrate him into our plans and somehow use him to better our lives.
This is the way the unbeliever thinks. Have you never heard someone dismiss religion as providing a crutch for those who need it? That is because they have a completely wrong self-
Mary reacted in a very positive way to God coming into her life in such a dramatic life changing manner. We have already considered her submissiveness to the divine will but we must imagine it to have been grudging, rather it was shot full of joy and praise. This morning we are focussing our thoughts upon that reaction as we consider what has come to be known in Christian history as "the Magnificat".
Well the word is taken from the first line of Mary's song where she declares:
v.46 "My soul magnifies the Lord."
We're used to the idea of using a magnifying glass aren't we? It helps us read small print – a magnifying glass makes that print appear larger than it is. But that is not what is meant when Mary says that her soul magnifies the Lord! She is not trying to make a small God look bigger than he really is but she is praising him highly and extolling his greatness.
Mary's response to God/Jesus coming into her life is to sing song of praise as she responds wholeheartedly and genuinely to God.
Part One vv.46-
How taken up with Jesus are you?
Mary begins by singing about God's greatness and reflects on how he has entered into relationship with her and how he has dealt with her on a personal level – did you notice that? In the opening verses of her song vv.46-
This is how Mary thinks of God:
He is the Lord v.47 – that is he is the Master and the Sovereign of the entire universe. He made all that there is and continues to rule over all that he has made. He is a great God indeed.
Is this how you think of God? As the NT unfolds we discover that all this is true of Jesus Christ – how taken up with Jesus are you?
The problem we have is that all too often our understanding of God and of Jesus is far too small. Jesus is so great and majestic that he needs no puffing up at all – it is our understanding that needs to be deepened and enlarged.
Stars – 1 trillion+ each – to count at the rate of 1 a second would take more than 30,000 years without a break. And the Bible describing God creation of all that there is simply adds "and the stars" Gen.1:18. How can such a God ever need puffing up? Our problem is to try to get our finite heads round such greatness!
He is her Saviour v.47 – and she rejoices in this fact. Mary had been highly favoured by God by being called to be the mother of the Messiah but she knows that she has done nothing to merit such a blessing. She doesn't pat herself on the back pleased that God had recognised her intrinsic worth instead she recognises that she is utterly unworthy and in need of salvation herself.
Far from imagining that she has deserved the blessings she has received Mary is amazed that he has looked on her humble estate as a mere servant and that he should have worked so greatly in her favour!
Is God your Saviour?
Have you recognised that you need to be saved as Mary saw her own need? Or are you still trying to cling onto some notion that you're good enough for God as you are? Sinners are the people who need saving – Mary knew that and didn't hesitate to call God her Saviour – have you come to see that you are a sinner and gone to God for salvation? If you have then you too should be rejoicing just as Mary did. If you haven't done this yet then repent and believe today! God the Father has sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the World.
He is mighty v.49 – he is the Mighty One. Mary has already thought about God as the sovereign ruler, the One who has all the necessary authority to rule over all he has made. Now she thinks about the power he has to carry out that rule in any way he pleases. It is the Lord, the Mighty One who had become her Saviour and he has done so by doing great things for her!
How often men and women think about religion as though there was nothing more to it than us doing things for God! Now it is true that the Christian faith involves us in living to the glory of God and putting him first in our lives but that is only made possible because God has first of all done great things for us.
It is one thing to acknowledge that God is mighty but it is something altogether different to acknowledge that he has done great things for us. In Mary's case she was thinking of the terrific honour bestowed on her to become the mother of the Messiah although she saw herself as unworthy of such honour. In our case what honour has been bestowed on us? What great thing has he done for us?
Let me tell you some of the things that he has done for every Christian believer:
He has sent his son to die for us and so to save us from the guilt, penalty, power and pollution of our sin!
Not only that but he has called us friends rather than servants/slaves.
More than that, he has given us the right to become sons of God.
More than that, he has pledged to transform us to even be like the Lord Jesus himself.
And we could go on and on.
These blessings are really very great things indeed and we should remind ourselves of that fact often lest we take them for granted and become blasé about them or simply ignore them.
My friend, can you say this morning that he has done these great things for you? Even this morning he is doing great things for you, you are hearing him speak to you calling you to put your faith and trust in him – what a mercy that is! Will you not respond to him today?
Before moving on I want to say something more about the great things God had done for Mary and for the blessings bestowed. God's blessing was real but was far from being pain free. God's coming to Mary did not guarantee her a life without troubles and indeed his intervention in her life led directly to difficulties to which she would have remained a stranger had he not come.
Let me explain to you what I mean: from now on and throughout her life Mary would hear snide comments about her purity as folk whispered she'd conceived out of wedlock. In just a few months time news of her baby's birth as a King would reach the palace and Herod would try to kill the child – this resulted in Mary having to flee away as a refugee to Egypt leaving behind all she'd known up to that point. She would have the anguish too of seeing her son hated and despised and crucified – her own soul would be pierced as she saw all this.
The way forward for Mary would not be easy and it may not be for you either – but Mary's God was mighty and he was her Saviour and he would enable her to stand through it all. He will be able to make you to stand too – he will never abandon his own!
But don't buy into the false idea that if you become a Christian that life will become a bed of roses for you here on earth – nowhere does he promise you that but he does promise his presence come what may!
He is holy v.49 – Mary celebrated God as being utterly different from anyone or anything else. She recognised that He was set apart in a category of One – he is the One True Living God and it is before such a God that we all must appear. Each of us will have to give an account to him for the way in which we have lived; we will have to give an account for the way in which we have heeded or refused to heed his offers of mercy. His holiness includes a moral perfection that resolutely refuses to wink at sin. If we want to understand just how unflinching his hostility towards sin really is then all we need to do is to consider how he did not hesitate to crush his unique son when Jesus took our sin upon his shoulders in our place. If he treated his son so seriously can we really imagine he will be more lenient towards us?
He will accept us if our sin has been paid for by Christ and we are found sheltering in Jesus united to him by faith but we will be forever lost if we try to appear in his holy presence still carrying your sin. We must be reconciled to God!
Part Two vv.50-
As Mary moves from the first part of her song into the second her emphasis shifts but she is still caught up with God. The Lord is not only interested in her but he relates to others too and so Mary speaks in more general terms about this and so in vv.50-
Mary recognises that the Lord deals to people differently according to their attitudes etc. In other words men and women are responsible for the way in which they relate to God.
On the one hand, his mercy is for those who fear him; he lifts up those of a lowly or humble condition; he fills the hungry with good things; he has helped his people Israel remembering to be merciful to them; he kept his promises to his people.
These are the people who are aware of the difference there is between themselves and God. They realise that he is greater than they and that by relying upon their own resources they will never be able to attain to his standards. They are not puffed up with their own importance and their own abilities – how can they be self-
These are people who know that God has met the need of others just like them in the past and so look to him to meet them in their need just as he has promised to do.
Are you one of these people?
Or do you currently belong to the other group of people to which Mary refers in her song?
This other group is so different. They are proud; proud of who they are and proud of what they think they can do. They see themselves as being rich and in need of nothing – how self-
And yet, Mary sings, the God she worships doesn't pander to the pretensions of this group, he isn't impressed by their protestations of being "good enough for God". No, Mary's God he scatters the proud, he brings the mighty down and he sends the rich away empty.
So there we have it – Mary's example is so eloquent:
If you become a Christian this is the type of life that you will be entering into ! Come to Jesus Christ and live!
If you are already a Christian then this is how you ought to be living your life. It is not always easy to keep the focus and if you have slipped then now is the time to put matters right. Refocus your thinking – stop putting yourself at the centre of everything and let Jesus Christ occupy the place that is his by right – after all, "in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" and let us confess that "he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".