The Good News - Home
Born Unto Adversity
By David A. DePra
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shall conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, how shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:30-38)Have you ever assumed that if you are in Godís will that it will spare you trouble? Most Christian people think that way. We think that if we are in Godís will that He will bless us and keep us from trouble. We also think that if we are out of Godís will that it will always show in our lives in the form of trouble. But the Bible never teaches this. The Bible does teach that obedience to God will keep us from unnecessary trouble Ė trouble that will happen because we sin. But the Bible also teaches that if you are in the will of God, and have Christ in you, that this alone GUARANTEES YOU TROUBLE. It is the necessary and inevitable trouble which arises from being in Godís will when nothing else is.
Mary and Joseph were going to discover this fact. They would be chosen for a purpose unlike any other. But rather than result in nothing but blessings, it carried much trouble Ė trouble that they would have otherwise never experienced.
The Virgin Birth
On the night of the historic annunciation, the angel of the Lord made it clear to Mary that she had been chosen of God to be the mother of HIS SON. "He shall be called THE SON OF THE HIGHEST," is what she was told. Add to that all of the Messianic references given to her by the angel, and there could be no mistake. Maryís child would be the Son of God.
What an incredible thing this must have been to Mary! And if you read the account, you will note that Mary was not in doubt that this meant she would give birth to the child while remaining a virgin. She asked, "How shall this be, since I have never been with a man?" Mary was not left to assume, while the child would be great, that He was to merely be the product of her marriage with Joseph. No. She knew exactly what God was saying through the angel. He would be Godís Son, miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The virgin birth is an essential Christian Truth because if Jesus wasnít born of a virgin, then He had two parents. That would mean that He wasnít God Ė for it would mean that He had not existed BEFORE being born. It would also mean that you donít have a person Ė God Incarnate -- who could have lived a sinless life, but instead, was a sinner like the rest of us. Thus, He would not have been the Lamb without blemish, able to bear the sin of the world. So you see, the virgin birth speaks directly to everything else about Jesus.
The virgin birth tells us WHO Jesus is. It is just that important. This Truth carries the identity of Jesus Christ. And why not? Itís His birth, isnít it? It ought to tell us WHO HE IS.
The Bible reveals that, "the Word BECAME flesh." Jesus was not born OF this world. He was born INTO this world from the outside. Deny the virgin birth and the rest of Christianity falls, because you no longer have God Incarnate. You make Jesus a liar, have a Bible that lies, and no possible way in which Jesus could be the Savior. Make no question, deny the virgin birth and you are denying Jesus. Doing so is heresy.
That night, when the angel spoke to Mary, he told her Godís will and intentions, and she said YES. "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." She said yes to God, and THEN she conceived. Despite the fact that God can do as He pleases, He has limited Himself to the power of our free choice.
When you say YES to one thing, you are, by default, saying NO to other options. When Mary said YES to God that night, she was relinquishing her right to herself Ė to her life as she expected it to be. It is certain that she and Joseph had all kinds of plans for their life together, along with a big family. When Mary said YES to God that night, her life no longer belonged to her. It was set on a course from which there could be no return.
It is like this when we are saved. We say YES to God. But really, you cannot say YES to God unless you are saying NO to your old life. There is no salvation unless we come to the Cross and relinquish the old life. All of that is carried in saying YES to Jesus.
Salvation is never merely a matter of acknowledging Jesus as Savior, and then deciding to follow His teachings. No. Salvation is NEW LIFE. This, to be saved, you must first renounce the old life which was wrong with God. You must surrender to the Cross of Christ that old life. THEN, and only then, is there newness of life. God never takes our old man in Adam and molds him into a saint. There are NO happy endings for Adam. Adam must die in Christ, through the Cross. Then you have NEWNESS of life Ė not a revamp of the old life.
Mary didnít go to the Cross that night in the same way. But she did something which stands as a spiritual type of that. She said YES to God Ė and therefore NO to everything about herself. It is for sure that, at this point, Mary could not have imagined what all of this was going to be about. But she didnít need to know all the details, anymore than we do, in order to surrender to Christ. She simply saw that God wanted her life, and she gave it to Him.
The Trouble Starts
We cannot blame Joseph for doubting Maryís story about her pregnancy. I mean, would you have believed her?
There were other issues, too. Joseph was given the dream by God, and on the basis of that revelation, he believed Mary, and went ahead with the marriage. But think about this. Joseph now knew the Truth. But how about everyone else? Everyone knew that Mary was pregnant. Normally, if the future groom were to discover this, he would break the engagement, as Joseph initially considered doing. But now Joseph was going ahead with the marriage. This would naturally lead everyone to assume that Joseph was the father of Maryís baby. Why else would he go ahead and marry her?
What you had here were two people who knew something no one else knew, or were likely to believe if they were told. This was a scandal. Especially in those days, this would have affected their life in the synagogue, and really, in every way. To be used of God in this way certainly resulted in Mary and Joseph being looked upon as those who had sinned. What could they say to defend themselves? Nothing.
The gospel accounts of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, as well as what happened in the aftermath, were probably given to the apostles by Mary. After all, she was the only one in the room when the angel came, wasnít she? One thing is for sure, even though Joseph knew that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and was a miracle, no one knew it like Mary. She knew it in a way that no one else could know it.
You see, during the worse times in those early experiences, and then later, through the ministry of Jesus, there were many who doubted Jesus. They doubted His claims about Himself. They called Him every name under the sun, including a false prophet, and the devil himself. But despite the fact that Mary did not fully understand, at first, what she would later understand about Jesus, she never doubted God was in this thing. Why? Because she knew as no one else could know where Jesus came from. She knew He was not born OF this world, but had been born INTO this world. She knew He was not the product of human reproduction. She knew there had been NO LIFE in her one moment, and then LIFE there the next Ė and it had been a miracle of God.
The Witness of God
Incredibly, the Bible tells us that this is the same reason we should not doubt Jesus: His life within us. There is factual historical evidence that is there about Jesus for anyone to see who wishes to see. That is great. But in the end, our faith is not based on that. Neither is our faith based on the ability to logically reason things out to the conclusion that Jesus is God. Again, that is possible to do, and a wonderful tool Ė but does not form the basis of our faith. Our faith is not based on an intellectual understanding of the Bible. Reciting theology or Bible verse is fine, but it isnít necessarily faith. Our faith is in THE PERSON Ė Jesus Christ. And according to God, He is IN US. THAT IS THE GREATEST EVIDENCE OF ALL.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the witness that God hath given to us, eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:9-12)
"The witness of man," is a matter of hearing what men testify to as the Truth. That is NOT worthless. We have the witness, for instance, of the apostles to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have other historical witness to the existence of Jesus, including about forty sources outside of the Bible. But John says, "The witness of man is good, but we have the witness of God, which is GREATER." And what does John say is this, "witness of God?" Just read it. He says, "And this IS the witness that God hath given to us, eternal life, and this life is in his Son." John also tells us where we find this witness: "He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself." This then, is THE witness of God. Christ Himself IN US. Just like Mary.
If we believe John, the witness of God isnít the Bible. No, the Bible tells us about the witness of God. Neither is the witness of God, for you, my testimony. Rather, the witness of God to you is CHRIST IN YOU. It is the PERSON Ė the life you have in you; the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told His disciples, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. " (Acts 1:8) They were to BECOME witnesses as the result of RECEIVING the Holy Spirit Ė as the result of receiving THE WITNESS. You can only BE a witness of you have HIM Ė THE witness. Revelation affirms this by saying, "Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witnessÖ." (Rev 1:5)
Now letís ask: If Christ in us is to be THE witness to us of the Truth, then how possible is it to have Christ in us and not know it? It is not possible, IF Christ is the witness. A witness is someone who makes Himself known, right? Making yourself heard, seen, and noticed is what a witness DOES! Thus, we see that the Christianity of the Bible is not found only in doctrines, teachings, church life, and religion. It really is, "CHRIST IN US."
The only kind of Christian experience the Bible knows about is one which turns your world right side up! That is because the Christianity of the Bible is one which is entered by coming to the Cross as a desperate sinner, and emerging with the life of Christ in you. You are NOT THE SAME. You have a new reason for living. Your perspective is changed. Sure, it is progressive, and not all at once. But if, "Christ in us," is the, "witness of God," it is certain that it is a big one, a noticeable one, and one which is greater than any other witness.
According to the Bible, Christ is supposed to be as real to us as He was to Mary. Paul said, for instance, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed IN YOU." (Gal 4:19) He also said, "But when it pleased GodÖto reveal his Son IN ME." (Gal 1:15-16) He likewise told us, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed IN US."(Rom 8:18) Again Ė not merely teachings ABOUT Christ, as good as those are. But the PERSON Ė Christ in us.
There comes a time in the Christian experience when Christ is revealed in you. I think that maybe the analogy of Mary is a good one. At first, "Christ in you," doesnít show too much. You arenít too far along in the pregnancy. But later, if you walk by faith, things do begin to show. You may have your ups and downs. You may not understand everything about Christ with your brain. But you cannot deny that Christ in being formed in you. And you cannot deny that it is of God. There IS life there Ė HIS life. And in time, there is a PERSON.
When Paul told the Galatians that he was in travail until Christ be formed in them, he was talking to those who were ALREADY SAVED. You will never find Paul once questioning the salvation of those to whom he writes the epistle of the Galatians. But instead of being devoted to the PERSON of Christ, the Galatians had fallen from grace, and become devoted to their works FOR Christ, and focused upon the means by which they could be made righteous. Paul was trying to bring them back to the reality that Christ was a PERSON Ė not a doctrine or a religion. Christ is God Ė and was IN THEM.
Of course anyone can doubt this, and say that, "Christ in you," is just your imagination. They can say that it is all subjective, and that you are a fanatic. Perhaps they might even say that you invented Him as an excuse for yourself Ė because you are otherwise too weak to cope with life. You hear that a lot today.
It is an interesting thing about God that He never seems the least bit interested, in this age, of vindicating Himself to people, or even interested in vindicating his saints. Nope. He just lays the Truth out there, and offers it. And if skeptics ridicule Him, or His people, He lets them. He doesnít usually punish them, or make any effort to, "show them a thing or two." This has been going on from the beginning. Satan in the garden of Eden said, "Hath God saidÖ.?" And God let him. We find the same attitude in the book of Job from Satan, and throughout the Old Testament from those who thought they knew better than God.
In the New Testament, this continues. Men mock the reality of Jesus Christ, and God never storms down from heaven to prove them wrong Ė in the way that we might think He should. For instance, the Pharisees dared Jesus to come down from the Cross to prove Himself. He didnít. But Jesus did prove Himself by coming up from the grave. Yet even then, He didnít walk into Jerusalem and show Himself to those who had mocked Him. God just let all of it go. He doesnít make any attempt to prove to people, in living color, what they refused to believe in black and white. I suspect this is His mercy in this age Ė it spares them an immediate condemnation.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation unto those WHO BELIEVE. And only those who believe. And the god of this world blinds those who BELIEVE NOT. Whether we believe or not is not determined ONLY by evidence. The evidence or witness to the Truth is THERE Ė and has been since the beginning. Whether we believe is determined by whether we intend to surrender to the evidence. The evidence, or witness, according to God, is ultimately a PERSON Ė Jesus Christ.
God is in the business, in this age, of revealing JESUS CHRIST to people. HE is the witness and evidence. Only God knows whether a person who speaks against Christ does so because he has seen Christ and refused Him. But the evidence, according to God, that a person has seen Christ and embraced Him is found Ė in the final analysis Ė in the person. Christ is in them. The witness of God is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) This certainly was the evidence Mary could not deny. Doubt as she might have otherwise, there was still the child in her. And she knew He was Godís Son.
Mary became with child at quite an inopportune time. A census was proclaimed, and she and Joseph had to go down to Bethlehem, right at the time she was due to give birth. Add to that the fact that Mary had just been down that way to visit Elizabeth, six months earlier, and you get the picture. You can almost hear Mary and Joseph saying to God, "This is your son that is going to be born. Why couldnít You have arranged things a little better? This is really going to be hard on us."
It didnít get any better once they arrived at Bethlehem. No room anywhere. Mary was nine months pregnant with the Son of God, had just made a long journey on a donkey, through the wilderness to Bethlehem, was likely spent, and there as NOTHING there for them. Where was God? Is this child His Son or not? Couldnít God have seen to it that there was at least ONE room available?
Mary could have looked at circumstances and reasoned that God was not with her. She could have said to herself, "Maybe this is all my imagination. Maybe there was really no angel who came to me, and no promise that I would be the mother of the Savior. Maybe it was all a dream." She could have looked around her and reasoned that everything she and Joseph were experiencing proved that God was not in this. But wait. Every time Mary was tempted to doubt, she needed only to look down Ė to look unto Jesus. There WAS a child within her. There WAS life there Ė life that had no been produced by human means. So, despite all the circumstances which seemed to prove God was not with them, there was a life within her which proved God was with them.
Again -- the proof of Christianity is LIFE Ė His life in us. The proof of Christianity Ė or of the faithfulness of God Ė is not circumstances. Ever.
Now, it is human reasoning that suggests that if the life of Christ is within us that this should mean that we ought to be spared trouble. Indeed, the life of Christ within in often guarantees trouble Ė rather than spare us trouble.
It is so easy to assume that when circumstances are going well, that God must be with us. And when they are not going well, then it is easy to reason that God must not be with us, or that perhaps that He is even against us. But there is no such teaching as that in the Bible. While it is true that if you are out of Godís will that you will meet unnecessary trouble, it is nevertheless true that if you are in Godís will that you will meet much necessary trouble. Itís just that the trouble you encounter in Godís will is trouble BECAUSE you have the life of Christ within. Itís not trouble because you donít. And that changes everything.
Mary and Joseph encountered much trouble BECAUSE of the child within Mary. They would have not faced these things otherwise. And yet they were completely WITHIN Godís will. And despite the trouble and the trauma, God got His way. The child WAS born, and WAS safe.
We need to get this straight or circumstances will govern us. We should never let circumstances our relationship to God. Instead, we should allow our relationship to God determine our reaction to them. For at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, there is either life in us or there isnít. Circumstances did not create that life, and circumstances cannot kill that life. But we can decide whether to react or choose in a way that can affect that life. Will we believe God, or believe our interpretation of the facts?
The Certainty of Warfare
Warfare, conflict, and trouble are certainties for a Christian. This is not because God sat down one day and said, "Letís see. I want to invent a religion. But I donít want to make it too easy. I guess Iíll require warfare and trouble. Then Iíll really see who wants to follow Me." No. God didnít invent this stuff. Warfare and trouble are results of reality. They come about because of the nature of things. Through the sin of Adam, everything was lost. Through Christ, everything was redeemed. The working out of this results in warfare.
Warfare and conflict are the inevitable results of what happens when realms clash Ė when the kingdom of God invades the kingdom of darkness. But that isnít simply happening, "out here." It is happening IN US Ė if we have been born again. If you have the life of Christ in you, you are in conflict. Not maybe. You are. You have a life within you that is contrary to everything that has to do with Adam Ė with what you are as a natural man. Therefore, warfare for you is NORMAL. Indeed, if you think you are a Christian, and never have warfare, or a trial of faith, Iíd worry. This isnít normal. Itís ABNORMAL.
Since Adam sinned, and things fell into another realm, God has been in the process of RECOVERING what was lost. He is doing this through Jesus Christ. He is doing it IN HIS PEOPLE. In YOU. But God wonít do this against your will. Therefore, as the invasion of God, and the invasion of Truth, continues IN YOU, you have to decide which side you will be on. That is, in the final analysis, the choice, isnít it? You have to side with God, or side with that part of you that belongs to the self-life or flesh. Usually this is where the choice is, and where the battlefield resides.
The trial of faith has to do with our faith IN GOD being questioned, contradicted, challenged, and opposed. With what? Circumstances, but as we said, by our reaction and interpretation of those circumstances. Basically, when our faith is tried, we will find ourselves saying that we believe God is faithful, but likewise saying that we cannot understand HOW He is at this present time. Thus, the choice is whether to believe despite our lack of understanding, or whether to go with what WE understand. But this battle isnít simply about understanding. It isnít intellectual. The battle is about, yes, the faithfulness of God, but more so, about who is in control. To let go of my understanding Ė or lack thereof Ė and to trust God requires a relinquishment to God of control. I have to abandon my right to govern myself on the basis of my understanding and my will, over to the government of God. In effect, I have to surrender to God Ė surrender to His kingdom rule.
If you are having trouble understanding God, and this is why you feel you cannot surrender to Him, there is an easy answer: Surrender anyways. Surrender to God despite the fact that you DONíT understand. If you do surrender, you will be surprised at how clear your understanding becomes. Perhaps not of circumstances. But of God. This is because the battle here is not in circumstances or in your understanding. The struggle isnít to understand. The battle is to believe Ė and faith always means surrender.
It is not possible to believe God and not surrender to Him. Impossible because faith means more than just to assent that something is true. It means to trust and rely upon God unconditionally. So if I say I trust God, I can only conclude that I am safe in His hands. This will result in surrender into His hands. Every time it will mean that.
The entire issue in all of this is whether I will trust God enough to surrender. Everything else is secondary. The battle is not that I must understand enough to surrender. The battle is whether I will believe enough to surrender. The battle is not whether I have enough faith to get me through. It is whether I believe God will get me through. This has to do with whether I will use the troubles in life to tighten my grip on God, or whether I will allow them to give me an excuse of loosing my grip on God. The irony is that we are going to find out one day that God always had a grip on us. The question is whether we believed it.
The enemy will always say, "If you surrender to God, He wonít be there. And because He wonít be there, you will be relinquishing control of yourself into the hands of someone who isnít there." The suggestion is that God is asking us to jump out into a chasm and promising to catch us. But He wonít. Thus, the enemy uses fear to keep us from jumping.
Now, you can reason and think and whine and cry and press and press and press Ė but it will come back to this in the end: Do you believe? There is a certain point at which God is going to be done assuring us He is faithful. We are either going to believe it or not. And the fact is, you and I will never EXPERIENCE the faithfulness of God until we jump. Until then, we might have a Biblical doctrine that says that if we jump God will catch us, but that is all that it will be. To live in the reality of the doctrine, we have to fall into the hands of the living God.
When Jesus was born into this world, it was LIGHT personified entering in to darkness. That is why there was NO ROOM for Him. That is why it was nighttime then. That is why, from the start, it seems as if everything was against His birth. Everything was against it. There was NOTHING here that was receptive to Him. Such is going to be our experience Ė both internally and externally. We have to warm up to this reality. It is the Truth.
If you are a Christian, it is certain that you are going to encounter enemies, and be brought in conflict and trouble, that you would never face if you had not been born again. Your life will be on an entirely different basis than it was before. But if you walk by faith and obedience, Christ will come to birth in you. And despite all of the testing to your faith, you will nevertheless have HIS LIFE. That will be your proof, for He is the witness of God.
When Mary said yes that night to God, she had no idea what would happen 33 years later. But she said yes. Have we ever realized that 33 years after the conception of the life of Jesus took place in Mary, that she had yet ANOTHER conception of the life of Christ in her Ė on the day of Pentecost? The death and resurrection of Christ had occurred between the two events. The first birthed Jesus into her world. The second birthed her into Jesusí world, or kingdom.*
The Good News - Home