Read: Matthew 1
“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:22-23)
For me, New Year’s Day is always the day I begin again. I’ve set new goals for myself, and today I begin anew the march toward that which God has called me: The transformation of my life into complete Christlikeness.
“Until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19)
One of those critical goals that will propel me forward toward Christlikeness is to have a “quiet time” with God every single day this year. I know of no more powerful and profound, yet simple key to Christian growth, spiritual health and life change than to read, meditate on, and pray over God’s Word. You cannot grow and you will not be “blessable” without the intimate relationship with God that comes through his Word. It will not be apart from reading, memorizing, meditating, absorbing, obeying and loving God’s Word that God will truly take over Ray Noah in 2011.
So I want to invite you to join me on this journey. I will be reading the Gospels four times this year—one chapter each day from the New Living Translation.
Now as you start off today’s reading in Matthew 1, you are immediately confronted with a list of names, which, for the most part, are meaningless to you. You may be tempted just to skip past these names, but I want to challenge you not to do that. You see, each name, just like in your own family history, tells a story. And that story reveals God’s activity in fulfilling his divine purpose to bring about the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just suddenly appear in history without context—his birth was the result of God’s eternal plan.
Not only do these names show us how God was fulfilling his sovereign purpose, they show us how he was fulfilling his divine promise. Jesus was born as a result of a promise God had made hundreds of years before, first to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), then to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) and to King David (I Chronicles 17:11-14). God never breaks a promise—you can count on that!
Furthermore, these names not only tell the story of God’s purpose and God’s promise, but they tell us the story of God’s grace in using fallen and quite flawed human beings as the conduit through whom his Son would be born. In this listing of the Messiah’s progenitors are some unlikely and undeserving people: Tamar, a Gentile woman who slept with her father-in-law, Rahab, a Gentile prostitute, Ruth, a Gentile woman from the hated Moabite nation, and Bathsheba, who is listed as the “wife of Uriah the Hittite”, the woman with whom King David had an adulterous affair.
It is nothing less than amazing that God would use people you would never expect as the human conduit through which he would fulfill his purposes and his promises. And if God would use people like them, he will use people like you and me. That is the grace of God!
This opening chapter here in Matthew’s Gospel that begins with all these strange and boring names tells us the amazing story of how our purposeful, faithful and gracious God went to extreme lengths to reach us and redeem us with his love. He didn’t send his love through a written message, or a public service announcement, or a sign in the heavens. He sent himself! He sent his love through a baby born in a manger, who was called Immanuel—which means, “God is now with us.”
Here we are on the first day of 2011, and I don’t know what this year holds for you and me, but I know Who holds this year. He is the God who will accomplish all of his purposes. He is the God who will fulfill each of his promises. He is the God who will yet again reveal his grace. He is Immanuel. He is God, and he is with us!
And he is the one person who has the right to fully take over my life—and yours!
“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” ~Dag Hammarskjold
What If God Took Over?
Have you set some action steps that will allow God to more fully take over your life this year? I hope so. I have—I’ve listed 5 of them below (I have a few more that I’ll not bore you with at the moment). Take a moment to right down your action steps—and if you don’t mind, share one of them with me.
- To have a daily quiet time with God—Bible reading, journaling and prayer.
- To share my faith with a lost person at least once per month.
- To live a morally pure and God-pleasing life each of the next 365 days.
- To look more like Christ in my thinking, feeling and acting life—that my growth in Christ-likeness will be evident to my family, associates and followers.
- To know and do God’s perfect will.