As I sat down to write out my New Year’s resolutions last night, I realized that everything I wanted to accomplish all hinged on my relationship to God. I want to be a better wife and mother (can’t do those without God’s help). I want to focus on cultivating an inner peace this year (can’t do that without God’s help, either). I want to run a 5K before the end of the year (got to have the self-control and diligence mentioned in the Bible to achieve that one too). So while I kept the things above on my list, I added one big, overarching resolution: spend more time in God’s word and in prayer.
The first chapter of Matthew was listed on my Bible study plan for lesson one of 2012. And in that chapter I found some key things that should help us say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. The first part of this chapter is a list of the people in Jesus’ genealogy tracing back to Abraham. Most of the time when I read lists of names in the Bible, I start out reading every word. Then I start skimming…XYZ begat ABC, ABC begat 123. Then I just skip past all of those crazy names and get back to the regular writing. But since my study plan told me to read it, I read it. Really read it. The second part of the chapter is a quick synopsis of Mary and Joseph being informed that they would be the Messiah’s earthly parents. And here’s what I found:
1) God has blessed me. In verse 21 the angel is talking to Joseph in his dream and he tells him, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” That’s our blessing as Christians; we are saved from our sins. If you have nothing else in life, no food, no shelter, no money, but you have salvation, then you are the most blessed person on Earth. It is told that one of the ancient martyrs was thrown into a Roman jail for his faith. All day long he was chained in miserable conditions and fed a crust of moldy bread and some stagnant water once a day. Yet he continued to praise God. Finally, one of the other prisoners asked him how he could be so happy. The man replied, “All this and salvation too. What is there to complain about?”
2) God has chosen me. In verse 23 the angel quotes Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Mary and Joseph were chosen by God to do a very special and honored job for Him. They were to be the parents of God’s Son while he was on Earth. Since they were a fulfillment to a prophecy made hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, they had been known to God from the beginning. We have also been chosen by God to do a special job for Him. Ephesians 2: 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” You have a purpose. You have a mission from God, planned out before you were even a thought in your parents’ minds. Find it and fulfill it.
3) God has separated me from my past. Let’s take a look at Jesus’ ancestors (Matt. 1:1-16). Most of the people in this list, we don’t know anything about, but some people on this list are pretty shocking. Especially to be related to God’s Son.
- In verse 10, Manasseh is listed. Manasseh was a king of Judah, and he is an evil man. He sacrifices his own sons to false gods and is pronounced in 2 Kings 21:11 as doing “more evil than all that the Amorites did.” Definitely not somebody you’d want in your family tree!
- In verse 3, Judah and Tamar are listed. There’s a story I’m sure nobody shared around the dinner table, “Remember how Grandma met Grandpa. Grandpa wouldn’t let her marry his last son even though it was Grandma’s right. So Grandma disguises herself as a prostitute and sells herself to Grandpa, then winds up pregnant with twins. But Grandpa doesn’t know that he’s the father, so he decides she needs to be burned alive. Then Grandma showed him proof that he was the father (Genesis 38). Boy, that sure is a great memory!” Um…yeah, I think not.
- In verse 5, Rahab is listed. She IS a prostitue from Jericho, who lied to save the Israelite spies (Joshua 2).
You’d think that God could have picked some different people from these family lines to be the Messiah’s ancestors, but nope, He picked the good, the bad, and the ugly. Why? So that we could know that our families and our own past don’t determine the plan that God has for us. As Christians we are separated from that; we belong to God and Him alone.
So in the year of 2012, determine to achieve everything on your resolution list, but remember that you will achieve nothing without God. If you focus on Him this year, then I promise by the end of it, you will be changed.
By Chelli Guthrie
Chelli and her husband Luke serve with the Abell Street church of Christ in Wharton, Texas where Luke serves as the preacher. Chelli teaches the Jr. High Bible class on Sunday morning and runs the Children’s Bible Hour program on Sunday night. She is a homeschooling mom to three children. Be sure to check out her excellent blog at www.theplantedtrees.blogspot.com.