A few years ago when my oldest daughter was still little, we into a discussion about the role of Joseph in the life of Jesus. We were talking about how Joseph isn’t really Jesus’ dad, because God the Father is. And then my little 6-year-old girl helped me realize something that I already knew, but hadn’t really thought about: Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father. Joseph adopted Jesus and made Him his son. But then we moved on to talking about princesses or what some kid said on the playground.
Only a few days later I was sitting in a doctor’s office (waiting and waiting) and reading a book called Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. The book looks at how God adopted us and how we are supposed to take a helpful role in various ways with seeing orphans get adopted. Wouldn’t you know it, but toward the end of my waiting time I reached a chapter that talked about Joseph as the adopted father of Jesus. Moore pointed out how most people forget about Joseph in the Christmas story. He is portrayed as just doing his job of taking Mary and Jesus where they need to go, almost like an usher. He is merely a bit player in the greatest story ever told. But Moore showed how Joseph was so much more.
Joseph adopted Jesus as his own son. And like all other adoptions, that means I was 100% wrong when I said, “Joseph isn’t really Jesus’ dad”. In my desire to highlight that Jesus was not born from man’s seed, but conceived in Mary’s womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, I completely downplayed or even misrepresented the truth about Joseph. Joseph was indeed really the father of Jesus. Joseph wasn’t like a step-dad who comes into the picture when a kid is older and tries but never gets accepted as the true father. Joseph adopts Jesus as his own. Jesus becomes his son with full privileges and responsibilities. Joseph doesn’t raise Jesus like his own – Jesus had indeed become Joseph's own.
Mary was not wrong in Luke 2 when she called Joseph the “father” of young Jesus. And later in that chapter it tells us that Jesus, like all good boys, stayed in subjection to both his parents. In fact, that is why it is completely appropriate that the lineage of Jesus is traced in the gospels trough Joseph and not Mary. People are usually bothered by that, because they want to argue that Jesus must be a descendent of David through blood – as if adoption makes someone less a son. But Jesus was very much the Son of David, not in spite of but because of being adopted into that family.
Adopted children are fully children of their adopted parents. They aren’t somehow less than. That is true of adopted kids today and our adopted Savior when He was a child. And that is important to remember this Christmas, because we are adopted children of God. We are not like His children, we are His children.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6
This Christmas, when you look at a manger scene remember you are looking at an adopted child. Then look at Joseph and remember that he became Jesus’ father. And let that stir you to reflect on how you are also a blessed adopted child. You are adopted by our great Father, the Lord of the heavens and earth. We’re not like His children, we are His children.
What are we about at Marshall Baptist? What is our purpose? We are about helping people follow Jesus. In more theological terms, we are about glorifying God by making disciples. How do we do that? Well it starts by reaching lost people. We must do what it takes to reach lost people and then help them grow as disciples in Jesus.
Lifeway and Wheaton College just did a huge study on how churches with less than 250 in weekly attendance grow. 90% of churches fit that category, and though we’ve almost grown passed that category, we are still part of it. So how do we grow as a church? What is the number one factor? The top reason why churches our size grow by reaching the lost is that they attract the unchurched to their church and then keep them coming. When a church can attract unchurched people and keep them coming, eventually those unchurched people will get saved.
The study reveals, “These churches are places of invitation, welcome, and involvement for the unchurched. The unchurched stick around in great numbers. And they come to Christ and get committed to the church in great numbers.”
If you’re still wondering why Marshall Baptist has changed so much in the last few years, wonder no more. This is the reason. We want to reach lost people, and making sure our church is a place that attracts and keeps unchurched people is our top priority! But that’s a task that will take all of us! We need every age group inviting the unchurched, willing to adapt to change for the unchurched, and serving in ministry to reach the unchurched.
If something you like in the church has changed in a way that makes you a little sad. That’s okay. I get it. Just know the change has a purpose. And that purpose includes YOU! We are changing to help YOU help us reach lost people. We are changing to help you better live out the purpose that God gave you for this life. I hope you never think, “I’m not sure this church fits me.” Our church is for you in that you were made by God to reach lost people. Will you please help us do that? As Christian author Steve Moore put it, “The Great Commission is too big for anyone to accomplish alone and too important not to try to do together.”
At Marshall Baptist we are absolutely convinced that there are 5 essentials to helping people follow Jesus. They are: Come, Connect, Serve, Grow, and Go. It all starts by reaching lost people by inviting them to COME worship on a Sunday morning. We do Sunday morning to glorify God by reaching those people.
Starting the third Sunday night in August we will begin to teach those 5 essentials for making disciples. We want every single church member (new and old) to learn about all 5. Please mark your calendar now for August 20th. That’s when you will learn about that first essential of inviting folks to COME to Marshall Baptist.
A final personal note. This week marks my 10th anniversary of being your pastor here at Marshall Baptist. I have no doubt God called me here, and I’m so excited about what He’s done the last ten year. But the really neat thing is, I feel like we’re all just getting started. God is on the move and there are even greater things to COME!