Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

When God Turns Everything Right Side Up

Luke 1:46-55  [NRSV]

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

            A few months ago the previews for the movie “2012”, (now open in movie theaters) caught my attention.

            The main premise of the movie is that the world will end in December 2012, just 3 years from now. 3 years from tomorrow to be precise!

            The tagline for the movie 2012 is: “Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments.”

            That’s a pretty big claim, isn’t it? I would certainly rank the birth of Jesus Christ right up there in significance. That’s my opinion!

            Throughout my life I have watched with interest at the various times people have tried to predict the end of the world…unsuccessfully.

            Some of the ones I remember now seem humorous…and somewhat sad.

            In 1988, Edgar Whisnant wrote a book entitled “88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return In 1988” which caused a lot of excitement in the church for a while. Sales of the book fell off significantly on January 1, 1989.

            In March of 1997, I watched news reports in sadness as members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide because they believed the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet was the sign of the world’s end.

            At the start of this decade, there were those who believed that January 1, 2000 would signal the end of time. The fear, known as Y2K, caused many to panic that as the clock struck midnight, computers would shut down, planes would fall from the sky, the world-wide economy would fail, and society as we know it would collapse. Our church had a New Year’s Eve service that concluded with the congregation gathered at the altar in prayer just as January 1, 2000 rolled around. I figured, if I’m going out, I’m going out down on my knees in prayer! But we didn’t. When the service was over we all went to a restaurant in town that was serving Midnight breakfast!

            All of that took place in the short span of 12 years.

            Now we find ourselves considering whether the ancient Mayans were correct in predicting that the world will end on December 21, 2012.

            Even the New York Times has gotten “end time fever.” In a news article from 2007, the paper reported:

            “The Mayan calendar is at the center of a cultural phenomenon. To some, 2012 will bring the end of time, to others, it carries the promise of a new beginning, to still others, 2012 provides an explanation for troubling new realities—environmental change, for example—that seem to be beyond the control of our technology and impervious to reason. Just in time for [this] final…countdown, the Mayan apocalypse has come of age.”

            One author, in his book, Apocalypse 2012, has written:

            “The 2012 deadline is the first time in modern history when so much is on the line for so many…The year 2012 has the mark of destiny upon it.

            People seem to have an insatiable appetite to know the future. That accounts partly for the success of movies like the recent “2012” and the popularity of the “Left Behind” book series.

            I think we get caught up in the “end of the world” fever for the wrong reasons.

            People too easily become calendar watchers—the folks who make predictions when the end of time will come, or those who base their decisions on the folks who make predictions when the end of time will come.

            I think one of the key things we miss when we get all wrapped up in trying to predict the end of time is God’s purpose. What is God going to do in our world “at the end of time?” Usually that question is not addressed in “apocalypse” movies like “2012.”

            What is God’s purpose in the end of time?

            Part of the answer to that question is found in the message of praise first uttered by Mary, the mother of Jesus, upon hearing the news that she was chosen to bring to birth the long awaited Savior of the world.

            Before we look at the song of Mary, sometimes known as the “Magnificat”, it is important I give you a fair warning!

            E. Stanley Jones, a famous Methodist evangelist and author from the past, said that the Magnificat is “the most revolutionary document in the world.” William Barclay, the Scottish theologian, says that the Magificat is “a bombshell”…that takes “the standards of the world and turns them upside down.” Barclay teaches that in the Magnificat, there are three revolutions: “an economic revolution; a political revolution; and a moral revolution.” 

            What Mary is telling us, is that at the end of time, God is going to bring a revolution, and a transformation, to the way the world functions. In short, God is going to turn an upside down world…right side up!

            Let’s look at what Mary says her Son is going to do at the end of time.

1) The proud will be scattered.

Luke 1:51

51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

            Mary says that Jesus will “scatter” the proud.

            In the Bible, the proud are those who see themselves as having no need for God in their lives.

            Jesus later said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

            He meant, “God blesses those who see their need for salvation, for they will be saved.”

            The “proud” are those who see themselves as “high and lifted up” above everyone else, even God. They are the center of the universe.

            They are like that guy on the TV commercial: “The most interesting man in the world.” “His reputation is expanding faster than the universe.” “People hang on his every word.” “”He can speak French, in Russian.” “He lives vicariously, through himself.” “He can disarm you with his looks or his hands, either way.” “He is…the most interesting man in the world.”

            Have you seen those commercials?

            Pride…the Bible says it is putting ourselves in a high place…above all others…even God. We think we are the most interesting person in the world.

            A young woman asked for an appointment with her pastor to talk with him about a besetting sin about which she was worried. When she saw him, she said, “Pastor, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?”

            The pastor replied, “Imogene, that’s not a sin…why, that’s just a mistake!”

2) The powerful will be brought down.

Luke 1:52a

52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones.

            The Bible refers to God as “Almighty”—All powerful.

            But we are people who love to think we have “all power.” We crave political power, military power, career power. I see it in the church. I am often amazed at people who try to rule the church from their throne of power.

            Mary says, her Son is coming to bring down the powerful!

            The Bible says that God has given Mary’s son, Jesus a name that is above all names, and one day, at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10).

3) The lowly will be lifted up.

Luke 1:52b

52 He has…lifted up the lowly.

            Do you know why God is going to lift up those “living low?

            Writer Monika Hellwig, lists the following “advantages” to being “lowly”:

1. The [lowly] know they are in urgent need of redemption.

2. The [lowly] know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.

3. The [lowly] rest their security not on things but on people.

4. The [lowly] have no exaggerated sense of their own importance.

5. The [lowly] expect little from competition and much from cooperation.

6. The [lowly] can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.

7. The [lowly] can wait, because they have acquired a kind of [determined] patience born [out] of acknowledged dependence.

8. The fears of the [lowly] are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and [lack].

9. When the [lowly] have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news.

10. The [lowly] can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated [wholeheartedness] because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

            It is these people…those who are down, struggling, hurting, and abandoned…the lowly…that Mary says, God is going to lift up!

            In the land of plenty…even in the midst of a difficult economic time…are we really among the “lowly?”

            If we are not, should we be concerned about that when Jesus comes?

4) The hungry will be filled.

Luke 1:53a

53 He has filled the hungry with good things.

            In God’s revolutionary plan, no need will go unmet. No hunger will go unfulfilled.

            I am glad to know that our God is a need meeting God! God is a more than enough God, to meet every need that we face.

            The world is filled with many who are hungry. A great number do not have enough food to eat. Others have plenty of food, but are living empty lives without God.

            Jesus promised that one day, when His Kingdom has come in its fullness, that every person who hungers and thirsts will be satisfied.

5) The rich will be sent away empty.

Luke 1:53b

53 He has…sent the rich away empty.

            Mary says her Son will not only fill the hungry, but empty the rich. Why?

            The “rich” are those in the Bible who think of themselves to the point of bring unthinking and uncaring of others…both toward the poor, and toward God.

            Jesus said it was hard for the rich to be saved…as hard as it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle (see Matthew 19:24).

            Those who have all that the world has to offer, but are not rich toward God, will find their world turned upside down, when Jesus comes to turn the world right side up!

6) The promises of God will be fulfilled.

Luke 1:54-55

54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

            Mary wants us to know that God does what He says. God keeps the promises that He makes.

            God has always been a covenant keeping God with humanity. Many times we look at life and see promises broken, the innocent suffering, and what appears to be rampant evil.

            Mary tells us that Jesus Christ will personally see to it that all of the promises of God, for justice, redemption, and peace, will be fulfilled.

            The condition of our world today, is not the condition of our world, when Jesus Christ comes to turn our upside down world, right side up.

            The weekend following September 11, 2001, syndicated columnist and former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan drove to Lower Manhattan in New York City, to witness the relief effort taking place at Ground Zero. She found herself focusing on the convoy of trucks filled with rescue workers coming off their 12-hour shifts. The men in the trucks were construction and electrical workers, police, emergency medical workers, and firemen. It was a procession of the not-so-rich and famous.

            Nonetheless, these New Yorkers were celebrities in a human drama more significant than any Broadway act. Peggy Noonan joined the growing crowd of onlookers cheering the workers with shouts of “God bless you!” and “We love you!” They clapped and blew kisses.

Noonan writes:

            I looked around me at all of us who were cheering. And saw who we were. Investment bankers! Orthodontists! Magazine editors! In my group [were a], a lawyer, a columnist, and a writer. We had been the kings and queens of the city, respected professionals in a city that respects its professional class.

            And this night we were nobody. We were so useless, all we could do was applaud the somebodies, the workers who, unlike us, had not been applauded much in their lives…. I was so moved and, oddly I guess, grateful. Because they’d always been the people who ran the place, who kept it going, they’d just never been given their due.

            This reversal Peggy Noonan witnessed is nothing less than a foreshadowing of what Mary proclaimed.

            A day is coming when the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

            One day Jesus Christ is going to return. We call it the “end of time.” And when He does, He is going to turn our upside world, right side up.

            When Jesus returns, which side will you be on?

            The somebodies today, will be the nobodies on that day.

            The nobodies on that day, will be the somebodies for all eternity.

            Mary proclaims when her son Jesus comes, He will start a world changing revolution.

            The question we should ask ourselves today is this: Is the revolution going to be for us, or against us?

            Are you among the proud, or the lowly?

            Are you among the full and satisfied, or hungry and empty?

            Are you among the rich, or the poor?

            Are you among those who are independent and self-confident, or those whose only trust is in Jesus Christ?

            When Jesus returns, do you think He is coming to turn your life right side up…or upside down?

            Is Jesus coming to lift you up…or to bring you down?

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