Thursday, December 15, 2011

Immaculate Conception

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God...And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word…” (Luke 1:30 & 38)

We’re all familiar with the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ. The fact that God condescended to man by way of a virgin girl’s womb. But you and I live in a time when a virgin birth is no longer miraculous. “Surrogate mothers,” who may never have had intercourse with any man, carry babies to full term within their womb, as one might rent out a spare room. The difference (and it’s a big one) is that these women are impregnated with sinful seed (sperm) of a sinful man; while Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit with the sinless Seed of the sinless God. Not only was Jesus’ birth consummated in a virgin birth, it was initiated by an immaculate conception. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones expressed it, “As the Lord’s divine nature had no mother, so His human nature had no father.”

In these two verses from Luke chapter one, I find two necessary requirements that had to be fulfilled before this miraculous birth. First, I see Divine Choice: “…thou hast found favour with God.” Mary did not petition God for the privilege of bringing His Son into the world. On the contrary, she was incredulous: “How shall this be” was her first response. Second, I find in verse thirty-eight, Human Acceptance: “…be it unto me according to thy word.” The order is critical. God always makes the first move, and unless He does, the second is impossible.

Am I the only one who sees a wonderful correlation between Mary’s experience of the indwelling Christ and our own? For instance, our salvation comes only as we too are recipients of Divine Choice. This may be worrisome to those who would presume to question the infallible justice of God because of their (unjustifiable) high regard for their own fallible sense of justice. But at the same time, just as Mary’s natural response was to acknowledge her own acceptance of this undeserved honor, you and I are required to willingly accept God’s gift of eternal life, and by extension, the privilege of housing the Son of God within us (Col. 1:27).

Here are some more similarities: I have already mentioned that both miraculous natal experiences involved the implantation of the Divine Seed by the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:23). Then, we, like Mary, have only the Word of God initially for assurance. Mary did not “feel life” until sometime later; and often “the witness of the Spirit within,” as 1 Jno. 5:10 calls it, is not always recognized initially by the new Christian. Just as the Baby Jesus formed within the body of Mary, so also Paul tells us as believers that Christ will be formed in us (Gal. 4:19). And we mothers know full well, as Mary’s miracle Baby grew within her, her own outward appearance had to conform to accommodate Him. Likewise, if the living Christ dwells within us, you and I, of necessity, are being constantly conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

The Babe in Mary’s womb was the hope of the world, and Christ within us is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Our only hope. Mary’s experience of an Immaculate Conception was physical, but miraculous; our experience of the New Birth is spiritual, but just as miraculous. “How can this be?” I wonder, as did Mary; but I too reply, “Be it unto me according to thy will.” Divine Choice and Human Acceptance — If you’ve experienced the latter, you can be sure you were a recipient of the former!

I can’t explain to you how overwhelmed I am by all the implications of the living Christ dwelling within me. We used to sing a wonderful old gospel song that talked about this:

Once far from God and dead in sin, no light my heart could see,

But in God’s Word the light I found — now Christ liveth in me.

As lives the flow’r within the seed, as in the cone the tree,

So, praise the God of truth and grace, His Spirit dwelleth in me.

With longing all my heart is filled that like Him I may be,

As on the wondrous thought I dwell, that Christ liveth in me.

Christ liveth in me, Christ liveth in me.

O, what a salvation this, that Christ liveth in me!

James McGranahan (1840-1907)

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