Pregnant with the Purpose of God
(The Christmas Story–like you’ve never heard it beforeJ)
Part 2: Conclusion
By Dr. Ron Woodworth
Brief summary review of Part 1…
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus…The angel answered, ‘”The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:31 & 35)
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19)
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
As I pondered these verses one Christmas season it occurred to me that just as Mary was literally pregnant with Jesus so too is every believer spiritually impregnated by God with his divine purpose—Christ in us. I then researched the New Testament to see if I could discern some similarities between Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus and God’s dealing in our own lives regarding the birthing of his purpose in us.
To my delight I noticed a number of things that I have come to call “phases”i in the process of birthing the purpose of God. And, though the phases outlined below are not an exact science, it is at least somewhat descriptive of the mystery of God’s moving in the life of every believer who yearns to “bear fruit” for God.
Seven Phases in the Process of Birthing the Purpose of God…
The first phase is a time of spiritual conception.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Key point: Intimacy leads to impregnation–both naturally and spiritually. Spending time in God’s presence results in an impartation of divine vision and intention—which is seldom immediately discerned.
The second phase is growth in obscurity.
“Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.”
Key point: Obscurity is God’s way of protecting us during our spiritual gestation period so we can be fully formed, by character development, prior to birth. Long suffering is the divine pathway to a timely birth!
The third phase is a difficult labor period.
“The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.” (Revelation 12:4b)
Key point: Increased spiritual warfare is evidence that the time is near. Such warfare causes a brief time (in relation to the season to follow) of grief and suffering necessary to enter into a new dimension of God’s kingdom purpose.
The fourth phase is a lowly birth, but with joy.
“…the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)
Key Point: Corresponding to the Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, the purposes of God are always born in lowly places. Greatness came in a manager not the palace.
The fifth phase is the responsibility to nurture.
“And Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents and continued in subjection to them–growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
(Luke 2: 51-52)
Whatever is birthed in us must not be abandoned to others to nurture. As fearful as the prospect of parenthood (of a child or God’s purpose) may be, the Lord wants us to care for the new born life—which curiously bears both our image and his.ii
When I was a young pastor of a small yet growing fellowship many people would come to me with ideas for ministry for which I was too quick to assume responsibility. Little did I know then that rather than me implementing their vision—God often wanted me to simply coach them in birthing their own emerging gifts and callings to ministry.
Humorously, I remember this truth finally dawning on me when my mother was sharing with a dog groomer one day. It happened that while I was in a back room studying that my mom was in the kitchen talking to the young woman. During the course of their conversation the woman would frequently used obscenities. My mother, being quite proper in her speech, and new in her faith might I addJ, responded to a string of swearwords with, “Oh honey, you are much too beautiful to talk like that.” Where upon the young lady immediately and amazingly burst into tears, begging my mother’s forgiveness and requesting how she might be saved!? My mother, quite surprised by the dog groomer’s dramatic repentance, told her to wait a moment so she could come get me in order to lead her to Christ.
Well, when my mom told me the story I informed her that the Lord wanted her, not me, to pray with the dog groomer—after which I would then come to the kitchen to meet her new disciple. “But I don’t know what to say!” was her desperate plea. Then and there, with the emotionally distressed dog groomer still in the kitchen, I began to role play with my mom about how to lead another person in a prayer of commitment to Christ. My mother then returned to the kitchen, armed with a prayer on a napkin, and proceeded to lead her first convert to the Lord. Well, it must have worked because within a few more minutes they both began to shout and clap. Needless to say, I came to the kitchen a wiser man that day…
The sixth phase is the death of a vision.iii
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother. ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And [in the end] a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
“And near the cross of Jesus stood his mother—Mary…” (John 19:25)
There is a mystery in God’s kingdom: Everything in this creation must experience death in order to be born to eternal life. The world will experience the destruction of fire prior to the revealing of the new heaven and earth…and people must first endure natural death on earth in order to inherit eternal life in heaven.
A notable exception to this principle is the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17) where believers at the time of Christ’s return will be “caught up” in the clouds without first experiencing natural death. Interestingly however, the context asserts that the dead in Christ will rise first. Though there is no ultimate distinction between the two, one wonders if, even in the rapture, the dead precede the living as an expression of God’s honor for them having faithfully endured until the end of life itself. It’s as if the loss of ones life, in this age, is the prerequisite to the reward of eternal life in the next age. Selah. Indeed, it can be argued that even those believers who have not died physically have in fact already experienced spiritual death by virtue of their being joined to Christ.
“For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:4)
This fact is further attested to in our baptism in water,
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too may live a new life.” (Romans 5:4)
This kingdom principle of death-to-life operating in creation and the final transformation of our being also functions in the purposes that God intends to birth through each of us. As a result, there must always be a place of ultimate release in things pertaining to this life. This means that, like a rose, we must always hold in an “open palm” our blessings before the Lord.iv To not do so risks our hands and hearts being torn should he decide it is time to take more directive control of the things he has given us to steward. After all, you and I are only servants…he alone is the master and owner of all.
I say this because similar to Jesus’ death much of the circumstances surrounding our own death of a vision are shrouded in major offenses, accusations, jealousy, selfish ambition, betrayal, rejection, etc.. This causes us great confusion and disappointment that can often result in deep personal wounds, loss of friends, and self-doubt.
This is exactly what Jesus was trying to warn Peter about when he prophesied,“Simon, Simon, satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, and when you have recovered strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) A kernel of wheat has a husk around it that must be separated by sifting—a process involving intense shaking and beating–if the kernel is to be useful in making bread. In other words, Peter you have a precious and divine kernel in your life but it is surround by so much “self” that it will need to be extracted by a painful process that will severely test your faith. But don’t worry Peter, I have prayed for you. You will recover. And the brokenness of your life will become a source of strength to others around you from then on.
The seventh phase is resurrection life to a broader ministry.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…’”
During Jesus earthly ministry he indicated that his mission was to Israel alone. However, after the resurrection, he authorizes his followers to make disciples of all nations on earth. Clearly his mission has expanded from the small Jewish nation to the entire world. The reason for this extension of ministry is because Jesus’ life (under Judaism) and death (for sin) has prophetically fulfilled the Old Covenant Law with its system of sacrificial atonement. Therefore, having fulfilled the Law there is no longer a restraint to Jesus’ ministry. However, since such fulfillment cost him his earthly life, he must now commission his church on earth to take the message of God’s gracious redemption to every nation, tribe, language, and people (Revelation 14:6).
In Peter’s life, the brokenness of his denial of Christ was later followed by the Lord’s forgiveness and new commissioning to care for the people of God–both lambs and sheep (John 20:15-18). Such newness of commissioning resulted in a remarkable boldness to preach at Pentecost resulting in the birth of the church by the winning of thousands to the Lord (Acts 2).
In our lives, this phase of “resurrection life” signifies a release from former limitations by the death of self–into a deeper and more authentically powerful testimony. Such a testimony, borne of brokenness, now has the power to extend the purpose of God through our lives and into realms and with results we never dreamed possible.
(By Ron Woodworth)
“Behold: The virgin will conceive and be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means, ‘God with us.’”(Matthew 2:23).
Oh God, my God, why did you send your Son?
A priceless pearl, your most beloved–the precious spotless one.
You could have heralded your majesty above the earth in power,
But you sent your gift and picked the time—the month, the day, the hour.
And in a fragile box of clay, contained your gift of love,
Oh God, I cried, we didn’t see, Immanuel Above.
But why, oh why did you so conceal?
Was it to fool our hearts?
Then “No!” the Spirit answered me, “And can you now contain?”
“It had to be this meager way to vindicate my name.”
“Yes, I could have opened heaven for all the world to see,
To crush the proud and insolent and enforce my majesty.”
“But listen now and I shall tell of a marvelous mystery,
For in this way my subjects come and bow their knee to me.”
It is through love their hearts are won, and much the more besides,
When they through hunger and thirst do find, my love concealed inside.”
“Inside a peasant carpenter, yes, that is where I chose,
That those who find might bow their hearts and cup the little rose.”
“For in this my wisdom shows itself and the nature of my heart,
‘Twas Father that I called myself and love will I impart.”
“And in the humble recreate, a new man you shall see,
The power of the purest love can set the captive free!”
And frustrate all the plans of hell, the pride of man, an empty shell,
For in this I do all things well, be faithful son, to me.”
Dear God, I bow my face to sod, my ‘self’ I say aside,
And take the cross that won my soul, with it will I abide.
And will proclaim while in my flesh the wonders of your love,
That others may embrace the rose—Immanuel Above.
[i] Note: These phases can occur in quite rapid succession in a short period of time or, in some cases, appear to virtually overlap each other
[ii] It is interesting that the purpose of God bears both his image and our own. In other words, just like natural children look like their parents, so the Lord allows our emerging ministries to develop with certain characteristics that are unique to us and for which we need not be ashamed. Like it or not this child is ours and we should take responsibility for it with a sense of honor.
[iii] I believe it was at a Bill Gothard conference that I first heard the phrase “death of a vision.” I highly recommend his Institute in Life Principles Conference for those who have not yet been exposed to his excellent teaching ministry.
[iv] Note: Our ultimate openness before the Lord must not be construed to render the purpose of God vulnerable to destructive satanic attack which may include the resistance from contrary people. One remembers how Jesus withstood Peter’s misdirected concern to spare the Lord from crucifixion [Get behind me satan!] or Job’s reproof to his wife for inciting him to defame the character of God in his time of suffering. (Matthew 16:22-23; Job 1:7-10)