Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All Those Bothersome "Begats"!

Family Trees Can Be Downright Scary.

I can’t remember when I finally read the first chapter of Matthew all the way through. Like most Christians, I skipped the “begats” and unpronounceable names for something less boring.

I did have a friend who made her son write the first chapter of Matthew as punishment, but I don’t think it was very effective. It only turned the young boy off to the Bible as he got older.

I’m sure most of us who grew up in church were never taught the importance of the genealogy of Christ and why God saw fit to list two records of His family tree.

I now realize that if the Holy Spirit takes time to list a detail, it is significant. I have uncovered many meaningful lessons that would otherwise have been forfeited by lack of interest.

One of the ways I teach people to enjoy the Bible is to find themselves on every page, yet I admit that for years I didn’t know how I could possibly relate to Matthew chapter one and find encouragement for Christian growth. But today, here I am again in the first chapter of Matthew as part of my daily study in the Word. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who through the years has “opened my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalm 119:18 NLT), I am able to better understand the purpose of chapter one and draw out an application.

The two genealogies of Christ are located in the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke. At first they appear contradictory, but that’s because each listing has a specific purpose.

Matthew wrote his gospel account primarily to a Jewish audience. Therefore, his purpose was to prove from the onset that Jesus was the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament. His is a covenantal genealogy beginning with Abraham, the father of faith. He grouped generations together in three periods, progressing through history to show that Jesus was a legal son of David through Joseph’s line.

I'm adopted. Although I am the natural offspring of Garrett Williams from Anderson, SC, I legally  became the child of George Milford, also from Anderson, two weeks after my birth. From that point on, I assumed a new identity that courts everywhere have recognized and upheld, and I was placed in the Milford family tree without qualifications.

Luke’s account proves that Jesus was qualified as the Redeemer of humanity by tracing his natural lineage all the way back to Adam through his mother. God, the Son assumed human flesh, entered the earth through Mary’s womb, was given the name Jesus, and limited Himself to life’s stages of growth and experiences--even unto death.

Two genealogies of Jesus--one legal line through Joseph, one natural through Mary--both qualifying Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of David, the Savior of the world.

If you’re a Christian, you also have two genealogies. The one that matters most is your covenant lineage that you legally obtained after being placed into Christ by adoption. It supersedes your natural lineage with all of its drawbacks, defects and generational sins.

Unfortunately, we identify more readily with our human tree, using its limitations as excuses as to why we cannot change our conduct or pursue greater opportunities. We are prone to listen to others who criticize and judge us based on some not-so-flattering distinctions and incidences in the history of our earthly family. Our individuality is lost in a stereotype; our value undermined by unfair comparisons.

To remain in Adam is to remain a slave to human frailties and failings. But we have been adopted by God and placed into Christ. We are legal heirs of divinity and joint-heirs with the King of all Kings. What we could not hope to be or do by nature, we can by grace. We are children of royalty. Every name is written in the Book of Life—God’s genealogical record—and stands as legal evidence of our transfer out of the curse of Adam and into the blessings of Christ. Each entry is sealed with the Blood of our Elder Brother as a testament to its truth.

Meditate on the reality of your real genealogy and all its benefits. Think of those saints listed with you in the great Hall of Faith. Even though while on earth they remained imperfect and prone to sin, they were no longer of sin. Neither are you!

Set a steady gaze on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your Faith (Hebrews 12:2). Stop dwelling on your inadequacies and shortcomings. It only brings misery. But mercy comes when we choose to reject “lying vanities” (Jonah 2:8) .

I’m determined to no longer consider my natural family tree above my spiritual one. I will not let it speak TO me or FOR me…I forbid it to squeeze me into its mold, cut my path in life, label me as less or judge me by its expectations.

No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are in Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life in Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 Phillips NT)