What Does It Take to See Jesus?
Part 1 - We Need a Joseph’s Heart
By Rev. James May
Thanksgiving, with its family gatherings and feasting has now passed into history and we find ourselves filled with thankfulness for all of the blessings of God that he has bestowed upon us. Even with all of the present economic distress and all of the wars and unrest in our world, God is so good to His people. He supplies our every need. God is faithful to pour out his blessings upon us.
As I sought the Lord for a message from the Lord for the church, I felt impressed to bring to you a series of messages during this month of December, as we march toward the celebration of Christmas and the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem of Judea about 2,011 years ago. That great day marked the beginning of the end of the reign of sin, evil and death in the world. Jesus, the Light of the World and the Savior of mankind was born as a baby in a manger. His main purpose in coming was to go to the cross and give his life as a sacrifice for our sin that we might have a way back to a right relationship with our Father in Heaven.
Each of us must now approach Christ in our own way, and our own time, as the Spirit of the Lord leads us. We must come to know who Jesus is and what He is all about, and we must accept him as the Lord of our lives. If we don’t, then Jesus’ coming into this world means no more to us than any other baby born into this world under the poorest of conditions. Like so many millions today, that baby born in a manger, would only represent the great need of mankind.
We look upon the poverty stricken people of this world and see the pictures of babies that don’t get enough nourishment and many who don’t live long enough to see their first birthday. We see little children with bloated stomachs, not because they eat too much, but because they eat very little. We see mothers and fathers whose greatest cry is that somehow someone will help them to take care of their children and give them a hope in this life. We must never forget that just because they are poor and starving, and living in squalor, doesn’t mean that they love their children any less than you or I.
The whole world needs to see Jesus, for He alone is the hope of all mankind. The world is caught in the grip of Satan and is falling deeper into the blackness of the bottomless pit of sin and depravity with each passing day. Man’s only hope is somehow, look up, above all the need, above all the poverty, above all the death and disease, above all the thirsting and hunger of the body, and get a glimpse of the Lord of Glory that can supply all our needs.
Let’s face it – every need of man, in all that he lacks, stems from a spiritual problem. Sin brought evil and death into the world; and only cleansing from sin and getting back in a right relationship with God, will reverse the continual worsening of the condition of the human race. WE MUST SEE JESUS!
That brings me to title for this series of messages, “What Does It Take to See Jesus?” The first message today deals with what kind of heart must a man have before he can see the Lord for who he really is. Our message today deals with the fact that, “We Need a Joseph’s Heart”!
Most of us have heard messages about Joseph and we’ve seen how that he was moved upon by the Holy Spirit to accept the things that surrounded the birth of the Son of God and accepted the great responsibility of raising the only perfect child that would ever be born into this world.
Now I know that some of you think that your child is the perfect child, but we all know that our own judgment is influenced by the love that we have for our children. But then we are forced to realize that the truth of the matter is that no child is perfect. Every one of them is born in sin; brought into this world with a rebellious nature and filled with selfishness. I’ve never seen a child that wouldn’t fight for what he/she wants, and I’ve never seen a child that never gave their parents any grief. No matter how good they might be, there comes a time when we are forced to realize that they aren’t perfect, no matter how much we want them to be.
I kind of envy Joseph and Mary in that respects, after all, they were the only parents in all of human history that really raised the perfect child. I wonder what that must have been like?
But let’s look at Joseph for a little while. We will talk about Mary a little later in this series if the Lord wills, but for right now let’s focus on the heart of Joseph.
What kind of heart did Joseph have that allowed him to have the privilege of seeing Jesus as the very Son of God? Why did the Father in Heaven choose Joseph above all the many thousands of other men of Israel? I believe it was because Joseph’s heart was in the right place. He was a man that God could use; and a man who would allow God to use him to bring about the purposes of God in his life, and Joseph was a man who would stand by his commitment to the end. If we are going to truly see Jesus then we need to develop a heart like Joseph so let’s see what that heart must be like!
Matthew 1:18, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost."
A lot has been said about the fact that Mary was promised to Joseph and conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Ghost before their marriage could be consummated. We live in a culture and a time when this has become a normal way of life so we often overlook how serious this was in the days of Joseph and Mary. Mary becoming pregnant before their wedding not only would be considered as unfaithfulness to her soon to be husband, but it was proof in the eyes of man that she had an adulterous affair and had committed a crime punishable by death. She would have no defense as the crime would be quite evident and the sentence would be stoning.
Remember that there was a woman caught in adultery who was dragged before Jesus to see what he had to say about her sin. Every one of her accusers fully expected a sentence of death from the lips of Jesus; after all he was considered a Rabbi, a teacher of the Law, and as such had the power to judge in the affairs of men. But instead of condemning the woman who was guilty of the sin as charged, Jesus chose to show her mercy and forgiveness, commanding that only someone without sin could cast the first stone. The judgment of men against Mary would have been no different, and perhaps Joseph, being the man who most wronged by her alleged unfaithfulness would have had the right to cast the first stone. But Joseph had a heart that would not allow that to happen.
The first thing that I want you to see about the heart of Joseph is that it was pliable and teachable.
Joseph wasn’t like the majority of the men in Israel who were stiff-necked and hard-hearted. He knew the Law but he wasn’t as much concerned about the letter of the Law and he was the spirit of the Law. The letter of the Law said, “an eye for eye”, and that justice must be served at all costs; while the Spirit of the Law said, show mercy and compassion.
When the angel of the Lord began to speak to Joseph, the heart of Joseph was open to listening and hearing instruction, and taking that instruction to do the will of God.
So many people in our world today, even many in the church, do not have a teachable heart. I run across it in the classrooms of our schools where some students just refuse to learn. They don’t care to know anything and won’t try at all. That same attitude exists in the church when we hear sermon after sermon but none of them have any affect whatsoever on the heart of the hearers. We continue to walk in that rebellious spirit with a heart that grows harder every day, refusing to surrender our will to God’s will, our own way to God’s way.
A lot of people who claim to know Jesus really don’t know Jesus at all. How could they know him when they have a heart of stone? Before we can get near to Jesus we must allow the Holy Ghost to move upon us, to change us, to create that new heart within us; a heart that is ready to receive instruction and live according to God’s plan.
The second thing about the heart of Joseph was that he had love for Mary and wanted to do that which was right according to love and not condemnation!
Matthew 1:19, "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily."
Joseph’s love over-powered his desire for justice. His compassion for Mary was greater than his condemnation. And though he had many unanswered questions and didn’t know exactly how this was going to all work out, he wanted to give it every chance. I’m convinced that his great love for Mary would have allowed him marry her in spite of anything that he thought she might have done; even the act of unfaithfulness to him in her vows.
It’s easy for us to condemn those who wrong us! It’s only natural to want to strike back at those who hurt us! It takes a real heart of love to overlook the wrong, look past the hurt, and show compassion instead of judgment. Love and compassion fit together perfectly. Perfect love always desires to show compassion and compassion can only come from a heart of love.
If we are to see Jesus as the compassionate forgiving Savior that was born in that manger, then we must first have a heart that is pliable and teachable, then we must have a heart that desires justice but is tempered by love. We must realize that even though we don’t deserve God’s mercy, his compassion for us will still allow us to approach him and learn of him.
Joseph was willing to hide Mary from public view, keep her in a safe place, not allowing anyone else to have the opportunity to condemn or prosecute her.
That’s the kind of heart that we must have if we want to truly see Jesus. It must be a heart that desires to know and to show mercy to others. It must be a heart that is willing to look past the sin and see the righteousness that can be found on the other side. It must be a heart that is willing to put aside the wrong and to hide it in Christ; then let Jesus’ take away the guilt and shame, and make us right in his sight!
Joseph’s pliable, teachable, loving and compassionate heart put him in the right place, at the right time, to hear from God in a way that few men have ever experienced!
Matthew 1:20, "But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."
Joseph would never have had a visitation from the angel of the Lord without the right kind of heart! His heart was searching for a way to save Mary from pain. His heart was searching for answers and for direction; and I have no doubt that he had said many prayers, seeking God’s guidance and help through the whole situation.
From the scripture we can see that Joseph’s heart was fearful that his plans for saving Mary would fail. He was also apprehensive about what the future might hold for he and Mary and their future family if the news ever got out about her unfaithfulness before marriage. That would not only put Mary in danger again, but it would also implicate him in the crime and he could be prosecuted as well. But Joseph continued to let compassion rule his thoughts, trusting that somehow it would all work out the way he hoped it would.
God answered his prayer and began to remove the fear and apprehension in his heart, thus freeing Joseph’s heart to love and have compassion for Mary like he wanted to.
Not only did God relieve Joseph’s fears, but he confirmed the words of Mary to Joseph proving that Mary had done no wrong and that God was in the whole thing. Everything that lay ahead for Joseph and his family would be according to God’s perfect will. From that day on, Joseph’s fears were gone. Now he would just follow the course of action that God had laid before him, trusting God to bring his plan to pass in their lives.
That’s where we must come to in our own lives before we can truly see Jesus. We have to get to that place of absolute trust in Jesus, allowing him to the be Lord of our lives fully and completely. We must become fully convinced that God’s way is not just the best way, but the only way! We must have a heart filled with the confidence that what God has begun in us; He will finish for us! Then we must walk on with that heart of faith like Joseph did!
The third thing that we must see about the heart of Joseph is that he had a heart of obedience to the word of the Lord!
Matthew 1:24, "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:"
It was an act of trust and obedience in the heart of Joseph that made him arise out of his place of comfort, step out of his comfort zone where he had tried to control his own life; and then go and do as the angel had told him to do. He went and married Mary in spite of anything that may have happened; or anything that anyone would have to say! His way was committed according to the commandment of the Lord!
In order for us to truly see Jesus, we must also have a heart of obedience! We must be willing to not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word of God. We must allow God’s word to change our hearts, set the course of our pathway through life; and be open to hearing his voice every day. If you are going to truly see Jesus, then you have to learn to walk close by his side every day of your life.
The fourth thing about Joseph’s heart that we must learn is two-fold; abstinence and patience!
Matthew 1:25, "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."
Joseph was a man like all other men in that he had physical and emotional needs that pressed upon him all of the time. He was not some superman that never felt desire for Mary; or wanted to express his love to her in a very physical and tangible way. But he restrained himself, abstained from allowing himself to possibly hinder what God had begun in her, and had a heart of patience and understanding throughout the whole process of time until God’s plan was complete!
We must all learn abstinence and patience if we are to see Jesus. Sometimes it takes patience as we wait upon the Lord. We are told that God will exalt us in due time, but we have to serve him in patience until the time is right.
We must also keep our hearts pure, and abstain from every appearance of evil, lest the vision of Jesus should become distorted and we find ourselves being led astray by false teaching.
We must abstain from getting ahead of God’s plan, giving God time, through a heart of patience, to make our steps sure and our path plain before us!
It takes a heart of abstinence and patience to truly know Jesus. God leads and we must follow. God’s timing is not our timing; neither are our plans, his plans. We must learn to be patient, allowing God to work through us and in us to bring us where we need to be in him.
We must lay aside the desires of the flesh and the pride of life, and embrace the plan of God for our lives, trusting God all the way!
The fifth thing that we must see about the heart of Joseph that allowed him to see Jesus is that he was a man who obeyed the Law!
Luke 2:4, "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David)"
Luke 2:5, "To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."
Joseph loved the Law of God. He was a man who sought to know God’s ways! At the same time, he was a man who lived under the laws of the Roman Government that occupied Israel. He was not rebellious against the Roman Law, but understood that God had ordained the powers that had rule over him. He understood that to be a respectable citizen and raise his children so that they could have every opportunity, that he had to be a law abiding citizen and not fight against the law or disobey it whenever it didn’t suit him.
If there’s one thing I know about Joseph, it’s this – I guarantee you that he didn’t like to pay taxes. I also know that he certainly didn’t want to leave his business behind, travel miles across open country, with his very pregnant wife riding a donkey on rough roads, just to go back to his home town and be counted for the census and pay taxes to an occupational government that didn’t have the best interest of his family, nor his country in their plans.
Let us realize that we must all be governed by Law, both the Law of God and the laws of man. God has placed over us those who are in control; and they are all there for a purpose.
We must have a heart that loves obedience to the Law! We must love the law of God, not because of it’s power to condemn, but because of its ability to show us where we need correction! Without the Law, we could not see the righteousness of Jesus! Without the Law of God, we would never know that we need a Savior! Thank God for the Law that shows us the way, and then leads us to see Jesus as the Savior of our Souls.
Let us strive to have a heart like Joseph, that we might see Jesus!
Let us have a heart that is pliable and teachable that we might be changed into the image of Christ!
Let us have a heart that is filled with Love for God and love for one another that we might be able to show the compassion for others and understand the compassion of God for us as well.
Let us have a heart of obedience to the Word of the Lord so that God may wash us with His Word and change us day by day to be more like Jesus and see him more clearly!
Let us have a heart of Abstinence from sin; and patience as we wait upon the Lord that we may not hinder the plan of God for our lives and give God the power to exalt us in due time, that we may not only see Jesus clearer, but be an example of Christ to the world.
Let us have a heart that loves law – that our lives may be governed by the Laws of God and of man to make us beyond reproach. The law will bring us to Christ, then obedience to that law will enable us to be shining examples of Christ.
Do you have a heart like Joseph? That’s the kind of heart we need if we want to see Jesus!