Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 17
Thesis: God's plan is for His people to grow in the direction of a single focus for Life.
Introduction: Last week we began a consideration of Luke's inclusion of Anna as a part of his message to Theophilus. In that study we saw that he included Anna because her name was really Grace. "Anna" is a transliteration of the Greek letters alpha, nu, nu, alpha. In other words, "Anna" is not the expression of her name, but simply the use of the same sounds in English as in Greek. But, the Greek "Anna" is simply also a transliteration of the Hebrew letters het, nun, he, so that we once again are just carrying "sounds" across the boundaries of languages, not meaning. Translation is not reproducing sounds from one language to another, but the meaning of those sounds. The meaning of "het, nun, he" is, in English, Grace. Luke's point was that she was a return to the "name him John" thesis of insistence that we shift our theological focus from Justice to Grace. This is necessary because, historically, what was happening was that a crisis was rapidly arriving between man's aggressive hatred of God under law and God's incredible love under grace. Just when Legalism had gotten the people of God to the point of being willing to murder their God, Grace had moved God to the historical point of redemption for His people. A greater historical contrast can hardly be imagined, and the two elements met at the Cross. The point is that man is being challenged to make the transition from hatred of God to love for God.
We also saw that Grace was, by Luke's choice of words, deliberately linked to both Zacharias (through the term translated "advanced in age") and Mary (through the odd reference to Grace's "virginity"). Thematically this is highly significant because Zacharias presented us with the deadening fear that function under Law produces and function under Grace destroys, and Mary presented us with the opportunity to hear that "no word of God is powerless" so that we "settle" when the redemptive power of grace is our focus. No more fear; no more rage; no more godless behavior.
Now, this morning we are going to see where Grace (God's) took Grace (Anna) as a part of Luke's statement to Theophilus.
August 28, 2005
- I. Grace Took Grace To a Singularity of Focus.
- A. Man's major problem has always been a lack of clear understanding of the means of Life.
- 1. God and man have never been at odds over their ultimate objectives: both seek man's experience of the Joy that is Life.
- 2. God and man have, since Genesis 3, been at war over the servant objectives: those "lesser objectives" that constitute the expression of faith.
- 3. What happened in Genesis 3 was that the serpent was able to fragment man's focus of faith into three elements that shatter (like tempered glass) into a gazillion pieces so that man becomes either frenetic in his faith-pursuit of life as he tries desperately to put the pieces back together like Humpty Dumpty or apathetic because the task is too demanding.
- a. The three elements were: the condition of man's body; the condition of man's soul; and the condition of man's spirit.
- b. The shift of focus was from God as the Able Provider for all three of man's needs to man's responsibility to make sure he did not lack in any of the three areas. [Zacharias' fear was the direct result of living with his own inadequacy].
- B. Grace (Anna) is Luke's argument that Grace (God's) has a working and effective method for Life.
- 1. Luke tells us that "Grace" never left the Temple.
- a. No matter how we slice it, the Temple signified the Residence of God and all that was done there was done in close proximity to His Presence.
- 1) Isaiah 56:7 says that God's intention was for the Temple, His Residence, to be known as the House of Prayer.
- 2) 1 Kings 8 tells us that Solomon's dedicatory prayer focused upon God's willingness to "hear" when people directed their prayers to the Temple.
- b. That "Grace" never left the Temple means that the whole of her life was wrapped up in the Presence of God.
- 1) In Revelation 3:12 the promise is made to the Philadelphian overcomer that he will be made a permanent pillar in the Temple -- never to go out from it.
- 2) The actions of "Grace" and the promise of Revelation both tell us pointedly that Life is founded in the Presence of God plus nothing.
- 3) This is in sharp contrast to the thinking of the vast majority of mankind, even "Christians", who consider being a permanent fixture in the Temple to be too constricting -- like a cell in a prison.
- c. That "Grace" never left the Temple means that she had come to a central, all-consuming focus regarding Life: God is Life.
- 1) This means that "Grace" rested in the provision of God regarding her body.
- 2) This means that "Grace" rested in the provision of God regarding her soul.
- 3) This means that "Grace" rested in the provision of God regarding her spirit.
- d. As this truth transitioned into the Age of God's Church Program, believers became the Temple of God and His "Grace" moved in to never leave. The contrast is startling in that the believer no longer "never leaves the Temple" but Grace never leaves the Temple. Grace is in the Temple so the believer can rest from his responsibility to provide for his own body, soul, and spirit.
- 2. Luke tells us that "Grace" was consumed by the notion of "service".
- a. For "Grace", serving the God of Life was the point of Life.
- 1) The God of Life is fundamentally a Servant.
- 2) Because the Servant is all about Life, it cannot be that Life is not experienced to the greatest degree when believers are "serving" God in reality (as opposed to programmed service) by doing all that they do to the point of making the Truth about Him clear (Exercising oneself to godliness and doing all to the glory of God are the same thing and they boil down to "serving" God).
- a) What happens when men only grasp this truth dimly?
- b) They program the church so people will have an opportunity to "serve" God and do not see the "service" in their daily routine.
- b. For "Grace", serving God took the form of fastings and prayers.
- 1) Be aware that as soon as we read "fastings and prayers", men who have no insight will immediately begin to preach the necessity of fasting and prayer in the service of God.
- 2) "Grace" did not see "fastings and prayers" as "the grease that permits skids of the Divine Plan to slide over the surface of history".
- a) This is a perverse distortion wherein man falls back into the "life is my responsibility" fragmentation of Genesis 3.
- b) This is a perversion of the entire notion of the creature/Creator relationship.
- 3) "Grace" saw "fastings and prayers" as her way of "riding on the skids of the Divine Plan as it moves through history".
- a) "Fasting" is fundamentally a deliberate withdrawal from the body's demand for food so that greater insight can occur in respect to the Divine Plan [Daniel is the classic illustration of this fact: he fasted and prayed not to get God to create the plan of the seventy weeks, but to get to understand that plan and, out of understanding, to get to be the servant who got to pass it on to the other servants of God.]
- b) "Prayer", likewise, is not about twisting God's arm to "generate" a plan, but to express the urgency of desire to be included in the plan. [This is the word used of Zacharias' powerful longing to get to be involved in the plan of having a son who would be a servant of God.]
- c. For "Grace" this was a "night and day" affair.
- 1) Again, the point is not constrained labor.
- 2) The issue is that her pursuit occurred "night" and "day".
- a) This has an understanding of the order (night and day) in mind.
- i. All good Jews knew that the creation order was "night and day".
- ii. All informed believers know that "night" signals the difficult issues and "day" signals the clear-sighted approach to them.
- iii. All informed believers understand, therefore, that Life currently is going to have plenty of "night things" to deal with and sufficient "daylight" to handle them.
- b) This also has this understanding in mind: Life runs in cycles that tend to emphasize the negatives and we are not to be put off by the fact that Life involves getting to know the complex God in all of the contrasts and harmonies.