Character matters. God wants us to develop and demonstrate qualities which reveal our values and convictions. Character counts as the sustaining force which enables us to make an impact over the long haul – more than intelligence, skills, or education.

When God selected the Christmas couple – Mary and Joseph – he chose two people with sterling character, including traits which qualified them to be Jesus’s earthly parents. While the Bible contains scant details about their appearance or proficiencies, it emphasizes the kind of people they were – their character traits – as the reasons for their selection for their all-important roles.

Joseph found himself in an awkward situation. The Bible describes him as a “righteous man” who obeyed the law of God (Mt. 1:19) but who wanted to divorce Mary. Why? Well, you know why! She was pregnant. And since Joseph knew what caused that, and also knew he wasn’t the father, he wanted out of the relationship.

Yet, Joseph’s love for Mary was evident in his hesitancy to go through with the divorce. The Bible says he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace” (Mt. 1;19) so he was considering ways to end the relationship quietly. Then God sent an angel with a very clear message – don’t do it! The angel gave him the details – the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, his name will be Jesus, you will marry Mary, and your son will save people from their sins.

What a startling message that must have been! But Joseph’s response reveals the depth of his convictions and desire to obey God – “he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him” (Mt. 1:24). Joseph obeyed God, continuing to live as a righteous man by obeying the new insight he now had into what it meant to be righteous. It was not about following the Law, but about obeying the new direction God provided through the angel.

One more aspect of this story has always intrigued me. The virgin birth is an important fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and an essential part of orthodox Christology. Joseph was the key person in making this happen since “he did not have sexual relations with her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son” (Mt. 1:25). Note this key distinction. Jesus conceived in a virgin was God’s miracle; Jesus being born of a virgin was Joseph’s responsibility. The virgin conception was caused by God. The virgin birth was assured by Joseph.

God chose Joseph because he lived by convictions. He obeyed God, end of story, no matter how difficult it was. He set aside his rights and privileges to do what was right. As you reflect on the Christmas couple this Christmas season, draw strength from Joseph and live by your convictions in obedience to God’s directions.

Prayer Sparks

Pastor Jon Varner shares what he learned developing a practice of combining his daily Bible reading and prayer.

Jon Varner
Lead Pastor
Jon Varner is the lead pastor at Valley View Christian Church in Kent, Washington.

Sobering

Life is short, heaven is long. Let’s live like it today.

Jeff Iorg
President
Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Gateway Seminary. Prior to his service at the Seminary, Dr. Iorg was the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention for almost ten years. He was also the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon, and has served as a pastor in Missouri and a staff pastor in Texas.

Hope that Sustains

Part of your leadership challenge is maintaining hope. Doing so isn’t simply practicing a high level of spiritual denial.

Jeff Iorg
President
Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Gateway Seminary. Prior to his service at the Seminary, Dr. Iorg was the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention for almost ten years. He was also the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon, and has served as a pastor in Missouri and a staff pastor in Texas.