How do we handle challenges? How did Christ handle temptation and suffering? How did Mary and Joseph handle challenges? What can we learn from their story?
Over two thousand years ago, one of mankind’s greatest challenges was given to two people. He was a man, probably in his mid-thirties, a recognized construction contractor of quite some reputation. She was a fine young woman, well known, good standing in the community and they were caught up in their plans for their marriage — where they were going to live, thoughts about setting up a new home, and so on. They considered themselves entirely normal — just normal individuals of the day. They had the same hopes and dreams and desires for a home, happiness, health, success, and children as any other young couple of the day. And then, things changed. Suddenly, things were different. Like a bolt out of the blue, their whole future changed, never to be the same again. Actually, it wasn’t just a challenge that they were given, but rather they were given an order, a command, if you will, that couldn’t be ignored.
She was told one evening that she was going to bear the Son of God. Now, think about that for a minute. A young woman, going about her business and suddenly she is told by an angel, so she knew it was coming from God, that she was going to bear the Son of God.
And he was told, on a separate occasion, to accept the pregnancy because it was God-ordained and there wasn’t anything he could do about it anyhow. Now, it did happen to two normal people. You wonder what kind of questions came to mind at that time. Why us? How do you do this? What do you mean? How inadequate they must have felt as it sunk in and they began to realize what the direction was.
I’d like to begin with you in Luke chapter 1. Reflecting back upon the fact that they were issued a challenge that they had to bear up with - that they had to go ahead and prove up on, a command, if you wish, but certainly a challenge that had been given to them - a very major one. So, in Luke, chapter 1, verse 26, it says, speaking of Mary:
Lk. 1:26-38 - Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women! Now, that would have to be a shocking thing in itself. You know, you are sitting in your house or you have just gone to bed or whatever it was and all of a sudden this bright light occurs and an angel is standing there and he says, Rejoice. About what? What’s the deal? What’s going on? You are highly favored. ...Blessed are you among women!  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Well, what’s going on here?  Then the angel said to her, "Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor in the sight of God. You have found favor.  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and call His name Jesus.  "He will be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Now, that’s quite a promise for a woman to be given about the child that she is going to be having. We’d all be happy with a whole lot less promise than that when our children were born. But that’s quite a promise that was given to her. And Mary said, What do you mean? I’m a virgin! How am I going to have a child?  And the angel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  "And indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who has been called barren.  "For with God nothing is impossible."  Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
She said, well all right, if that’s what you’re telling me, I’ll do the best I can. But she must have been speechless. She must have wondered, What is going on and how can this ever be. This is an incredible responsibility. It’s far too big a job. How can I ever do it? It’s never been done before. And, it can’t be done now. But, the angel said, Well, with God, all things are possible.
I’m going to bear a Son of God. That’s the stuff of Greek myths, you know, the gods coming down to women and all the Greek myths had to do with that. She said, Besides, I’m a virgin. And in verse 37, he said, For with God nothing is impossible. And she said, okay, let it be that way if that’s the way that it is I will accept that. I’ll do the best I possibly can.
Then, in Matthew, chapter 1, verse 18, it takes up the other side and it says:
Matt:1:18-25 - Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together... before they had any kind of relationship, so she was certainly a virgin...she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. When that began to be made known, Joseph no doubt was a little bit frustrated and shocked - didn’t know what to think. But it says,  Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Because, of course, if she really was pregnant the marriage vows were not going to be able to be kept and he could put her away. So he thought, well he would just do it quietly so her reputation wouldn’t be hurt.  But while he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."  Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."  Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife...went ahead with whatever other ceremonies that were to be done to complete the marriage... and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
But, again, you know Joseph had to have sort of wondered, he was going to be the surrogate father of the Son of God. Joseph accepted. Mary accepted. They believed God could do what He had said and so they accepted the responsibilities that had been thrust upon them.
Now, you can go through the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 and you can read about Abraham and you can read about Isaac and you can read about all kinds of other people, the harlot that let the spies down over the wall, Rahab. Read about all kinds of people. These were people of faith. And you don’t find Joseph in there. You don’t find Mary in there. And yet, certainly, they had faith. They lived their faith, because they were given a challenge and they were told, this is the way that it is going to be. And they accepted their challenge. And they probably spent long hours talking about, well, how do we do this? Now all of you who are parents probably, once you realized a child was on the way, did a certain amount of talking about, well, depending upon your background and the things that were important to you, where are they going to go to school? How do we train them? Do we have the right kind of a house? Let’s move to a house where we have a little bit of a yard. Are we going to have pets? Whatever else. So, they no doubt talked about all kinds of things.
How do you go about rearing a sinless child? We all know that’s quite a task to even consider. None of us have been able to do that and we certainly realize what a tremendous task that would be. They, no doubt, were appalled at the thought of the responsibility that had been thrust upon them and must have spent countless hours discussing how to go about doing what they were supposed to do. What would be expected of us? What if we slip up? What is God going to do to us then? You know, they knew that what they put into that little head in the beginning would bring response, obedience, compassion, love. Now, the Holy Spirit was there to help as well. But, of course, the tiny little child that was just born and going through the toddling years and everything, had to be directed and had to be guided. And what they set as an example for the child and what they taught the child was going to bring about a well-rounded, responsible personality, not a rebellious one. He wasn’t going to have the childhood fears that oftentimes come upon other children because they were going to be so careful in what they did and rear him according to what they understood was the way that life was supposed to be.
Let’s go back to Proverbs, chapter 16. We’re all very familiar with this scripture. Proverbs 16, and verse 25 where it says:
Pro:16:25 - There is a way that seems right to a man, and the ends thereof are the ways of death.
Now, they knew that. I mean, they were familiar with the Old Testament with all of the scriptures and they knew that there would be tendencies on their part to maybe think about doing something a certain way and they would have to evaluate as to whether or not it was the proper way. But what it comes down to, in the long haul, is that they ultimately set the example and guided him as far as Pro:8:13 where it says that we are to learn to hate evil and Pro. 23, verse 7 where it says that what an individual is in their heart, so are they. So those had to be some of the thoughts that they had going through their minds, things that they were thinking about, and no doubt those things were repeated continually during the course of His early life. They gave the basic teachings to Jesus Christ about how to avoid evil and how to hate it. Now, obviously, all the credit doesn’t go to Joseph and Mary because the Holy Spirit was there and the Holy Spirit was helping them and the Holy Spirit also, of course, obviously was helping Jesus Christ and strengthening and leading Him along in the way that He should go. But Joseph and Mary were the human examples He saw as a small child.
Matthew, chapter 15, verse 19, where it talks about out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. They knew that. They had learned that. They understood it entirely. And they taught that.
In Matt:15:18-20 it says, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. "These are the things which defile a man...what he allows himself to think, what he allows himself to be motivated by, what makes him tick and what makes him move. Those are the things to be aware of. So they knew those things and they were teaching and guiding and directing those things that were being done so that Christ had a good, basic foundation. And they practiced it in their home.
Now you read in Luke, chapter 2 and in verse 46, how that worked out. Because in Luke:2:46 we remember the story, that they had gone to Jerusalem for the holy days and they had been there and they went ahead and left and journeyed on back. And by the time they were a day’s journey away from Jerusalem they suddenly realized that Christ wasn’t with them. And so they had to turn around and go back. They had assumed the He would just naturally fall in where He belonged and so on.
Lk. 2:46-52 - So in verse 46, it says, So it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. Now, of course, if they journeyed one day out and they had to journey another day back, that’s two days and it would take some time to find Him, to go looking for Him in the city. So they finally found Him sitting with the learned teachers and the instructors around the Temple. And He was listening to the people, their instructions and their expounding upon the Word of God and He was asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  So when they saw Him, they were amazed...meaning Joseph and Mary... and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously."  And He said to them, "Why is it that you sought Me? Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.  Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
So he learned His lessons well and He practiced them and He had the power of the Holy Spirit also to help Him. It’s interesting when you think about Jesus Christ, He never had the privilege of associating with another converted person. There weren’t any until after He died. So He was in a carnal world and influenced by all the things that went on around there.
Now, this isn’t just a Christmas story. It did happen. It did occur. Now, where do we go from here? What’s the point of the sermon on challenges? Well, whether you believe it or not, your life follows along a somewhat close parallel. At some point in your life you found favor in God’s sight and He saw fit to open your mind to understanding His way. And He gave you a priceless calling. And, each one of you — or each one of us, however you wish to phrase it — have a challenge. We have been issued a very important challenge because we have been challenged to rear A son of God. Not The Son of God, but we have been challenged to rear a son of God. Not a sinless one, but one that can become blameless. Now, whether or not you are single or married, young or old - if you have repented and received God’s Spirit, you have become a begotten son of God. Then, you are responsible for teaching, for developing, for rearing your spiritual self. Oh, you have help and you have guidance. The ministry is to help you. The Holy Spirit is there to help. God’s inspiration is there to help. But at the same time, we have, upon the receipt of God’s Holy Spirit, had a new creation begin. And what we do with ourselves determines what’s going to happen to that new creation because we have the responsibility of the same ground rules that they had. What goes into our head, what goes into our minds, what we allow ourselves to follow and do are going to determine whether or not that spiritual creation comes to fruition. That’s a real challenge. It’s not an impossible challenge because, of course, God’s Spirit is there and God’s not going to require something of us that we couldn’t possibly handle. But, of course, when we realize the magnitude of what we have, that we have been called to come to be a part of the Family of God, we have been called to have this incredible opportunity that we can prove up on and become sharing with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God, what an immense challenge that is! Now, of course, in some ways the magnitude even changes when we begin to have our own children because then we begin to teach and we begin to guide and we begin to be responsible for what our children see, hear and learn. Not that we are ever responsible whether or not our children are converted. Now, I take exception to some people who tend to say, well it’s your fault if your children have not been converted. No, that’s not true. If you’ve done your part in teaching the best you are able, in doing everything you can to set a right example, to lead, as humanly possible as we can in the things that should be done, our children come to a point in life — or you young people out there - come to a point in life where you make the decision about where your life’s going. And you determine whether or not you wish to go ahead and accept the calling that God has available. And the parents’ responsibility ends then. The parents may still encourage, they still exhort, and they still strive to push them along in a certain way, but at the same time then, our children have to make their own decisions and they have to be responsible for their own lives. So, not to put too big a burden on anybody, but just that it is a matter that we have the responsibility of teaching ourselves, in that sense, of what we allow ourselves to do, how we form our own character and everything. We have that responsibility and when our children come along, then we also have the responsibility of trying to help them get started in the right way.
Now, it’s not impossible. In John, chapter 14, verse 15, just before He died, Jesus said to His disciples:
Jn:14:15-18 - "If you love Me, keep My commandments.  "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He will abide with you forever. The term is a PARAKLEET, a helper, an aid, an assistant, someone to be with you. ...that He may abide with you forever,  "even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
So He promises that we have the advocate, the helper, to be there with us, to be there guiding us, to be there giving us strength and encouragement. And yet, at the same time, we have our own responsibilities for our spiritual conduct and our spiritual selves.
Now men and women will spend thousands of dollars training for a profession. If you are going to be a doctor or a lawyer or an ‘injun’ chief, you know, whatever you are going to be, if you have a profession chosen and you want to begin to pursue that - you want to be a musician - you have to apply yourself. You have to work hard at learning how to be a doctor, lawyer, musician or apprentice in some trade, because sometimes, apprenticeships as an electrician or as a carpenter or whatever take four or five years. You have to work hard at it. You have to learn the pitfalls, the problems, the shortcuts, the easy ways to do things that will lead you down the road to that profession. Now, my point is that we should also realize with the challenge that has been presented to us that we need to be willing to do the same in regard to our sonship in the Family of God. We should be willing to spend hundreds of hours applying ourselves to the knowledge and gaining the knowledge. And we should be working to inculcate it into our lives so that it is a part of us in order that we may show ourselves approved to God - in order that we might learn how to best overcome and avoid sin. So, it’s a challenge. It’s a good challenge. It’s an extremely rewarding challenge. And it’s a wonderful thing to be able to realize that it’s there and that we may slip and we may stumble and we may make mistakes. But at the same time, if we are a part of the Family of God, we have the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we have the Holy Spirit living within us, we can still be forgiven, we can still be without blame. Not sinless, but blameless. There’s a difference. You know, you can sin and be forgiven and no blame is attributed to you. So, we can become blameless before God.
Back in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16, Paul is giving very good instruction for all of us who are growing as spiritual children.
Gal:4:16-21 - In verse 16, he said, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary one to another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. We don’t always do the things that we wish, we sometimes let our minds wander, we sometimes find that we have slipped up and are doing something that we shouldn’t. So he goes on and says, But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are...you know, the things that we have to grow to learn to hate. The things that we have to begin to understand, the problems that are involved, the unhappiness that is involved and the difficulties that come to be a part of following these ways. These things: adultery, fornication, sexual sins are wrong. We shouldn’t put ourselves in a position where we are tempted in that way because, actually, we don’t have to be going out of our way to be putting ourselves in a position to be tempted by that, because it’s a pretty natural temptation that comes on people as long as they are human. And so, those things have to be fought against. He goes on to say, …uncleanness and licentiousness and  idolatry and sorcery and hatred and contentions and jealousies and outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in times past, that those who practice such things will not...be in the family...of God — will not inherit the kingdom of God, he says.
Now, Joseph and Mary didn’t have these particular scriptures defined for them in the way that Paul defined them in Galatians, because, of course, that came much later. But, they knew the principles. They understood what motivates from their studies of the Old Testament and from their guidance that God was giving them. And they taught Jesus, as a baby, not to react to the works of the flesh. There simply isn’t any right use for them. No right use for adultery, for fornication, for wrath - no way it can be used properly in the way that it is being discussed here.
And of course, as He became older He began to also have more awareness of God’s Spirit. How did Jesus first realize what His calling was? At what stage in life? We don’t know, don’t have the faintest idea. But, as a tiny baby He was the Son of God and He was also the son of man and He lived this life that we all live without sinning — ever. So, he was taught properly to begin with, but at the same time, He had to exercise, then, the Holy Spirit and exercise His understanding as He grew in understanding to keep from falling prey to those things. And as He became old enough and aware of His calling, He then worked all the harder at it. But, obviously, as a small child He had to have some guidance. And Joseph and Mary realized what it says in 1 Corinthians 6, verse 19, where it simply says:
1 Cor:6:19-20 - Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is...or which is...in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
We are a part of the Temple of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s true in all ages as people repent and receive His Spirit. So, we have that privilege and that opportunity, but we can’t allow ourselves, then, to become involved in some of the other things that intrigue other people or some of the other things that may catch our interest momentarily or that may seem reasonable for a short time. We can’t get involved in idolatry, in wrong actions, whatever they may be. You know, it’s so easy to say, I don’t see that it is so bad. I really only have to work about an hour on the Sabbath, so I don’t see that that’s so bad. It’s not the whole day, I’m keeping the rest of it. But, of course, that’s wrong. We’re supposed to keep the Sabbath Holy. That’s every bit of it. That’s all the time. And we have to grow in that. We have to come to understand and we have to come to realize how we overcome it. Or we might say, George over here, you know, he did me wrong and now’s my chance to get back at him. I’ve finally got something that I can get back at him. And then, we’ll be even. Once we’re even, I’m fine. But as long as he’s done something to me, and I haven’t gotten even with him, I’m not happy. Well, we can’t allow that. We have to put that away. And all other actions and thoughts that enter our minds, whatever they may be, the temptation to lie about something, the temptation to covet something that someone else has. Now those are — well lying we pretty well understand — coveting is sort of a spiritual term. We don’t go about thinking what coveting is. We see somebody that has whatever it may be and think, boy, I’d like to have that. No, that’s not right. You might wish you could have something similar, but you shouldn’t be wanting what the other guy has and trying to take it away from the other guy. And we have to come to understand those things and begin to strive to overcome and make the best of it.
Now, I think it’s interesting back in Hebrews, chapter 5, and in verse 5, it says:
Heb:5:5-8 - So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him... Christ didn’t go out trying to overthrow the High Priest that was in the Temple or anything like that. ... but it was He who said to Him...the Father who said to Him..."You are My Son, today I have begotten You."  As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek"...referring to Jesus Christ;  who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear... Jesus worked at it. It wasn’t a ‘piece of cake’, you know, it wasn’t easy. It says... with vehement cries and tears...in His prayers and in His calling out to the Father to help Him to restrain Himself from going the wrong direction; to help Him to achieve what He was supposed to achieve. And, because of that, it says,  though He were a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
So He did suffer in this life, suffer the temptations and suffer the things that come upon every human being. And He feared making the mistake, or He feared allowing Himself to be tempted and enter into sin, because He knew if He entered into sin, He would never again have access to His former glory, that He wouldn’t have further access to the Father and He didn’t want the consequence. Now, I’m sure there are all sorts of other deep spiritual things you can get involved in there, but my point is the consequence would have been that He would have been shut off from God. And that’s the consequence that we face! The penalty today isn’t immediate and therefore, it doesn’t seem quite that important. You know, it isn’t something that happens just immediately and therefore, well, maybe it’s not that big a deal. Maybe it just really isn’t that important one way or the other. But, the penalty is ultimate. It may not be immediate, but it is ultimate unless it’s repented of. So we need to continually guide ourselves, encourage ourselves, direct ourselves, teach ourselves along those lines so that we don’t have to be tempted by that and don’t have to have those kind of problems.
In Proverbs 9, verse 10, it says:
Pro:9:10 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. So in rearing our spiritual selves, we need to have more knowledge of God. We need to strive to come to understand more. We need to apply ourselves and study more, perhaps. We need to allow our minds to go along the way that God thinks and we begin to have understanding. Now, we begin to achieve something that is very important.
Another scripture that I appreciate very much is back here in Proverbs, chapter 15, and verse 32, it says:
Pro:15:32-33 - He who disdains instruction despises his own soul. Now we don’t think about it that way. You know, someone starts to give us some instruction or guidance or encouragement or whatever, we may disdain it, we may say, Ah, come on, don’t give me that, I’m not interested. But, he says in terms of the things that are important, He who disdains instruction despises his own soul. Now, we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to despise ourselves and yet, maybe we do bring that about simply because we haven’t governed our thoughts and haven’t been willing to listen and hear what’s being given. ... but he who heeds reproof gets understanding.  The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. So, our lives are also a part of learning humility. They are a part of learning the fear of the Lord, to hate evil - all of those things - to get instruction, to receive it, to be willing to hear it, be willing to move forward with it in order that we may be instructing and guiding ourselves.
Now, you go back to your school days — it depends on what you were in school. You know, some, no doubt, were class wizards and they sat there and said all the right things to the teacher and did all the right things - colored within the lines when they were first learning to color, gave all the right answers, always had their hand up. ‘Call me — me — me! I’ve got the right answer!’ And then there are some of the rest of you. And you sat there with a frown on your face or made smart remarks or muttered whatever. I remember one time, I don’t know, it must have been somewhere in the early years, fourth or fifth grade, I can’t remember for the life of me why it happened, but the teacher was very upset with something I did. And at that time, I wore a crew cut. Now, she came storming back there and grabbed for my hair to slap my face and there wasn’t any hair to grab and she missed my face and I sort of felt real good about that — made her look bad. We’ve all despised instruction at times. We’ve all said, you’re not going to teach me. I won’t listen to you. I don’t care what you say. But, when we’re talking about the spiritual things, the knowledge of eternal life, we ought to have ears the size of a mule deer. They are focusing every which way to try to catch every nuance of what is being said that will lead us to become more strong in our understanding of God’s way.
In Psalm 119, verse 104, It says:
Ps:119:104 - Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
That the precepts, the teachings, the guidance, the direction that comes from God gives us understanding. And the more understanding we have the easier it is to hate the wrong things. It’s not natural for someone who has just been baptized, necessarily, it is not natural for them to just automatically come up out of the watery baptismal pool and see certain things happening and say, ‘Oh, that’s bad. I don’t want anything to do with that,’ because it may have been something they were very much a part of in the past. It doesn’t immediately mean that they understand, but, as they hear the precepts of God, as we take the precepts of God and drink them in, as we make it a part of us, we learn to hate evil. To despise what it brings about. I don’t know, you look around us today and see all of the news and hear all of the news — some of the incredible things that are going on and you can get yourself so wound up. You look at the result of the traffic in drugs and what it has done to the people of the United States of America and the rest of the world. What it has done to the young people, how they have been completely and utterly destroyed, in many cases, where they simply don’t have the ability to ever move forward in this life to amount to anything. And you just stop and think about, well if no one had begun to introduce drugs into the country, what would the country be like? Well, of course, that did happen and it is here, but we can hate the result. We can see the result. We can see what it brings about and come to really hate the fact that it’s evil, that it’s destroying people, that it’s ruining lives. And you can apply that however you wish. But as we have more of God’s precepts, as we understand more of His precepts, we understand more how wrong things are and what to hate. Because it is not wrong to hate if you are hating the thing, the evil, the result. Actually, it does say back in Ephesians, be angry and sin not. So you can be angry about things. You’re not supposed to be angry at people, but you can be angry about some of the things that happen.
Psalm, chapter 139, verse 23. A part of our life as we are rearing our own spiritual selves, inasmuch as that is our responsibility, and certainly it is our responsibility to quite some degree.
In Ps:139:23-24 - it says, Search me, O God, and know my heart...take a look at me and know my heart and know what motivates me...Try me, and know my anxieties;  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
Help me to root out, help me to see, help me to overcome, help me to achieve in terms of getting rid of that which is evil, of how to stamp it out, of how to eradicate it, how to get it completely out of our lives. And our spiritual selves will be strengthened.
Joshua, chapter 24, following the death of Moses, they were ready to go into the Promised Land and in verse 14:
Jos:24:14-20 - Joshua came before all the people of Israel and he said to them, "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! Now, we can say, well we’ve never served other gods. Our family has always been "Christian" and that’s true. I mean, there is a certain aspect of the acknowledgment that there is a God, but they may not be doing a very good job of following Him. So, he is simply saying, well whatever was before — I mean, our baptism, in a sense, I guess you can say, is our crossing of the river. On the other side of our baptism we were a certain way and so he is saying, well put those away and those things which your fathers have done and serve the Lord.  "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Sometimes we have to make those kinds of definitions with ourselves. We just have to say, well as for me this is what I’m going to do. God willing, I am going to do it. It goes on to say in verse 17, "for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed.  "And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, even the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God." And he went on to say in verse 19, "You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.  "If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn...away. Well certainly that’s a good warning. Our God is a jealous God and since He has called us and given us an opportunity to become a part of His family, He wants us to remain true to Him, true to His word. He is jealous of our going other ways and doing other things and unless we repent when we do that, He is going to go ahead and reject us.
Now, at the same time, we as individuals ought to be jealous for our God. We ought to be jealous in our service of our God wanting very much to have Him be the only one and to be following Him in the way that we should be going.
In Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26, is where it says:
Eph:4:26-27 - "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,  nor give place to the devil.
So, we shouldn’t allow that to come about. But, it’s the easiest thing in the world, probably the thing most people most easily do, is to become angry. WHAT DO YOU MEAN? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? GET OUT OF MY WAY! Now, maybe you’ve never done that. I know some of you have, because I’ve seen some of you do it. And, you know, I talk to myself. Richard Pinelli came in my office the other day and he just came walking through the door and I was doing something on the computer and I said, You dummy. And he said, Do you talk to yourself, too? So, my wife keeps telling me, ‘Well, don’t do that because people are going to think you are talking to me!’ No, if you hear me call someone an idiot, I am probably talking to myself. But, it’s simply a matter that it’s awfully easy to get angry. So easy. And it’s so hard, then, once you’ve gotten angry and made some kind of a fool of yourself to apologize for having gone the wrong way because then you have to back down and that’s just hard to do. But, that’s a part of life, a part of what we’re supposed to be growing in and understanding and learning.
In James, chapter 1, it says in verse 19,
Jas. 1:19-20 - Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
So one of the great things that we need to learn to control as individuals in directing our spiritual life is wrath — being angry inappropriately.
Another thing that is very hard is in James, chapter 1, and verse 2,
Jas. 1:2-4 - My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
But, chances are when we fall into various trials and temptations we don’t count it a joy and we may be a little hard to live with as a result of it. So, of course, there can be all kinds of spiritual applications there. We can’t take time for all of those today, but just an interesting thing — a wonderful thing to see that there are all of these challenges that we’re given that are not impossible to live with or not impossible to overcome, but they are difficult. And it’s a real job to go ahead and learn how to do it and how to apply ourselves. But God will provide and He will perfect us and He will provide for us and He will help us to overcome because He wants us - amazing as it is - God wants us to be a part of His family. He wants us to be a part of His children.
In James, chapter 4, verse 11, it says,
Jas. 4:11-12 - Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge one another?
And yet, that is so easy. How do we go about rearing a spiritual son of God? Well, these are all very simple little things. They are things that are so easy to fall into and yet, He tells us, you are not supposed to judge one another. But it is terribly easy to judge what someone else is doing, or why they did it. And we oftentimes find ourselves falling prey to that.
In Matthew, chapter 19, just as a reminder, the story about the rich young ruler who came to Christ and he said, verse 16:
Matt:19:16-26 - "Good master...Good Teacher, what good thing do I do to have eternal life?"  And Christ said, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that’s, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."  And the man...said to Him, "Which ones?" and Jesus said, " Don’t...murder, don't...commit adultery, don’t...steal, don’t...bear false witness,  Honor your father and your mother, ...love your neighbor as yourself."  And...the young man said — hey, that’s a snap, I’ve been doing that all my life, because he had been following the teachings of Judaism all of his life, he said, ...I’ve kept these from my youth..."  And Christ said, "Hey, well great. There’s only one more thing you need to do then. …If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." And the man said, "Well, wait a minute, come on now, that’s going a little bit too far. Sell everything I have and give it away and just follow along after you? I don’t know what that’s going to mean, where it’s going to go, what’s going to happen to me. I can’t do that."  …he went away sorrowful, it says.  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, "Well, who then can be saved?"  And Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men it’s impossible, but with God all things are possible."
So, I’m not trying to overwhelm you today in talking about a challenge, I’m trying to challenge you to meet the challenge in a sense. You know our challenge can be met, it can be bested. God called us to be a part of His family. Our loving Father won’t give us something we can’t do — hasn’t given us something we can’t do. We can achieve. We can overcome. We can become a part of the Family of God. So the challenge has been put forward, has been issued. We have it before us and we have the opportunity to go ahead and move forward with it.
But one thing that helps so very much - as a final scripture in Hebrews, chapter, 4 verse 14, It says:
Heb:4:14-16 - Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Our High Priest, our Savior, our God, has experienced the temptations that we experience and achieved life without sin. Now, He knows we can’t because we’re human. We don’t have as much of His Holy Spirit, but at the same time He is willing to forgive, He is willing to make intercession, He is willing to give the extra boost to help us move down the road the way we are supposed to go. And we have been forgiven and we have been made blameless before our Father through our High Priest, Jesus Christ.
How are you doing with your challenge?