Practicing What Jesus Preached

Posted by on January 29, 2006 under Sermons

sing “Footprints of Jesus”

[Matthew 19:16-30] – When the young man comes to Jesus, the Lord doesn’t challenge his question: “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” In fact Jesus obliges his question and urges him to keep the commandments. Jesus had been teaching that he did not come to abolish the commandments, but to fulfill them. When you read through Matthew’s gospel and what Jesus teaches you find that Jesus is very serious about doing good. He intends for his teachings and the commandments of God to be lived out and put into practice. He concludes the Sermon on the Mount with the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The foolish builder builds on loose soil and his house collapses, but the wise builder builds on the rock and the house stands even during a storm. The wise person is the one who takes what Jesus says and puts it into practice!

This is what disappoints the young man who wanted to inherit eternal life. He wasn’t expecting that the inheritance of eternal life would so radically change his life. When Jesus lists the commandments, it is easy for this fine young fellow to state – even modestly – that he has kept the commandments since he hasn’t broken any of the rules. But if he is going to follow Jesus into the Kingdom of Heaven he has to do more than follow the rules. He has to do more than “keep” the commandments (that is, not violate them), he has to do them. The good work we are called to is more than “not bad” it is active. Jesus wants us to take his teachings and put them into practice. That is good work!

Jesus calls his disciples to a righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees. [Matthew 5:20] Now they were the ultimate rule-keepers – how could we ever surpass their righteousness? Simple – you rediscover the meaning of righteousness. Righteousness isn’t about “not doing bad,” rather it is about actively “doing good.” The scribes and the Pharisees followed the rules, but the disciples of Jesus follow the Lord. Jesus warns us to do what they teach but not what they do because they do not practice what they preach!

What are we supposed to do with Jesus teaching? What’s the best way to understand it and teaching it to others? Jesus concludes one of his better known teachings, the Sermon on the Mount, with a fairly simple answer to these questions: do what I told you. [Matthew 7:24] The wise person is like the builder who builds on a good foundation. The house built on the rock will stand. Putting Jesus’ teachings into practice is building on a good foundation.

The reason that churches, households, and individual lives collapse is sometimes because people want to follow Jesus but only so they can have a little insurance for the future or for the bad times. We need religion in our lives because it helps us over our bad feelings or it might make the kids behave or keep them out of trouble. We want the insurance but we want to build our house on the edge of a cliff looking over the ocean. We want to build our lives on our own plot and according to our own plan. But Jesus isn’t interested in selling insurance. He’s a carpenter and he knows how to build a good life, a good home, and a good church.

Doing Good Works
Look at the banners in this auditorium and notice that we recognize this. We understand that disciples of Jesus should be eager to serve other. We strive to prepare for works of service to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). We intend to excite one another to Love and Good Deeds (Hebrews 10:24). We know that following Christ involves baptizing and teaching others so that they too can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 16:15-16). Finally we recognize that God made us in Christ to do Good Works (Ephesians 2:10).

This text is good for us to reflect on for a moment. We are God’s work – his creation. He crafted us and designed us. Most craftsmen and creators have a purpose for their works. So it is with God. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that we are created in Christ Jesus – suggesting that we have been re-created – to do good works which God has already prepared for us. We are supposed to “walk” in these good works. What does that mean? It means we get with it and get active doing what God designed us to do and what he prepared for us to do. We “walk” behind Jesus following in his steps. We are God’s work (creation) to do good work (deeds). That is what it means to be human, that is what it means to be a disciple. What are the good works God has prepared for us to do? We will discuss this in more detail tonight but I want to briefly demonstrate how the teaching of God’s Word has everything to do with good works …

Iglesia de Cristo – In 1987 in Fort Smith, the Latino school population was half of a single percent (0.05%). Today, it is almost 20 percent. But according to one report, the Latinos who are new to America do not always consider us a friendly people. Sometimes that’s because we, as a people, say things like: “If they come to our country, they ought to learn English!” That’s well and good, but who will teach them? I think God wants us to be friendly and hospitable. He wants us to do more than just wish our neighbors all the best. For three years now we have encouraged a ministry that meets on Johnson Street. Oscar Nolasco has been baptizing and teaching. We need to pray for leaders in that congregation. We can help them by building a place of worship (they are renting right now). If we follow Jesus, don’t you think his footsteps will lead us to the growing Latino section of our town? In Matthew 25 the Lord praises those who were righteous: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me?”

Hope Chest logoHope Chest, CURE – Last year as we were searching for property to serve as a building for Iglesia de Cristo we found a building from which we could serve the poor. Now the number of those seeking assistance at the Hope Chest is increasing everyday. Poverty and disaster create different needs but when they combine the problem is truly staggering. This happened last year on the Gulf Coast. The disaster from the hurricanes magnified the problems of poverty. Through CURE, we have been partnering with other disciples to help the disciples on the Gulf Coast to do good works.
If you listen to Christ’s teaching then you know as well as I do that there is no excuse for not helping the poor. But we still find excuses and perhaps that is because the problem is so large. So we hesitate wondering if our efforts make any real difference. We begin to feel that unless we can unleash government-sized, military backed aid on the problem then we will never make a dent in the problem. So we call our efforts a drop in the bucket or twig on the pile. And then we question if God will go with us in our efforts. Will God go with us when we go “to the hungry hopeless side of town?” We can quit worrying about that. The truth is that God has been waiting for us to meet him there. If we follow the footsteps of Jesus don’t you think his path will lead us to the poor, sick, and hungry? “I was naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, hungry and you fed me.”

Tutoring, KFC, Children’s Worship, Nursery, FLOCK, GATEWAY – [Matthew 19:13-15] None of us would ever want to keep children away from Jesus. One of our strengths as a congregation is reflected in the ministries we have devoted to young people – from nursery to young adults. No, we would never say we want to keep children or young adults from Jesus, but do we really take to heart what Jesus said when he said “the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these?” What does that mean? Does this congregation offer “services for young people” or do we serve young people? Serving children is difficult – especially when their parents don’t come here. It can get frustrating when children act like children.
Teens and LFC – Like Jesus we can invite them to follow. They are ready. Notice that Jesus says, “Don’t stop them!” Young people don’t know “not to come” to Jesus unless an adult stops them. Jesus’ disciples thought that he should spend a little more time with adults and that the kids ought to stop bothering Jesus – he had a long day and was awfully tired. But if we follow the footsteps of Jesus, I think we will find ourselves walking alongside children, teens, and young adults who are eager to follow Christ. Maybe we should cheer them on. We need each other on this journey as we follow Christ – young and old need each other; women need one another; men needs one another; women and men need each other. We too often isolate, but Christ calls us to be one!

Men’s Ministry and Family Ministries – Paul Shirley and Mat Griffin have a marriage class starting soon. The women of this congregation have a retreat planned this weekend. Some of the young women, one of them is one of our newest members, have taken the initiative to organize this. I am pleased to see the spiritual maturity of our women – whether it is on the retreat or in their WINGS classes, or study classes, or other fellowships. They show it in their dedication to spend time with their Lord and Creator and in their fellowship with one another. They are encouraging each other to love and good works. They are preparing for works of service. They are putting Christ’s words into practice.Brothers, when will we have a men’s retreat? (Someone will say, “When you plan it preacher.” Isn’t it great that the women don’t have that excuse!) We have a Men’s class starting in February. No, that won’t fit everyone’s schedule, but we have as many options as we have men who will lead. We can do this, brothers! If we follow the footsteps of Jesus I think he will lead us to a quiet place where we can pray and rest with him.

Connections – In a family the size of West-Ark it is easy to think that someone else is available to do the good works. But that’s not really how a big family works. Have you seen the news on the Duggar family in Springdale. They have 16 kids. How does a family that large manage? They assume that everyone can help somewhere because they know that everyone is needed. In our church family, each one of you is needed somewhere. More than that, God has prepared something for you to do.

Following Jesus is joyous and adventurous. So why is it that some will give up anything to follow Jesus and others find that hard to do. I think it is because those who are unwilling to sacrifice confuse following Jesus with following the rules. No one wants to give up something just to follow the rules. There’s no reward or adventure in that. But following Jesus goes somewhere! There’s a destination and journey worth taking. Following Jesus is a quest that is fulfilling and meaningful. There is a lost verse to the song we sang before this sermon (“Footprints of Jesus”) that expresses this idea:

Then at last, when on high He sees us,
    Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus,
    End at His throne.

Determining the Important

Posted by on January 26, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

With me lately transition is the basic consideration and reality of every day. Goals change. Ambitions change. My list of “cannots” increases. My list of “wants” decreases. Pleasures decrease. Things I planned to do change. Things I want to do change. Pace changes. Rate of accomplishment changes. Frankly, at times I hardly recognize me.

I sincerely doubt God’s goals or ambitions concerning us change-ever! While He is incredibly patient with us, what He wants in us and for us is changeless. I sincerely doubt His “to do” list changes. Things that give Him joy are changeless. His plans do not change. His pace and rate of accomplishment do not change because His patience, mercy, and forgiveness are beyond human comprehension. (Read 2 Peter 3:8, 9 lately?) God’s pace is unhurried but certain. God is the same as He was when we were born, or even when humanity began-He is very recognizable.

The older I get the more unimportant I realize I am. At the same time, the older I get the more important I realize God is. I hope in some meaningful way I have been and am useful to God as He achieves His purposes. Yet, I realize that with or without me, God’s purposes will be done. I also realize most of my moments of urgent crises regarding the church are more a product of my fears than God’s realities. After all, God has worked with humans a long time. He knows what to expect from us. As much as we wish it were otherwise, I sincerely doubt that we surprise Him-ever!

To me it is incredible that we humans hold any significance to God. Were it not for us, God would have a lot less heartache and anxiety. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, we are important to Him. How important? Important enough for God to love us when we do not deserve His love or patience.

One of Paul’s favorite illustrations to describe our usefulness to God is the illustration of the body (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Among the many points Paul made in his illustration, two stand out to me. First, we serve the role in the body God gave us. The primary thing my large intestine, my pancreas, and my eyeball have in common is, thankfully, they are parts of my body-though you would never know it by looking at each individually. Second, while we are not able to perform the same functions, we each are useful to God’s purposes-if we perform the function He gave us.

Incredibly, to God there are no unimportant people when we as individuals have the courage to be a part of His people. Unlike humans, the issue with God is NEVER on what we cannot do. It is always on doing what we can do by being what we can be.

Thus the older I get, the more at peace I am with being unimportant-as long as God grows in importance to me.

What God Did For Us In Jesus’ Death and Resurrection (part 5)

Posted by on January 22, 2006 under Sermons

James 1:19-27 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

There was a time when some of us said, “If we don’t do what Ma said, we will get a beatin’ for sure!” There was a time when some of us said, “If my parents ever find out I did this, I will be grounded for life!” There was a time when some of us said, “When my parents hear about this, they will lock me in my room and throw the key away!” That is the forced obedience of the immature. The immature do not obey because they want to obey, but because they are terrified of the consequences of not obeying.

Hopefully, there has come a time in your life that you obey because a love relationship exists. Allow me to give you an example. If you have a good marriage, it is a marriage with numerous incidents of obedience. In a good marriage, there is lots of obedience. Every day the husband and the wife in that good marriage perform acts of obedience out of love and respect, not because they are terrified of a belt, a willow switch, being grounded, or being locked in a room. In a good marriage, the husband and the wife frequently do things they may never talk about simply because the thing shows the appreciation of affection for the spouse. Then in that marriage there are moments of conscious sacrifice made in the loyalty of affection. Such acts have nothing to do with punishment, but everything to do with love .

  1. Perhaps the greatest single act of obedience from a human perspective was given by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane
    1. Jesus had a relationship with the Father that you and I will never have with the Father.
      1. He had a prayer life that makes any of ours look anemic.
      2. His ministry was filled with personal surrender to the Father.
      3. Never once did he defy his Father’s instructions or will.
      4. Three times he asked the Father to let “this cup” pass from him.
        1. For multiple reasons, he did not wish to die then, in those circumstances, in that way.
        2. May I suggest two of the reasons.
          1. He did not want the pain.
          2. He did not want the responsibility [for thousands of years God worked toward that moment–God’s success hinge on Jesus’ reaction under severe stress and pain].
    2. Yet, though Jesus did not want the agony before him, he surrendered.
      1. Paraphrased, “If Your objective can be achieved in any other way, let’s go the other way.”
      2. “However, I surrender to what You want done and the way You want it done.”
      3. Jesus’ obedience in the face of his own death is incredible! He had an option to do things as he wished, and he did not exercise his option–instead he surrendered.
    3. In Jesus:
      1. We see the basic nature of obedience–surrender.
      2. We see the basic issue in obedience–surrender when there is another option [rebellion].
      3. We see the basic motivation for obedience–respectful love for a superior.

  2. Nothing requires as much perspective as does obedience.
    1. We do not have to obey; we choose to obey.
      1. If obedience occurs, it occurs because of our choice.
      2. We do not have to do what God says; we choose to do as God instructs.
      3. Obedience is not always simple!
        1. Sometimes it is personally costly.
        2. Sometimes it is personally painful.
        3. What God asks of us is not always pleasant!
    2. The writer of Hebrews said this of Jesus’ obedience in the Gethsemane situation:
      Hebrews 5:7-10 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
      1. Note he knew God was able to save him from death [at great cost to us, but no additional cost to Jesus].
      2. Note God heard him [I understand that to mean God the Father responded to Jesus’ request].
      3. Note God heard him because of his godly character.
      4. Note Jesus learned obedience through suffering.
      5. Note God used Jesus’ suffering to make Jesus perfect.
      6. Note God used Jesus’ suffering to make Jesus our high priest.
      7. Note God used Jesus’ suffering to make Jesus the source of eternal salvation.

  3. First, I wish to call your attention to the joys of obedience.
    1. The first joy is discovered in knowing there is something bigger than we are.
      1. I do not have to “play God” in any situation–I need to serve God, not play God.
      2. I do not have to decide what are right values–I just have to learn, apply, and follow right values.
    2. By letting God be God in my life, I am released from some impossible responsibilities.
      1. I am not responsible for your choices, and you are not responsible for mine.
      2. I can love you, care about you, encourage you, help you, and share with you–but your choices are yours and my choices are mine.
      3. All I am responsible for is my decisions.
      4. Your choices may break my heart, but your choices do not destroy my relationship with God–I never have to answer to God for what you decide of yourself to do.
    3. God knows why I do what I do.
      1. In Romans 14 these incredible statements are found among many incredible statements.
        Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
        Romans 14:6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
      2. Understanding the context of this statement is critical to grasping its meaning.
        1. It was written by Paul to Jewish and gentile Christians who had very different ways of doing things.
        2. The Jewish Christians were returning to Rome, and the church had become quite gentile in nature in their absence.
        3. The Jewish Christians who did things uniquely as Jews did them for centuries [as far as multiple “hows” as well as “whats”–like in the foods they did and did not eat].
        4. They thought many of the daily practices of the gentiles were ridiculous.
        5. So Jewish Christians observed some days [like the Sabbath] and rejected some foods [like pork] that gentile Christians did not observe or reject.
        6. As a result, in Rome when the Jewish Christians returned, there was a big confrontation in the community of Christians.
      3. Paul incredibly said to both sides, “Leave each other alone!”
        1. “You each are doing what you do for God’s approval, not for each others’ approval.”
        2. “God knows not only what you do, but why you do it.”
        3. “God is as concerned about your motive as your act.”
        4. “You serve God; you are not servants to each other.”
        5. “You cannot make each other stand or fall before God–you do not have that power.”
        6. “You are God’s servants, not each others’ servants.”
      4. A lot of problems instantly would be solved in the church if Christians would stop being self-appointed judges and start being God appointed encouragers.

  4. Second, I want to call your attention to the fact that there are some horrible consequences to misguided obedience.
    1. The objective of obedience has never been to secure human approval.
      1. The church should be God’s kingdom, not “our” kingdom–what God wills is always far more important than what we will.
    2. It is much easier to condemn than to nurture.
      1. Too often if “I” condemn, the action is much more about my comfort and control than it is about your salvation.
      2. Too often condemnation is much more about control than it is the will of God.
      3. We all have flaws!
        1. You see mine!
        2. I see yours!
        3. Condemning your flaws does not hide my flaws!
        4. God sees both, and forgives!
    3. It is much, much easier to raise sacred cows than it is to kill sacred cows.
      1. Among the devout in the Hindu religion, cows are sacred, cannot be harmed, and are free to roam any where at any time.
      2. Traditions that become marks of a movement are frequently called “sacred cows.”
      3. In a religious movement, it is easy to create a sacred cow.
        1. All it takes is time and consistent practice.
        2. In this way, the practice of a people becomes a directive from God.
        3. Consequently, a believer has and expresses faith in God if he or she follows the traditional practice.
        4. The problem is that the practice is never regarded to be a tradition, but a declaration of scripture.
      4. Thus to kill a sacred cow is to attack proper faith.
        1. So the matter cannot be discussed ever.
        2. Discussion quickly becomes emotional reaction instead of open investigation.

Rule of the thumb: if God specifically instructs something, do it. That is obedience. If it is based on human reasoning instead of a specific instruction from God, it well may be a matter of human tradition instead of a matter of revelation from God.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Posted by on under Sermons

Read John 8:31-38

As it was in the first century, the institution of slavery in America created complex domestic relationships. Owners and slaves sometimes inhabited the same house, but the areas inhabited by the slaves were distinctly marked out. Slaves may have been intimately connected with the household and their master’s family, yet as slaves they could never fully assert their autonomy.

A vivid reminder of how slaves and their masters were, as one writer puts it, “intimate strangers,” may be seen at the Cane Ridge Meeting House in Paris, Kentucky.

The Cane Ridge Meeting House is a sort of historic landmark for all of us. It is part of our American heritage. It was built in 1791 and served as the meeting place for Scots-Irish Presbyterians. This was a little church house on the wild western frontier. In 1801, the minister, Barton Stone, organized what came to be known as “The Great Revival.” As many as 20,000 or more gathered at the camp meeting for nine days of worship. Stone and his colleague were so moved by the spirit of unity and the outpouring of the spirit that they began to call for the unity of all Christians. This is one of the deep roots of the Restoration Movement in America – the effort to restore simple New Testament Christianity. Stone and his colleagues wrote the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery in 1804. Thereafter they strove simply to be Christians.

Yet, for a people so filled with the Holy Spirit and so close to God’s Word, there is evidence of a way in which they were still bound to the spirit of their culture rather than the spirit of God. The Cane Ridge Meeting House was built with a “slave gallery.” This is the upper balcony where the “intimate strangers” would gather for worship. How could a people who were striving to be freed by the spirit of God from the boundaries that separated them, regard their brothers and sisters as less free than they were? How could a people who resolved to simply follow the word of God rather than the traditions of men build the institution of slavery into their community? (Especially when such distinctions in worship are discussed in James 2? Think for a moment – who are the slaves in the Cane Ridge Meeting House? Those in the gallery? Or those enslaved to the sin and they don’t even acknowledge it?

Let’s consider this, but let’s resist the temptation to be critical of the Christians at Cane Ridge or the Jews who followed Jesus without some self-examination. Yes, both these groups thought of themselves as free without realizing how they were enslaved to the powers of sin deeply embedded in their culture, customs, and tradition. Yes, they read the Scriptures of God and considered themselves blessed because they had access to the house of God. But their access to the house was limited. They read like slaves rather than children who will inherit the house. But enough said of those groups …

Although I should mention and we ought to commend the Cane Ridge congregation. Some years after the Revival and their pledge to simply be Christians, the slaves’ gallery was removed from the meeting house and taken to a barn in another county where it was used as a hay loft for over a hundred years. The gallery was reinstalled during a renovation project in 1932.

How do we read God’s word? Do we read it as ancient instructions left to us from long ago by an absentee landlord who we’ve never met? How do we live in the household of God? As slaves who remain in the house part of the time but then we return to our different yet separate ways? Do we hear God’s word as the instructions of a demanding master or a serious boss?
When this is the case, we may think ourselves free but we are still enslaved to sin. Slaves and captives often lose the ability to imagine that there can be another way of living. In American slavery there are many stories of slaves who could be legally set free yet they opted to remain slaves because they were unable to imagine any other sort of life. That is the way of slavery. It erodes humanity and hope. That is the case with slavery in the first century, the nineteenth, and the twenty-first. (And yes, the institution of slavery still exists in the world today).

In order to be free, slaves and captives often have to draw from another the ability to re-imagine what it means to live as free indeed … In “Blue Like Jazz,” Donald Miller tells a story he heard: A group of Navy SEALS were performing a covert operation to rescue hostages from a compound where they had been imprisoned for months. They stormed the room and found the hostages. The room was filthy and dark. The hostages gasped in fear when the SEALS broke open the door. They huddled in the corner in fear. Even though the SEALS stood at the open door and called to the hostages to come to them and reassured them that they were Americans, the hostages were too afraid to move. They kept their heads down afraid to look up. The hostages had been so mistreated that they were not sure if they could believe the men at the door.

The SEALS were at a loss as to what they should do. Finally, one of them took off his helmet and put down his weapon. He huddled up in the midst of the hostages. He put his arms around them and did everything he could to act as if he were one of the hostages. (The hostage takers would never had done this). While he was in the midst of them, some of the hostages looked up at him. Their eyes met his eyes. The soldier whispered to them that he and his team were Americans. They were sent to rescue them. “Will you follow us?” he asked. After a moment, the rescuer stood up and one of the hostages stood up with him. Then another until they were all standing and they all followed their rescuers to safety.

Remember what the elder John said at the beginning of his gospel … 1:12 – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” This is why the word became flesh and dwelled among us. He huddled up in our midst and put his arms around us and whispered the truth to us so that we might finally stand on our feet and follow him.

“If you remain in my word, then truly you are my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will free you.”

Do we simply read God word, or do we remain in it? When we go to the word “on occasion” to make sure we are not transgressing a rule that will get us “thrown out of the house” then we are living like slaves, not as children. But when we “remain” in the word, then we are living like children. The Word became Flesh dwells in us and among us and the word is not just something we have heard, but as John says in his first letter – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Going back to the Gospel of John, Jesus describes it from his perspective like this …

That which I myself see with (by the side of) the Father I speak; but then that which you have heard from the Father you do.
Slaves take orders, but children speak with their Father. Christ is ruling by the Father’s side. Jesus has an inside track with the Father. This is the difference that makes us free indeed. This is the truth that sets us free.

Here at the West-Ark meeting house, we have emblazoned a statement of freedom on our upper gallery. “Making Disciples for Jesus Who are Eager to Serve Others.” Making disciples means being a disciple. So the disciples we are making are also you and me.

“If you remain in my words, then truly you are my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Jesus invites us into the “house” so that we can live as children, not as slaves.

Loving God’s Character

Posted by on January 19, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

This is a significant self-disclosure of God’s character often cited (Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13; Romans 2:4).

Note all that flows from God’s character because He primarily is a compassionate [merciful] God filled with graciousness. Because He is full of mercy and grace, He angers slowly and is filled with patience and truth [absolutely trustworthy, not deceitful].

That is quite in contrast to many people’s concept of God’s character. They often declare that the primary quality of God’s character is justice. Thus, expressions of God’s mercy and grace are “out of character.” He is constantly angry, barely holding His anger in check because of Jesus’ cross. He is impatient. He prefers condemnation to salvation. While He is truthful, He quickly remembers our flaws and failures-and cannot wait to punish them!

While there is no desire to diminish our rightful responsibility that makes us accountable for our choices (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10), God’s character declares His desire to save rather than condemn (1 Timothy 2:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:9). The good news is this: God wants to save you and will do all in His power to secure your salvation. He is on our side. The cornerstone of His character is composed of grace arising from His mercy. He rejoices in human repentance. He patiently awaits the redirection of our lives. He never lets us down. He keeps His promises.

At some point [hopefully early in our relationship with God], the Christian must stop running from hell and start running to God. The Christian is not driven by judgment’s terror, but by love for God. Rather than fleeing consequences, God’s people are attracted to His character. They find God’s character admirable in every way. They want God’s character to become their character. That is what they prefer!

Thus their goal as God’s people in an evil world is to be a people of compassion whose grace arises from mercy. In their patience they want to anger slowly. In every way they want to be trustworthy and dependable. Why? That is the nature of their Father, and they are honored to show the world their Father in their character (Matthew 5:43-48).

Would you prefer to own a heart or control a body? God prefers to own hearts. God prefers love to terror. Terror breeds resentment. Love breeds loyalty. Those who know God are committed to love’s loyalty. Feel your responsibility, but also feel God’s love!

What God Did For Us In Jesus’ Death and Resurrection (part 4)

Posted by on January 15, 2006 under Sermons

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

This is the fourth part of what God did for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In the three previous lessons, we have noted:

  • God through Jesus provided us a new way to Him.
  • God through Jesus demonstrated His love for us.
  • God through Jesus made it possible for unholy humanity to associate with the living God.

    Tonight we want to stress the enormous chasm God bridged to allow us to come to him. Most if not all of Paul’s writings were to gentile Christians. I do not think many of us realize what an enormous transition it was for idol worshippers to begin following Jesus Christ.

    First, they lived in a world dominated by the presence of idols and the influence of idolatry. Worship of the gods was everywhere! Idols were visible everywhere! Temples dedicated to idol worship were extremely common. Idolatry was more than religious expression in the world of the first century. It was an important part of politics. It was an important part of the work place. It was an important part of agriculture (and their age was an agricultural age). It commonly was a part of the home routine. In the first century, in every day life, it was impossible to escape the presence and influence of idolatry.

    Second, to make the transition from idolatry to following Jesus Christ was an enormous personal transition. It involved changing one’s personal concept of deity. It involved changing one’s concept of worship (Jesus was the sacrifice, and was already offered). It involved changing religious habits that were a part of your life. It involved changing your concept of godly behavior. It often involved changing your daily life in fundamental behavior.

    1. Let me illustrate how deep the change was by looking at the context of 1 Corinthians 1.
      1. Paul began this letter in the manner he began a number of his letters.
        1. He gave his common salutation, which was typical of the way many letters started.
        2. He expressed appreciation for them [even though we quickly learn they had many spiritual problems].
      2. The Roman world of the first century functioned commonly [where there was a primary Roman influence] on a system of patronage.
        1. An influential man kept numerous people loyal to him by placing those people on his monthly retainer.
          1. He was free to expect those people’s help at any time he needed them.
          2. If you took the patron’s monthly support, you were indebted to him and expected to do as he requested.
          3. That just was the way business commonly functioned in that age.
        2. It does not take a lot of insight to realize that system of doing business was ripe for major problems.
          1. What we would consider a bribe, they did not consider a bribe at all.
          2. The system promoted a lot of competition and jealousy among those receiving the retainer.
          3. It also stressed the power of control.
      3. Among Christians at Corinth, there were quarrels.
        1. The issue seemed to be, “Who is in control? Who is our primary influence?”
        2. Paul declared the objective of baptism was not control of the Christian community.
          1. There was to be no “you owe me because I am responsible for your baptism.”
          2. Christ was not to be understood as a new patronage system.
          3. To illustrate that fact, Paul reminded them that his emphasis was on Jesus’ cross, not on baptism.
        3. Paul did not repudiate the role of baptism–he merely stressed the fact that the emphasis needed to be on Jesus’ cross.
        4. The rest of that first chapter focused on the importance of Jesus’ cross.

    2. Note Paul’s emphasis on Jesus’ cross.
      1. There were many who did not see any work of God or any personal appeal in Jesus’ cross.
        1. Remember, death on a cross at the hand of Roman authority was a despised form of execution designed to show contempt.
          1. It was a horrible, painful, and typically slow form of execution.
          2. It was a form of execution that occurred to “teach people a lesson”–if you behave in the manner of this criminal, a horrible fate awaits you also.
          3. To us the Jesus’ death is glorified; that was not the case to many first century people.
        2. Typically, we do not associate the concept of inspirational attractiveness with a common public execution.
      2. Thus, by first century thinking, the word of the cross was absolute foolishness to those who rejected that God acted in Jesus’ death.
        1. It was unwise.
        2. It was defenseless.
        3. It was ridiculous to associate an hope filled act of God with a public execution.
      3. Only those who responded to God through Jesus’ death saw wisdom in what God did in the cross.
        1. Those who were called to God through the cross saw God’s power and wisdom.
        2. Those who were prominent, whether Jew or other nationality, saw only weakness and foolishness.
          1. The fleshly wise were not impressed.
          2. The fleshly powerful were not impressed.
          3. Fleshly royalty were not impressed–one of the perks of position was to postpone death as long as possible!
        3. Only those saved by God’s act in Jesus’ cross were impressed by God’s wisdom and strength.
      4. Paul asked the Corinthian Christians to look at what God did.
        1. God used the foolish things of this world to confound and shame the fleshly wise–what is more foolish than providing eternal salvation through an execution?
        2. God used weak things to confound the strong [powerful]–what is weaker than the dead body of a executed person?
        3. God used base, despised things to confound human reasoning–what is more base and despised than the dead body of a useless man?
        4. God used “something which is not” to bring to nothing things that are–is anything in this world more opposite what we call reality than resurrection from death?
      5. Why did God accomplish salvation in this manner?
        1. Paul said it was done in this way so no human could brag about his achievements in his salvation.
        2. God owes no one.
        3. Salvation exists as an act of God, not the act of humans.

    3. It is by God’s act we are in Christ Jesus.
      1. We have not obligated God!
        1. God responded to our need!
        2. Jesus’ death and resurrection is our wisdom from God.
          1. We are not saved because of our great intellect.
          2. We are saved because of God’s revelation to us in Jesus Christ.
          3. Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate wisdom to us!
        3. Jesus’ death and resurrection makes us righteous.
          1. We do not make ourselves righteous!
          2. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot be righteous.
          3. We are righteous because we are clothed in Jesus Christ so when God looks at us He sees our perfect Savior, not all our flaws. Galatians 3:23-29
        4. Jesus’ death and resurrection sanctifies us.
          1. As we discussed last Sunday night, because of what God did in him we can associate with God.
          2. God can look upon us as holy because of what Jesus did for us.
          3. Thus, unholy humanity once again has opportunity to associate with the holy God.
        5. Jesus’ death and resurrection redeems us.
          1. Because we commit evil we belong to evil.
          2. In actuality, Satan should possess us.
          3. Only because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb does Satan not possess us.
          4. Because God bought us back from evil and Satan can we belong to God.

    To me, there are three key verses in our text tonight:

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    God’s wisdom and power are seen in Jesus’ cross. Were it not for the cross, there would be no reason to give us even a second look.

    1 Corinthians 1:25 … the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    Ours is a relationship of dependence, not a relationship of informing. In truth, God does not need us. We need God.

    1 Corinthians 1:30 … by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.

    We spiritually exist to give God credit for what He did, not to take credit from God.

  • Lost and Found

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Last week as I was looking for a lost book in this building I looked through the “lost and found” section of this church. Most of the items in our Lost and Found are books. And most of those books are Bibles. That makes sense. We bring one of our many Bibles, we leave it in the pew, it is picked up and placed in the Lost and Found, and then we always remember that we need to check the Lost and Found when we are halfway home, right?

    2 Kings records the story of lost Scripture. In the case, the loss happened for very different reasons – and it was found for different reasons. However, at the beginning of our resolution to read and listen to God’s Word in the next 90 days (or less), I think it is good for us to notice the impact of the loss and rediscovery of God’s Word in the life of his people.

    We will pick up the story in 2 Kings 22. But before we read, some background: Josiah became king of Judah when he was eight. His father, King Amon, had been assassinated by some of his own officials. Josiah’s grandfather, King Manasseh, left of legacy that of sin and corruption that eventually led to the nation’s downfall. Josiah assumes the throne of his forefathers with the sense that things must be changed. One of his works to reverse his nations’ future involves destroying shrines to false gods and restoring the Temple of God to purity. In doing so, he learns just how much things need to change … read 2 Kings 22:1-13

    What Was Lost?

    • They lost their Identity – We can safely assume that sometime during the reign of Mannaseh, the Word of God, the scroll that was read during Israel’s worship, was lost. Perhaps it was placed in a box, or stowed away on a shelf and later stowed away in a cabinet that was buried in rubble created when the shrines of other gods were built in the Temple. Once it is lost, the people no longer hear the stories of the creation and flood. They forget their lineage; they no longer can tell the stories of God calling Father Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob. They do not know the story of God saving Jacob and his sons through Joseph. They don’t remember their history as slaves in Egypt. They don’t know about the Passover and God’s mighty acts that set them free. They don’t know about God striking a covenant with them on Mt. Sinai. And they certainly do not know the story of the Golden Calf and the consequences that followed. And they do not know even the Ten Commandments. One generation neglected to tell, one forgot, and the next never heard. They have forgotten who they are. Their identity wasn’t stolen, it was lost.Very likely, Josiah has never heard all the word of God. If he has heard any of the stories of God’s action, he probably hasn’t heard what they mean, or how his people should live out the meaning of what God was done. Josiah tears his clothes in grief for when he hears the word of God he realized that they could be so much more than they are now. They have lost their identity as God’s people; and that is why …
    • They lost their Integrity – Israel had a covenant with God. The Lord provided for them. He had rescued them. He had established them. Their singular devotion to God was to serve as an example to all other people that God should be followed wholeheartedly. They were to serve as a witness to other nations and invite them to call upon the Lord. But their allegiance was compromised. In the very place that was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations to the Name of the Lord, Manasseh wrote in other names. He built altars to all the starry hosts. Not content to trust in God we turned to other means of forecasting the future and gaining control. And he was even willing to pay the price of the son he sacrificed to false gods. (2 Kings 21:5-6).
      There is a growing interest in witchcraft and divination in our age. Anyone remember “Psychic Friends?” As advanced as we are, we are still a superstitious culture. Even those who reject magic and sorcery may manipulate technology or influence. These are simply more sophisticated methods of securing our own way rather than trusting in God. The price of serving ourselves, whether it is through magic, money, politics, or pleasure is that we may lose our integrity. And when we lose our integrity we lose our innocence.
    • They lost their Innocence – 2 Kings 21:16 says this of King Manassah’s legacy: “Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end-besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the LORD.” When God’s people lose their identity and integrity the innocents suffer. If they had known the story of Cain and Abel, then they would have known that God acts when innocent blood is shed. If they had known the story of the flood, they would have known that God was resolved to re-create his creation because the world had become such a violent, wicked, and brutal place. If they had known the story of Abraham, they would have known that God had called Abraham and his descendants to be a nation that operated by a different code of ethics and dealt with one another fairly, justly, and peacefully. But they lost those stories and they lost their innocence and with it they lost peace and justice. They had not become what God’s Word was intended to shape them into, and so we might say that …
    • They lost Israel – 2 Kings 21:7-9, As a last straw Mannaseh placed the carved image of the sex goddess Asherah in The Temple of GOD, a flagrant and provocative violation of GOD’s well-known statement to both David and Solomon, “In this Temple and in this city Jerusalem, my choice out of all the tribes of Israel, I place my Name–exclusively and forever. Never again will I let my people Israel wander off from this land I gave to their ancestors. But here’s the condition: They must keep everything I’ve commanded in the instructions my servant Moses passed on to them.” But the people didn’t listen. Manasseh led them off the beaten path into practices of evil even exceeding the evil of the pagan nations that GOD had earlier destroyed. God calls his people to be salt and light. To make a difference by being different. We are different not because we are self-righteous or exclusive but because we want to show humanity a better way. To live out that calling we need to keep God’s Word. But if we lose it, who will be salt and light?

      Like Josiah’s generation we need to continually keep God’s Word so we might rediscover our calling for each generation …

    What Was Found?

    • They found their Calling – Josiah hears the Word of God and is convicted that his generation and the generations of his forefathers have not done what they were supposed to. They did not do what God wanted them to do because they had not become what God wanted them to be. Too often we go to the Word of God to learn what we shouldn’t do. “Is there anything against that?” we ask. “Is it prohibited or forbidden?” I don’t know that this is the best way to read and hear the Word of God. The Word of God is fundamentally positive, not negative. It is trying to restore our identity and personality – not limit it. Our calling is not to avoid mistakes. Our calling in Christ Jesus is to live a new life – the life modeled by Christ and given to us through baptism and supported in the spiritual community called church. Like the nation of Israel under Josiah, our calling comes from our covenant with God …
    • They found the Covenant – The discovery of the book of the covenant started with a project to restore the Temple. But God’s spirit does not dwell in a building – it dwells in us. What started as a contracted project with carpenters, masons, and builders to restore the Temple became a restoration of the people … (2 Kings 23:1-3) Then the king summoned all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the Temple of the LORD with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and the priests, and the prophets–all the people from the least to the greatest. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the LORD’s Temple. The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the LORD’s presence. He pledged to obey the LORD by keeping all his commands, regulations, and laws with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. As we read the New Covenant over the next few months, let’s pledge ourselves to keep the covenant. Like Israel, we will be blessed to do so. They were blessed because …
    • They found Ceremony and Celebration – Now that they had God’s instruction, they celebrated the Passover again. They are not merely keeping new rules that they had lost. They have found a heritage and a ceremony that enables them to experience joy and renewal. King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: “You must celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in the Book of the Covenant.” There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah. (2 Kings 23) This experience of joy and celebration is shared with young and old. It is to be shared and kept by each generation.
    • They found their Children – After Josiah found the law he set about removing the symbols of his nations decline – the ungodly shrines to other powers. Among those was the altar to Molech: Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire as an offering to Molech. Israel had invited this power that destroyed the life of their children into their country. But after hearing the Word of God, that power is sent away. Molech is still worshipped today – (not literally of course) – but many parents offer their children up to powers such as success, beauty, popularity, and family violence. When we influence our children to conform to a power other than God’s spirit, we are sacrificing them at the altar of a false god.

    Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – Passing on the word of God from one generation to the next. What could be more important? What else is worthy of shaping their Identity? Of shaping our identity?

    What God Did For Us In Jesus’ Death and Resurrection (part 3)

    Posted by on January 8, 2006 under Sermons

    Colossians 1:9-20 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

    coupling or quick link Years ago I discovered an incredibly helpful invention. [Illustrate with two pieces of chain and a coupling link.] The invention is the coupling link. With it, you easily can add a link to a piece of chain. So, with it you can make two broken chains a single chain. The link has an opening that can be opened or closed easily. If it is open, it can easily fit on to a chain. If it is closed, it becomes a strong part of the chain. The link makes what would be impossible easily possible.

    This evening I want to begin by reading several scriptures. Though these scriptures come from different contexts and make many points, I want you to notice two things. (1) All of them are in some way about the work of Jesus as he benefits us. (2) All of them state in some way that Jesus is our “link” to God. In Jesus we can be again “connected” to God, and that would be impossible if it were not for Jesus.

    Please read with me on the overhead or in your Bible. Notice the “coupling” Jesus makes possible between us and God the Father. The Father can be in Jesus’ disciples because Jesus is in those disciples.

    1. Please pay attention to the fact that Jesus allows us to have God the Father in us.
      1. Scriptures:
        • John 1:14-18 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
        • John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
        • John 10:34-38 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”
        • John 12:44-50 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
        • John 14:9-21 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
        • John 16:25-28 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
        • John 17:1-5 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
        • John 17:20-26 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
        • Hebrews 1:1-4 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
        • Luke 9:23-26 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
        • Luke 10:21-23 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see.”
        • Mark 8:34-38 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
        • Matthew 10:32,33 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
        • Matthew 10:25-30 “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
      2. I know we just read through these, but I hope you saw something emphasized repeatedly in these readings.
        1. In some way, these readings each focus on three parties: we humans, Jesus Christ, and God the Father.
        2. There was a repeated emphasis on this fact: God the Father dwelled in Jesus, and Jesus can dwell in us.
          1. Therefore we can have God in us because Jesus is in us.
          2. It is what God did in Jesus that makes it possible for God to live in us!

    2. Let me seek to illustrate the problem and the solution in this way.
      1. The problem:
        1. God is absolute holiness and has no association with anything that has evil in it.
        2. Everyone of us has evil in us.
        3. Thus the problem is how can the holy God have association with people who have evil in them?
        4. It is easy for us to respond, “God can have association with us if we are forgiven,” but that does not solve our problem because we cannot forgive ourselves.
      2. The solution:
        1. God made it possible for us to have association with Him because of what God did through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
        2. God the Father can forgive us because Jesus atoned for us–he paid the full price for our evil in his total innocence.
        3. Thus Jesus becomes the link that makes it possible for unholy us to associate with the holy God.

    None of us associate with God because we are worthy. All of us associate with God because we are forgiven. We do not create our forgiveness. God does through what He did in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    Living Out the Living Word

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Have you ever waited eagerly for a dramatization of a book you read?Maybe there’s talk about a movie or mini-series based on one of yourfavorite stories. (This May all the talk will be about the “DaVinciCode” which will be the dramatization of a best-selling novel. A bookthat claims to reveal the truth about Christ.)

    Why are we so eager to see stories dramatized? Perhaps it is becausewe want to see them fleshed-out and made real? We want to experiencethe story with more of our senses. Even listening to a reading of theNew Testament with different voices and sound effects “rounds out” theexperience somewhat.

    Drama is the embodiment of story. Since we are embodied creatures, wehave a desire to experience story and truth in more than just words.God knows that. That is why the Word became Flesh and dwelled amongus. In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and theword was God. But the word did not remain disembodied or far away anduntouchable. The word became a man and lived among us. He attendedweddings and contributed to the celebration by helping out when therewas a need. He stayed up late and grew tired teaching those whowanted to know the truth. He walked great distances and even venturedacross the “wrong side of the tracks” to meet people where they livedand worked. And he got thirsty. But he spoke to people and they notonly heard the word – they saw the word and touched the word.

    The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. And he became hungry. Heknew that the people starving for truth were also physically hungryand he bothered to provide them with food. He knew what it felt liketo be threatened and misunderstood, but he showed us what it meant tobe brave and resolved to stand up for the truth. The Word becameflesh and had hands – hands that wrote in the dirt when an angry mobbrought a sinful woman to him to be killed brutally. He must havefelt the tension when he risked his own safety for the sake ofeveryone. They heard the truth when he said, “Whoever is without sinlet him cast the first stone.” But you know, some fool very wellcould have lobbed a rock at him. The Word became flesh and livedamong us – and like us he knew pain.

    Jesus did not just deliver a message. He was the message. He did notsimply speak truth. He was truth. He did the truth. On the nightthat he is betrayed, when he celebrates the Passover (an embodiedworship celebrated by God’s people for centuries), Jesus does thetruth. He serves. He shows the disciples what it means to be great.He shows them what it means to lead. He shows them what it means todo the truth. And he asks them, “Do you understand what I have done?” In other words, “Do you get it?”

    Jesus goes on to teach his disciples many things. And thanks to thewitness of the apostles we have this teaching in the form ofScripture — God’s Word. What are we to do with that word? If weunderstand it, then what? In his teaching on the night of thePassover and betrayal, Jesus says, “If you love me, then keep mycommandments.” Notice that he doesn’t simply say “agree to mycommandments” or “defend my commandments” or “study my commandments.”He says “keep them.” He is calling us to embody the commandments. Hewants us to “dramatize” them – but not as if we are pretending or donot mean it. We “act them out” because we are acting on them. TheWord became flesh and dwelled among us. And so we as fleshlycreatures need to dwell in the Word.

    To keep the commandments, we must know them. To do them, we mustdwell in them. This is why we need to become familiar with theteaching of our Lord and the Bible. This is why we need to read itand hear it every day – privately, with others, and let it become ourlanguage. Jesus gave us an example – to do the truth. To embody thetruth.

    Baptism is an embodied act of faith. We don’t simply love God withour mind, or heart – but with our whole self. If you have beenbaptized, then your life has been submerged into the life of the Wordmade Flesh. He also was baptized to please the Father. If you havebeen baptized then you are made new to live out that Christ-life. Asthe apostle Paul says it, “I have been crucified with Christ, but Istill live. But it is not I that lives, but now Christ lives in me.”The Word is still flesh living among us.

    If you haven’t been baptized you can be. God welcomes all who believeand repent and want to live an abundant life in Christ.

    The Truth

    Posted by on January 1, 2006 under Sermons

    Our lives are full of questions. As we move through the years we find ourselves confronted with questions great and small. But no matter the importance of these questions they shape our lives:

    “Is she the one for me?” “Will this be on the test?” “What sort of career should I go into?” “Where will I get the money to pay the bills?” “What neighborhood should we live move to?” “Should we go to the doctor?” “Who are you going with?” “Adjustable or fixed rate?” “Where will we go to church?” “What if it is cancer?” “How should I vote this time?” “Am I getting enough exercise?” “Did I take my medicine this morning?” “What if they find out?” “Will God forgive me?”

    Most of the questions we ask seek truth. We want to know. [Yesterday – CNN featured The Amazing Kreskin. Why is a mentalist interesting to us? Because he lets us know answers to our questions.] We can respond to the questions we ask with particular truths, but even if we could know everything or be in a position to always make the right decision, we would still ache and hunger for the truth.

    That’s because knowing particular truths is not the same as knowing THE truth. Particular truths are simple facts, or gossip, they may even be personal admissions or beliefs or statements about faith.

    The speed of light is 186,281 miles per second. Green tea aids in digestion. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban are dating. The resale in that neighborhood is very low. Admitting to being an alcoholic. If I give all I possess to the poor, but I do not have love, I gain nothing.

    Knowing these may be important but they never satisfy. We can drink water to satisfy our thirst, but we will get thirsty again. The Truth is different. This is the truth that Pilate is asking about. “What is THE truth?”

    Pontius Pilate’s life was full of questions. “How could he rise in the ranks and win favor with the emperor?” “Was his wife crazy or were her dreams really divine revelation?” Pilate was a military man, a government man. He very likely confronted questions with discipline and creativity. “Should he release Jesus or Barabbas?” Jesus is the innocent one, but Barabbas is the popular choice. Pilate answers his question my removing himself from the choice. He washes his hands of the responsibility.
    Confronting the questions of life as he did, Pilate gained a position of authority. He was the representative of the Roman Emperor in Judea. Which raised a question that may have been on Pilate’s mind: “Was this an honor or a punishment?” Everyday he was confronted with questions from others. He is asked to make a decision on behalf of the government. “How should these criminals be punished?” “How do we respond to the lack of funds to support works projects in Jerusalem?” “The Jews do not want the official symbol of the Emperor near their temple.” “What is to be done about the Galilean rebels who worship in open defiance to the Emperor?”

    When the bruised and bleeding man from the hill country up north is brought in chains before the authorities, Pilate, whose life is just as full of questions as any of our lives, does what he had done so many times before. Dealing with a bandit who claimed to the new Jewish liberator was getting to be routine. (And there’s something comforting about routine. It can serve as the truth we create in the midst of our nagging questions.)

    It really doesn’t seem possible that this beaten up carpenter with the thick accent could be a king. That just doesn’t seem like it could be true. Nevertheless, Pilate starts there because that is the basis of the legal charge – treason against the rule of the Roman Emperor. He was weary of the doublespeak of the Jewish leaders who avoided his direct questions (“If he weren’t a criminal we wouldn’t have brought him to you.”) So he gets to the facts with Jesus – “Are you King of the Jews?”

    Jesus has a question of his own. He wants to know why Pilate is asking this. Pilate however is into his routine. He is not a Jew and he has no interest in their internal politics. He just wants to know of Jesus, “What is it that you have done?”

    Perhaps Pilate expects a simple plea of guilty or not guilty. That would simplify things. He has a full schedule today and he has no time to waste on this schoolyard fight. So when Jesus tells him that his kingdom is from another place, Pilate is still trying to cinch up the whole deal. “You are a king then!” says Pilate. That’s good enough for him. Claiming to be the king is enough to convict.

    Pilate doesn’t expect the reply of Jesus: “You say I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

    Don’t we all want to be on the side of truth? In our lives full of questions don’t we all want to know THE truth. Pilate expects a humbled prisoner to beg for mercy or spit at him in angry defiance. Something that he can use to discern the truth and answer the question “What do I do with him?” But instead he encounters a man who had purpose and mission. A man who can reveal the truth. Not a mentalist or soothsayer who can reveal particular truths that are hidden, but a man who testifies to THE truth with his words and deeds.

    Pilate has no answer. Just another question! But it may be the most honest question he has ever asked – “What is truth?”

    Why doesn’t Jesus answer that question? Why doesn’t he extend the invitation or tell Pilate THE truth? Why is Jesus silent?” Why? Because the truth that Jesus bears witness to isn’t a proposition or a proverb or a plan. It isn’t a particular truth that is easily converted to a slogan. Jesus does answer Pilate’s question, but it cannot be answered with a word spoken. It can only be answered with a Word made flesh.

    Back when the slogan “Jesus is the answer” was popular (before WWJD [“What Would Jesus Do”]) it became even more popular to ridicule this Christian slogan by saying “If Jesus is the answer, what was the question.” Maybe people stopped using that slogan because of the ridicule. Pilate has the question. You and I have the question. “What is Truth?” Jesus is the answer. He is the Word made Flesh.

    In our lives full of questions, do you know the truth? As another old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” The gospel invitation is not to know a secret, but to know God. To know Jesus and listen to his voice – then you will find yourself on the side of the truth.