Luke 1: 5-20
>Examples of events that are unbelievable but true…
> Zachariah was given a message that seemed so incredible. Let’s Consider:
I. ZACHARIAH’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT MESSAGE
2. THE BIBLE HAS SEVERAL BELIEVE IT OR NOT MESSAGES.
3. THERE IS ANOTHER EVENT THAT MANY FIND UNBELIEVABLE…
Conclusion: Jesus is Coming Again—Are you prepared to meet Him when He comes?
BELIEVE IT OR NOT!
Matthew 1: 5-20
Sometimes things just seem too good to be true. Things happen that defy the rational and logical. We hear about or experience those things and are amazed—They just seem so “Unbelievable.”
As I was thinking along this line, I found a website that contained very short stories of things that sound just too good to be true. Let me share a few of those:
>So My Dad, A Fisherman At Lake "Attersee", Austria, Just Fished Up His Old, Lost Wallet In One Of His Fishnets, After He Had Dropped It Into The Lake 20 Years Ago.
>A Woman Lost Her Wedding Ring in 1995 Found It 16 Years Later When She Was Picking Carrots
>My Buddy Lost His iPhone In Early February And Just Found It, Frozen Into Our Driveway. And It Still Works!
>Golf Ball Lost Years Ago Found Embedded In Tree Trunk
>My Friend Lost His Wedding Ring In The Atlantic Ocean And This Woman Found It With Her Metal Detector 4 Hours Later
I suppose that most of us could add to this list some story that really happened but on surface just seems too good to be true!
In this beginning historical account in the Gospel of Luke remember that Luke researched this account and interviewed many eye-witnesses so that in fact His Gospel and His writing of the Book of Acts are both documentaries of events that actually occurred. Luke tells an incredible story of an old priest named Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth. This account actually sets the stage for a bigger event that was just months away. And on this first Sunday of Advent—the season of the year that is set aside to consider the Coming of Christ that first Christmas some 2000 years ago.
Let’s consider this momentous announcement that Zachariah hears:
I. ZACHARIAH’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT MESSAGE
a. In order to fully understand the significance of this account, we must consider the Old Testament Prophecies. From the time of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden God gives us a progressing clear prophecy of His Ultimate plan for our salvation. Bible Scholars consider Genesis 3:15 to be the first subtle hint of that plan. As God was pronouncing judgment on the serpent and in verse 15 He said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” As time passed those prophecies became much clearer. For instance, one we especially consider during this Advent season is Isaiah 7: 14—“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call him Emmanuel.” And then, in Isaiah 9:6-7 we read this prophecy: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” These are just a few of many other OT verses that points to a Messiah, a King, who would come to rule the Jews. Centuries passed, but no Messiah came. But in the minds of the Jews who were by the time of the New Testament a much oppressed people, the desire for a Messiah continued. Foreign Governments had overrun their homeland. And now Rome was the occupying and oppressive ruler who controlled them. So for centuries the people had longed for, hoped for, prayed for their Messiah to come.
b. From the time of King David and King Solomon, the descendants of Aaron had been organized into groups who served in the temple on a rotating basis. As Luke begins his account, the priestly division of Abijah was on duty. Zachariah was in that group. And, as was the custom, he was selected by the casting of lots to go into the Temple to burn incense before the LORD. That was quite an honor, since there could have been as many as 1000 priests serving that day. Remember this was a ritual that had continued for hundreds of years, day in, day out, a sacrifice was made, a burnt offering with incense going up as a sweet aroma to the LORD.
c. But Zachariah’s experience was different. While offering the sacrifice and burning the incense, an Angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appeared to him and told him that his prayers had been heard. Now, remember what Zachariah was doing. He was offering a sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish Nation. His prayers on this day would certainly have been for the Messiah to come. But the Angel seemed to be referring to prayers that Zachariah and Elizabeth had prayed years before, when they were young and wanting to start a family. But those days were past. Now they were old. The desire for a child would have most certainly been placed on the back burners of their hearts. So when the Angel told Zachariah that his wife Elizabeth was to have a child who would be the forerunner of the long expected Messiah, it just seemed too good to be true. Unbelievable. And the Angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” (Luke 1: 19-20). In other words, Zachariah, “Believe it or not,” you will be the father of the forerunner of the Messiah~
d. You know the rest of the story. Zachariah was unable to speak until the day they dedicated his son and named him John. I found it interesting last week when Gloria and I were guests at the Sight and Sound Theater for their annual Ministry Enrichment day. We watched their portrayal, “The Miracle of Christmas”—a superb production that I highly recommend. In the program they interpreted Zachariah’s punishment as not only being unable to speak but also to be unable to hear. I’m sure they based that on the fact that many who cannot speak are also deaf. But Luke’s account only says that Zachariah was unable to speak until their baby boy arrived.
e. So, Zachariah, as far fetched and unlikely it seemed, Believe it or not, God blessed he and Elizabeth with a baby boy whom they named John, just as they had been instructed.
II. THE BIBLE HAS SEVERAL BELIEVE IT OR NOT MESSAGES.
a. In Isaiah 55:8-9, we read, ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
b. Let me remind you of just a few of those Believe it or Not events.
i. Remember Jonah? We read in the Book by his Name how he fled from God, was in a ship that was caught up in a violent storm, and the sailors threw him overboard to appease God. And a large fish swallowed him and he was alive inside the fish for 3 days and 3 nights until the fish finally vomited Jonah up on shore. Later on, in the New Testament, Jesus verified that incredible event when he was asked for a sign. Believe it or not, it really happened.
ii. And remember the account of how King Jehoshaphat had the temple choir lead the army into battle against the enemy army and everyone was spared? How believable is that? But believe it or not, it happened.
iii. We don’t have time to examine them all, but remember the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground while the Egyptian Army followed and drown? And there was water that gushed forth from solid rock in the wilderness. And that Ram suddenly was entangled in a bush just as Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac. And there was a fiery furnace where 3 Hebrew men were thrown and they came out alive, not even having the smell of smoke on them. All of these events and many more, were incredible. From every human perspective they were unbelievable. But, Believe it or not, they all occurred.
iv. And What about in the New Testament? Just follow Jesus through the Gospels and see blind eyes healed, deformed and crippled limbs made whole and even dead people being brought back to life. And did I mention water being turned into wine, and Jesus walking across the Sea of Galilee on water? Believe it or not, all these things happened! There were eye witness accounts verified not just by one or two but by many.
v. And that brings us back to this account in Luke 1 of an Old Couple, by their own testimony well past child bearing age, who in their old age had a son—the son who was sent to prepare the way for another Son, God’s Son, who was the Messiah the prophets had talked about for centuries.
vi. One passage in the New Testament actually says that the event they were witnessing was “too good to be true!” In Luke 24 when Jesus appeared to the disciples they were all startled and afraid. We read in Luke 24: 40-41, When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything to eat?’” They had seen Jesus crucified. They had witnessed his dead body being placed in the tomb. They were convinced that He was gone forever. But now, in this scene he appeared to them very much alive. Unbelievable—Too Good to Be True! But whether they believed of not, it was real. Our Jesus is alive!
III. AS WE CONSIDER THE BELIEVE IT OR NOT EVENTS THAT OCCURRED LEADING UP TO THE BIRTH OF CHRIST, THERE IS ANOTHER EVENT THAT MANY FIND UNBELIEVABLE.
a. In 2 Peter 3:3-10 we read. “3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.[a]
b. During this Christmas Season called Advent, we focus on the first Coming of Christ—when he was born in Bethlehem’s manger. But we know that happened some 2000 years ago.
c. But we are told that Jesus is coming again, a Second Coming, as a conquering King, defeating Satan’s demonic forces and claiming His Bride, the Church.
d. If Advent means preparing our hearts by confessing our sins and opening our hearts to receive Christ as Savior, how much more important is it that we forsake sin, and ready ourselves to meet Him when He comes again and then live with Him for eternity?
Believe it or Not—it’s your choice. But whether you choose to believe or not to believe, Jesus Is coming again. At such an hour as you think not, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Are you ready?
Luke 18: 9-14
>A young man once asked me, “Does God really need Thanks and praise?”
This parable reveals the real reason for Praise to God.
I. THE PHARISEE REPRESENTS AN I_____________ A________ FOR GIVING THANKS.
II. THE TAX-COLLECTOR GIVES US AN EXAMPLE OF THE R______ A________ FOR GIVING THANKS.
III. THAT BRINGS US TO OUR DAY OF THANKSGIVING.
It is only appropriate that we remember that the extent of God’s Blessing is expressed in the Cross of Christ.
Luke 18: 9-14
I was having a conversation with a young teen several years ago. He was a very bright young man, raised in the church and had been taught about the importance of giving praise and thanksgiving to God. As we explored that topic, he asked me a question that caused me to pause. His question was something like this: “Is it because God’s ego so fragile that He requires praise? Does He really need praise?”
Have you ever had thoughts like that?
Why do we need to give praise and thanksgiving to God?
This parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector gives us a clue. It isn’t that God needs the praise—It is that we need to express it! And our motivation for expressing thanks reveals more about our own character than it does about God.
On this Sunday just before our national holiday of Thanksgiving, let’s think about the reason we express our thanks.
I. THE PHARISEE REPRESENTS AN INAPPROPRIATE ATTITUDE FOR GIVING THANKS.
a. The Pharisee in this parable demonstrates a very prevalent mistake. His expression of thanksgiving came from a heart full of selfish pride. Listen again to his prayer: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth all I get.”It is obvious that this Pharisee has an inflated opinion of his own worth. Now let me point out: It is okay to be thankful you are not a robber or evildoer or adulterer. The problem with the Pharisee was that he thought that, because he was so good, he was somehow more important than anyone else. Instead of acknowledging God’s goodness, He was comparing himself to others and bragging to God about his own sense of self-worth. And his thanks really were more like he was telling God that he deserved a blessing because he was so important. “I thank you God that you bless me because I am such a good person!” The Pharisee’s thanksgiving was coming from a wrong perspective and was therefore not really thanksgiving at all.
b. Whenever you make your thanksgiving by comparing your strengths to others’ weaknesses, your gratitude is misplaced. Whenever your thanks involve putting others down, your gratitude is misplaced Whenever you forget that your strengths are really gifts given to you by God, and you think they come from within you, your thanks are misplaced. The Pharisee’s effort at giving praise revealed that his real focus was on himself. His pride was in fact the god to whom he worshiped.
b. The fact is, there are many forms of so-called “Thanksgiving and Praise” that are inappropriate. Using flattery in order to manipulate someone would be another inappropriate motivation. For example, in the Book of Acts we read how, after the Apostle Paul was arrested and taken to Caesarea, his accusers came to the court to present their case to the Roman governor Felix. Their spokesman was a lawyer named Tertullus. He began his speech by saying, “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude.” But history shows that everything Tertullus said about Felix in his opening statement was false. The people did not like Felix. He was cruel and domineering and greatly disliked. Even Felix knew that these words were simply words of flattery intended to get on his good side so they could persuade him to believe their case against Paul. And, fortunately, their flattery of Felix failed.
c. Have you ever heard the saying, “Flattery will get you everywhere”? But when praise is given even when it is undeserved, it will only reveal your hidden agenda. When I was in High School I had an English teacher who was pretty strict. She had been teaching for a long time. In fact, I found out that she had been my dad’s teacher when he was in the 4th grade. I was a little intimidated by her, but my dad gave me some advice. He told me that if I wanted to get on her good side, I should try to compliment her often. So, I would go to class and tell her I really liked her dress, or her hair, or some other off the wall compliment. It wasn’t sincere—it was flattery. I knew it. She knew it, too. But she also enjoyed it. Truthfully, I grew to really like Mrs. Wright and I still appreciate the way she controlled her class and demanded the best out of her students. What began as false praise or flattery, grew into real appreciation. And, by the way, even though she may have enjoyed the flattery, she still demanded just as much from me as she did everyone else! As a preacher I enjoy the positive comments and compliments I receive from time to time. But I remember some advice from a professor in college who told us—Enjoy the praise, but don’t let it go to your head. Enjoy it but don’t believe all of it!” I remember the homeless Indian friend who was in a service one evening where some different ones had said some nice things about their pastor. After several had spoken, Tony stood up and said, “If you all keep that up, his head is going to get as big as his stomach!” That broke everyone up!
d. What I am saying is that we should examine our hearts and make sure our praise and thanksgiving is sincere and is appropriately given to the One who truly deserves it.
II. THE TAX-COLLECTOR GIVES US AN EXAMPLE OF THE RIGHT ATTITUDE FOR GIVING THANKS.
a. Listen again to Luke’s description of the tax-collector’s prayer: “But the tax-collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (Luke 18: 13).
b. 1 Peter 5: 5 says, 5”In the same way you younger people must submit yourselves to your elders. And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”
c. The Tax-Collector’s attitude and prayer reveal a heart of a man who realized his own unworthiness to even approach God. Yet because he knew that God is merciful and loving he took the chance to admit to God his need. It also reveals his awareness of God’s greatness.
d. Real and appropriate thanksgiving to God comes from recognizing who we are and Who God is. In Isaiah 6 the prophet describes a “Theophany” – a personal encounter and vision of the Living God. He saw God in all His splendor with the hosts of heaven surrounding the throne and giving Him praise. Then Isaiah says he became aware of his unworthiness to even be in the presence of such a holy God. He cries out saying, “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6: 5). Real praise comes only when we realize how unworthy we are and how worthy God is. In Isaiah 64: 6, the prophet says, “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags...”
e. I have to confess to you that I am sometimes intimidated by others. I go to training events and hear so-called “experts” tell what we should be doing as pastors. And I evaluate myself knowing the areas where I am weak or where I should be paying more attention and I shy away from these “experts.” I know better, but I still struggle sometimes. It helps when I remember the explanation of an expert: “The ‘ex’ is an unknown quantity and a ‘spert’ is just a drip under pressure.” But I would still really be nervous if I was on a program and scheduled to preach after someone like Chuck Swindoll or Franklin Graham.
f. And if I feel a little intimidated by men who may have a little more talent than I, what about when I compare myself to Jesus? He alone is worthy of Praise!
g. The Tax-collector knew that, compared to God, he was nothing. He may have been a good man. He may have been a success in the world’s eyes. He may even have had some favor with his own countrymen. But he knew that in comparison to God, he was totally unworthy!
h. Thanksgiving to God should come from a humble heart that acknowledges God as the true source of all that is good!
III. THAT BRINGS US TO OUR DAY OF THANKSGIVING.
a. The Presidential Declarations or Edicts proclaiming a National Day of Thanksgiving are not statements that brag on our greatness as a Nation. They are declarations of our dependence upon God.
b. I thank God I am an American. I don’t deserve it. I could just as easily have been born in Siberia or Communist China. Those who were born in such places are no less important than I am in the eyes of God. For whatever reason, God allowed me to be born in America. I am thankful. I am thankful that I have good health. I have friends and relatives who were born with conditions over which they had no choice. Maybe that condition was a birth defect, a heart problem, a tendency toward diabetes, or some other inherited condition. My health doesn’t make me anymore important than anyone else in God’s eyes. I am thankful for the education I have received. There are people in our world who through no fault of their own did not have the opportunity to get a formal education. I am not more important than they are in God’s eyes. We are who we are by the grace of God. And the strengths that we have and the abilities we possess ultimately come from one source—God. All that I am or ever will be is because of the grace of God.
c. The Pilgrims celebration after that severe beginning in Plymouth, was an acknowledgement of their gratitude and their dependence upon God. They could have bragged about their agricultural skills that gave them a bountiful harvest. Or they could have bragged about their hunting skills that gave them fowls and deer and other game to eat. Or they could have bragged about their negotiation skills that enabled them to form positive relations with the local Indian tribes who then taught them how to survive in this new and wild country. But, in the spirit of the tax-collector, they acknowledged that their survival and the fruits of their harvest came because of the mercy of Almighty God.
d. And, Americans, any claim to fame we may have is because God has smiled on us and blessed us –a blessing that comes not because of our greatness, but because of His mercy and grace!
It is only appropriate that we remember that the extent of God’s Blessing is expressed in the Cross of Christ. Paul recognized this when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:20, “
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. ..”
We do not deserve God’s forgiveness.
We cannot earn God’s favor by our good works.
We have no right to call upon God out of our own sense of worth.
Our condition, our forgiveness, our cleansing and deliverance from sin, our salvation, our eternity—indeed our everything good that we enjoy—is because of God’s initiative and because of Jesus’ atoning death on the Cross to cancel out our debt of sin.
So, on this Sunday preceding the National Day of Thanksgiving, let us remember what God has done, and let us give Thanks to Him as we partake in the elements of Communion. In some traditions this sacrament is called “The Eucharist”—a word that means “Thankfulness”.
So, today, we celebrate in the sacrament expressing our Thanksgiving to Our God who provides for us Life Everlasting!”
1 Thessalonians 5: 12-28
Text: “Give Thanks in all Circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians. 5: 18)
>Personal Confession—Praise verses Gratitude!
I. PRAISE SHIFTS THE FOCUS FROM THE NE__________ TO THE P_________.
II. PRAISE ACKNOWLEDGES W___________.
III. PRAISE IS THE WELL SPRING FOR T_____________.
IV. PRAISE ENHANCES C_______________.
V. PRAISE COMPLETES THE EXPERIENCE OF S___________________.
Give Praise to the One from whom all Blessings flow!
THE POWER OF PRAISE
1 Thessalonians 5: 12-28
Text: “Give Thanks in all Circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians. 5: 18)
I like baseball. Basketball is too fast paced for me. Football makes more sense to me because after every play, you get to huddle and decide what to do next. Baseball, though, is more to my liking. You take your time, swing at a pitch. If you don’t hit it, you get the chance to set back up and try again. If you feel a little pressured, you can step back out of the batter’s box and call time, and pick up a hand full of dirt and rub it on your hands if you want to do so. Baseball is much slower paced that basketball or football. It is definitely more to my pace!
I remember one game when I was in the Little League. Our team was behind by a run or two. There were two outs in the ninth ending and I was up to bat. Let me explain: I was never a power hitter, but I was a pretty good hitter. I didn’t set any records, but I often would get a single and I hit several ground rule doubles. And now it was my chance to put our team in the lead. My friend who lived close to me on the farm played left field on the opposing team that night. And now I was up to bat. The pitch came a little high but over the plate and I swung and connected. It was a long fly ball to left field. I could feel it that moment. I knew I had a double. Off I went, heading to first base. Rounding first base I heard the call: “Out!" "Game over!"I was shocked. What happened? And then I knew. My “Friend” in left field had stretched out his glove and caught my fly ball. I was so upset. How dare he! I was supposed to be the hero—not him!
After I cooled down, and even though I never admitted it, I had to admire his fielding. I could of, should of, praised him for doing a good job. And while I could have praised him I certainly was not thankful that he caught the ball and stole my glory!
Do you see the difference? To give praise is to acknowledge someone’s abilities. Thankfulness is to acknowledge that those abilities were used in a way that is beneficial to others. My friend’s baseball fielding abilities were good, but they certainly weren’t beneficial to me that evening!
I read once of a teacher who asked her class to write out what they admired about each of their classmates. She took their answers and gave each one a copy of what the others had said about them. Years later, at a reunion, it was discovered that most of the classmates still had their copies in their billfolds or purses. Just hearing good things from their peers had made a lifetime impression on each of them!
We all need praise. Someone wrote, “Everyone needs recognition for his accomplishments, but few people make the need known quite as clearly as the little boy who said to his father: "Let's play darts. I'll throw and you say "Wonderful!'" --(Bits & Pieces, December 9, 1993, p. 24.)
One of the powerful things we can do is to say to our children, “Good Job!” or “I’m proud of you.” It instills confidence and self-esteem as the child struggles to find his or her place in life.
And while there is a slight difference between Praise and Thanksgiving, the fact is, they do go hand in hand.
And so our scripture verse, “Be thankful in all circumstances…” is appropriate for us as we consider “The Power of Praise.”
I. PRAISE SHIFTS THE FOCUS FROM THE NEGATIVE TO THE POSITIVE.
a. Writing to the church at Philippians, Paul gave them a formula for a happy and contented life. In Philippians 4: 6-8 he wrote, 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
b. October was Pastors’ Appreciation Month. Gloria and I were honored and so thankful for the many cards and gifts we received. Those messages said wonderful things about us—our leadership, our love and care for the flock, etc. We appreciate so much all those good things you said. And I am fully aware that you could have just as easily pointed out all the negative things you know about us. No one mentioned the pile of papers and books on my desk and shelves and how disorganized it looks. And you could have found so many other negative things to say. But instead you chose to praise. And that praise helps us to feel love and to want to do better jobs.
c. Maybe it would be a good discipline for each of us, to sit down and write out a list of things we appreciate about one another. It would help both the person giving the praise and the person to who the praise is directed!
II. PRAISE ACKNOWLEDGES WORTHINESS.
a. This past Wednesday evening Dan Straley presented a great lesson on gratitude. On the syllabus sheet at the bottom of the page he instructed us to write what we would like to have written on our tombstone. After the typical humorous remarks: “I told you I was sick!” and “Look, he’s moving!” I immediately thought of the description Luke gave in the Book of Acts of Paul’s Missionary companion Barnabas. In Acts 11: 24 He described him this way: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…” These were words of Praise that pointed to the good character of this pioneer of Christianity. It attested to Barnabas’ worthiness.
b. When we give praise to a person we are in fact saying there is something good, something that says, “This person has ability or is worthy of recognition.”
c. It is important that we do our best to built people up with praise. I read a heart touching illustration this week. “The greatest obstacle to being handicapped--or challenged, or disabled or whatever label we may be using this year--is not the condition but the stigma society still associates with it. The truth is we are valuable because of who we are, not because of how we look or what we accomplish. And that applies to all of us, the disabled and the temporarily able-bodied alike. I'm convinced God didn't turn His back at the moment of Jeff's conception. He is still the God of miracles, but in this instance, the one who received healing was me. Our Lord is still in the business of changing lives, but not always in the ways we expect. Several years ago, Jeff played in a special Little League for kids with disabilities. After many seasons of watching from the bleachers and rooting while his big brother played ball, Jeff's opportunity finally arrived. When he received his uniform, he couldn't wait to get home to put it on. When he raced out from his bedroom, fully suited up, he announced to me, "Mom, now I'm a real boy!" Though his words pushed my heart to my throat, I assured him he had always been a "real boy." --(Carlene Mattson, Focus on the Family, April 1993, p. 13.)
d. Praise is a way of recognizing someone’s true worthiness!
III. PRAISE IS THE WELL SPRING FOR THANKFULNESS.
a. In Psalm 8 is an example of seeing the blessings and recognizing the source. It reads, “ Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c]5 You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[g] feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
b. Praise as it matures recognizes not only the gifts or the handiwork—it recognizes the source. The Psalmist marveled at the heavens and the creation, but quickly moved to giving praise to the One who gave it all!
c. I can personally say how blessed I was to have a great childhood. I had the security of a warm, comfortable, and loving home. I never went hungry. I always had proper clothes to wear. I was made to feel wanted, important, and loved. But behind all that, I have to say my praise goes to my parents who were wonderful, and beyond that to the God who enabled them to be the persons they were!
d. How often have you heard, “Don’t just be thankful for the gifts—be thankful for the Giver!”
IV. PRAISE ENHANCES CONFIDENCE.
a. Jesus was God in the flesh who dwelt among us according to John 1:14. But He was also fully human. And in his humanity he faced temptations and struggles. In Hebrews 2:10 we are told that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. In light of that, just think of what he must have felt at the Jordan River and later on the Mount of Transfiguration when he heard the voice of God saying, “This is my son of whom I am well pleased…” I can only imagine how the human Jesus must have gained confidence just by knowing He was being praised by His Heavenly Father.
b. Think with me for a moment. Remember when your children were just beginning to learn to stand up and take their first steps. When they fell down, what did you say? Did you say, “You are so stupid and clumsy!"?Don’t do that anymore!” Of did you say, “Good job! Way to good! Get up and try that again, before long you will be walking like Mommy and Daddy/!?” The negative statement would have created insecurity and fear in the child. But the positive statement would give encouragement and confidence and a sense of well-being!
c. And I can tell you that pointing out faults, failures and weaknesses constantly does not help in the long run. But words of encouragement, pointing out strengths, and giving praise will built up a person and help them to improve much more effectively!
d. In 1 Corinthians 14: 12, writing about the gifts of the Spirit, Paul wrote, “So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.”
V. PRAISE COMPLETES THE EXPERIENCE OF SATISFACTION.
a. C. S. Lewis is credited with saying, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
b. Bruce Larson tells this story: ”In a conference at a Presbyterian church in Omaha. People were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. Since they were Presbyterians, they weren't free to say "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord." All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased. Let your balloon go.
c. I challenge you to take time this week to think about the good you see in others. And then give praise where praise is due!
I believe that in giving sincere praise to others we are honoring our Heavenly Father who is the Source of all that is Good and Perfect.
Making it a practice to give praise is good preparation for when we join the angels in heaven, as they chant their praise to God as recorded in Revelation 7:11-12—“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped
Galatians 5: 13-26
>Walking is good exercise…
>Walking by the Spirit is a little different from physical exercise...
I. WALKING WITH GOD MEANS TO HAVE CLOSE COMMUNION WITH GOD.
II. WALKING WITH GOD MEANS PURSUING CHRIST LIKENESS.
III. WALKING WITH GOD MEANS TO BE CONNECTED TO GOD.
I challenge you this week to “Walk by the Spirit and keep step with the Spirit.” It’s all about becoming one with Jesus!
WALKING WITH GOD
Galatians 5: 13-26
I am told that one of the best general exercises is walking. I grew up in Eastern Arkansas not far from the Mississippi River. The land was flat down there and I did a lot of walking. We lived off the main highway about ¼ of a mile, so it was normal to walk that lane to check the mail, to catch the school bus, to visit the folks who lived in the house next to the highway. And there was a wooded area about ¼ of a mile south of us. I spent a lot of time there rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, and shooting at any other creature that I happened upon. I remember one day when I was in high school and I knew that Mom and Dad would be away from home all day. I rode the bus to school and then a couple of my friends joined me, and we walked the 2 miles back to our farmhouse, got the shotguns and went over to the woods and hunted for several hours. Then we went back to the farmhouse and put away the guns, walked in a roundabout way back to town—probably about 3 miles—caught the school bus and rode it back home. I probably walked a total of about 10 miles that day. But, remember, it was all level ground.
In the Branson area there are several places to walk—Alexander Park, Stockstill Park, the Landing, and then several hiking trails in various locations in the area. In the past 37 years I have walked most of those trails at least once. Of all of them, the Landing is my favorite, especially in the summer, because the breeze coming of Lake Taneycomo feels like air conditioning.
I am aware that I really need to get back into the routine of walking, but it is a discipline. Bad knees, aching joints, and extra weight make this a real challenge.
Some of you are really into walking. And that is good.
The Apostle Paul must have walked thousands of miles in his lifetime. Our study of his missionary journeys was a real eye opener as we considered the distances he covered in his travels.
But this passage in Galatians is about a different kind of walking. And it involves a different kind of discipline. Galatians 5: 25 has been a verse that caught my attention years ago and still captures my imagination. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Watching our kids in the high school band as they learned the various drills and formations and executed the precision marching reminds me that “keeping step with the Spirit” involves discipline, precision, and lots of practice.
` We all like to think of the unusual events in our lives—those moments of crises when God comes through in a miraculous manner and something is accomplished that we thought was impossible. But, truthfully, much of the Christian life is routine. It is living life day by day, dealing with the everyday demands of work and relationships. It is not so much the climb up the mountain with Jesus as it is the walk in the valley with the multitudes.
We are entering a special time of the year. We are having our Thanksgiving dinner a little early this year to get away from the conflict we have had in the past with Veterans Activities leading up to Veterans Day. I saw the city crews on Wednesday starting to put up the Christmas lighting on the city power poles. Time is moving on quickly. It is important that we try to examine our priorities and make sure we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Let’s consider what it means to “Walk in the Spirit.”
I. WALKING WITH GOD MEANS TO HAVE CLOSE COMMUNION WITH GOD.
a. There is an interesting passage in Genesis 5 18-24—“When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years and then he died. When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God, and then he was no more, because God took him away.” What does it mean when it says, “he was no more, because God took him away”? Hebrews 11:5 clarifies this: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death. He could not be found because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” From these passages about Enoch we can see that “walking with God”means having a close relationship with God and by our attitudes and actions, pleasing God
b. Now, there is a parallel from this passage about Enoch with this passage in Galatians. Galatians 5:16 say, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” When I walk by the Spirit, the controlling factor in my life is pleasing God, not self. The desires of the flesh are rooted in our physical nature. They include such things as being hungry for food or thirsty for drink. And there are the natural impulses for survival and for pleasure. The problem isn’t the desires—the problem is who controls those desires. If the desires control us, then we misuse what God intended for good. And that misuse leads us to those things listed in Galatians 5: 19-21, “…sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like...” And those are the things that cause us to miss God’s plan for us. Someone asked why they do not hear sermons about hell fire and damnation anymore. Let me say that, by allowing your life to be controlled by these desires of the flesh will cause you to miss out on heaven and, therefore, spend eternity in a place we call hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and eternal torment for eternity.
c. In Galatians 2:20 Paul gave his testimony about how to take care of those desires that would rob us of fellowship with God. He wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer life, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
d. In Galatians 5: 24 Paul wrote, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
e. In a very real sense, Paul, like Enoch, “was no more.” He had chosen to “Walk with God.” And we too need to make that choice.
II. WALKING WITH GOD MEANS PURSUING CHRIST LIKENESS.
a. Another favorite passage of mine is found in Ephesians 5:1 & 2 –“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” I especially like the KJV here that begins this passage this way: “Be imitators of God…”
b. Paul sums up this Christ-likeness by elaborating on the various fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5: 22-23).
c. My dad was a good man. He was a hard worker who provided well for his family. He was faithful to his wife, my mother. He had common sense and was wise—causing his siblings and others to often seek out his advice. He was trustworthy and honest. People respected my dad. I have always tried to be as much like him as I could. Now I have a son and a daughter. I can say I am very pleased that they are living their lives as trustworthy, hardworking adults who love and care for their family. They have adopted the values that Gloria and I have embraced—values that our parents had modeled for us and we have modeled for our children. Jesus came to reveal to us what God is like. He was the embodiment of God. And these “fruits of the Spirit” that Paul lists in this passage are characteristics that Jesus modeled for us. I can think of nothing that would be more pleasing to God than knowing that we, his children, are striving to follow the example Jesus has given us. The writer of Hebrews says that Enoch was taken away because “He pleased God.”
d. Are you living your life in such a way that God could say of you, “I am well pleased”?
III. WALKING WITH GOD MEANS TO BE CONNECTED TO GOD.
a. In John 15: 5 & 6 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned.”
b. In Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 20-21, we read, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
c. In those years when my kids were in band, I watch closely as they performed their various drills. They functioned not as individuals, but as a unit, each one keeping in step and moving to the rhythms of the music and the signals of their drum majors and majorettes. It took hours and hours of practice for them to become a well-functioning unit, but the outcome was/is amazing.
d. I believe this is what Paul means by “Walking by the Spirit and Keeping step with the Spirit.” It is becoming one with the Spirit so that we move as he directs, when he directs, where he directs. It is being Spirit-Conscious and Spirit-Controlled so that instead of moving to the impulses of our fallen nature, we move to the impulses of God—following His heartbeat, obeying Him with our entire being, striving to be just like Him in love and in holiness.
Conclusion: Living that way, truly walking with God, means total surrender to His Lordship. It means anchoring my life to Him. It means feeding on His Word, learning to recognize His voice, and disciplining ourselves so that our obedience becomes automatic and instant.
This morning, we are faced with life. We will leave this service and go to the restaurants or to our homes. We will get up tomorrow and face another work week interacting with people from various walks of life with various personalities. Some of that will be fun and easy, but some of that will demand us to choose how we will act. Our moods, our attitudes, our actions are all the results of the choices we make. We can allow our nature, fallen humanity, to dictate our dispositions. Or we can choose to Walk in the Spirit and Keep Step with the Spirit.
That may mean responding to a rude person with love and forgiveness. It may mean being patient and understanding with a waiter or waitress who gets our order wrong. It may be choosing to get out of the recliner and helping set the table or put the dishes away or to help fold clothes even though it would be easier to let our wives take care to those things (I’m preaching to myself here!)
It means choosing to imitate God who loves us with an unconditional love to the point that Jesus chose to die in our place to atone for the sins we have committed.
I challenge you this week to “Walk by the Spirit and keep step with the Spirit.” It’s all about becoming One with Jesus!
Matthew 17: 1-13
Illustration: Climbing Pikes Peak
>Climbing the Mountain of Transfiguration
I. THE MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE WAS P________ AND A________.
II. THE MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE SOLIDIFIED THE DISCIPLES’ U______________.
III. THE MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCES EQUIP US FOR M_________ IN THE V______.
>Don’t give up until you have your Mountaintop Experience
>Then come down and “Walk on Water!”
Matthew 17: 1-13
I’ve been to Colorado Springs at least 4 times. It is a beautiful city. From most of the city you can see Pike’s Peak in the background, which I am told is about 12 miles west of the city.
Wikipedia says that Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot fourteen er is in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike.
We were on vacation several years ago when our children were still quite young. We thought it would be exciting to go to the top of Pikes Peak. Now there are lots of ways to get to the peak. You can drive your car. I considered that, but I had heard that the road was a little treacherous and that it was hard on the car brakes—especially on the descent. I didn’t want to do that.
There are trails a person can follow to climb the peak. 14, 115 feet is over 2 miles elevation. I never considered doing that—the kids were too young for such a challenge. But there was another possibility—the Cog Train—a specially designed system for the train to safely navigate the steep grade to the top. And that seemed to be the best way for our family. It was a very interesting trip with the conductor giving us explanations and descriptions of the view as we made our way up the mountain. I had never been at that high of an elevation before (except on a pressurized plane), so this was a new experience for me. When we reached the peak, there was a gift shop as well as some place to stand to look out at the scenery. There are a couple things I learned that are typical for that experience. (1) You often cannot see very much because at that height you often find yourself in a cloud. The cloud that day finally moved away, and we were blessed with a great view of the expanse below. (2) And secondly, the oxygen level and air pressure are very different from the flat lands I had been used to. And that caused a certain amount of dizziness. I’m sure glad I didn’t try to drive our van that day! My ears popped. Our nephew who was with us developed a severe earache. (3) And, after you have been to the peak, you must come back down. Nobody stays at the peak. They all come down.
And, with my current physical condition, I can tell you that climbing mountains or walking up hills causes me to get very red in the face and very prominent cramps in my legs.
I wonder if the other 9 disciples suffered from that discomfort, too. After all, only 3 of the 12 accompanied Jesus as he climbed the Mountain in our scripture passage read today. But the 3 were the inner circle whom Jesus often included in other situations without the other 9.
Jesus was in his early 30s. When I was in my 30s, I could do a lot of things I can’t do today. And we read in the Gospels that Jesus on several occasions withdrew to a mountain peak to get alone with the Father.
If you go to Israel today a tour guide will probably take you to a certain mountain and tell you it is the Mount of Transfiguration. But, truthfully, we do not know for certain which mountain it was that Jesus climbed in this passage. Some say it was a peak on Mount Hermon (9230 feet), while others insist it was Mount Tabor (1886 feet). We just don’t know, but the importance is not the place but the event that occurred at the Place.
After witnessing Jesus in his glorified state talking to Moses and Elijah, Jesus told the 3 not to tell anyone about this until after his death and resurrection. John, who was one of the 3 on the Mountain with Jesus, alludes to this in His Gospel, when he wrote, “…We have beheld His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Peter, who was also one of the 3 disciples with Jesus on the Mountain, would later write in 2 Peter 1:16-18, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
This Transfiguration of Jesus—seeing him in dazzling white conversing with Moses and Elijah—must have burned in the hearts and minds of the 3 disciples. Let’s consider just a few of the things from this passage that should speak to us today.
I. THE MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE WAS PRECIOUS AND AWESOME.
a. How many encounters like these were common to the disciples? This was the one and only time this happened—and only 3 of the 12 Apostles actually witnessed it.
b. We call those precious moments when we are overwhelmed with the Glory of God our “Mountaintop Experiences” because they are precious, overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and infrequent. The Transfiguration of Jesus only happened once in the lifetime of the disciples. I know that as he was being stoned to death Stephen caught a glimpse of Jesus. And Paul had his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus, but those were also once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
c. Revival experiences are often “Mountaintop Experiences” for us. We love those moments of inspiration when God manifests His Presence in a music service or a worship experience. But they are not everyday occurrences. We remember hearing of yesteryear's when God’s Spirit moved, and the preacher never had a chance to speak because people were flocking to the altar to seek God.
d. We desire to experience such a manifest Presence again. And at God’s discretion, He still can break in upon a service in similar fashion. Our revival services with Nathan Covington were powerful. And some of you were deeply moved by the Holy Spirit. It could be said that those altar services we witnessed were Mountaintop Experiences. But I think God still wants to draw us closer to Himself. We each need a personal Mountaintop experience where we are caught up in a vision of God’s Glory.
II. THE MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE SOLIDIFIED THE DISCIPLES UNDERSTANDING.
a. The Transfiguration of Jesus enabled the 3 disciples to see Jesus from a perspective they had never seen before. If there were any doubts about whether he was the Messiah, those doubts were dispelled. Their faith was secured. This became an event to which they would look back upon as a marker in their spiritual journey. .
b. The purpose of those Mountaintop experiences is to define significant moments in our spiritual journey. They are markers to guide us and remind us of those special encounters we have with Jesus. I can point to the place and time when I knelt at an altar in my home church and received Jesus into my life. I can point to the place where I said a definite “Yes” to God’s call for me to be a preacher. I can point to the time and place at Bethany, Oklahoma College Church when I surrendered myself totally to God and was sanctified. Those are Mountaintop experiences to me. And as I trace my spiritual journey, those are markers that guided me along the way.
c. I believe it was Dr. Ralph Earle who spoke to us in a college chapel service about driving a stake in the ground to mark the time and place we made a decision for the Lord and Claimed His Promise of Salvation, so that when the devil comes and tells us it wasn’t real we can point to that moment and say, “Devil, there is the stake that signifies it really happened!”
d. Throughout the history of Israel in the Old Testament we read how at certain points they erected stone altars to mark a significant event. Jacob set up a stone and anointed it with oil marking the spot where he had dreamed of the stairway to heaven. After crossing the Jordan River, Joshua had the priests to gather 12 stones from the river to build an altar to mark the spot so they would not forget what God had done.
e. For Peter, James & John, the Mount of Transfiguration became a Marker in their minds of their progress in their spiritual journey with Jesus.
f. Peter had this in mind when he suggested they build 3 shelters on the Mountain peak—for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
g. I believe that Revival Meetings such as we have just experienced are markers in our spiritual journey—High points where we catch a glimpse of God and are awed by His Presence.
III. THE MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCES EQUIP US FOR MINISTRY IN THE VALLEY.
a. Matthew 17: 9 begins with the words, “As they were coming down the mountain…” As wonderful as the experience was, as spiritually moving it must have been, God did not intend for the disciples to stay on the Mountain. The experiences were to empower them to go back down to the foot of the mountain where the people were. They were to minister to the hurting, be involved in deliverance ministries for those who were demon possessed, and to give witness to the crowds that Jesus is Lord!
b. I hear people say they wished that all our services could be mountaintop experiences. I wish that, as well. But we must remember that ministry, real evangelism, happens during the week—over cups of coffee or tea, or in the yard talking to neighbors, or at Wal-Mart standing in the checkout lines, on the street sidewalks talking to a friend. It is while we are mingling with others that the anointing, we received on the mountaintop rubs off on those we encounter.
c. Peter wanted to camp on the mountain peak. But Jesus led him and James and John back down the mountain to where there was a desperate father seeking help for his demon possessed son.
d. And God wants us to leave the church services and go to where the people are so that we can share God’s glory with others.
I read some time ago about a group of tourists who stopped at the foot of mountain that was a tourist attraction. The group had come to climb to the peak because they had heard so much about the beauty of the view. Everyone was laughing and talking as they begin their walk up the path leading to the peak. But before they had gone too far, the climb began to take its toll. About halfway up the climb there was a rest station with refreshments. They all stopped for a few minutes and then the tour guide suggested they continue. Several in the group felt that it was too much of a climb and they decided just to wait on the others to make the climb and come back down. Those who continued up the path reached the summit and were amazed at the beauty of the valley below and the mountain peaks off in the distance. They took pictures and were so moved by what they saw. Finally, they started back down and reached the rest station where those who stayed behind were waiting. They tried to tell the others what they had seen and experienced and they were so excited. But those who had not gone to the summit never could grasp their enthusiasm. They continued down the mountain, but only those who had gone to the summit seemed to be happy. The others were silent, wondering what in fact they had missed, and feeling a little guilty and left out when they saw the joy of the others.
Our revival services were truly blessed. We had people praying in our altars every service. The testimonies at the close of the service Wednesday evening were full of joy, excitement, and faith and resolve.
For those of you who failed to join in that experience, you really cannot fully grasp the reality of those encounters with God.
So, today, I challenge you. Don’t be content with just hearing from others about their encounter with God. Determine that you will not be content until you too have a mountaintop experience with Jesus where you are caught up in awe of His Glory and Majesty. Seek the Lord with all your heart. And don’t give up until you experience Him.
And mark down those encounters with God as Markers in your spiritual journey. It is in those experiences you receive your instructions and the anointing and empowerment to carry out those ministry assignments.
But then, don’t’ think that is all there is. Come down from the summit and carry out those ministry assignments. You have been called to be an Ambassador for Christ. He has given us His Spirit so that we can be Witnesses of Him to those who do not know Him.
Rev. Covington challenged us to “Walk on Water” for the Lord. Dream big—but be sure you dream the dream God wants to give you. And then trust Him to help you to do the impossible!
Today we join with Christians around the world as we share in Worldwide Communion Sunday. It is another occasion when we have an opportunity to draw near to Jesus. It is not just a thing we do. It is Marker in Salvation History that we look upon as we remember what God has done through Jesus in order to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him…
Mark 9: 14-29
We say we believe, but do we?
I. BEING FOLLOWERS OF JESUS DOES NOT NECESSARILY ENSURE THAT WE P________ THE P________ OF JESUS.
II. CERTAINLY, THERE MUST BE F______.
III. THE ONE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIAL TO SEEING GOD’S POWER UNLEASHED IN TRANS FORMAL MINISTRY IS P________!
Conclusion: How then should we pray?
Mark 9: 14-29
It is one thing to say you believe something. But it is something else to completely believe it with your whole being!
C.S. Lewis, writing in A Grief Observed, said: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
Sometimes we say we don’t
believe things and then act as if we do. An American scientist once visited the offices of the great Nobel-prize-winning physicist, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen. He was amazed to find that over Bohr's desk was a horseshoe, securely mailed to the wall, with the open end up in the approved manner (so it would catch the good luck and not let it spill out). The American said with a nervous laugh, "Surely you don't believe the horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr? After all, as a scientist -- " Bohr chuckled, "I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not."
Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, p. 6.
I’m not superstitious, but I’ve been known to knock on wood. And there is a black cat that I occasionally see running across the road up by the Old School building on 5th street. I don’t stop or turn around, but I always think of the old belief that a black cat crossing your path brings bad luck.
Have you ever thrown a pinch of salt over your shoulder and carried a rabbit foot in your pocket or purse?
What about broken mirrors or walking under a ladder?
We don’t believe those things really influence our luck, but, then again, like the scientist, “Why take chances?”
In our scripture today, we aren’t reading about luck or superstitions. We are reading about a man who really wanted to believe God but realized he needed God to help him to really believe.
This account is found in Mark’s Gospel. Scholars tell us that chronologically, the Gospel of Mark was the first of the 4 Gospels to be written. And they tell us that Mark really is the result of a close relationship with Peter—so much so, that some say the Gospel of Mark is based on messages that Peter preached in Mark’s presence.
Just prior to and leading up to this event we have the account of the Transfiguration—the time when Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus to the top of a mountain and witnessed Jesus in dazzling white conversing with Elijah and Moses. Coming down from the mountain Jesus spoke to them about the suffering he would face in Jerusalem. And then they met up with the other disciples who were trying unsuccessfully to deal with this man and his demon possessed son. Jesus had to take over the effort. And we are confronted with a man who was really honest about where he was in his faith. He really wanted to believe. He really believed that this was possible. But he was struggling to believe if it would or could really happen right then to his son. And Jesus cast out the demon, healing the son, cementing the father’s belief, and teaching the disciples the necessity of the power of prayer.
Now, let’s consider where we are as a church. We have several events lined up this month, including a Gospel Concert, a Church “indoor picnic,” and a series of revival services with Evangelist Nathan Covington. We say we believe that God is going to bless us. We say we want to sense the almighty Presence of God in our lives. We say we believe God can transform lives. We say we want to see people getting saved and sanctified. We say we want to see the church growing with new people. We say we want to see more young adults and a larger children and youth ministry. We say we believe it can happen. We hope it will happen. But in our heart of hearts do we really believe any of these things will happen?
Let’s be honest. God knows where we really are anyways. We can’t hide from Him any doubts that may be lurking in our thoughts, so we might as well be honest.
Notice that the father in our scripture dared to be honest in his desire to believe. And Jesus did not rebuke him for any doubts. The father in essence admitted he was struggling, but when he asked Jesus to help his unbelief, he really cast himself on God’s mercy and grace. And Jesus honored his honesty by casting the demon out of his son and restoring him whole and healthy to his father.
There are some principles in this account that are worth examining and that are relevant to us as we move towards the revival meetings.
I. BEING FOLLOWERS OF JESUS DOES NOT NECESSARILY ENSURE THAT WE POSSESS THE POWER OF JESUS.
a. Jesus’ disciples were indeed His disciples. They had forsaken their prior lives and left all to follow Jesus. They had sat at his feet and received His instructions. They had witnessed the miracles Jesus was performing and they believed God could use them to do those miracles. But faced with a demon-possessed boy, they found that in spite of their commitment to following Jesus, they still could not cast out the demon from the lad.
b. And in the same way, just because you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, and just because you take time to come to church, and just because you want to help others to have a relationship with Christ, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be a big soul-winner. And it doesn’t automatically mean that when we set out to do something for the Lord that we will be successful.
c. A pastor friend some years ago had great intentions of purchasing a large theater for his International Ministries. I heard him on several occasions sharing his vision. But he was never able to raise the funds to do the things he really wanted to do. Why? I believe it was because the vision he had of a large church in a Theater was his vision and not God’s vision for Him. God had other plans for him, and he was able to pastor a smaller church and impact a group of people in a different manner for what he had thought.
d. Sometimes we have great ideas, but those ideas may not square with God’s plans or God’s timing. Remember how David planned to build a Temple. It was a great idea, but God was on a different timetable and had someone else in mind to do the building. There was nothing wrong with the plan. It just wasn’t exactly the way God planned to have it done.
e. In our scripture account, the disciples had the right idea. They wanted to heal the boy. And they agreed with God, because we see through Jesus that He wanted to heal the boy. The problem was that even though the disciples were attempting to do the right thing, they still did not have the power of God on them. And for all their human efforts, they could not cast out this demon that was trying to destroy this boy.
f. I can tell you that having the desire to have a real transformation revival is a good thing. It should be the desire of our hearts. It certainly is in the will of God, because “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3: 9b). And we know God is capable of doing this. We all have heard or read or witnessed real revivals in the past or in different places.
g. So, what will it take for us to experience such a revival in Branson First Nazarene?
II. CERTAINLY, THERE MUST BE FAITH.
a. Jesus’ statement to this father who presented his son to him asking Him to heal the boy “if he could,” was, “If you can…Everything is possible if you believe.”
b. Faith is “believing God.” But it goes further: Faith is believing God completely and then living our lives as if we really do believe.
c. It means throwing away the horse shoes and rabbit feet, and not being nervous over black cats, broken mirrors or walking under ladders. (I don’t recommend walking under ladders without a hard hat, though!) It is accepting the fact that God is all powerful and does not lie and will do whatever it is He desires to do in the way that He determines to do it.
d. And, to be completely honest, most of us are in the same frame of mind as the father of the boy in our scripture passage. We want to believe. We really want to see God work. We really believe that God is able. But there is just an element of doubt as to whether it will actually happen.
e. Why is Belief so hard? That is a hard question to answer because there are so many possibilities:
i. It could be because we do not feel that we are worthy or important enough for God to do a work in our lives.
ii. It could be because we have asked for things before and didn’t get them.
iii. It could be because we know how it should be done in our eyes, but we aren’t sure that God agrees.
iv. Or it could be that we have not trusted God to be powerful enough or compassionate enough to answer our prayers in the way we think they should be answered.
f. I have heard people say that when we pray for healing and then say, “if it is your will, God,” we were giving ourselves a loophole in case our prayer isn’t answered. But I disagree. When we pray, “Your will be done,” we are acknowledging that God is Sovereign, not us. We are allowing God to answer in the way He sees best, even if it isn’t the way we think it should be done.;
g. I have concluded that to have the faith the father in our scripture wanted to have is not possible unless God touches our hearts and minds and enables us to have that total faith.
h. And so, we pray with the man an honest prayer: “Lord, I believe…Help me overcome my unbelief!”
III. THE ONE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIAL TO SEEING GOD’S POWER UNLEASHED IN TRANS-FORMAL MINISTRY IS PRAYER!
a. G. Campbell Morgan wrote, Revival cannot be organized, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.
b. History tells us that all the great revivals were preceded by a concentrated prayer by a group of people determined to seek the face of God until He answered prayer.
c. And so, when the disciples who found themselves powerless to make a difference in the life of a tormented boy, turned to Jesus, He explained their weakness by saying, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9: 29).
d. And, church, until we really begin to “Hunger and Thirst” for God, we will be a powerless group of believers frustrated by powerless ministries that take up our time and energy, that are for good reasons, but that remain weak in results.
We are His Disciples. We have sat at His Feet, heard and studied His Word. We believe in His power, though we may have doubts about how He plans to work in our own situations. So, how do we pray:
1. Confess our doubts and ask for His help to overcome those doubts.
2. Seek to know God, intimately, personally by experiencing His Presence and Anointing. We should seek to pray for His glory on our lives.
3. We should surrender our plans and expectations to Him. By that I mean instead of telling Him what He needs to do, we start seeking to find out what it is that He wants to do!
4. We should intercede for those who have not accepted Christ and for their faith walk.
5. We should prayerfully commit to God our obedience in whatever it is that He asks of us.
6. We should not give up but should persevere in our prayers.
7. And we should leave the results to God.
Are you ready to trust God to help you really believe that He will do what He says He will do?
Philippians 2: 12-18
Text: “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12b).
Labor Day is a national holiday originally started by the Labor Unions to honor working America. The first Monday in September was chosen because it is the midway point between 2 other National Holidays: Independence Day (July 4th) and Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November.) It’s a great day to end the Summer Vacation season and to begin the fall School year. And it gives families a chance to do something fun together. It is not meant to be a time to remember those who have passed on or to celebrate some historical event. Its purpose is that we just relax and enjoy ourselves.
But the very title of the holiday—Labor Day—reminds us of the importance of Labor. We work in order to provide for ourselves, our families and our society.
For these few minutes we have today, let’s reflect on this thing called “Work.”
I. WORK IS PRESENTED AS GOOD IN THE BIBLE.
a. In Genesis, after the creation of Adam and Eve, we read how God gave Adam the task of naming the animals that had been created. I wonder what that must have been like. Can you imagine all the animals in the world in a line waiting to stand in front of Adam and receive a name? And since language had just been invented, I wonder how Adam was able to come up with so many different words: cow, horse, pig, goat, sheep, bird, mouse, rabbit, and so on. There is no record of how long it took for Adam to complete this task, but he did. And there was the garden that had to be tended. Genesis 2: 15 says, “But the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Before the temptation and fall, I suppose Adam didn’t have to worry about weeding, but he certainly did after the fall. As punishment for yielding to sin, God pronounced this judgment on Adam: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken, for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3: 17b-19).
b. Throughout the rest of the Bible we learn that each of us have a job to do, responsibilities to which we must give our attention. Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians commented on his own work ethic and the importance that we all do our job: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3: 7-10).
c. In 1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12 Paul wrote, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind you own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
d. I sometimes teasingly say to someone who is unable to join us in some activity because they have to go to work, “It’s terrible to have to work for a living, isn’t it?” But sometimes I have to remind the person that they are privileged to have a job and provide for themselves and be a help to others.
e. Work is good—provided it is the kind of work that is healthy and provides for the necessities of life and is not dishonoring to God.
II. WORK COMES IN MANY FORMS.
a. In Adam and Eve’s day, work focused on raising food items. That was essential to survival. The early characters in the Bible did not have the luxury of going to the marketplace. If they didn’t produce it, they didn’t get to eat.
b. But as the world population began to increase we see some types of specialties in work beginning to emerge. Towns began to form. Farmers begin to sell their produce. Bakeries developed to sell bread to the towns people. There were the weavers and seamstresses that produced clothing. Because of sin, there had to be trained security persons to provide for the safety of the community. Judges had to hear complaints and lawsuits and pass judgment. Someone had to develop skills to care for the sick and injured. And so communities were formed where each person contributed their specialty to the group and received from that which others contributed. And the idea was that everyone worked to contribute to the good of society.
c. Just think of the different types of employment that are represented just in our congregation today. We have those who have worked as realtors, teachers, nurses, insurance agents, lawyers, farmers, construction workers, merchants, musicians and many more right here.
d. The point is, we are workers together, dependent upon one another. While some may claim to be totally self-sufficient, and some consider themselves capable of survivalist skills, we really do need each other.
e. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul had this to say to those who were being saved from a pagan lifestyle: “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
f. So the concept of work as being good becomes not just a personal value, but it becomes a community value. We work so that we can share with others and all can have things they need to survive and prosper.
III. WE MUST REMEMBER THAT WORK IS NECESSARY IN OUR SALVATION EXPERIENCE.
a. I hope I get some raised eyebrows here. We have been taught that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and that we are not saved by our own works. (See Ephesians 2:8-9). And that is true.
b. Our works do not save us—Jesus saves us. But when we accept Jesus as our Savior, then we are expected to do the works He has called us to do. And In our scripture reading in Philippians 2, we are reminded that we had better take those works very seriously—with fear and trembling!
c. Let’s consider just a few verses that remind us that living a Christian life involves an effort from our own selves."
i. In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17:4, he prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”
ii. Last week in our sermon we considered the words of Jesus in John 9:4—“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
iii. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God
iv. Hebrews 10:24 says, “24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
d. What are some of the works that are necessary as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling? I touched on some of those things last week: Being faithful with our tithes and offerings; regular (daily) reading and studying God’s word and prayer; looking for ways to reach out to witness to others; gathering together with other Christians for worship and service. These are all basic and essential as we strive to become as much like Jesus as possible. In Ephesians 5:1-2 we read, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
i. Our work includes the “One Another directed towards Christians in the New Testament: Love one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, forsake not the assembling of yourselves with others, spur on one another to good works.
ii. Several years ago I was working with a youth group. One of the young ladies in the group started missing many of our youth Bible studies and I went to talk to her about it. I stressed how much we needed her to be in the group. She told me that she felt secure in her relationship with the Lord and did not really feel the need to be with the other teens. My response to her was that even though she felt she didn’t need the others, the others really needed her!
iii. I cannot stress enough that being a Christian isn’t about always getting from the church; it isn’t about always needing to be fed; there comes a point when we really need to be giving to the church, giving to others, and contributing to feeding others. The age-old question based on Cain’s response to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is, “Yes, we are each other’s keepers.” We have a responsibility and a privilege of helping our fellow Christians to be strong in the Lord.
iv. And, concerning the necessity of work in contributing to our salvation, remember the words of Paul that we recently considered: 1 Corinthians 9: 26-28—“therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
e. The old adage is correct: We are not saved by our works, but we are saved to do good works. And Paul stresses that we need to get very serious about those works—fear and trembling.
As we think about the importance of works in our Christian experience, let me ask you some soul-searching questions:
>Do you give serious attention to the pursuit of holiness?
> Do you take time regularly, daily, to read God’s Word in an UN-rushed prayerful effort to see what God wants to say to you through the Scripture passage you are reading?
>In your prayers do you ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and mind and reveal to you anything that is contrary to God’s will so that you can confess it and eliminate it?
> Do you look for ways to show God’s love to other Christians?
> Do you look for ways to show God’s love to those who are not Christian?
> Do you regularly pray for your leaders--- both Christian and secular?
> Do you look for opportunities to tell others about what God is doing in your life?
>Do you strive to build others up instead of talking negatively about them?
Are you really working on your salvation—your relationship with God? Are you doing so with fear and trembling? Or are you just coasting along and not really trying very hard?
Salvation isn’t a burden—it’s a blessing. The life of salvation is one of joy and peace. But it is also one of obedience and discipline. On this Labor Day Weekend, wouldn’t it be a good time to really do an inventory of your walk with God?
What one thing could you do that would help you to be a little more like Jesus?
John 4: 34-38
>Illustration: Article on “Time”
>Jesus & the Woman at the Well
>The Urgency of Time
I. PLAN FOR THE L_____ H_____.
II. INVEST IN THE F________.
III. LIVE IN THE P________ AS YOU ARE GUIDED BY THE F_______.
Ø That Race is on Today. Don’t think you can wait until tomorrow—TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION!
IT’S LATER THAN YOU THINK!
John 4: 34-38
Illustration/Article from Arnold Bennett, Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 18-20.:
Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! Your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions... No one can take it from you. It is not something that can be stolen. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Moreover, you cannot draw on its future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.
You must live on this twenty-four hour of daily time. Out of it you must spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness -- the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends -- depends on that.
If one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one's whole life indefinitely. We shall never have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.
Time is a precious commodity. We all have the same amount of time each day. We have all had days when time seemed to drag. And we all have felt rushed for time—those deadlines seem to creep up on us!
The passage of scripture we read in John 4: 34-38 is found in the account of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. You know the story. Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria. Jesus had stopped just outside the city of Sychar. He sat down close to a water well to rest while the disciples went into the city to buy food. A woman came out to the well to draw water and Jesus entered a conversation with her, offering to her water that would forever quench her thirst. The woman finally realizes that Jesus is not just an ordinary guy but is the long-expected Messiah and she runs back into the city to tell everyone to come and meet “the man who told her everything she ever did!” As this was happening, the disciples returned with food, but Jesus used the moment to teach them about “eternal food.” And then, Jesus tells them that, even though they think harvest is months away, the fields are already white with harvest. In other words, the time for harvesting souls is not months away—it is now!
And, now, here we are at the end of summer. School has started. Already in the retail clothing stores the summer clothes are on clearance racks as the fall clothing is being displayed. It is 4 months yet to Christmas, so there is plenty of time for shopping—or is there?
But reality is, we have no idea how long it will be before God sounds His trumpet and sends His angels to gather His Church in the air.
I read on Facebook of a boy who asked his pastor when the best time was to pray. The pastor answered, “The Day before you die.” The boy then asked, “How can I know what day I will die?” and the Pastor responded, “You can’t know. No one knows for sure what day they will die. That’s why we must pray every day so we will be ready!”
It’s that time issue again! A couple weeks ago the sermon was about “Launching out into the Deep!” The point was that we must not be satisfied to just be comfortable. We must press on to the deeper things of God and make the effort to reach those who are lost. Last week the sermon was about using our Freedom to do whatever it takes to win others. Today, we must realize that the time is urgent. We cannot afford to wait too long to do whatever it is that God wants us to do.
In John 9:4 Jesus told his disciples, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.”
In Romans 13:11 Paul wrote, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
Recognizing the importance of Time, Let’s consider these thoughts:
I. PLAN FOR THE LONG HAUL.
a. And the “long Haul” means not just next month or next year—it means eternity!
b. In 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul wrote, “…I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
c. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus, after talking about our concern for food and shelter, said, “But seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
d. God’s Word is very clear in telling us that our first and foremost concern must be making sure of our own salvation. If we fail in doing that, everything else is of little significance.
e. Remember the Parable of the Rich Fool? A man had a bumper crop and instructed his servants to build larger barns to store the harvest. And then he planned to celebrate. But God called him a fool because he had failed to plan for his eternity and his soul was to be demanded of him that very night. (See Luke 12: 13-21).
f. When I was just a young pastor, I had a conversation with a man whose mother was attending the church I was pastoring. I confronted him about a certain sin and talked to him about repenting and accepting Christ. His reply shocked me. He said in essence, “God knows that I fully intend to get right with Him before I die. I know He will not let me die before I do that.” And he let me know that he had no intention of making that decision for Christ yet. That was 40 years ago. I don’t know if he ever made that decision.
g. But this one thing I know: the only time we are guaranteed is the moment in which we are living right now. Don’t put off your salvation thinking you have plenty of time. NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION. Your eternity depends on your decision right this minute!
II. INVEST IN THE FUTURE.
a. In Matthew 6: 9-21 Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
b. How do you invest in the future?
i. Certainly, you do so by bringing in your tithes and offerings. The Biblical principle has always been that we give 10% of our increase to the Lord and then give offerings above that as the Lord directs us. Our older generation of Christians has been our consistent supporters. But our younger generation needs to understand that God’s plan for financing His ministry on earth still needs that same support. I know we often quote for the Old Testament Prophet Malachi as God warns the Israelite's of their responsibility. Malachi 3: 8 quotes God saying, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing God?’ In tithes and offerings.” Christians, Obedience to God with our material finances and wealth is essential to receiving God’s Blessings in our lives!
ii. We invest in the future by our witness to others. The New Testament Book of Acts is very clear as to how the Church was able to grow and spread as rapidly as it did in that first century. Acts 8: 4 tells us that when persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem many had to flee Jerusalem. The verse says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” I’ve shared this before, but it is a story that stirred my heart. The essence of the story is that a group of men went to a foreign country in search of a Christian they hadn’t heard from in a long time. Coming to a village they asked if anyone knew of this man. The villagers replied, “There is no Christian in this area, but we heard there is one who lives in a village about 100 miles from here. And so, he was. The powerful thing about this story is that even though this Christian man lived 100 miles away, people from that distance had heard of him. Our witness is a powerful tool. We must do our best to share Christ with others every opportunity we get.
iii. Investment in the future means disciplining others. It is in pouring ourselves into others that the gospel spreads. Disciplining is more than witnessing. It is spending time modeling, teaching, coaching others so they can continue to draw closer to others. At our DSMI Convention someone pointed out that raising a child is an ongoing process. It is life being lived out daily as we protect, train, and prepare our children for life. And disciplining New Christians is no different. It isn’t just an hour a week of talking with someone. It is 24/7 of being there, helping, coaching, correcting, instilling Christian principles and values into a person. And it is a lifelong process. Paul, writing to his beloved church in Philippi, said, “…I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 13-14).
iv. Investing in the future certainly includes personal discipline—self training in the disciplines that enable me to be a stronger Christian. Last week we looked at the verse in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9: 27).
c. You see, we are works in progress. We have not arrived yet in our spiritual development. We may be mature, but there are still areas in our lives that could be improved. I think sometimes of a man I knew years ago who told me he saw no need to go to Sunday School because he already knew all about the Bible. And I can tell you, he may have thought he knew it all, but his life said he had a lot to learn.
III. LIVE IN THE PRESENT AS YOU ARE GUIDED BY THE FUTURE.
a. I’ve heard it said that we are products of our past. We are today what we are because of what we have experienced in the past. That may be true up to a point, but for a Christian there is a difference. Our past does not have to control us. We need to keep our eyes on the future, on eternity, on Jesus. And the decisions we make today must be guided by our destination for eternity!
b. I have people come to me for counseling from time to time. And sometimes they say, “Pastor, I’ve done some awful things in my past.” And I will respond by saying, “We all have a past.” Maybe you were abused as a child. Maybe you committed some terrible sin. Maybe you feel you have not had the advantages others have had. Rather than focusing on your past, confess that past to the Lord and set your eyes upon Jesus. Hebrews 12: 1 & 2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The race is on. It is called
“Life.” It doesn’t start tomorrow or next week or next year. It has already started, and you are in it. TIME is ticking. What you are going to do for the Lord, you must get started doing.
Have you made plans for your eternity? Have you nailed down your reservations for Heaven by repenting of your sins and accepting Christ as your Savior? Today is your day of Salvation. Don’t miss out.
Are you investing in eternity with your possessions, your time and your talents by using them as God has instructed?
Are you investing in the spiritual disciplines that God has given us: Prayer, Bible Study, Church attendance, Public and Private Worship, tithing your income, giving offerings to those things God lays on your heart?
Are you doing your best to model your Christianity in front of others, influencing them, mentoring them in the ways of Righteousness and Holiness?
Remember: the only Time we are guaranteed is this present moment. The fields are white with harvest today. If we wait, we may miss out.
Church let’s get serious about going to heaven and taking as many with us as we can!
1 Corinthians 9: 19-27
>Illustration: A lesson from playing football…
>Paul’s life Lesson on reaching others…
I. RECOGNIZE THE F_________ WE HAVE IN CHRIST.
II. USE YOUR FREEDOM W_______.
III. REMEMBER THAT WITH FREEDOM COMES D____________.
What will it take for us to once again have that kind of passion for the cause of Christ that the first century Christians had?
FREEDOM TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES!
1 Corinthians 9: 19-27
I played football when I was in Junior High. I even have an old Letterman Jacket from back then. I dropped out of football in Senior High. Believe it or not, I was not big enough—I only weighed about 120 lbs. back then—hard to believe now, isn’t it?
The position I had to play was offensive guard. I didn’t like playing the position but that is where the coach placed me most of the time. The plays I hated the most were those where the guard was a pulling guard. That meant, instead of blocking straight ahead, I had to drop back a step and then run around the line and help block for the runner in a sweep play. I did the best I could, but for the most part I considered myself inadequate in that play.
The position I really liked was defensive linebacker. Occasionally the coach would put me in that position. I loved have opportunity to get in on tackles. I really felt like I did a pretty good job in that position. I was never sure why the coach didn’t let me play that position all the time.
One of the life lessons I learned from my football experience was this: In whatever position the coach placed me, I had to adapt to that position and play it to the best of my ability. Otherwise I would have only been a bench warmer.
And spiritually, in whatever position God places me, and with whoever the people are with whom I find myself, I must adapt in such a way that I can do my very best for God.
Paul, the great missionary/evangelist, was a master at adapting to the places and people to which he was trying to reach. This passage in 1 Corinthians 9 reveals some principles he used that we too must learn to use if we are to be effective soul winners for the Kingdom.
I. RECOGNIZE THE FREEDOM WE HAVE IN CHRIST.
a. In Verse 19 Paul writes, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.”
b. Paul was a free man. I have read from some sources that in the Roman Empire it was likely that half the population were slaves—people who were enslaved when their countries were conquered; people who had been sold into slavery in order to pay for debts; people who were born into slavery because their parents had been enslaved. But, not Paul. He was a free man, a Roman citizen entitled to all the rights guaranteed by Roman Law. On occasion when faced with injustices Paul had played that citizenship card in order to protect himself and the new Christians in the Churches he was starting. But this was not the freedom Paul was referring to in this passage. He was talking about the freedom that comes when Christ becomes Lord of a person’s life and the person is no longer a slave to sin. In Romans 7 & 8 Paul gives a graphic description of that enslavement and the deliverance that Christ gives. But Paul was also pointing to the freedom that he was experiencing from the legalistic life he had experienced as a Pharisee prior to his conversion on the Damascus Road. Then he had tried to live by a set of rules—do’s and don’ts that severely restricted life and ultimately were impossible to keep. Now, after accepting Christ, Paul found that instead of worrying about rules, he had the privilege of entering a relationship with the Living God through faith in Jesus Christ. He was free to live as member of the Family of God!
II. USE YOUR FREEDOM WISELY.
a. Paul recognized that he had a choice as to how to use His freedom. He could do as he pleased without regards as to how it affected others. Or he could use his freedom to try and influence others for Christ.
b. Verse 20 says, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law), to win those under the Law.”
a. Having studied the writings of Paul and Luke’s account of Paul in the Book of Acts, I must believe that what Paul means here is that we must find common ground with others we are trying to influence for Christ.
b. An example of this is found in Acts 21 that we just looked out last Wednesday night. At the conclusion of Paul’s 3rd Missionary journey, when he came back to Jerusalem, the Elders there were concerned about the misinformation (fake news) that many had heard saying the Paul was abandoning the Jewish traditions and the Law they had received from Moses. At the Jerusalem Elders’ suggestion, Paul agreed to sponsor 4 men who had taken the Nazarite Vow and to pay for their sacrifices and offerings at the conclusion of a week of purification in the Temple. And, on top of that, Paul joined in the purification rite himself. Did he have to do this? Of Course not. But he wanted to bridge the gap of understanding between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. And he was willing to do what needed to be done in order to reconcile the divide in the Church.
c. Was He being a hypocrite by doing something he knew was not necessary for his salvation? No, he was not a hypocrite. He was willing to go the extra mile and make certain concessions so long as those concessions did not dishonor Christ. He was identifying with people in order to win them over.
d. Now, in our world, we too must look for ways to bridge the gap, or to find common ground with those we are trying to reach for Christ. But we also must be honest.
e. I remember a man who was a new Christian who was passionate about winning people to the Lord. He knew that he needed to identify with those to whom he was witnessing. In a prison visit as he was witnessing to some of the prisoners, he stretched the truth, telling the prisoner that he too had done some things that were illegal. (You know what “Stretching the truth” means? It means lying.)
The man witnessing meant well, but this wasn’t what Paul was saying. We must always be honest—if we aren’t, then our witness cannot be effective!
f. But we can find common ground. It may be a love for sports. It may be a hobby. It may be where or how we were raised. It may be a shared suffering. It may be an injustice we have experienced. Or it may be none of those things.
g. In our Christian world we have those who use their tattoos in order to identify with those who are tattooed. We have some who wear their leathers and ride Harley's in order to identify with the motorcycle folks. And the casual clothes that are prevalent in church these days are because of Christians trying to make non-Christians feel more at ease when they come to a worship service. ( I suppose you could say that my wearing a coat and tie on Sunday morning has something to do with making the Senior Adult crowd comfortable with the Preacher dressing like they think he should dress.) It could mean being willing to listen to Christian Rock or Rap in order to reach those who prefer that kind of music. This is at the heart of the so-called worship music wars of the last 20 or 30 years.
h. What Paul meant was that he was willing to lay aside his preferences in order to build a common ground with those who do not know Christ so that he could win their confidence and tell them about Jesus.
i. I wonder why that is so difficult for us to understand and embrace?
III.REMEMBER THAT WITH FREEDOM COMES DISCIPLINE.
j. I don’t believe that it is a coincident that immediately after writing about His freedom and his willingness to do whatever it took to win others to Christ, that Paul quickly began to write about the importance of self-discipline. Listen again to 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Freedom that is undisciplined leads to destruction. Only when we place ourselves under the authority of Christ and then intentionally strive to live our lives in ways that obey, and honor Christ can we find fulfillment, satisfaction, and eternal life!
Paul recognized that it was not enough for him to tell others how they should live for Christ—he himself had to live for Christ. And that involves trying, training, and deliberately putting into practice those things that bring us closer to Christ.
Some of those disciplines include Reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God. That is essential if we are to grow and mature as Christians. Regular times of prayer and intentionally spending time with God; Church attendance, Corporate and Private Worship, Bible Study with other Believers, bringing our tithes and offerings to the Lord—all these and more are things we do that help us become more like Christ in our daily lives.
Paul had just written about doing anything to save others—but he wanted to underscore that “doing anything” must first be grounded in a right relationship with God. And just like husband and wife must work at maintaining and growing in their relationship to each other, so Believers must work at developing and growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’m afraid that too many modern day Christians are using their freedom selfishly. They are more concerned in what makes them feel good than they are in what touches the hearts of those who need to know Christ. They are more concerned in what they get from being in Church than they are about what it is they can contribute to reaching the lost world for Jesus. They are more concerned with “their rights” than they are with sacrificing those rights in order to reach a hurting world.
In our Wednesday evening study this year of the Book of Acts, the one thing that really stands out is the passion the early Christians had for sharing Christ everywhere they went. Men like Peter and Paul and Barnabas and Silas and others burned with passion to spread the Good News. Hardships, beatings, persecutions, and even death did not deter them from following their passion and zeal for Jesus.
What will it take for us to once again have that kind of passion for the cause of Christ? Paul said,
“I DO ALL THIS FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL, THAT I MAY SHARE IN ITS BLESSINGS!”
God help us to do likewise!
Luke 5: 1-13
Key verse: Luke 5:4—“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”
--Illustration: Swimming Holes and Deep Water
_To tired and discouraged Fisherman Jesus said, “Launch out into the deep…”
I. THE FISHERMEN REPRESENT THE C________.
II. THE VOICE OF JESUS SIGNIFIES THE CALL OF THE H___ S______.
III. THE OBEDIENCE OF THE FISHERMEN REPRESENTS THE NECESSITY FOR EACH OF US TO O_____.
So, Church, hear the command of Jesus: “‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”
We must not be content to just stay in the shallow water and just drift to the shore. It is time that we move out of our comfort zones into the deep water and start fishing!
Luke 5: 1-13
Key verse: Luke 5:4—“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”
I’ve never been a very good swimmer. Gloria can swim like a fish. I tend to sink. When I was a kid, we didn’t have any public swimming pools in my hometown. But we had irrigation wells and rice canals. The water being pumped into those pools and canals was ice cold. We kids would jump into that water and literally turn blue. After a few minutes we were so numb from the cold that we didn’t even notice it. We were kids and we had fun. The water was shallow even in those canals. The only danger of drowning would be because the mud in the bottom of those canals was so thick that a person might get sucked into the slime and sink in. To be honest, in those canals I was more concerned with snakes than mud. We would throw rocks into the area where we wanted to swim, and the snakes would swim away because of the disturbance.
So, my experience as a boy growing up was mostly in those shallow ponds and canals. It was unnerving to me those few times when we were at a swimming place where there was deep water. I still have a panicky feeling when I jump into the lake and my feet do not touch the bottom. I can swim, but I must fight off that panicky feeling.
I’ve been on the Sea of Galilee. It is a lake that is huge. Tablerock doesn’t even begin to compare. Those fishermen back then would get into boats and row out away from the shore into the deep waters to cast their nets.
But in this story, they had fished all night with no luck at all. They were tired and discouraged. You fishermen know that sometimes the fish just are not biting. So, they were giving it up for the time being. It was time to call it quits, go home and rest, and try again another day.
Pulling in their nets, paddling back to shore, exhausted and looking forward to some good ole shut-eye, I’m sure the last thing they wanted to hear was some land lover telling them to put back out into the deep water and try again. But they had heard Jesus and out of respect for him they were willing to chance it one more time. And you know the rest of the story…
As I was contemplating the time of the year, the approach of the new school year just days away for many, and the fall quarter almost here, those words in verse 4 seemed to leap out at me. The KJV translates it this way: “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught.”
Could it be that the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to us, Church?
Let’s reflect on this account from the life of Jesus and consider the implications God’s Word has for us today.
I. THE FISHERMEN REPRESENT THE CHURCH.
a. How often in the past have we heard the church referred to as the Old Ship Zion.; I’ve even preached on the passage in Mark about the Calming of the Storm where we are told there were many little ships accompanying the boat that Jesus and the disciples that day. But the only one we hear about being saved was the one Jesus was in. And I called their little fishing boat “Zion.”
b. General Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Crocker pointed out that many churches in America are struggling, outdated in design, and filled with graying congregations. Our District Superintendent is consciously leading us in restructuring how we conduct our District Conventions and Assembly to attract the younger generations. The way we have done church the past 100 years is just not drawing in our youth. A few years ago, I attended a Leadership Conference (PALCON) whose theme was built upon the Wizard of Oz and the Words of Dorothy to her little dog, “Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore!” That was particularly funny to me since the conference was in Olathe, KS at MNU. The point was that society has changed so drastically that the old methods no longer are working, and we have to try and find a new way. At the M19 Conference I attended in January 2019, one of the speakers went so far as to say that by 2030 the church as we know it will no longer exist. Dr. Crocker echoed that warning at our District Assembly this year.
c. So, just as the fishermen had fished all night with no success, so many of our churches have tried to come up with an effective method of winning our youth with very little success.
d. And like the disciples in our scripture passage, so many churches are tired and frustrated and discouraged and about ready to give up. Let’s take care of our Senior Adults and when they are gone, we will shut the doors. And we are just treading water, slowly moving to the shallow water where it is comfortable. Getting ready to abandon ship!
II. THE VOICE OF JESUS SIGNIFIES THE CALL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
a. Jesus was on the shore watching what was happening. He was raised near the Sea of Galilee and he knew the mentality of those fishermen. He knew they had given their best efforts. He knew they had the knowledge and the skills to earn a living catching fish. He knew that not catching fish meant families would go hungry and there wouldn’t be enough income to provide for the necessary living expenses of that time. And he knew that seasoned fisherman probably would not welcome advice from someone on the sidelines.
b. I must tell you, as a pastor who had been in full time ministry for nearly 50 years, I have trouble getting excited by all the new fads and methods that are being presented at various seminars and conferences. It is so easy to think, “I’ve tried something like that before and it didn’t work. Why should I try it now?”
c. But the key is to where the advice is coming from: Is it just another person’s invention or is the Voice of Jesus calling out for me to try it one more time!
d. In the scripture passage it is the voice of Jesus that interrupted their exasperation.
e. And I am convinced that Jesus has a plan to reach the next generation. He didn’t explain to the fishermen what He had in store for them, He just commanded them to launch out into the deep and cast their nets once again. Their job wasn’t to understand—their job was simply to obey and leave the results to God!
f. I appreciate those who are exploring the possibilities and presenting new ideas and strategies for reaching our world. I value the challenges that our leaders present to us. We are the Called Ones; the Ones God has entrusted with evangelizing our world.
g. My concern is that, during all the seminars and conferences, the ears of my heart are attuned to voice of Jesus.
h. We must not be content to drift into the shallow waters of our comfort zone when He is telling us to “Launch out into the deep.
III. THE OBEDIENCE OF THE FISHERMEN REPRESENTS THE NECESSITY FOR EACH OF US TO OBEY.
a. I find myself thinking the thoughts that Peter thought. In verse 5 we read, “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
b. Notice that the fishermen did not do anything different from what they had done all night long. The only thing that changed was that instead of doing what they thought they should do; they were now doing what Jesus told them to do.
c. You have heard the 7 last words of a dying church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” Or in eight words< “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work!”
d. It doesn’t matter if the strategy is new or old. What matters is that we are obedient to the voice of Jesus!
So, Church, Hear the command of Jesus: ”Launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a draught.”
I want you to take that command personally today. Yes, we as a church must not give up. We must continue going out into the deep and casting our nets in our efforts to win people.
But that command is for each one of us who are disciples of Jesus. It is time to get out of the shallow waters, your comfort zone, and move out into water that is over our head so that we must trust Jesus. Instead of coming to church to get fed, maybe it is time to come to church in order to fish for souls. Maybe you should be volunteering as a greeter, or a parking lot greeter, or an Assistant in Sunday school, or even as a teacher or a choir member. Maybe it is time you walk across the street or down the road to a neighbor's house and invite that family to come to a church service with you and then take them out to eat after the service. Maybe it is time that you host a Neighborhood Bible study in your home.
Hear the voice of Jesus in your own life: Launch out into the deep. Just do it and trust Jesus with the results.
It is only God who can save people our job is to allow Him to use us to bring people to Him.
Who are you bringing to Jesus?
John 6: 1-14
>Illustration: A Stressful Day on the Farm
>An Attempt to rest and grieve turns into a full day of intense ministry
>At the end of the day, exhausted and hungry, a Miracle is in order
I. FIRST OF ALL, THEY RECOGNIZED THE N___.
II. SECONDLY, THEY TOOK INVENTORY OF THE R_________ A___________.
III. THEY O_______ JESUS.
The Feeding of the 5000 set the conditions for Jesus’ Discourse where He said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.”
We may not have the resources we think we need, but if we have Jesus that is enough!
FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY
John 6: 1-14
I was raised on a farm in Central Eastern Arkansas. Back in the early 60s we didn’t have the advanced technological equipment that many farmers have today, but we were more advanced that the days when they used mules and horses to farm. On our farm back then we had cotton and soybeans and some corn. Later we rented additional land and included rice in the mix. When it was time to plant the cotton, Dad had an old H Farmall tractor that had a 4 row planter attached to the back. Each hopper had to be filled regularly and then seeds would be dispensed through metal tubing to a device we called a “Hill dropper.” It would allow a certain amount of seed to be released every 8 to 10 inches... The problem occurred when the “Hill Dropper” would get stuck. So there was a running board across the back of a planter and Dad would sometimes get me to stand on that running board and make sure the seeds were being dispensed properly and to warn him if the hoppers started getting low on seed. I remember one day that was so hot and dusty. I would walk back and forth on the 2 by 10 running board watching the hoppers, watching the turning of the hill droppers. The dust was awful, I was hot, and in just a few hours I was getting really tired. At one point dad yelled back, “Jim, how are you doing back there?” And I responded, “I’m so tired that I don’t even have the strength to spit! “ Dad laughed, and then we took a water break.
As miserable as I felt that day, now, some 55+ years later, I have fond memories of those experiences.
And I can tell you, on those strenuous work days our big meal was at noon. And I guarantee you I had the strength to eat plenty!
In this account of the feeding of the 5000, it had been another stressful work day for Jesus. From the other 3 Gospels we learn that just prior to this day Jesus had learned of John the Baptist’s execution John was a relative of Jesus, but he was also the forerunner of Jesus who had the awesome responsibility of announcing to the world to prepare for the arrival of the long-awaiting King—the Messiah Jesus. News of his execution must have hit Jesus and his disciples hard. In the moments after learning of John’s death, Jesus took disciples to their boat on the Sea of Galilee with the intentions of slipping away from the crowd so that he and his disciples could rest and allow their sorrow time to express itself. But when they reached the shore to which they were going, the multitudes had guessed correctly as to their destination and had actually reached it ahead of Jesus. They were waiting for him and the disciples. And any idea of retreat and rest was quickly replaced with ministry. All day Jesus taught the crowds about the Kingdom of God and had healed everyone in the crowd who needed to be healed.
I can tell you that ministry is hard work. I’m sure the disciples and Jesus were tired—probably more so that I was on the back of the planter. And the multitudes had walked a great distance and been in the heat of the wilderness all day long.
As night approached it was obvious that the people needed food, and if they didn’t get food, they probably would be too weak to make it back home.
What do you do when you have a crowd of hungry people and you are too far away from the store to buy supplies?
I. FIRST OF ALL, THEY RECOGNIZED THE NEED.
a. The other Gospels point out that Jesus stated they had to have food in order to have strength to go home.
b. I can’t begin to fathom how thousands of people were so determined to seek out Jesus that in their rush they failed to pack an adequate picnic basket. Now they were facing a dilemma. How were they going to find food in this wilderness area?
c. Let me reflect on this in our context. We have people who come to our church services from all over the United States and beyond. There are vacationers who are looking for rest and recreation. There are relatives who come to see family members. They are friends who have a chance to get away for a few days and since they have friends in Branson, they come to visit. And there are those who are discontent with their current situations who come looking for a change. Many are considering retirement and are checking the area to see if this is where they want to live. All kinds of people, many different reasons, who are here, looking, thinking, dreaming.
d. In my 37 years here I have found out that many of those who come here for vacation are trying to salvage a strained marriage. Many are wanting something different and they are searching. And they and so many others are hungry—even though they may not even realize it. There is emptiness in their heart they are longing to fill—They are hungry for truth, for meaning, for fulfillment.
In our town we have 100's of International workers from all over the world. And we have 100's of people who are homeless who are living in weekly rental motels or in tents out in wooded areas. We have those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. We have people living in abject poverty. We have senior citizens who have no family to help them. The list goes on and on. You don’t have to look very far to discover the needs are great.
And we are the Church—the Disciples of Christ. How do we discern the needs of those multitudes who flood the streets of Branson?
II. SECONDLY, THEY TOOK INVENTORY OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE.
a. John 6: 5-6—When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this only to test him for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
b. Jesus tested Philip and the others. He knew there was no place available to buy the quantity of food it would take to feed the 1000's in the multitude. And he knew that, even if there was such a supermarket, they would not have enough cash to pay for such an order. So the disciples were forced to do some searching and give some thought to the dilemma. Of the 4 Gospels, John’s Gospel is the only one that identifies the source of the 5 loaves and 2 small fish. Verses 8 & 9 read: “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’”
c. Isn’t it amazing that in a crowd of 5000 men plus women and children, they could only find one person, a child, who had any food with him. And even more remarkable, the boy gave the food to Andrew. With no more food than was found, it is surprising that Andrew even bothered to mention it to Jesus. I wonder what he was thinking. Maybe he was just trying to show Jesus how hopeless the situation was. Or, just maybe, he was thinking that this Jesus, who had turned water into wine, could do something with these meager items.
d. Now here’s the thing: When we consider the enormity of the task before us, and then inventory our current resources, we find ourselves in the same mentality as the disciples: Our resources are so small, how can we possibly feed the spiritually hungry who come to our city?
e. I can tell you, no matter how many churches we have in our area and no matter how many resources we have in those churches, humanly speaking they are inadequate to meet the need of the masses around us. The need is so great that our human resources are never enough.
f. And in our local church, we don’t have enough teachers, we don’t have enough greeters, we don’t have enough nursery workers, we don’t have enough space—you name it and we find ourselves woefully inadequate to the task before us.
g. What are we going to do?
That brings us to the next step:
III. THEY OBEYED JESUS.
a. Verse 10—“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (An all you can eat fish dinner!)
b. I can only speculate as to what the disciples must have been thinking? “This is a waste of time—what’s the use of having them sit down when we know we don’t have enough food for more than one or two?” But they did what Jesus told them to do. Maybe they thought God would send manna from heaven as He had done to the Israelite's in the wilderness. Maybe they thought Jesus was going to have them rest for a while on the soft grass in the late evening so that maybe they would be rested enough and regain enough strength to make the trip back to their homes. Who knows what they were thinking, but the bottom line is, they trusted Jesus and obeyed His command.
c. They may not have known what else to do. They may not have thought they had enough resources at their disposal to adequately feed the multitude. They may not have understood how Jesus was going to handle this situation. But they obeyed. They did not have to know the what or the how. But they trusted Jesus enough to just obey His command and leave the results to Him.
d. And so we have the song we sing, “Little is Much When God is in It.” The loaves and fishes were multiplied enough to feed the men and those women and children who may have been with them and still have enough to fill 12 baskets with leftovers—more food in the end than they had in the beginning!
This miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 set up the discourse a short time later where Jesus stated, “I Am the Bread of Life.” We so often focus on the physical aspects of this miracle, but the real lesson is, it doesn’t matter if we have a lot or a little. What matters is, WE HAVE JESUS—AND HE IS ENOUGH!
Yes, we should do our best to feed the hungry and provide shelter and provisions for the homeless and the helpless. But more than that, we must give them JESUS. We can’t relieve all the problems in this world. After all, even Jesus told his disciples in another place that we would always have the poor with us.
But the only One who can give meaning and hope and fulfillment and ultimately eternal life is Jesus.
So, instead of focusing on what we cannot do or what we do have, let’s proclaim Jesus.
Peter learned his lesson. Remember what he told the lame man at the Gate called Beautiful at the Temple: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” (Acts 3: 6).
So here we are about to partake of Communion. It is such a simple thing we do. We take a small wafer of bread and a tiny cup of grape juice and remember it represents the Body and Blood of Jesus.
As we partake of it today, remember the 5 loaves and 2 small fish that fed the 5000
And remember the words of Jesus: “I am the Bread of life.”
Matthew 18: 1-9
>Illustrations of Childhood Memories
> The Reality of Growing up, but the importance of becoming once again like little children…
I. BECOMING LITTLE CHILDREN AGAIN
II. THE VALUE OF CHILDREN
a. Why VBS is Important
So, today, we Bless our children. We pray this will be a week where memories are created for a lifetime.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHILDREN TO THE KINGDOM
Matthew 18: 1-9
When I was a boy there weren’t any video games. We had to use our imagination. I remember playing “kick the can,” and “King of the Mountain and “Hide & Seek.” I remember once when we didn’t have a football so we used a Clorox Jug and pretended it was a football.
When I was probably 8 or 9 my friend and I wanted our own club house. There was an old chicken house that wasn’t being used anymore, so we scrubbed that building and cleaned it up and that became our club house. Since we didn’t have a club, we made up one and created rules and plans. One of the rules was that there were no girls allowed. That got us into trouble because my aunt and cousin were living with us at the time while Uncle Lawrence was stationed overseas. Cousin Judy complained ( tattled) on us, and we had to revise our rules!
In Central Eastern Arkansas it never snowed much, but maybe once a winter we would get a 5 or 6 inch snow. We would make snow forts and stock up snowballs and prepare for a big snowball fight. We were conquering heroes engaged it major battlefield tactics. It was heady stuff!
In grade school we sometimes played Red Rover. And we played Pop the Whip until one of the boys got his collar bone broken and the school made is quit playing it.
I remember that when I was in the first grade there was a merry-go-round on the playground—the kind that you pump with your feet to make it spin faster. It was near a tree that had a limb that hang pretty low. Some of us boys would stand on the Merry-Go-Round while it was spinning and jump off and try and catch that tree limb and swing to the ground. We were told not to do that anymore, but I had to try it one more time. That is when I got my first spanking in school.
` Eventually we outgrew many of those games. I’m not sure why, but I think it had to do with a new interest—Girls.
In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
Yes, there comes a time when we have to grow up. Our fantasy games are replaced with real life, responsibilities, and self-preservation! But there was something in those childhood days that we should never lose.
And so, Jesus, when asked by the disciples, “Who is the greatest?” pulled a little child out of the crowd and said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I am sure Jesus wasn’t talking about us again acting foolishly, taking reckless risks and excluding girls from our pretend clubs.
And this passage isn’t the only place where Jesus singled out the importance of children. In Matthew 19 we read, “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’ After he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there” (Matthew 19: 13-16).
With these scriptures in mind, let’s consider what it is that the Holy Spirit wants to say to us today.
I. BECOMING LITTLE CHILDREN AGAIN
a. As I reflect on this command to become little children there are some characteristics that I believe Jesus was pointing out to us: Here’s a few that come to mind:
i. SIMPLICITY. Children see the world through fresh eyes. We adults often over-analyze or complicate the simple things of life. I think of the Family Circle cartoon where Little Billy is told to come straight home from school The cartoon shows him smelling the roses, watching the butterfly, petting the dog, stepping in the water puddle, getting a drink from the water fountain and several other little distractions before he gets home. He took time to enjoy the simple, the everyday wonders that are all around us. But we Adults are in too much of a rush to get from point A to point B. I just drove about 2200 miles this past week—from Missouri to the East Coast and back again. I drove on the Interstates that were filled with thousands of cars and trucks, all hurrying to get to somewhere else. We live such fast-paced lives that we miss the simple little miracles of nature that are all around us.
ii. TRUST. Children are inclined to trust Adults. In our perverted world full of predators, we have to caution our children not to take candy from strangers, do not talk to strangers, and never get into cars with strangers. Why do we have taught this to kids? We do it because Kids have the natural tendency to trust, and, therefore, are easy targets for the evil world. Trust is good if it is channeled correctly. We adults need to regain that natural tendency to trust and channel it towards trusting God!
iii. LOVE. Children have a way of expressing love that is wonderful. I came home a week or so ago and my children and grandchildren were at the house. When I came through the front door our youngest granddaughter, 2 year old Emily, jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug. And, of course, when she does that, my heart just melts. We Adults must regain that ability to communicate our love to one another and to God appropriately. I know we have a bunch of’ ”huggers” in our church family and I’m not complaining. But showing love is about more than a hug—it is about really caring about others and looking for ways to build up one another. It may mean sharing someone’s heartache, rescuing someone who has gotten themselves into some kind of trouble, it means showing kindness and being forgiving, not holding grudges.
I’m sure there are other characteristics in Children that Jesus was thinking about, but I think you see what I mean—Becoming like a little child doesn’t mean being “Childish.” It means being open and loving and sincere. It means being like Jesus. But there’s something else that we should consider:
II. THE VALUE OF CHILDREN
a. In Matthew 19 the disciples complained because people were bringing their children to Jesus to have Him bless them. And Jesus told them very sternly that it was okay—Children are important to the Kingdom!
b. This next week we are having Vacation Bible School—as you can tell by the stage decorations. The theme is “Shipwrecked, Saved by Jesus!” Our congregation is made up of lots of Grandmothers and Granddads, and lots of Aunts and Uncles. We really do want to imitate Jesus in receiving Children into our care so that we can touch their lives and pray blessings on them.
c. And in receiving Children, we understand that “Kids will be kids!” They will talk when we want them to be quiet, run when we want them to walk, be distracted when we want them to pay attention. And we have to watch them carefully and prevent them from running into the streets, or jumping off chairs or steps or porches and getting hurt. They may think they are Superman when they have a cape around their neck, but they really can’t fly!
d. But in all their energy and excitement, let’s harness their imaginations and channel into them the Love of Christ. And that love will come through each of us.
e. Sam Luce tells how his church had stopped doing VBS until just a couple years ago. Then he listed the reasons they starting having VBS again. He wrote:
1. We live in a very pluralistic society that doesn’t value church but values traditions. There are many parents who have young kids who either don’t go to church or infrequently attend church but have great memories of VBS. They want their kids to have those same memories and will put their kids in VBS before taking them on the weekend.
2. Having 15 hours in the VBS week to speak new truth or reinforce what is being taught at home is invaluable. The new regular attendee’s standard is now 12 to 24 Sundays a year. VBS gives you a nice chunk of time to drill down into core truth that kids need in the world we now live in.
3. Partnering with parents starts with equipping parents. Doing VBS with this in mind makes VBS more valuable than a simple stand-alone program.
4. VBS has to be a whole church focus. It can’t be something your department does. I did a department-focused VBS years ago and just finished a church-driven VBS. The difference is night and day.
5. Reaching new families has to be a focus but not the whole focus. We want to reach new families but we also need to build the foundations of the families we have. One of the reasons we write our own VBS is because we want a VBS that speaks to the specific culture and values of our church that no VBS curriculum could ever do. There are tons of great ones out there, but for us, VBS is more than an outreach tool, it’s a gospel shaping delivery device for the whole family.
6. Our church has changed. We care about the weekend service still, but we care more about intentional ways to help with spiritual formation and discipleship in a variety of ways outside the weekend service.
I want to add to that list the most important reason of all to have VBS: Children are important! In fact, they are so important that Jesus insisted they be allowed to come to him to be blessed. They are so important that Jesus said if anyone would harm a child, it would be better for that person to have a millstone tied to his neck and he be cast into the sea—that was the Bible version of the 20th Century Mobsters threatening some with “Cement Overshoes!” Children are so important that we Adults must become like them if we are ever going to get into Heaven!
So, today, we bless our children. We pray this will be a week where memories are created for a lifetime. And most of all, we pray that lives will be forever impacted with God’s Love and Saving Grace!
Now: About becoming Little Children again:
>Do you really believe God is your “Abba Father” who really cares about you?
>Do you bring your problems, your concerns, your hurts to Hi so He can “Make it better”?
<Do you need to step out of your Adult Role and re-discover the joy of God’s Wonderful Creation, trust in His Greatness, and rekindle that “First-love” in your relationship with God?
Wouldn’t this be a great time to come and kneel in his Presence and ask Him to help you have that Child-like Faith that is required for heaven?
Hebrews 9: 11-22
>Independence Day—Our Flag stands because of those who shed their blood to protect our freedoms!
>Personal Illustration: Giving Blood …
>But it isn’t our blood that we are considering today—It is the Precious Blood of Christ.
I. THE PATH FOR OUR SALVATION WAS THROUGH A TABERNACLE NOT MADE WITH HUMAN HANDS.
II. JESUS’S SHED BLOOD WAS THE PRICE FOR OUR FREEDOM.
III. THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST REMINDS US OF THE VALUE OF LIFE—OUR LIVES!
>Illustration from History—John Wesley’s response to being robbed…
>As we prepare for Communion, reflect on the Importance of the Blood of Christ!
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Hebrews 9: 11-22
It has been a great week as we celebrate Independence Day—all week long. Last week our Jubilee singers gave a great Christian Patriotic Musical presentation. If you didn’t get to see that, I encourage you to go to our Facebook page and watch the video. You can go through our web page—Bransonnazarene.com to access it.
This week I saw a post on Facebook showing the American Flag. Below it was a reminder that the flag is there because of the blood that has been shed to protect our Nation. In the few centuries since the beginning of our nation 1000’s has given their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy.
And among other things, that statement triggered the thoughts of the sacredness of Blood.
Often times we hear of a need for various types of blood. I have on several occasions given blood when the Blood Mobile was in town. I finally stopped because my veins were stingy, and the technicians had trouble getting my blood. The last time I went to give blood I was stuck something like 8 different times. Both my arms were black and blue. They finally gave up. I left with all the blood I had when I started!
I’ve always found it amusing to see large, athletically built men who when giving blood would faint. It just happens to certain people. Being big and tough doesn’t mean you are not skirmish at the sight of blood.
Dr. Paul Brandt in one of his books told how he finally became comfortable with the sight of blood. He saw a young woman who was unconscious from an accident and ghastly pale from loss of blood. When she received a transfusion. He marveled at how color and life returned to this woman who had been near death.
Indeed, blood is the force that gives life to each of us.
There was a time when I was experiencing dizziness and weakness. The doctor checked my blood and found I was anemic. I thought the reason for my shortness of breath was my weight—which certainly didn’t help. But I found it was because of my blood deficiency—my blood was not carrying enough oxygen to the cells in my body. Our blood is pretty important!
And as important as our blood is to our life expectancy, the Blood I want us to think about today is the Blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on our behalf in order that we could be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God. It is His Blood that gives us Eternal Life!
People who have no understanding of Christianity may have difficulty understanding our talk about the Blood of Christ. Understand that when we speak of Jesus shedding His Blood for our sins, we mean that Jesus gave His Life on our behalf so that we can be saved.
The writer of Hebrews went to great lengths to explain that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Jewish religious rituals and that He is superior in every way to the practices of sacrifice as outlined in the Old Testament.
Let’s consider what this passage has to teach us about Jesus giving His life—shedding His life blood to seal the New Covenant –the New Agreement we have with God.
I. THE PATH FOR OUR SALVATION WAS THROUGH A TABERNACLE NOT MADE WITH HUMAN HANDS.
a. Verse 11 says, “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands; that is to say, is not a part of this creation.”
b. In the Old Testament we read how Moses led the Israelite's out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God met with Moses, giving Him the Law—The Ten Commandments—and instructions on how the Nation of Israel was to live and worship God. Those instructions included the establishment of a Tabernacle—a Holy Tent—that contained the Ark of the Covenant and represented the Presence of God in their midst. This Tabernacle was the focus for their religious life until the Temple was built replacing the need for a tent, emphasizing the permanence of God’s Presence. These were physical structures, built according to God’s specifications but, nevertheless, built by human hands
c. And with that tabernacle, there were the blood sacrifices of animals—sheep, goats, bulls, heifers—that were necessary in order to have a relationship with God.
d. But with Jesus the New Covenant relationship no longer depended on a physical building such as the Tabernacle or Temple. The focus of the New Covenant was Jesus Christ Himself—the sinless Lamb of God, born of the Virgin Mary. It was not a human building; it was the spiritual Temple created by God. And it was in the spiritual dimension that our relationship with God is established.
e. We don’t need a Temple built by Human Hands. We have a Temple established in the Spiritual Realms—Jesus Christ Himself. And it is not the blood of animals that opens the way for us to enter God’s Presence. It is His Life—His shed Blood, that made it possible.
II. JESUS’S SHED BLOOD WAS THE PRICE FOR OUR FREEDOM.
a. Verse 14 says, ‘How much more, then, will the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.”
b. The reason we were created was to bring glory to our God. We do that by choosing to serve Him, forsaking sin and seeking His will in our lives. The highest level we can reach in this life is to fulfill our created purpose of serving God. And the scripture tells us that this is only possible because Jesus offered Himself to God. And His sacrifice—the shedding of His Blood—is how our minds are cleansed so that we no longer live under the control of sin that leads to death—but, instead, are set free to serve the Living God!
c. Romans 7 speaks to this when Paul describes how sin serves as an evil taskmaster who forces us to do things that are sinful even when we think we would never do those things. Then, at the close of the chapter Paul writes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7: 24-25).
d. Do you see what the writer of Hebrews is saying? The only way we can serve the living God in the way God intends is through the Covenant God has established that is sealed with the Blood of Christ. He died so that we could live for God!
III. THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST REMINDS US OF THE VALUE OF LIFE—OUR LIVES!
a. Humanity was created in the Image of God. But because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all humanity was plunged into a state of separation from God. But instead of wiping out humanity and starting over, God put into place a method whereby humanity could again find favor with God. But the sacrifice of animals as sin offerings only provided temporary relief from guilt. But God had a bigger plan—a plan that involved more that outward ceremonial forgiveness as was the case in the animal sacrifices. God’s plan was to literally change a person’s heart, to purify him from sin’s control and to make him a new creation. That God considered humanity that precious is astounding. But it would take something more than what had been available in the Old Testament sacrificial system. It would take a person who was sinless and who was willing to give his life in exchange for the souls of mankind. Such a price was beyond any of us—for we are all born in sin the Bible says. But Jesus considered humanity, God’s creation, so valuable that He was willing to lay down his life to save us. Romans 5:7 says it this way: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possible dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
b. In Matthew 16: 26 Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Of what can anyone give n exchange for their soul?” In other words, one soul is worth more than all the wealth in the world.
c. And so, Jesus, knowing the worth of the Soul set free, chose willingly to shed His own Blood, laying down His own life, in order to pay the Redemption Price to buy back our souls from sin’s bondage and to set us free to serve the living God.
Illustration from history: When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out, "Stop! I have something more to give you." The surprised robber paused. "My friend," said Wesley, "you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'" The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.
Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! "I owe it all to you," said the transformed man. "Oh no, my friend," Wesley exclaimed, "not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!" --Our Daily Bread, October 1, 1994.
We have been celebrating our Nation’s birthday this week. Let me say this: If we forget and forsake our Christian heritage our nation will eventually fall. That is the way it has been in history for other nations, and that is what we can expect.
It is so important that we not forget that it is the Blood of Jesus that instills true freedom. Let us proclaim Jesus as long and as loudly as we can!
In a moment we are going to once again partake of the Sacrament of Communion. A sacrament is when a simple, common thing is used to somehow impart spiritual grace. Communion is an act of duplicating the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples and especially the moment he shared with them the Bread and the Wine saying they signified his Body and Blood which would be broken and shed for them as a seal of the New Testament.
This morning, before we take the Communion elements, let’s take a moment and reflect on what Jesus has done for each of his. He gave His life in exchange for our souls. With His Blood He paid the Ransom and Redemption price so that we could be freed from the guilt and control of sin and be restored to the Family of God.
I would ask you right this moment to bow your heads and shut your eyes and ask God to search your heart to see if there is anything keeping you from being in His favor. If there is something that isn’t right in your heart, confess it to the Lord right now and ask for His forgiveness. He is willing to forgive each one who will truly turn away from sin and turn to God for deliverance. It is the Blood of Christ that makes all that possible.
1 Peter 2: 11-17
Values embraced in Ozark Mountain Country and supported by God’s Word:
Take time this week to reflect on these 3 priorities. Determine that they reflect your priorities and values…
1 Peter 2: 11-17
So we celebrate this week our Nation’s birthday—Independence Day—the 4thof July!
I’m proud to be an American. I am proud to be from the heartland of America. Several years ago our then District Superintendent considered changing the name of our district—Joplin District—to “Heart of America District” because of our geographical location which is pretty much in the center of the 48 states. And here in Branson we enjoy tourists regularly who come from coast to coast.
A few years back there was a scientific survey to determine what values define the people who live in Ozark Mountain Country. From those results it was determined that our most commonly held values pertain to God, Family, and Country. This area is predominately Christian. We consider our families to be of essential importance. And we are patriotic—we stand for the Flag and the National Anthem and we support our troops and our veterans.
For the few minutes we have this morning, let’s consider these 3 values:
a. Our loyalty to God is number one. This is Biblical.
b. Of the 10 Commandments, the very first says,” You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 3).
c. We know from the Old Testament that false gods were prevalent in the Ancient World. And they were the downfall of Israel and Judah. Somehow we tend to think in this 21st Century that we are much more enlightened than those in ancient times. But in reality we are just as guilty.
d. On the list of priorities, whatever is most important in our lives is in fact a god to us. I hear so many who say they love God, but when it comes down to it, Work, Wealth, and Self prove to be more important than loyalty to God.
e. Jesus, quoting from the Old Testament stated, the two most important commandments are, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and Love your Neighbor as yourself.”
f. This morning, as we consider the values we embrace, I challenge you to set aside some time this week and take a piece of paper and pen and list the things that are most important to you—say the top 10. And consider just where it is that you place your loyalty to God in that priority list.
a. I cannot stress enough how much we should value our family. Families are the building blocks of civilization. In the very beginning God created Adam and Eve and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. Paul in his letters to the churches he helped establish stressed the importance of family. In Ephesians 5: 21—6: 9 he gives detailed instructions to husbands, wives, children and parents. The key words are “submit, love, respect and obey.”
b. In 1 Timothy 5: 8 Paul stated, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
c. Remember the story in Genesis 14 of the first recorded war. The warring kings who swept through the land took Lot and his family and their possessions as prisoners. Abraham quickly took men from his clan and pursued and rescued Lot and recovered all the property that had been taken. Why did he do that? It was because he understood that he had a responsibility for his family.
d. As we celebrate our Nation’s Independence this week, I challenge you to stop and consider your own family—the members of your household and your extended family. Is there someone who is in need of your love and support? I don’t mean you have to take over responsibility for their livelihood. But I do think we have a responsibility to extend our love and compassion to others—and especially to our own relatives.
e. On our vacation last week, we took time to drive an extra 150 miles to visit two of my uncles—my mother’s brothers—who are in declining health. We wanted to let them know that we love them and to thank them for the contributions they have made in our lives. Is there someone to whom you need to reach out and connect? Maybe you just need to make a phone call and tell someone in your family you love them. Wouldn’t this be a good week to do that?
a. In our scripture reading today, 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
b. Remember this was Peter who wrote this. He lived in the country of Israel when it was under the control of the Roman Empire. The emperors who ruled the empire were certainly not Christian. They worshiped pagan gods and even declared themselves to be gods. Nevertheless, Peter stated that we should “honor the emperor,” or “honor the king” as some translations say.
c. Behind that statement is the realization that God has allowed our world to be organized into various nations. And those nations pass laws that give structure and stability to civilization. And In Romans 13:1 & 2 Paul said it this way: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
d. In parking lots across American there are many tents set up for fireworks stands. In the Branson area there will be many fireworks displays—including the Wednesday evening fireworks at the Landing. In our minds those fireworks are objects that signify celebration. But we must remember they also remind us of the wars that have been fought, the cannons that have been fired, the rockets that have been launched, and the lives that have been sacrificed in order to provide and defend those freedoms we enjoy.
e. So, Men and Women who have served in our armed forces, we salute you. We owe you our very lives. Our country, established by God, purchased with the blood of our founding fathers, and defended with the blood of our brave and loyal patriots. Thank you.
f. In my high school English class we were required to memorize several lines of poetry from English Literature. One of the poets, Richard Lovelace, wrote the poem “To Lacasta, Going to War.”. And the one line that I still remember was based on a man who was about to go off to war and his sweetheart was begging him to stay, His reply to her was, “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more!”
g. In Ozark Mountain Country we believe in our country. We support it and we honor the men and women who defend it.
h. I challenge you to take time this week to give God thanks for our Nation, to pray for healing in our land, and to tell a veteran that you appreciate his or her service!
These values we embrace: Loyalty to God, to our families, and to our Nation.
Hear again these words written by Peter to Christians who were trying to survive in a pagan world:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority, whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2: 13-17).
John 14: 15-27
Illustration: THE INVISIBLE FRIEND
The Holy Spirit may be invisible, but He isn’t imaginary—He’s real!
Jesus told us about the Holy Spirit in John 14. In Acts 2:1-4 we read of the Coming of the Holy Spirit.
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR I__________ F______.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S P________ P_________ IN OUR LIVES.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT APPLIES THE B______ OF J_____ TO OUR LIVES.
In Acts 19:2 Paul asks the question that we need to answer: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
THE HOLY SPIRIT
John 14: 15-27
Our daughter Jenna always has had a vivid imagination. She was young—probably 5 or 6 years old. Gloria and she had gone to Wal-Mart and now they were in line to check out. Suddenly Jenna turned and hit at the person in line behind them and said, “Watch out! You are stepping on my Friend!” You see, she had an imaginary friend and she was protecting her! I don’t remember the name of the imaginary friend but for several days Jenna talked about her friend. He was invisible to everyone else, but in Jenna’s imagination he (or she) was very real.
Today, we are celebrating an invisible friend, but he is not imaginary. He is very real, very powerful, very loving. He is called by several names: The Paraclete, The Comforter, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, The Holy Ghost, The Holy Spirit, and sometimes, The Spirit of Jesus.
Just a few hours before His Gethsemane experience and arrest, Jesus was in the upper room with his disciples. He had washed their feet and given them a lesson on serving one another, They had eaten the Passover meal together. Jesus had dismissed Judas to go finalize his act of betrayal. And then Jesus spent time in a final discourse before they left the room. We have that discourse recorded in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John. And then his final prayer before leaving the room, the High Priestly Prayer is found in the 17th chapter that we touched on in last week’s sermon.
In the passage we read today in John 14 He gave more details about the Holy Spirit that would be coming to them after he left.
In Acts 2: 1-4 we read how, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples---the Holy Spirit that He had told them about in John 14:
Acts 2: 1-4 says, “When the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
In Peter’s sermon that occurred immediately after this, he quoted from the Old Testament Prophet Joel, saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on your servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2: 17-18).
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, remembering the Day the Holy Spirit came in a new and dynamic way, ushering in what is called “The Church Age,” “The Age of the Holy Spirit,” and even, “The Last Days.” This is the age in which we are living.
And on this day, we call “Children’s Day” and in which our children have taken an active part in the worship service, let’s not forget that the promise of the Holy Spirit included “Our Sons and Our Daughters!”
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR INVISIBLE FRIEND.
a. As I mentioned in the opening illustration, He is invisible but He is very real. We may not see him with our physical eyes, but we can see the difference he makes when He is here. There’s an old cliche’ that old timers would say about Christianity and the Holy Spirit, “It is better felt than telt” By that they meant that experience God in our lives is more wonderful that we can possibly describe!
b. The Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God (see Romans 8: 16).
c. He convicts us of sin. When we are about to do something wrong and our conscience is pricked, and we get an uncomfortable feeling in our stomach and our heart begins to beat really fast—that is the Holy Spirit warning us that we are about to do something displeasing to God.
d. He guides us to Truth. I have heard so many say how before they became Christians they would try to read the Bible and just get confused. But when they accepted Christ into their hearts, suddenly the Bible made more sense. That is because the Holy Spirit was instructing them through God’s Word.
e. The Point is, this invisible Friend is not an impersonal and inanimate object like, for instance, the wind. He is not just an energy force like, for example, a jolt of electricity or a laser beam. He is alive and personal. He speaks to us, rebukes us, blesses us, guides us. He is a Friend and more than a Friend. He doesn’t just stand beside us; He lives inside us. We are filled with His Presence!
f. The Holy Spirit is here to point us to Jesus. What better Friend could we have than that?
II. MORE THAN A FRIEND, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S POWERFUL PRESENCE IN OUR LIVES.
a. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Greek word of “Power” in this verse is “dunamous.” It is the word from which we get our word “Dynamite” and “Dynamo.” As such it represents great energy. But it also means “Authority.” The Holy Spirit empowers us with strength and authority to be witness of Christ and Salvation to the entire World.
b. In Philippians 2: 13 Paul wrote, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” The Greek word translated “work” is “energeo” from which we get our word “energy.”Think of it: It is the Holy Spirit—God’s Presence in us” that gives us the energy to fulfill His purposes!
c. I think of how often we feel so tired. There are times when I just have to sit down and rest. At times like that the idea of going to visit someone in the hospital, or coming over and leading a Bible study, seems like an impossibility. But then I get up and go do what I feel God is telling me to do and I actually feel better while doing it than I did when I was sitting in my recliner at home. I have to believe that it is more than an adrenaline rush that I feel—it is God giving me energy beyond myself! He is at work in me and through me, energizing me, “to will and to act according to His good purpose!”
d. Remember how Jesus said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain be moved into the sea and it will be done” (Matthew 17:20)? It is God’s Spirit that is activated when we put our faith in God and His Word! He responds to our trust in Him. And when we pray, the Holy Spirit unleashes power that otherwise would not be unleashed.
e. The Holy Spirit is Powerful—He is the Spirit of Almighty God!
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT APPLIES THE BLOOD OF JESUS TO OUR LIVES.
a. Jesus died for our sins some 2000 years ago. But the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus, takes what Jesus did on the Cross and applies to our spiritual hearts when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Theologians sometimes call the Holy Spirit “The Administrator of the Atonement.”
b. I can’t fully explain it. In fact, I can’t fully understand it. But this I know: when Jesus went to the Cross He did so not because of His sin but because of yours and mine. And He suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins, shedding His blood—that is, laying down His life—in place of mine. And when I accept His death as payment for my sin, I am forgiven and cleansed of my guilt, pardoned as if I had never sinned, regenerated into a new person, and adopted into God’s Family. And it is the Holy Spirit who takes what Jesus did and makes it current and relevant and active in my heart right now! Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives!
What more can I say about the Holy Spirit? He is my Comforter, my Helper, my Counselor, my Disciplinarian, my Protector, my Teacher, my Friend, and so much more.
In our Wednesday Evening Bible Studies on the Book of Acts, we are reminded that the Book of Acts is sometimes called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.”
And next Wednesday’s lesson on Acts 19 we are confronted with the question Paul asked some believers in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).
On this anniversary date of the Coming of the Holy Spirit ushering in what we call “The Church Age” I must ask you the same question:
“Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”
So often we say we believe in Jesus and we accept Him as our Savior and realize that He forgives our sins. But then we act as if all we have to do is turn over a new leaf, and on our own resolve to do better. But that isn’t enough. We can never have real victory over sin and real and lasting peace and joy in our hearts until we invite the Holy Spirit to fill us and purify us, and empower us.
Have you received the Holy Spirit?
If not, isn’t it time you invite Him to take control of your life?
John 17: 13-23
>Personal Illustration of learning the importance of Truth.
>Learning to “Handle the Truth”
Let us examine 3 important words in this High Priestly Prayer of Jesus:
II. ONE (UNITY)
May the Truth truly sanctify us as we accept it in our hearts and minds today!
TRUTH THAT SANCTIFIES
John 17: 13-23
I had a wonderful Dad. He really was my best friend. He was a hard worker, provided well for his family. And I never doubted his love for me. My Dad taught me that He would not tolerate stealing and He would not tolerate lying. And he would not tolerate me drinking. I tested him on the first two things and found out he meant what he said. When I was in elementary school I didn’t actually steal anything, but I kept some things that I knew were stolen. When Dad found out he marched me straight to the store and made me confess my crime to the store owner and pay for the notebook and pencils I had received. We call that restitution---making right those things we have done wrong. I was probably in the 1st or 2nd grade, but it was a lesson I never forgot. “Thou shall not steal.”
As a teenager, I played hooky one day, and made up a big story about what I had done—of course denying doing anything wrong. Later Dad found out the truth and I was disciplined appropriately with a belt. That was another lesson that I never forgot. I remember not too long after that I had done something else I wasn’t supposed to do. When Dad confronted me, I thought to myself, “It’s better to punished for what I did than to lie about it and get punished for lying as well as what I had done.” It is better to tell the truth than to try and cover up a misdeed with a lie.
Because of how Dad had responded to the stealing and lying, I was afraid to try the drinking. I figured he would kill me. I know now that he wouldn’t have gone that far, but back then I wasn’t sure!). And I know the punishment would have been severe.
In the long run, it is always better to tell the truth—even if it means some unpleasant consequences in the moment.
We live in a world that is rejecting the idea of absolute truth. Society tells us that truth is the common consensus of the people—whatever society agrees upon. It is wrong because society says it is wrong. But if society says it is right, it is right even though it may go against what has been considered right or wrong according to the Bible.
Do you remember the quote: “You can’t handle the truth!”? The line originated from a scene in the movie A Few Good Men wherein court martial lawyer Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) exposes Colonel Nathan R. Jessup’s (played by Jack Nicholson) false testimony surrounding the death of a Marine named Santiago (shown below). When pressed by Kaffee to tell the truth, Colonel Jessup abruptly yells "You can't handle the truth!"
In the account of the trial of Jesus in John’s Gospel we read the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate: “”Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’
“”’You are a king then!’ said Pilate.
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.’
“’What is truth?’ retorted Pilate…” (John 18: 36-38).
Pilate could not handle the truth. Neither could those Jewish leaders who insisted that Jesus be crucified.
And in our society, many people who have heard the truth have rejected it. And so we are confronted with the LGBT agenda, the redefining of marriage, the continuing debate over abortion, and the violent drug culture, sex trafficking, and all matter of deplorable evil. Why? Because people refuse to accept the truth!
Truth, absolute Truth, is the rock bottom foundation standard that God has placed in His Creation. To reject Truth is to reject Him. To embrace Truth is to Embrace God.
And so we come to this passage in John 17 where Jesus prays what is often called “The High Priestly Prayer.” He prays for Himself, for his immediate disciples and then for all those in future generations who would believe in Him. And we read His words in verse 17: “”Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The “Your” in this verse is Father God, the One to Whom Jesus is praying! And as Jesus continues praying, he mentions becoming, “One” and He says those who believe are given “His Glory.”
Let’s take these few moments to explore the meaning of these words in His Prayer:
I. “SANCTIFY THEM…”
a. If you were to ask most theologians just what the word “Sanctify” means, they would probably say, “to be set apart.” And that is true. But there is more to it than that. It also means, “To be made Holy.” You put those two meanings together and you have can say, “To be sanctified means to be made righteous and fit for God’s purpose.”
b. Let me illustrate: I’m of the old school. I still wear a coat and tie on Sunday morning. You will almost never find me wearing a tie any other time, unless it is something very formal like a wedding or a funeral. Suits and coats and ties are clothes that I own that I only wear on special occasions. They are “set apart” for only those occasions. I have my ever day clothes that I wear the rest of the time. In a similar manner, when I come to God, confess my sins, accept Jesus as Savior and embrace His truth, I am made holy and God prepares me to do His special work of being a witness of the Gospel to the entire world.
c. Holiness has many shades of meaning. Holiness implies ownership—everything that belongs to Him is holy. I belong to God. Since I belong to Him, I am holy. Holiness implies purity. Peter in Acts 15:9 testified that when they received the Holy Spirit, “He purified their hearts by faith.” Holiness implies ethical behavior—I conduct myself in a manner that glorifies God Holiness implies surrender and commitment. In the Old Testament we read how Joshua ordered the people to prepare for crossing the Jordan River into the Promise Land, to “Sanctify themselves” or, as our modern Bibles translate the command, “Consecrate yourselves.” That means getting rid of anything that interferes with total commitment and obedience to God. Holiness implies power. Because when we receive the Holy Spirit we are empowered to be His witnesses to all the world.
d. So Jesus states that we are sanctified by Truth and God’s Word is that Truth. In the beginning verses of the Gospel of John Jesus is called “The Word.” He is the embodiment of all the Promises of God. The written Word, the Bible, is God’s Special Revelation to us so that we can know the story of Jesus and God’s plan for our Salvation. By accepting it as Truth, God does the powerful work in us of Sanctifying us, making us holy and fit for service for our King!
II. ONE-NESS or UNITY
a. As Jesus continues His prayer and focuses on the future believers (you and me), He prays in verse 21, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” This one-ness or unity is a result of being Sanctified by the Truth! When we are made Holy, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts and we are spiritually one with God. God the Father is over all and He has made Jesus the head and we are the Body of Christ—not an organization, but an organism—a living expression of God working to advance His Kingdom by redeeming mankind.
b. I know that when we consider the many different denominations of Christianity, we wonder about that Unity. How can we be One when we are so many? Again I remind you, we are not taking about organizations—different bodies of people who organize themselves into a functioning unit with man made constitutions and rules. We are talking about the Living Body of Christ, the people of God who recognize Jesus as Lord and seek to serve Him with their entire beings. And just as our physical body is composed of various parts—lungs, heart, fingers, toes, etc., with each part doing what it was created to do and contributing to the well being of the body, so The Body of Christ, the Church, is composed of many parts each doing what they were called to do, But each one is under the control to the Head—Christ. The many parts combined form the One “Body--The Church.
c. When the prayer summit movement came to Branson, many of our pastors begin to refer to the Church of Branson that was composed of many congregations—Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Pentecostal. II is that unity, that sense of harmony, that realization that we serve One Lord, , and that realization that the Holy Spirit is working in each of us that demonstrates our One-ness, our Unity with each other and with Christ!.
III. The Glory
a. Jesus prayed in verse 22, saying, “”I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”
b. How do you define “Glory”?
In the Gospels we read how Jesus took 3 of his disciples and climbed a mountain. And while on that mountain, Jesus’ appearance was changed,Matthew 17: 2 says, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” We have to assume that brightness was a manifestation of God’s Glory. In the Old Testament, we read how when Moses came down from the Mountain with the Ten Commandments, his face glowed. He had to wear a veil over his face because of that glow that terrified the people. He had been in the Presence of God and that glow was God’s Glory shining on his countenance. “Glory” is the Victory, the Joy, the Peace we have because we are One with God.
The Songwriter wrote, “It is glory just to walk with Him whose blood has ransomed me, It is rapture for my soul each day. It is joy divine to feel Him near where’er my path may be, Bless the Lord is Glory all the way! “
--(It is Glory Just to Walk with Him, # 610 In Sing to the Lord Nazarene Hymnbook)
Jesus prayed this prayer for us just hours before He was arrested, tried and crucified. He promised us that He would give us the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us (John 14:17). And today, we are still reaping the benefits of His prayer.
May His truth sanctify us, make us one with Him and the Father, and give us His glory—the glory He shared with the Father.
As we close the service today, Let us consider Truth—His Truth. May we allow it to make us truly His!