Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Rapid Fire Principles

9 Jan

rapid-fireYou can check out the podcast here.

The last time we were in Proverbs, we learned the wise man stays away from strife, but the fool argues about things that don’t matter. Don’t allow yourself to be baited into an argument. There are fights to fight, but this isn’t what Solomon is talking about. He’s talking about nonsensical arguments where you’re wasting breath. Be mindful of the plans others have or present to you. They may not be what they appear to be so take the time to ask the right questions. Loyalty and trustworthiness are qualities that are diminishing as we move through time. Become the person that God wants you to be. We saw the value of a godly king and the Queen of Sheba recognized that quality in Solomon. This morning, we’ll see some rapid fire principles; some that we’ve already looked at and we’ll also dive into the issue of trustworthiness.

Take a look at our passage found in Proverbs 20:9-19.

Let’s start with one of my favorite topics. Solomon says, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin?’” It’s a rhetorical question, but we can quickly answer it. The standard for holiness is not being good. The standard for a relationship with God is not made on our terms.  No matter who you might think God is, you have to approach Him in the manner He has determined. The only way to approach God is in perfection and folks, we fall short. That’s why Solomon asks the simple question, “Who can say I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?” The answer is no one. Rom. 3:10 reminds us, “There is none righteous, not even one.” But it didn’t stop there. The conclusion to that thought is found in Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” New life can come only after death. I know it may not make sense, but it’s true. When there is new life, the old is passed away. Your life is like the changing of the seasons. The dead, cold winter gives way to new life in the spring time. This verse is a realization that we are sinners and we cannot do anything to cleanse ourselves. 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In Rom. 3:9, Paul made sure everyone was on the same page when he asked the rhetorical question, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” We are all born into sin. We can choose to stay in our sin or acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Savior and turn from our wicked ways. Read Rom. 5:18-21 to learn that the purification comes from what Christ has done.

The shady business practices in v. 10 are the same things Solomon addressed in 11:1 when he said, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”

Look at the lad in v. 11. Notice it’s not what someone says although that’s important. “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right.” The lad Solomon mentions is a young man. The idea is that young people generally are free from the pretenses grown-ups have. They have not yet learned the finer points of discretion. You’ve heard the phrase, “Out of the mouths of babes?” Kids are generally are a what you see is what you get kind of people. Kids don’t hide their motives. When they want something, they ask or demand it. The point is that it is the actions of the child indicate who he really is. Of course, the conduct of people can be evaluated as well. Solomon says so in the next verse: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them.” This points to the fact that the Lord has given us ears to hear and eyes to see. You are able to judge the character of someone by what you see and hear.

Here’s a series of verses regarding work. There’s a lot here, but it’s pretty straightforward. Solomon says, “Do not love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.” Before social media, if you were tired, few people knew about it and it really didn’t matter because you had to live life. Today, being tired is a viable excuse not to fulfill any commitments you may have. You’re too tired so you call out of work. I’ve heard of people that are too tired to do housework and yard work; they’re too tired to go to Bible study, or Community Group and sometimes people can even be too tired to go to church. What’s funny is that people are rarely too tired to go to a party, baby shower, the movies, a concert, or the beach. I bring this up in light of the previous verse Solomon just said about the seeing eye and the hearing ear. You can talk a good game, but your actions scream out true intentions. Don’t be sleeping when there is work to be done.

“Bad, bad,” says the buyer, but when he goes his way, then he boasts.” This is for you people that love to shop in places where you can negotiate for the best price. You’re looking to get the best price so you tell the merchant what a piece of junk it is he’s trying to sell. You talk him down to a lower price then you go about bragging about how slick a negotiator you are.

“There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.” This is a common theme throughout Proverbs. It’s way better to have knowledge than gold.

“Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; and for foreigners, hold him in pledge.” Back in Bible days, it was common practice to use a garment, a coat or cloak, as security for a debt. Today, we could think of this a title loan. There are a number of warnings in Proverbs about acting as security for other’s debt. We’ve seen it in 6:1, 11:15, 17:18, and we’ll see it again in 22:26. This isn’t a verse promoting harsh treatment. The point here is that if a person ignores this sound financial advice and makes a pledge for a stranger, then hold that stranger accountable. Take his garments or hold him in pledge as a servant so you don’t suffer loss. There is a difference between Christian charity and a lack of accountability. In today’s society, we think if someone is held accountable for their actions, whether it’s debt or holding to their faith or challenging someone on their ungodly beliefs that we are judgmental, unloving, and intolerant. Remember the housing crash where people were foreclosed on their homes? They couldn’t make their payments and the bank took back the house and somehow, the banks turned out to be the bad guys. Now, it’s awful that people lost their homes, but if you say you’re going to pay back a debt, shouldn’t you be held accountable?

“Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” This is about honesty. As I have mentioned many times, we often get requests from people that need help with a variety of financial issues. From the electric or water bill to repairs for their vehicle. Many times they have just gotten a job, but won’t get a paycheck for another week or two. Some of these people are telling the truth and some are not. How do you tell the difference? You don’t. If the Lord leads you to help someone and they misuse your generosity, that’s not on you, it’s on them. The advantage gained by someone being dishonest will be short lived. The gravel is not literal gravel, but the discomfort, pain, and suffering that come as a result of being dishonest.

“Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance.” This is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to point out something I have experienced a number of times. As a shepherd or pastor, I am rarely brought into a discussion early in a decision making process. Too often, the person that has willingly submitted to membership and has voluntarily placed themselves under the authority of the church and her leadership, refuses to seek my guidance or input. There are a few exceptions, but my experience is that people will typically do what they want to do. Is it the day in which we live. The church has become really no different than any other organization. “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” A secret is just that.

It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or sinful about it, but the person may not want it revealed at this point in time. People do have a right to privacy and no one wants that privacy violated. Maybe you reveal a secret under the guise of, they wouldn’t mind if I tell so and so. There are people I will never tell anything private. Solomon says don’t even associate with someone that has loose lips.

We began by asking the rhetorical question, who is without sin? The cleansing we enjoy is not because of anything we have done, by because of what Jesus did. Youngsters say what comes to mind because they haven’t developed the ability to hide their motives. We looked at a number of principles for daily, principled living whether it’s at home, the job, or in church. Next week, we’ll hopefully finish up this chapter by continuing to look at principles for daily living.


Good News for 2015

5 Jan

2015You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Rom. 10:13-15 says, “For “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

Notice the words in v.15, “Good news of good things.”

I looked at what the Associated Press said were their top stories of 2014.  There were some items that people will consider good news while most people will consider it all bad. Here are the top news stories of 2014 according to AP.

  1. POLICE KILLINGS: Some witnesses said 18-year-old Michael Brown had his hands up in surrender, others said he was making a charge. But there was no dispute he was unarmed and shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson. In New York City, another unarmed black, Eric Garner, was killed after a white officer put him in a chokehold during an arrest for unauthorized cigarette sales. After grand juries opted not to indict the officers, protests erupted across the country, punctuated by chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe.” In both cases, federal officials launched investigations.
  2. EBOLA OUTBREAK: The first wave of Ebola deaths, early in the year, attracted little notice. By March, the World Health Organization was monitoring the outbreak. By midsummer, it was the worst Ebola epidemic on record with a death toll now approaching 7000, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A Liberian man with the disease died at a Dallas hospital, followed by a few other cases involving U.S. health workers, sparking worries about the readiness of the U.S. health system.
  3. ISLAMIC STATE: Militant fighters from the Islamic State group startled the world with rapid, brutal seizures of territory in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. and its allies responded with air strikes, hoping that Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground could retake captured areas. Revulsion toward Islamic State intensified as it broadcast videos of its beheadings of several Western hostages.
  4. US ELECTIONS: For months, political oddsmakers sought to calculate if Republicans had a chance to gain control of the U.S. Senate. It turned out there was no suspense, the GOP won 54 of the Senate’s 100 seats, expanded its already strong majority in the House of Representatives, and gained at the state level, where Republicans now hold 31 governorships.
  5. OBAMACARE: Millions more Americans signed up to be covered under President Obama’s health care initiative, but controversy about “Obamacare” raged on. Criticism from Republicans in Congress was relentless, many GOP governed states balked at participation, and opinion polls suggested most Americans remained skeptical about the program.
  6. MALAYSIA AIRLINES MYSTERY: En route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board. In the weeks that followed, aircraft, ships and searchers from two-dozen countries mobilized to look in vain for the wreckage on the Indian Ocean floor. To date, there’s no consensus as to why the plane vanished.
  7. IMMIGRATION: Frustrated by an impasse in Congress, President Obama took executive actions in November to curb deportations for many immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally. GOP leaders in the House and Senate pledged efforts to block the president’s moves. Prospects for reform legislation were dimmed earlier in the year by the influx of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the U.S. border, causing shelter overloads and case backlogs.
  8. TURMOIL IN UKRAINE: A sometimes bloody revolt that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February triggered a chain of events that continued to roil Ukraine as the year drew to a close. Russia, worried that Ukraine would tilt increasingly toward the West, annexed the Crimean peninsula in March and backed an armed separatist insurgency in coal-rich eastern regions of Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies responded with sanctions against Russia.
  9. GAY MARRIAGE: Due to a wave of federal court rulings, 19 more U.S. states began allowing same-sex marriages, raising the total to 35 states encompassing about 64 percent of the population. Given that one U.S. court of appeals bucked the trend by upholding state bans on gay marriage, there was widespread expectation that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue and make a national ruling.
  10. VA SCANDAL: The Department of Veterans Affairs became embroiled in a nationwide scandal over allegations of misconduct and cover-ups. Several senior officials were fired or forced to resign, including VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. At the heart of the scandal was the VA hospital in Phoenix; allegations surfaced that 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment there.

 Those are just the top stories and there was little good news. That’s the problem, we thrive on bad news. As Christians, we’ve got the news that is always good. It’s good that Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, and shed His blood on the cross at Calvary. It’s good Jesus died, but three days later conquered death and rose from the grave and was seen by the multitudes. It’s good that Jesus ascended to heaven where He sits at the rights hand of the Father making intercession for us.

Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also.” As we think about the New Year, there’s going to be negative things or bad news that will be recognized at the end of the year.  As Christians, let’s not focus on the bad or negative, let’s focus on the positive. Good news should be what God’s people think about.  When we get to the end of next year I am sure there will be several things as we look back in reflection that we can truly say were, “good news of good things.” As I look forward to the coming year, I think of several things that I would like to have take place. I’d like to see people truly give their life to Christ and follow Him. It’s clear that this is what God wants:

1 Tim. 2:4 says, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God made a way through Christ.

2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 

Jo. 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  (Jo. 3:16)

We have been justified in Christ: we are declared righteous based on the merits of Jesus. We have been sanctified: Christ’s righteousness is applied to each of us every single day. It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone knows they’re welcome at the foot of the cross.You don’t have to be a certain way to get Christ, come as you are. Everyone can and should come as they are, but no one should expect you stay that way.

The attitude in America is being reflected in the church. We have seen the expectation of transformation reduced to simple profession. That’s not the expectation of Christ. Rom. 6:4-7 says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” We must truly make disciples and allow ourselves to be discipled. I continue to be amazed at the people that seek my guidance and totally disregard the truth of Scripture when it’s presented to them.

I’d like to see God’s people passionate about ministry. Is. 44:22 says, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” We need to turn back and follow Scripture. Why? We have a tendency to rewrite what we don’t ignore God. The fundamental principles of godliness and holiness have been replaced by catch phrases. Deep spiritual truths preached from the pulpits of America have been replaced by short, empty messages from high energy dynamic speakers. We’ve reduced the perfect Word of God to catch phrases. We want to be entertained by the man in the pulpit rather than be transformed by the message from the man. We think if we post Scripture on Facebook or talk about what a great prayer warrior you are, church participation is not necessary. I think there is more damage done for the cause of Christ by people who say they’re Christians, but have no supporting evidence in their lives. I think we’re buying the lie that a Christian can live in the world and participate in all of its trappings and not be affected. In John 17:16, Jesus said that we are not of this world. We know we’re physically present here, but we’re not supposed to be spiritually present. We’re supposed to be set apart. If you keep reading in John, Jesus says to God: “Sanctify them in truth; Your word is truth.”

I think we’ve also fallen into the trap of idolatry. God becomes this great provider in the sky rather than the One who is worthy of our worship. We are looking for God to serve us rather than for us to serve Him. To put anything above the Lord is foolish, but we do it all the time. I think few people would admit that they do this, but our actions speak louder than our words. I’d like to see people get more involved in the opportunities we have here. We have become impatient which further separates us from God. Fewer and fewer people are willing to work hard. Fewer and fewer people make themselves available to do the hard, stressful, and emotionally draining work of the ministry. Fewer and fewer people are willing to persevere. More and more people say no to serving in the church. What have you said yes to?

I’d like to see people really make connections with others. There are people very casual about participation in the things of the church. We have people that miss one, two, three, four weeks and no one seems to notice and if they do notice, nothing comes of it. I’d like to see people participate in intentional ministry.

I’d like to see God’s people recognize and resist Satan. He’s the source of all the schemes of the world. James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  (Ja. 4:7) We must first submit ourselves to God. Then we can stand against Satan in the strength and might of the Lord Himself. Satan is a destroyer. He will try to destroy your home, your relationships, your testimony, your desire, your devotion, and all the principles that are expected of us as Christians. Don’t fall into the trap. Satan’s way is never good, but unfortunately, even Christians are sometimes too ignorant to recognize this.

I’d like to see Jesus come back in 2015. Phil. 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus promised in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” We’re too attached to this temporary home. We work to have things that will pass away. We spend the majority of our time on things that have no bearing on eternity.

What do you want to hear and see by the end of next year? How many will you share Christ with? How will you serve the Lord by serving others? Will you live the life of holiness God has called you to live? How authentic will you be?

Ready to Remind

11 Mar

RemindYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that Peter expects us to make certain about God’s calling and His choice of us. That should lead us to practice the virtuous qualities of vs. 5-7 and as a result, we will not stumble. That’s the contrast of a life of godliness versus a life of ungodliness. This morning Peter tells us something we’re supposed to already know.

2 Pet. 1:12-15 says, Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.”

Peter is always ready. He is ready to remind his readers of what he has said up to this point. He looks back at vs. 3-11. They are established in the truth. Establish means set up on a firm or permanent basis. 1 Jo. 2:21 said, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”   Truth is permanent; it is not built on shifting sand. What was true for Adam is true for us. What King David held to be true is still true for us. The truth that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John knew; it is the truth that was held dear by men like Paul, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and James. Truth cannot change. Jo. 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Peter’s readers know the truth because they have the same kind of faith he does.

Peter says it’s his right. I’ve often said that when you become a Christian, you give up your own rights in favor of the Father’s. We speak a lot about our rights as American citizens. Some of the more popular rights we like to talk about is the right to freedom of speech. We have the right to bear and keep arms. Police officers read suspects their rights and make sure they understand them. Peter says he has a right – a responsibility – as long as he is alive to, “Stir you up by way of reminder.” As long as he has breath in his lungs, he’s going to remind people of faith of what they know. He is not entering the twilight years of his life when he can sit back and watch other people do the work of ministry. There is no retirement for Peter. Not a time when he does not actively engage people in the power of the Gospel. There is no time when he says, “I used to . . .” Too many people live by what they used to do.

Peter has a sense of urgency that we should have. He knows his time on earth is short because the, “Laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ made it clear to me.” Paul mentions earthly tent in 2 Cor. 5 and it refers to our body and that’s what Peter is talking about. Peter is nearing death, but he’s not sick. Peter was killed for his faith sometime around 66 A.D. History writings of the day say he was crucified upside down, but we can’t know for certain. Most scholars agree that he was martyred. But while alive, he didn’t want to waste time on things that didn’t matter so he impressed upon his readers a sense of urgency to the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is not new, but we need to relearn it each and every day. In 1 Cor. 15:31 Paul said, “I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” Not in a literal sense, but every day we need to remember what Christ did and never take it for granted. Each day we must make the decision to live for Christ, to lay aside our desires and run after God. Jesus said it pretty clearly, “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Lu. 9:23) Our focus needs to remain on Christ and that’s what Peter is saying. He wants to stir them up, to remind them of the truth they already know. He’s being their cheerleader, urging them to keep going and remember the truth that is in them. Take nothing for granted, leave nothing to chance, don’t make assumptions. Don’t get so caught up in this world that you forget what your primary purpose is.

Peter wants to leave behind what all of should have a desire to leave behind, his legacy if you will. In 1 Cor. 3:11-15 Paul said, For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” In just a few years, few of us will be remembered. The majority of people on earth live in total obscurity except for the people in their immediate sphere. Are you here to make a name for yourself, or a name of God? When the emphasis is placed on ourselves, all of the great things we have done are burned up. Peter wants his work to be eternal, that’s why he’s reminding them of the truth. When I was in the Navy, I was fairly well known in the submarine community and in particular the nuclear side of things. I had been around for more than 23 years and I was a legend. People would use my teaching, my knowledge, my way of doing things and would say, “(Senior, Master) Chief Dent says . . .” I retired from the Navy in 2006. Here we are just about 7 years later, and few people know me and fewer care what I thought or what I said. When I am gone, I don’t really care if you remember me, I care that you remember that I loved Jesus, that I served Him. He is eternal, I am temporary. Like Peter, I am going to be quick about reminding you and others about the eternal truth that is found in Jesus Christ so that after I am gone, you will still remember the awesomeness of Christ.

In Chapter 2 of Crazy Love (pages 50-51), Frances Chan wrote, “I could be the next person at my church to die. We have to realize it. We have to believe it enough that it changes how we live. . . . Friends, we need to stop living selfish lives, forgetful of our God. Our lives here are short, often unexpectedly so, and we can all stand to be reminded of it from time to time.”


Wordless Wednesday

7 Nov

Watch Out (1 Peter, Part 5)

21 May

You can catch the podcast here.

In the first 12 verses of 1 Peter, Peter reminded the people that they are chosen, he spoke about their salvation that was bought by the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood, he reminded them of their inheritance, he spoke of the trials in their lives and that the proof of their faith was more precious than gold. King Herod had become the Christian’s primary enemy. Jews who confessed Jesus as their Messiah were scattered abroad to other Roman provinces such as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Although Herod hated Christians, it wasn’t until Nero that the persecution of Christians reached beyond Judah. Peter now transitions in his letter to encourage Christians to watch out and be ready.

I hope you have your Bible and will read 1 Peter 1:13-25.

The first thing Peter tells us is to be ready. Verse 13 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  We are to prepare our minds for action. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. We fill our minds with such trivial things. TV. Gossip. Work. Remember what is going on in the world at Peter’s time. Nero was on a vendetta to attack Christians. Rumor had it that Nero burned Rome in A.D. 64 so that he could rebuild it the way he wanted it and then blamed the fire on Christians and thus began the systematic persecution of God’s children. For fun Nero would cover Christians in animal skins and send them out to the dogs to be ripped apart. Christians were fastened to crosses in Nero’s garden and set on fire where they served as torches. Prepare your mind, be sober, and be ready.

Fill your mind with the things of Christ. Study the scriptures. Listen to preaching. Meditate on the Word. Pro. 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.” Volunteer in the church. Volunteer in a local ministry. Do this until the end. Don’t be faint.  Don’t be weary.  Keep your mind in constant preparation for the duty to which you have been called. We have become a people that give up so quickly. We’re not willing to stick anything out. We want results immediately. We see it in all areas of life. We want promotions at work without putting in the time or effort required to earn it. Our kids run amok because discipline doesn’t work and we say, “I tried that once.” Do this until the end.  Until Jesus comes again . . . or until you die. As obedient children. Obedient comes from the Greek word that means obedience and submission. Submit to God’s revelation – the Word of God. As obedient children . . . perhaps without question. How often do we question God’s Word? I know what the Bible says, but . . .  “ . . . do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.”  (1 Pe. 1:14) Christians are to be completely different from other people. Before you were saved you indulged yourself, you lived by your own rules and ideas. Selfish. Greedy. Materialistic. Notice that we are not conformed to our former lusts that were ours in our ignorance. Conformed comes from the word that means made after a pattern. When we didn’t know any better, our lust acted as a pattern that formed us and shaped us. Ignorance can be fixed. Stupid is forever. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” These are our former lusts, past tense. We have a new agenda. New desires. A new master. “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  (1 Pe 1:15-16) In all manner of your conduct and behavior. In all that you do – be holy. Be holy because I am holy – Lev. 11:44. He that called you is holy and He is our example.

If we are to be ready, we must also be mindful. 1 Pe. 1:17 says, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” God will judge the work in which we do, impartially, no matter who you are and what you do. The Greek word “work” actually means job. Every one of us has a job. Father, husband. Mother, wife. Son, daughter. We are to “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”  We are strangers in a strange land.  We are not of this world. Rom. 12:2 tells us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” This is our temporary home, we’re just passing through. Spend your time here with fear. It comes from the Greek word phobos, butPeter not’s talking about being scared. He’s talking about a healthy, reverential fear of judgment. Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pro. 9:10)

We are to be ready, we are to be mindful and we are to be thankful. “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.”  (1 Pe. 1:18) Peter says, you know. As Christians, we must know the price that was paid for our redemption. It was not paid with things that pass away like silver and gold. It was not paid with by the vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers. The idea is the tradition passed down from generation to generation was without truth, it was worthless. Our ransom was paid with the blood of Christ. It is precious. It is without blemish . . . faultless. It is spotless. It is imperishable. “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Foreknown in comes from the Greek word proginosko where we get our English word prognosticator and prognosis. This is someone’s best guess, but when we talk about Jesus, it’s not a guess. Verse 21 says, “Who through Him are believers in God.” It is by Christ that people believe in God. Faith in God is always a characteristic in true religion.  “who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.God raised Jesus from the dead. God exalted Jesus to His right hand. God did this so that our faith and hope would be in God. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”  (1 Peter 1:22) Our souls are purified through obeying the truth. A ceremonial cleansing, washing our souls pure.

Peter concludes this section by saying, “and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” Everything that we hold so dear on this earth is going to pass away. Don’t be so attached to this place. Nothing lasts forever but, “THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.”

We need to be ready, be mindful, and be thankful. We need to be ready for the trials we will face, be mindful of the work you do, and be thankful for the price that was paid for your soul.  Remember where you were when you met Jesus. Think about how far Jesus has brought you.

Our Hope (1 Peter, Part 2)

30 Apr

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we found out a little about Peter’s background. We saw whom Peter was writing to and where they were. We looked at sanctification. This morning we’ll look at some key words that Peter uses to describe our position in Christ.

1 Peter 1:1-5 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Peter encourages all Christians to obey. We have been sanctified and are being sanctified by the Spirit. This sanctification produces spiritual growth. This sanctification results in obedience. Sanctification produces a change. If the Spirit truly lives within us, we will be changed. Romans 8:29-30 tells us, For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Conformed gives us the idea that God determined beforehand to form us, or pattern us after the image of Jesus Christ.

The Greek word is symmorphos where we get our English word metamorphosis. It is a changing.  We are changing into the form of Christ. We are changed into obedience. For most people, obedience does not come naturally. We are not to be obedient because God wants to make us into some sort of robot. True faith produces obedience. The Gospel is designed to induce men to obey God. There is no true faith that does not produce obedience. Paul writes about this idea throughout the N. T. Romans 15:18 says, For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” Rom. 16:19, For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” 2 Cor. 7:15, His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.” 2 Cor. 10:5, We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Obedience is a result of our relationship with Christ. We want to obey; we need to obey. You cannot be right with God and live in disobedience. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Why all the concern for obedience? God knows what’s best for you.

Notice too, that we are sanctified “. . . to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.” The process of our sanctification that should produce holiness and obedience began because of the sprinkling or shedding of blood. Remember that Jesus’ blood was shed so that we could enter into a personal relationship with Christ. God’s plan could not have been completed without the death of Christ. Christ died so we would not have to pay the penalty for our sin. Christ paid it for us by shedding His blood; by dying on the cross. 1 Jo. 4:10 reminds us that, In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God initiated the relationship by sending Jesus. Rom. 3:19-31 is an incredible passage and I encourage you to grab your Bible and read it before going on. Here it is in a nutshell. The Law shows people their sinfulness. We are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 25 tells us that God publicly displayed Jesus as propitiation in His blood through faith. It is the blood of Christ that affects the propitiation, but it is our faith in that blood that affects our redemption. Faith in the blood of Christ appeases the wrath of God and allows Him to pass over or disregard our sin. Heb. 9:22 says, “. . . all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Peter is reminding the people that they are chosen, sanctified by the Spirit unto obedience by the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood. He is describing the process that brought about their salvation. It is good to remember what was required for us to have a relationship with God. Peter concludes his introduction by saying, “May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” This grace gives the idea of increasing them in Christian faith, helping them to grow in knowledge and affection, and encourages them to grow in Christian virtues; to become authentic Christians. Peace is that deep-seated knowledge that you are in Christ, your salvation is sure and secure, you are not fearful of God, and you are completely content. Peter wanted them to have grace and peace “in the fullest measure.” An abundance of grace and peace. Peter’s speech here really indicates grace and peace in abundance and abundance.

Finally, let’s look at our hope. Verse 3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” It was according to His mercy that we are born again. Mercy is not giving us something we deserve. It was His great mercy that caused us to be born again. Remember that Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is the newness of rebirth that gives us the living hope. A living or lively hope, full of energy. We serve a living God, a God who is active and involved. But our hope is built on the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Cor. 15:14 Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” Our faith hinges upon the resurrection of Christ. No other religion is dependant upon their God dying and being raised again, just as He said He would. Jesus Christ is unique. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified, shed his blood, died, was buried, rose again, walked among the people, He ascended into Heaven in front of the apostles in broad daylight, and now He sits on the right hand of God the Father. But Jesus is not absent from the world nor from our lives. He lives inside us and He is coming back again. That is our living hope. “We are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood . . . who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:1b-2)

As the old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Do you have a living hope that is built on Christ?

An Introduction to 1 Peter (Part 1)

23 Apr

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

We kick off a new series today that I’m really excited about. We dive into 1 Peter. So much is known about this man. Many Christians have heard of him and may even know some things about him. Who did Peter write to in his first letter, and why? What is going on? In this study we will answer those questions and many more.

We begin in 1 Peter 1:1-2a that says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.”

First things first. Let’s look at Peter’s background. He was originally named Simon and he was the son of Jonah according to John 1:42. He had a brother named Andrew. He was married, but Scripture does not mention her name. Jesus healed his mother-in-law of a high fever as recorded in Luke 4:39. He was a fisherman that made that life changing decision to follow Christ while entertaining Jesus on his boat in the Sea of Galilee. In Acts 4:13, the elders in Jerusalem called Peter, “uneducated and untrained.” Peter was part of the inner circle of Jesus and is always listed first in Scripture when talking about Peter, James, and John. He is generally considered the leader of the apostles and most certainly is the first to speak. When he had questions, he asked. In Matt. 15:15 Peter admitted his ignorance at Jesus’ teaching; in Luke 5:8 he confessed his sinfulness. Peter was with James and John at the transfiguration and also heard the voice of God on what he called the holy mount in his second letter. Peter didn’t quite understand the resurrection that Jesus taught. We see Peter’s faith waver as he walks on the water. We see his frailty in the garden when he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to watch and pray. Everyone recalls that Peter denied Jesus three times. It was Peter that cut the ear off of Malchus that Jesus subsequently fixed. When told of the empty tomb, Peter ran and looked, but failed to understand its significance. Seeing Jesus on the shore after His resurrection, Peter dives into the water and swims to shore. Too often we focus on the negative aspects of Peter, but Peter was a great man for God; a great man of God. It was Peter that was recognized as the leader of the disciples. He was an apostle of Christ, a messenger of Christ. It was Peter who first recognized Jesus as Messiah in Matt. 16. It was Peter that preached at Pentecost quoting Old Testament scriptures in Joel and Psalms that resulted in over 3000 Jews being saved. At the gate Beautiful, it was Peter who saw the lame man begging for money and said, I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk.”  (Acts 3:6) It was Peter that first preached to the Gentiles and understood that God does not show partiality. (Acts 10:34) When the Pharisees wanted to make the Gentiles keep the Law by being circumcised, it was Peter that stood up and reminded them they were saved by grace and asked them, Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”  (Acts 15:10) It was Peter that raised Dorcas from the dead.  (Acts 9:40) This gives you some understanding into who Peter really was. Peter was a great man for God.

So who is Peter writing to? Aliens or strangers that are residing in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These places are in modern day Turkey. We cannot be certain whether these people were Jews or Gentiles, but it seems most likely that they were predominantly Gentile. We do know for certain that they were living in places where they were not from. It will become more apparent why this makes a difference later as we study. Notice what Peter says about these aliens. They were elect or chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. This does not mean some can get saved and some can’t. Foreknowledge comes from the Greek word prognosis which simply means knowing ahead of time. Doctors will often give you a prognosis when you are sick. This is their best prediction about your illness. The difference in a doctor and God is that God literally sees what the outcome will be. God has chosen all men to come into a personal relationship with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ. This election is available to all that will call on the name of Jesus, but not all will call on that Name.

They are elected by the sanctification of the Spirit. Sanctification is something God does through the working of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification, or being set apart for a divine purpose, works from the inside out and comes to every believer because they are saved. As sanctified saints, we are holy.  Not because of anything we did, but because of what Christ did. Our holiness is positional; we are holy because Christ is holy. Sanctification is a process. Don’t expect to live a perfect life after you have been saved. As long as we live in this body, we will battle sin. Jo. 1:8 says, If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Listen to how Paul described this, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”  (Gal. 5:17) The only way to achieve any true progress toward sanctification or holiness is through spiritual growth. This spiritual growth is based upon accepting, believing and applying the truth of Scripture. In Jo. 17:17, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” Here’s how it works: you receive biblical truth from the Bible and Bible teaching; you believe it and trust it; and you apply it to your life. As you continue this process on a regular and consistent basis, you will grow spiritually, and your behavior will change. When you are convicted by the Holy Spirit or Scripture that you are doing something that you should not, or something you should, the more spiritually mature you become, the more authentic, effective, and long lasting the changes will be. This isn’t some sort of behavior modification process; it is God working in you. You begin to look at things from a biblical perspective rather than a worldly perspective. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21)

So how do we sanctify ourselves? Pray. When we are suffering or facing temptation we are weak.  Satan knows this and tries to take advantage of it. When we pray, we allow the power of God to guide us and direct us and give us His power to overcome the situation. Read, study, and meditate on the Bible.  You have to get into it and know it. When in the wilderness being tempted of the devil, Jesus quoted Scripture. Heb. 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word will show us where we need work. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”  (Gal. 5:16)

Sanctification is the key to spiritual growth.  It is both a matter of position and progression. We are sanctified because Jesus Christ has saved us, but sanctification continues to work within to transform us into the likeness of Christ. Sanctification is the responsibility of every believer in Christ. We must choose to pursue sanctification in our life. The pursuit of it involves the surrender of the body and the will to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It takes time and is a work in progress that cannot be hurried. You cannot skip steps. Paul says it like this, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:23)

The Lord’s Supper

16 Apr

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

I encourage you to read Ps. 51:1-17 that details how David responded when Nathan confronted him about his sin. He was horrified at what he had done and begged God to cleanse him. Sometimes I believe we take for granted what God did through Christ for us. Sin is a horrible thing that separates us from God. Romans 6 is an incredibly foundational truth for us that are followers of Christ. Before we made the decision to be a follower of Christ, we were slaves to sin. One of the keys for this present day is found in verse 6. We are no longer slaves to sin. We were slaves to sin, but Jesus Christ has freed us from sin’s bondage. We should be actively engaged in serving Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is very significant on our lives and the life of the church. “And they continued steadfastly in the … breaking of bread.” (Acts 2:42) In the early days of the church the breaking of bread was part of a regular meal. Since then it has come to be known as the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. The importance of the Lord’s Supper should never be overestimated. It declares our fundamental beliefs about Christ and His church. It is not only a service of celebration, but of consecration. We not only celebrate the life, death, resurrection, and return of the Savior, but we dedicate ourselves afresh as we identify with the body He gave and the blood He shed, symbolized by the bread and the juice. 2 Cor. 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail the test?” Paul says test yourselves. This test is specific. It’s a test to see if you are in the faith. There’s a test for that? The only way to pass a knowledge test is to demonstrate your knowledge. Does your life reflect the glory of the Lord? Is there evidence in your life to demonstrate that you are an authentic child of God? Participating in the Lord’s Supper is reserved for those that have made a decision to be a follower of Christ. There is no minimum age, but I would encourage parents to use this as an opportunity to teach younger ones.

The most common passage used outside of the gospels is found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. Just before saying this, Paul was talking about unity in the church. There were some divisions in the church between the haves and the have nots. Some who were better off would partake of the supper and perhaps others that were not so well off weren’t able to eat. That’s why in v. 22 Paul said, “Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?” In this passage Paul uses a phrase that troubles many people.  It is, “eats in an unworthy manner” in v. 27. We can’t take this phrase alone; we must take it in context with the rest of the passage. It’s connected to the but in v. 28. There is no expectation of perfection . . . only examination. It’s a balance. If we really evaluate ourselves based on Christ’s standard, none of us is worthy to partake in the Lord’s Supper. That’s why we don’t partake in our own power, but in the power of what Christ did for us. We approach God because of the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. This supper is to remember that sacrifice.

Is There Eternal Life?

9 Apr

You can listen to the podcast here.

Today is Easter. This day is of great significance in the life of every Christian. With all the Easter sales around, non-Christians often ask the question, “Is there life after death?” Job asked the question, “If a man dies, will he live again?” It’s a question most people ask themselves at some point. There are people that seek to prolong their lives here on earth as long as they can. Jesus asked the question, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) The longer you live, the more you realize that life is short. Today we’ll answer the question, “Is there eternal life?”

Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:1-2, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”

Paul begins this passage with what Jesus did. The word gospel here comes from the word that means good news. The resurrection of Jesus who is the Christ provides proof positive that there is life after death. Verses 3-5 contain the foundation of our Christian faith. It says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Prophecy in the Old Testament predicted that Messiah was going to die. It said that Jesus would be led like a sheep to the slaughter. His death was not the accidental death of a martyr. It was the deliberate death of a person who offered His life as a sacrifice. On that first Easter morning Jesus Christ walked out of that tomb as a living being. Later when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb to anoint His body, they discovered the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. In Luke 24:6-7 the angel said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again?”

Paul goes on to say, “And that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Cor. 15:5-7) After the resurrected Christ appeared to all those people, in v. 8 Paul says, “I know that Jesus lives because I saw Him myself.” Before Paul met the Lord Jesus Christ, he was known as Saul. When Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Saul was not the great man of God that wrote 13 books of the N. T. He was on his way to Damascus with letters in his hand from the high priest giving him permission to bind anyone that believed in the truth of Jesus and bring them to Jerusalem. Acts 9 tells us how God intervened in his life and radically transformed him into the man that we have come to know and love named Paul. I encourage you to read this incredible transformation. And now Paul is confused as to why people would deny the reality of life after death. He says, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say, there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12) Jesus is not standing here and I would guess that no one in here would say they’ve ever seen Jesus physically, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. We’ve got plenty of Scriptural evidence as well as non-biblical evidence to support this fact. Maybe you discount the Bible as the true Word of God. What I know is what Christ has done and continues to do in my life so if you tried to tell me that Jesus did not rise again, I would take exception with you. It’s not just me though, Jesus has radically transformed millions of people. Each person has the choice to believe or not. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) Jesus proved there is life after death in His own life and He’ll prove it in your life too.

If there is life after death, what is it like? Great question. In 1 Cor. 15:20 Jesus demonstrated this life after death. Paul wrote, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:20) First fruits refers to the O.T. practice of giving the first part of the harvest to the Lord as an offering. Since this is the first part of the harvest, more is to come. In other words, Paul is saying that the resurrection of Christ is not the one and only resurrection, it is the first of what is to come. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 Jo. 3:2) If you want to know what it’s like for a Christian to die and live again, look at Jesus. There are two things we need to know about this life after death. First, there was a separation of the body. Jesus’ last words before He died were, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” (Lu. 23:46) His body died and was subsequently buried, but His Spirit went to be with the Father. To the thief hanging next to Him, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Lu. 23:43) When our bodies die, our spirits live on in eternity. Paul was emphatic in 1 Cor. 5:8, “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” Second, there is a resurrection of the body. We don’t come back to earth to take over some random person’s body, and we don’t spend a period of time in an undisclosed location to have our sins purged so we can go to heaven. Jesus left behind the cloth that His body was wrapped in. After three days He came back into the tomb to re-inhabit the body He left behind, but it had been changed. He showed people the nail scars in His hands and feet. But it’s not only Jesus that will be resurrected. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (Jo. 5:28-29) What about those that have been cremated or blown up in a war? Remember that it was God that spoke the universe and all that it contains into existence. He made man from the dust of the ground; putting together a body is no big challenge for Him. Following the death of Lazarus, Jesus told Martha that He would take care of it. Martha protested, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Jo. 11:39-40) At the place where Lazarus was buried, Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.” (Jo. 11:43-44) Four days, four weeks, four months, four years, 4000 years is all the same. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thes. 4:16-17) Some might not be able to wrap their brain around that; perhaps it’s too strange. How a baby comes into being is pretty strange, yet no one would deny it. One egg, one sperm coming together – invisible to the naked eye. They form a cell that divides, and divides, and divides. 18 days later a tiny heartbeat begins. Some nine months later and out comes a little human being completely furnished with little hands and feet. Every life that is conceived is miraculous; but it happens so often that we dismiss it.

After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to the disciples in the upper room. Read Luke 24:37-48. Jesus ate after He rose from the dead. I’m thinking we’ll be able to do the same. We’ll not be floating around playing a harp wearing a halo. We’ll have bodies like Christ’s resurrected body. 1 Cor 15:35  says, “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” Paul responds to this question. Take a look at 1 Cor. 15:36-42. Fish were created with scales so they can live in the water. Birds were created with hollow bones and with feathers so they could fly. God is certainly able to create us with an immortal body that will never perish, spoil, or fade. So if you’re old and decrepit, you’ll be renewed. If you’re blind, you’ll be able to see; the deaf shall hear again. Paul finishes by saying, “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55) Just as the disciples recognized Jesus, we’ll recognize one another and the people that have gone before us. There are numerous Old and New Testament examples that confirm this.

So just one question remains. How can we attain eternal life? If life after death could be purchased, what would you pay for it? If I told you all the glorious things of heaven, what you would experience there, who you would meet, what kind of house you would live in: how much would it be worth to you? If I could guarantee that your life after death would be better than the life you now enjoy, how much would you be willing to spend on it? Fortunately, heaven can be purchased: unfortunately we can’t pay the price. Heaven is the dwelling place of God, a place of perfection, and we forfeited our right to be there because of our sin. The price for entry is the blood of a perfect person, and we just don’t measure up. We can’t earn heaven and we don’t deserve heaven, but the good news is that Jesus Christ stepped in to pay the debt for us. 1 Cor. 15:56-57 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The victory comes from believing in what Jesus did on the cross. So why would you refuse this great offer? We have a deep love for sin. On one hand, eternal life doesn’t cost anything. On the other hand, it costs everything. God’s desire is for us to turn from sin to Him. We leave our past behind us and become new. A new life, new goals, new desires, new passions all put in our hearts by a loving, holy, and perfect God. Being a follower of Christ is not in what you have to give up; that’s the wrong perspective. Personal pride gets in the way of this great offer. There are plenty of smart people in this room and maybe you’re too smart for your own good. There is lots of evidence to verify the resurrection of Jesus, but you weren’t there so maybe you doubt. You weren’t at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but you believe it happened. It takes faith.

Eph. 2:8-9 reminds us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Faith is a simple yet difficult thing. It is a choice.

The Leaders who Missed Christmas

28 Nov

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Here we are in the Christmas season again. I wonder how many will miss the reason we celebrate Christmas? Even Christians who are pressed to the max with school parties, work parties, church parties, neighborhood parties, decorating, baking, and shopping for presents are prone to miss Christmas. In the classic movie A Christmas Carol, we find the tyrannical and unlovable business owner Scrooge complaining every step of the way because poor Bob Cratchet wants half a day off on Christmas. If the story was written toady, the roles would likely be reversed. We would see Scrooge looking forward to Christmas because as a business owner, he would see profits rise. He’d begin advertising before Halloween and offer ridiculous store hours on Black Friday maybe even opening at midnight. Maybe the story would follow how Bob Cratchet developed his complex shopping plan camped out hoping to find those trendy, state of the art gifts for his kids. He probably scanned the 102 million results found on Google by searching Black Friday 2011. Bob would come to despise the Christmas music that begins just after Halloween. Scrooge would love Christmas, Bob Cratchet? Not so much. In the ever increasing commercialism and materialism that is Christmas, can we change the pattern? Do you want to?

Missing Christmas is nothing new. Since the very first Christmas 2000 years ago, people looking for the real meaning of Christmas missed it. In the first century, the Temple was one of the busiest religious centers on the planet. Sacrifices were constantly being offered on behalf of people’s sin. Priests, worshipers, and the religious crowd were ever present. The religious crowd sat around and “discussed” the finer points of the Law. They evaluated the 613 rules they supposed people ought to follow as they interpreted the Law. Somewhat different form the 10 that came down with Moses from Mt. Sinai. They read from and memorized the Torah, they talked about the prophets. They looked for the Messiah. Messiah is born just about 5 miles from where all these religious leaders were. He was born in Bethlehem and not a single Jewish leader made it to the manger. Jesus was laying in the manger for just over a week and probably no one came to see this little boy.

So let’s look at the story that occurs eight days after Jesus was born. Grab your Bible and read Luke 2:21-38. According to Jewish law, male babies are taken to the Temple on the 8th day and circumcised because He was born under the law according to Gal. 4:4. Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus to the Temple. The reason for Christmas is taken to the Temple, the very place you’d expect to find Messiah. Christmas nearly comes and goes from the Temple just like it comes and goes for many people today. There were two people at the Temple that day however, that were eagerly anticipating Christmas. The religious leaders at the time who earnestly searched for Messiah did not find Him. Even as Messiah hung on the cross 33 years later, the leaders looking for mankind’s deliverer missed Him. How could anything good come out of Nazareth after all? (Jo. 1:46) How can people miss something so obvious? How could they miss something that is apparently so obvious to us? If we were in Jerusalem that day, we would see the hustle and bustle of Temple life. We’d see the steady stream of religious people doing religious things. We’d smell the smells of the sacrifices, hear the animals, hear people laughing and crying – we’d see all the activity. We’d see people so consumed with life and they’d miss Christmas because they were just too busy. These leaders would remain busy for the next 33 years. They missed the miracles, the teaching, the love, the authenticity, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. The religious leaders were so busy doing God’s work that they missed the most important work God ever did for mankind. They had the Law, the prophets, the very Word of God and yet they missed what all of these things pointed to.

It’s not a stretch when we consider what the holiday season has become. Children so excited about what they will receive that they can barely get to sleep on Christmas Eve. Sleep doesn’t last long as many families are awakened by their children in the wee hours of the morning to open presents giving little to no thoughts as to why they’re getting gifts. Christmas has been replaced with consumerism and materialism, with the rush to find a bargain on an item we don’t really need. It shouldn’t shock you to know that few people know the real reason for Christmas. We’ve lost the simplicity of the manger, of the shepherds that were watching their flocks by night. I wonder if we should spend some time in the Temple looking for Christmas.

Did everyone miss Christmas? If we were flies on the wall in the Temple mount, we’d notice two people. The first is a man named Simeon. The second is a woman named Anna. The Pharisees and the Sadducees and most of the religious leaders of the day missed Christmas. I want to focus on these two people that give us some clues on how to avoid missing Christmas. If you want to find Christmas, you must be willing to wait. Simeon is described as, “righteous and devout.” He was upright, just, and God-fearing. He was, “looking for the consolation Israel.” The Messiah was born of very humble beginnings. He didn’t come as the religious leaders thought He would come. The Christ child did not come as royalty, he didn’t come as a major league political figure. He came as a baby, born of a virgin.

Look at Luke 1:68-75. Simeon waited. Luke 2:26 tells us that, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon was apparently an old man that had been looking for that consolation of Israel for a long time. He waited because the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not see death until he saw Christmas. Luke 2:28-32 says, “Then he [Simeon] took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.’” Can you imagine waiting for something for so long and then holding Salvation in your arms? Simeon offers a blessing to Mary and Joseph and then disappears from the pages of Scripture.

Then we come to Anna. 84 years old and she spent all of her time in the Temple area. She served, “Night and day with fastings and prayers.” Compare her to the religious leaders who argued the finer points of the Law, offered a life time of sacrifices and yet still missed the sacrifice for all life. The priests were engaged in continual sacrifices for the people. When you look at God’s design for the Temple, you’ll find the lamp stand, the table of showbread, the basin, the alter – all the materials needed to make sacrifices to God. Did you ever notice that there aren’t any chairs? There was always sacrifices to make; never time to sit. Heb. 10:11-12 tells us, “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD.” The priests were so busy making sacrifices for the people that they missed the sacrifice made for them. Many people in today’s church have bought the same lie that the priests of old did. Busyness equates to spiritual maturity and that is just not true. Simeon and Anna were purposed to find Christmas – to find Messiah, the Christ Child, the consolation of Israel, the redemption of Israel. They waited – they were patient. What part of Christmas today is patient? Is it the packed shopping centers and the traffic jams? Is it the pushing and the shoving in the lines to get into the stores at midnight on Thanksgiving Day? Is it the after Christmas sales that now begin before Christmas?

What will you do to avoid missing Christmas? How will you reconnect with the original Christmas? You’ve heard of the still, small voice of God? I wonder how well you can hear that in a crowded mall? I encourage you at some point very soon, get alone with God and listen to Him – and wait until you hear Him. If you want to embrace what that first Christmas was like, you’re going to have to wait like Simeon and Anna did. And it doesn’t matter if everyone around you misses it.

You must trust that God will keep His promises. Simeon waited a lifetime to see God’s promise. When he saw Jesus, Simeon knew the promise had been kept. Anna waited decades. It’s significant to note that she was a prophetess. That means as she waited for the redemption of Israel, she told others about the Christ. I’m sure that included telling people of the promises of God. The promises that include telling people that God will never leave you nor forsake you. That is comforting considering that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. Maybe this holiday season will be filled with new normals. A new marriage. New babies. Maybe your children were married this past year. Maybe this is the first year without that loved one. We can stand on the promises that God will not leave you; He will be with you to help you as you go through this time of year. Contrary to popular opinion, this time of year produces 40% fewer suicides than at other times. He will be there with you, will you trust Him?

You must be willing to proclaim what God has done. Simeon and Anna never considered keeping the good news to themselves. Simeon tells Mary and Joseph what Jesus’ future holds. As soon as she saw the child Anna, “Came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Don’t neglect to tell people what God has done in you.

At the center of Christmas is this gift that has been prepared for you. Don’t miss the gift of God among the gifts of men. Don’t miss the center of Christmas and that is the Christ child that was sent to save mankind from themselves. God willingly sent Jesus just for you. He came as the King of kings and the leaders of His days missed Him. Don’t miss Christmas this year.