A blog archiving sermons preached at
Maple Avenue Christian Church
The Gift Of Hope
December 3, 2023
How early is too early to put up Christmas Lights?
Where I come from, some people leave their Christmas lights up all year long, they use the white lights and then it just looks like ambient lighting the rest of the year, but they are really Christmas lights.
Show of hands, how many of yall have done the same thing?
I like to get my lights up while it is still warm outside, not hot, but not cold, I usually start early November.
I am of the mindset that all that work deserves to be on display for more than a couple weeks, couple months at minimum.
Last year Kelly, said, “Hey let’s leave our lights up a little longer this year, it’s so dark and gloomy during January and February that the light might give a little hope a little spark.”
I personally don’t believe there is a right or wrong time to put up or take down lights.
Back in 2020, during Covid, a lot of people put their Christmas lights up I guess extremely early and CNN ran an article that said:
“The idea is that twinkling, colorful lights will lift spirits during these dark times. And it doubles as a social distancing activity: people can admire the lights from the safety of their own homes or cars.”
I don’t know about all that, all I know is that I really like the bright, shiny, sparkling lights at Christmas and I don’t care how early people put them up.
Let me ask this, how early is too early to start listening to Christmas music?
How many of you would say that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start listening to Christmas music?
How many of you would say that, that is too early?
Bah Hum Bug, you scrooges.
I read an article about a pastor who starts listening to Christmas Music the day after Easter.
That’s my kind of guy.
This year I started listening to Christmas music on August 21st.
Of all musical genres, Christmas music is my favorite, whether it’s the Choir of Kings College singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing, or Nat King Cole singing Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, I love them all.
I love Christmas and all the nostalgia that surrounds it.
Christmas for me gives me hope as I am sure it does others.
It gives me something to look forward to.
People need something to look forward to.
Having something to look forward to gives us hope.
Hope gives us a reason to keep going.
I have good news – Christmas season is HERE!
Today is week one of the Advent Season.
The advent season includes the four Sunday before Christmas when the church looks back to Christ’s first arrival in Bethlehem and looks forward to His second and final arrival.
For the next four Sundays we will reflect on 4 different words.
Hope – Peace – Joy - Love
“Advent comes from the Latin word adventus and means arrival or appearance.
During these next four weeks of Advent, we are going to be celebrating and anticipating the arrival or appearance of God in the flesh!
And it’s such a big deal that we will spend weeks focusing upon it”
At Jesus’ first arrival he was proclaimed as Savior.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
In His second coming He will be Judge and will gather all those as Paul says who “have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
We stand now between the two arrivals – in what we call the waiting.
Waiting is hard.
How many of us like to wait on things?
Dick Hart, some of you remember Dick, others of you never had the pleasure of meeting him, but Dick Hart was a man who didn’t like waiting.
At least he didn’t like waiting on fast food.
If Dick was in a drive thru and they asked him to pull forward, he would politely ask for his money back and simply drive on to another establishment.
That’s a man who doesn’t like to wait.
The circumstances of our lives are changing daily.
The Advent season is an invitation for us to step back from our daily lives and to see the big picture of God’s great salvation.
God has given us reason to hope but our hope is not dependent on a feeling but hope is in the person of Jesus.
Christmas lights and Christmas music tell us – Christmas is coming.
All the stuff of Christmas can create in us a feeling of HOPE.
We need the feelings, but today I want us to think about the reality of HOPE, not just the warm fuzzy feelings of Hope.
BIBLICAL HOPE IS A CONFIDENT TRUST THAT GOD WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES.
Today we will consider three dimensions of HOPE by looking at Simeon in Luke 2.
- The Act of Hoping
- The Reason for Hope
- The Object of Hope
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Who is this man Simeon?
He was old and close to death because Simeon says, “I can now depart in peace because your servant has seen your salvation.”
Luke does not tell us about his position or occupation.
Simeon viewed Himself as a slave to God.
Like a slave, Simeon thinks of himself as totally responsible to and dependent on God.
So, the first thing we see in Simeon is: THE ACT OF HOPING
What does the act of hoping look like in Simeon’s life?
The scripture says he is waiting.
In the Greek language this is the Greek root word προσδέχομαι and it is used of those who wait for the Kingdom of God.
The expectation of these people is concentrated on the coming of the Messiah.
Their mood is expressed in the words of Rabbi Jonathan (c. 220 A.D.): “May the bones rot of those calculators of the end who say: He has caused the end to arrive without himself coming, therefore he will not come. Be patient, as it is said: ‘If he tarry, be patient’ ” (Sanhedrin Mishnah, 97b).
The proclamation of the Synoptic Gospels is that the expected Messiah has come and the tarrying of Israel is over.
This is the word Jesus uses to describe the expectation that we as Christians should have as we wait for his return.
It is waiting with great expectation that what has been said, is true and valid, this is Christian Hope.
The world acts of hope as an uncertainty.
I hope I get this or that happens…do you hear it, there is no guarantee.
The connotation of waiting in our culture is “boring”
“I’m waiting for my movie to load.” “I’m waiting to finish school.”
But think about the picture of a groom waiting for his bride.
I’ve been to many weddings and I cannot remember a single wedding where the groom was up front checking his watch… sighing… rolling his eyes.
All the guys I’ve seen are waiting with anticipation.
Maybe nervous and jittery but smiling, one of those smiles where your face hurts because you’re smiling so much.
Simeon waits… He prays… He watches, looking forward with great expectation that what was promised is certain that God’s promise is certain.
That’s Biblical Hope.
And Simeon does so while living a devout and righteous life.
Peter instructs the church to live in the same way as we wait with great expectation, as we hope for the second advent.
2 Peter 3:11-12, … what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming
I understand we are longing for something better and that something better will come, but will complaining speed it’s coming?
Will we live distracted or devoted to God?
Is filling my life with the most possible pleasure my primary goal while I wait?
I’m not saying avoid pleasure so that you will be holy and devout.
Every good thing comes from God.
Pleasure is not the enemy.
While we wait, what will we prioritize?
So, the next thing we see in Simeon is: THE REASON FOR HOPE
What was Simeon’s reason for Hope?
God has made a personal promise to Simeon
The promise was, Simeon you will not die before you see the Messiah.
God’s specific promise to Simeon fits within his larger promise to the nation of Israel.
Simeon is waiting for the consultation of Israel.
The consultation of Israel is another term for waiting for the Messiah.
Messiah is a word that means – Anointed One.
Who is anointed?
A king is “anointed” or designated as the chosen one to lead a nation.
David was anointed as king and ruled as Israel’s most prosperous king.
God made a promise to David.
The promise was that there will be a King who would come from the line of David and would sit on David’s throne forever.
That King is the “Anointed One” – the Messiah
King David dies.
The kingdom of Israel is divided and eventually the people go into exile.
After Exile some return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the city in preparation for the coming king, the Messiah.
The people wait 400 years between what we call the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Slowly the prophetic hope for a Messiah turns into a pessimistic hope.
Maybe floating around in some people’s minds was a thought like this: Maybe God has not kept his promise?
In the fullness of time Jesus comes and he claims to be the Messiah.
Jesus is talking with a woman in John 4.
She knows of the Messianic hope and she says in John 4:25-26, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
The messiah has been promised but the people and Simeon have been waiting a long time.
Why would Simeon think that God would keep his promise?
Simeon is devoted and careful to keep his religious duties.
His religious duties help him to remember the faithfulness of God.
He knows the story of the Old Testament.
- God promised deliverance from Egypt and it came.
- God promised to provide in the desert and they had water and food.
- God promised a land to live in and the walls of Jericho fell.
Simeon has reason to Hope because he remembers that God is faithful and God keeps his promise.
You and I have reason to Hope.
We have reason to hope because God kept his promise to Israel and he is faithful and still keeps his promise.
2 Peter 3:8-10, 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.
Listen to some of these promises. I pray they are an encouragement to you.
- I will never leave you.
- I will never forsake you.
- I will send the Holy Spirit – He will be a comforter and guide.
- I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against.
- Do not let your heart be troubled. If I go, I will come again.
Simeon had reason to hope.
We have reasons to hope.
Finally, we see in Simeon: THE OBJECT OF SIMEON’S HOPE
The Object of Simeon’s Hope was Jesus.
Scripture says “He took the baby (Jesus) in his arms.”
Simeon picked up an actual person.
The hope for salvation is Jesus.
The celebration of Jesus’ first arrival is not a fairy tale story.
Christmas is a remembrance that God became man.
Jesus took on flesh.
He entered into space and time and experienced human existence.
Joy, pain, laughter, food, sleep, prayer, walking, playing… all of it.
When Simeon picks up the child Jesus he does not say this baby is a sentimental reminder of God’s love and our hope for a better world.
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
Simeon is alluding to several passages from Isaiah when he praises Jesus.
Isaiah 49:6, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
This is verse 30, Jesus is the salvation for all humans.
Jesus testified about himself in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Make no mistake there is only one way to Heaven and that is through a relationship with Jesus in which you have completely surrendered to Him and He is your Lord and Savior.
Vs 31 echoes Isaiah 52:10, The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
Salvation is only something that God can accomplish for us.
As a matter of fact Ephesians 2:8, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
Folks you can’t earn your salvation, if you try and earn it you will constantly feel hopeless, you will never measure up to the standard, only Christ measures up to the standard and none of us are him.
Vs 32 is from Isaiah 9:2, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Jesus is a light in the darkness.
Darkness is the absence of light.
We know intuitively that the world is not as it should be.
Something is broken.
I remember sitting with my stepdad he was 34 years old and was dying of cancer and I thought this isn’t right.
This is not RIGHT! Death, pain, sorrow, separation – this is not the world that we were meant to live in.
Christmas is still hard for me, I am blessed that I have my wonderful wife and my awesome sons, but I miss my daughter, there is a hole.
I often wonder, God what is the plan? God do something!?!
Well, He has done something.
He has kept his promise.
He has given his son.
Simeon then makes a prophecy – Jesus is going to cause a rising and falling in Israel.
Those who take pride in their own spiritual heritage and achievements, there will be no place for them.
They will fall.
Those who throw themselves on God’s mercy, they will rise.
Then a personal message to Mary.
“A sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon is speaking of Jesus going to the cross.
I can scarcely imagine the anguish that Mary felt at the cross.
She probably asked as we do, “God what is the plan?” “How could this happen?”
Simeon gave Mary a glimpse of her future anguish but Jesus gave his disciples a fuller picture of the plan.
Listen to Luke 9:22, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
- Jesus went to a literal cross and died.
- On that cross he paid the penalty for our sin.
- When we trust in Christ’s work on our behalf rather than our efforts God forgives us and accepts us on the merit of Christ’s work on the cross.
God implants the Holy Spirit into us and we live no longer under the shadow of death.
The resurrection gives us a confident hope that Christ will come again and so our hope causes us to wait with great expectation, not empty promises.
1 Peter 1:3-4, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
We have a present hope, a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection.
We have a future hope that because Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
Jesus is the object of our Hope.
Jesus is the Object of My hope
I have hope even when I feel sorrow.
I have known sorrow throughout my life and I will be no stranger to it as long as I draw breath upon this earth, because this earth is not my home, and so I wait with great expectation, I wait with hope for the coming of Christ.
Satan’s hope is that in suffering we will abandon God or at least relegate God to a sentimental idea, nice at Christmas time, Easter and Thanksgiving but not real.
I don’t like feeling sad.
Feeling sad does not mean I have no hope.
It means I feel sad.
It means I love and miss my dad, I love and miss my daughter.
I can act on hope not by putting on a happy face.
The sorrow is real but I know I do not mourn as one who has no hope.
Jesus came in the flesh.
This world is not all there is but it is a good world that God has made and I will live with hope with confident trust in God while I live.
If you have looked to Jesus for salvation then you have HOPE.
Today you may not have feelings of hope but I want to remind you that you have HOPE.
God has not abandoned us.
Last challenge… Will you share the Hope of Jesus with others? ALPHA
Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that you have.
Many people do not live with Hope.
They are either distracted or in despair.
We have HOPE.
Luke is saying, this is what happens when the kingdom of God confronts the kingdom of the world.
God is not slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness. He is patient not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
In that same CNN article a man who put up his lights early said, “Times are dark and there’s light to be spread,” “Now more than ever is a time to be looking outside yourself.”
He is right.
Look outside yourself for Hope.
Jesus is our hope.
Look outside of yourself to share the hope of Jesus with those who have no hope.
Generosity In Giving
November 26, 2023
After suffering years with a failing liver, Brenda Jones learned that she would need a liver transplant to survive.
Though she was 69-years old, she wanted to live many more years.
And by all accounts, with a healthy liver, she could.
So, the doctors placed her on a liver transplant list hoping a donor would eventually appear.
Brenda waited for a full year before she received the call from her doctor that a match had been found.
Thankful that a donor liver had been found, Brenda planned her transplant surgery with great anticipation.
But before the procedure was performed, she received another call as well.
The second call was also from her transplant surgeon at Baylor.
He told Brenda about a 23-year-old woman, Abigail Flores, who had been flown into the hospital that day.
Abigail needed a liver transplant as well, and without it, she would die within 24 hours.
And most important, the liver that was a donor match for Brenda was also a match for Abigail.
The choice was up to Brenda, but she did not hesitate.
She gave permission for the surgical team to give the liver to Abigail, and as a result, Abigail survived.
It was one of the most profound acts of generosity witnessed, and Brenda affected numerous lives in the process.
And as luck would have it, Brenda was notified four days later that another liver for her had been found.
In a May 2015 article in The Atlantic entitled, “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving,” Sam Kean told the story of a man in Brazil who went from being stingy and miserly to being excessively generous.
In fact, many believed he became too generous!
What caused the change?
Brain damage from a stroke, apparently.
Here is what the article, in part, says:
In the early 1990s, a quiet man named João quit his job running the human-resources department of an insurance company in Rio de Janeiro and began selling french fries from a street cart.
The fries quickly proved popular, in part because they were delicious but what was even more enticing, João often served them up for free.
All you had to do was ask, and he’d scoop some into a box, no charge.
What money he did take in, he frequently gave away to children begging in the street or used to buy them sweets.
Day after day, he came home to his wife and son without a single cent in his pocket.
In his previous life, João had been stern and serious, prone to squirreling money away.
But after suffering a health crisis in 1990, at age 49, he wanted to live differently.
“I saw death from close up,” he would often say.
“Now I want to be in high spirits.”
And nothing made him happier than giving.
To those who didn’t know him well, he must have seemed like the embodiment of selflessness—the Saint Francis of Rio de Janeiro.
We’ve long known that there’s a clear, consistent link between generosity and happiness: surveys done around the world, of many different societies, have found that giving produces high levels of satisfaction and well-being in the givers.
What scientists didn’t have a good grasp of until recently were the neuroscientific roots of this feeling—why we get a boost from giving.
Years ago, Jordan Grafman, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University Medical School, investigated this link by putting volunteers in an fMRI machine and asking them to decide which charities they would like to make a donation to.
Grafman and his team gathered data on which brain systems were most active during the process.
They had expected to see heightened activity in people’s frontal lobes, a part of the brain that helps with social reasoning and with weighing different courses of action—just the sorts of talents needed for this task.
And the frontal lobes did, in fact, come to life on the fMRI scans.
But Grafman was surprised to see the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits rev into high gear as well.
“Our first impression,” Grafman says, “was that we might see some activation [in those circuits], just because usually when people give, they feel a little bit better.
But we had no idea about the degree.”
Specifically, his team saw the brain’s mesolimbic system light up.
This system forms a key part of the brain’s pleasure circuits, an archipelago of structures that stimulate the production of the chemical messenger dopamine, which makes us feel good.
Neuroscientists usually associate activity in these circuits with hedonistic delights like food and sex.
Grafman determined that giving money away excited these circuits even more than receiving money did.
Maybe this explains why João’s doctor calls him “Pathologically generous.”
Now there is a phrase!
I am intrigued by this neuroscientific examination of generosity.
It also makes me think that neuroscientists would likely also diagnose Israel as having had a corporate pathology of generosity on the basis of Exodus 36.
In this chapter, the people of Israel literally give too much and have to be told to stop!
Was it because their frontal lobes were not doing what they should?
Or was it because they had had an overwhelming vision of the goodness and glory of God?
So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”
2 Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. 3 They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. 4 So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”
6 Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, 7 because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
A HEART OF GRATITUDE TO GOD GIVES GENEROUSLY
Now, there are reasons that I say this.
The first is that we have a different understanding as Christ followers, it doesn’t always jive with the rest of the world.
First we understand that:
ALL GOOD THINGS WE HAVE ARE TRULY GIFTS FROM GOD (1-2)
As we approach Israel’s astonishing generosity, we first note the divine equipping of Bezalel and Oholiab, the leaders of the tabernacle construction project.
Notice the strong emphasis on God’s enabling of their great work. God put “skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary” within the workers.
Verse 2 tells us that God put skill in the “minds” of the workers.
And the stirring of heart mentioned in verse 2 must also be seen as a divine enabling.
I believe that verses 1 and 2 are utterly crucial to our understanding of verses 3-7.
I believe that this repeated emphasis on God’s enabling power and God’s divine gifts, both in Exodus 36:1-2 and in Exodus 35:30-35, creates the framework in which the background against which Israel’s generosity is to be understood.
Simply put, I believe that Israel finally came to understand that all good things we have are truly gifts from God!
Then they simply acted accordingly.
We think of our external possessions as gifts from God when we think rightly.
But so too are our talents, our skills, our intelligence, our abilities, and, in short, everything we have!
Everything we have is a gift!
Life is a gift!
Like Brenda Jones and Abigail Flores and their liver transplants…
Why does this form the framework for understanding Israel’s generosity?
It is because only when all we have is seen as a gift from God are we truly able to give all that we have as a gift to God.
Israel, in other words, caught a glimpse of a transformative truth: God was not only with them, He was blessing them in every single way even above and beyond what they deserved.
They were flabbergasted by the staggering kindness and mercy and generosity of God!
They were overwhelmed by His grace and His provisions!
And their response was…to give!
The significance of this for us rests in the fact that we too must catch this glimpse of the beautiful generosity of God if we are going to live lives of amazing kindness and generosity.
Bezalel and Oholiab and the whole crew of workmen are therefore representative of us all.
What good we experience and what good fruits we see coming from our labors are all gifts as are our abilities to labor fruitfully in the first place.
Ephesians 3:20-21, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Open your eyes to the staggering generosity of God and thank Him for His great provision!
Second, we understand that:
JOYFUL GIVING IS THE MOST NATURAL THING IN THE WORLD (3-7)
What happens when God’s people get a glimpse of God’s loving-kindness?
They respond in like turn and give back to Him.
Here we see one of the most beautiful pictures in all of scripture.
The people are moved to give.
In fact, they give so much that they give too much and are forced to stop!
Notice the offerings are “freewill” offerings.
They are not guilted into doing this.
Guilt does not produce this kind of sacrifice.
Only gratitude does.
The people who have received a great gift are therefore willing to give all that they have.
So, what about the church?
The church is a people literally defined by the gift they have been given: the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that He is a gift from God.
John 4:10, Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
In Romans 3:23-24 Paul says, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Three chapters later, in Romans 6:23, Paul said, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Romans 5:15-17 Paul speaks of salvation in Jesus as a great gift. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Jesus said in Luke 11:13, If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
On and on it goes.
The New Testament (not to mention the Old, for which this point is also true!) is filled with references to God giving us gifts, all of them connected to the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ!
If, then, the people of God in Exodus responded to the gift-giving, loving, and life-enabling heart of God with a generosity that literally had to be stopped because it was overflowing, how should we who have been saved by the blood of the gift that is Jesus Christ respond in our giving?
Only those who know that they have been given a great gift are willing to give great gifts.
This is not a matter of brain damage or dysfunctional frontal lobes.
This is not a pathology.
This is the overflow of the human heart.
For the church, the radical gift of Jesus must translate into the radical giving of Jesus’ people, the Church.
And, in truth, whenever Jesus has been rightly seen and grasped, this is what has happened: people have given all that they have and are.
The application of this to our lives should be pretty clear.
Salvation is the motivation for our generosity as well.
Not just financially, but if you have never been generous with your money and you are a Christian, the first thing you need to do in your life is start tithing.
A tithe is giving the first 10 percent of your income to the church for the work of the church, then you can give generous offerings, overflowing. Explain this better.
But we must be just like the willing workers, generous with our skills to build the kingdom.
Last week was an awesome testimony to the generosity of the people of MACC as we had more volunteers than ever before show up and help with the Thanksgiving distribution and we hope to have that many show up and help with our Christmas Eve dinners, but let’s not stop there, we need people serving in all kinds of ministry areas, like greeting people at our doors, driving the van, serving on our coffee ministry, funeral meals, you name it, we need it.
I want us today to think of our generosity in terms of service - not just our money, but all our resources, all our gifts/talents, all we are and all we have at our disposal that we are using all of us to build the kingdom of God.
When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are expected to serve.
Here at MACC we say it like this:
We are crafted to serve one another.
We also say:
We are commanded to be whole-life stewards.
But not everyone who was saved came forward then and not everyone here serves either.
In fact, if you were a fly on the wall, you would see there is a large group of folks who do most things.
As a church we are probably way above average when it comes to people serving, but average is not good enough.
Every person needs to find an area to serve in.
The church is not a show for spectators, it’s a place for people to grow in their relationship with God and with each other and I don’t believe there is any better way to grow in relationship with others than to serve with them, to get your hands dirty with them.
When we built this church building, which we are not done, we didn’t have to tell people to stop giving, though there are some of you here this morning who could give to the point that everything could be finished, but when we built this and we worked together, I believe we grew closer as a church family than at any other time.
Listen folks, everything we have is ours, it’s a gift from God, but it is ours, He wants us to be generous with our stuff just like He is generous with us.
Love should be our motivation for serving, loving God and loving others.
but I want you to understand clearly what happens when you serve.
You see many of us think of serving as a sacrifice…and it is, but God blesses our obedience to serve.
And his blessings more than make up for any sacrifice we might make.
Serving allows us to discover and develop our gifts.
Speaking of which, Bruce Western, will be leading our Education Class, Blue Print for Life beginning January 7, 2024 at 9am.
Man I want to encourage anyone who hasn’t taken that class to sign up and take it.
1 Corinthians 12 compares the church to a human body.
Each part shaped uniquely for a unique purpose.
If you never serve, you may never discover the purpose for your shape.
What a blessing it is to know why you are here…your purpose
Sometimes God challenges us to take on something that may seem huge.
God has laid on one of our members hearts, Kim Martin, to start up ALPHA.
ALPHA is an 11 week outreach ministry for those seeking, confused, or new to the faith.
If you are interested in serving in this ministry there is a training date for January 2.
Alpha will begin January 9 at 6pm.
We need people to help with meals, decorating, greeters, prayer, set up and tear down.
If you are interested in learning more about serving or attending Alpha see Kim Martin at our Adult Ministry table at the end of our service.
Serving allows us to experience the joy and peace that comes from obedience.
1 Peter 4:10-11, 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Serving is a form of worship, a way to express gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and to share the love and grace we've been given.
Serving helps us to be more like Jesus.
You see, when we shift our focus off of ourselves onto others through serving, we begin to see others as Jesus sees them.
Becoming more like Jesus is our goal right?
That happens when we serve.
Mark 10:45, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Are we ready to give of ourselves generously like Jesus?
- Maybe our lives
How much should you give to God?
Look at the cross and you tell me.
Our God is a giving God.
Jesus is His gift.
Let us give Him our very lives in return.
Gratitude In All Circumstances
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
November 19, 2023
This Thursday is Thanksgiving.
I’m sure I didn’t have to tell any of you that, but it is a reminder, because our offices will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday along with the regular days off so that our staff can enjoy time with their families as well.
But every year as a nation we set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day of thanks, Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday honoring the early settlers and Native Americans who came together to have a historic harvest feast.
Within the next generation a war ensued and the history is pretty bleak.
But we continue to celebrate the idea of Thanksgiving, which I think is a great thing.
We celebrate the idea of family getting together, loving one another, sharing with each other what we are thankful for, and eating too much food and watching too much football, if there is such a thing.
But I also recognize that Thanksgiving is a difficult time of year for many people as well.
Some of us, may be having Thanksgiving all alone, or we gather around our tables without loved ones we would be so glad to have one more meal together with.
For some you may have loved ones deployed in military service half way around the world, yes you are proud of them and the work they are doing, but you are missing them.
Some of you may refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving altogether because of the dark history that eventually surrounds it.
I just want to be clear, American Thanksgiving celebration is not Biblical, I believe it is a good cultural practice, but it is not Biblical.
Now, in saying that; we must realize that the Scriptures do instruct Christians to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
The Greek word for will is θέλημα and it means, “desire, wish, purpose, will, decision, or intent.”
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln decreed a national Thanksgiving Day, but God’s desire for us is to live a lifestyle of thanksgiving.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss states, “Thanksgiving really should be thanksliving—a way of life—day in, day out, morning, noon, and night—continually, forever giving thanks to the Lord”
So, let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say to us about living thankful lives.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul was writing to a Christian community suffering from intense persecution—more so than most of the churches he shepherded.
And yet, even to these brothers and sisters, Paul encourages giving thanks in all circumstances.
But notice that verse 18 does not tells us to give thanks for all circumstances but “in all circumstances.”
Evil, injustice, and cruelty exist every day in this world.
Scripture never instructs us to give thanks for wicked, immoral, and sinful circumstances but to give thanks in them.
Continuing this practice even in times of suffering can help us keep our eyes on God and remember that God’s presence is always with us, even in the darkest day.
So, Paul lays out three commands for us in this passage and we need to understand those.
These are commands from God about
HOW TO LIVE WITH GRATITUDE GIVING THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
First, GOD COMMANDS US TO REJOICE ALWAYS
Does “rejoicing always” mean that you always go around with a smile on your face and an upbeat “Tigger” bounce in your steps?
Are you sinning if you ever feel sad, depressed, upset, or grieved?
I have met Christians who seem to think so.
One person I used to know had some major problems in their life.
But whenever I asked, “How are you doing?” they would reply, “I’m just praising the Lord!”
They seemed to think that it would be unspiritual to reply, “I’m really struggling with some things.”
I think they had bought into the positive confession heresy that our words create reality.
So they always put on a happy face and said that they were praising the Lord.
But they seemed to be denying reality.
If “rejoicing always” means always being upbeat and never feeling sadness, then we have a problem, because neither Jesus nor Paul were always happy.
It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is (1 Thess. 5:16), “Rejoice always,” but the shortest verse in the English New Testament is (John 11:35), “Jesus wept.”
Listen for just a moment at the raw emotions Jesus and Paul had:
Hebrews 5:7, During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
In 2 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul described himself, “known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
In Romans 12:15, he tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”
He does not say, “Exhort those who weep to stop weeping and start rejoicing!”
So “rejoice always” does not mean, “Deny your feelings, put on a happy face, and never feel sad.”
So, what does Paul mean when he commands, “Rejoice always”?
First, it’s important to remember that he wrote this to new believers who were suffering persecution because of their faith (1 Thess. 3:3-4).
And the command follows Paul’s exhortation that we should not get even when someone mistreats us.
Probably Paul had taught them Jesus’ words Matthew 5:11-12, Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
So, given their difficult circumstances, this command to rejoice always has to be viewed not primarily as a matter of feelings, but rather of obedience.
When we are in difficult trials or if people have mistreated us because of our faith, we have a choice: either we can focus on our trials and lapse into self-pity.
Or we can set our minds on the things above, where Christ is at the right hand of God, where our life is hidden in Him (Col. 3:1-4), and rejoice.
As Paul commanded the Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice!”
That little phrase, “in the Lord” is the key.
Since we are eternally “in the Lord” through faith in Christ, we can always rejoice “in the Lord.”
Our joy cannot be totally oblivious to circumstances, but neither should it be governed by them.
So “rejoicing always” is a conscious attitude of gratitude wrapped in contentment, hope, and happiness that comes from deliberately focusing on Christ and the eternal treasures that we have received freely from Him.
So, how can we develop a habit of rejoicing always?
First, Focus Daily On The Riches That God Has Freely Given You In Christ.
This would be a great thing for you to journal about in your gratitude journal and we do have more available
For example, Ephesians 1:3-14 says that you have all spiritual blessings in Him.
God chose you in Him before the foundation of the world.
In love, He predestined you to adoption as His child.
He freely bestowed His grace on you in Christ.
In Him you have redemption and forgiveness of all your sins, lavished upon you by His grace.
He has made known to you the mystery of His will.
He has given you an inheritance and has sealed you with the Holy Spirit of promise.
Second, Walk In The Spirit, Not The Flesh.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
To walk in the Spirit means to daily yield to Him and to rely on Him to control your life in every situation.
It takes time to produce fruit.
It doesn’t pop out on a tree the day after you plant it!
But if you walk consistently by the Spirit, eventually the fruit of joy will be yours.
If you’re feeling down, get out a hymnbook or put on some solid Christian music and sing of God’s goodness, grace, and love.
Singing is one way of implementing the first strategy—focusing on the riches that God has freely given to you in Christ.
The longest book in the Bible is a songbook.
Use it often to set your mind on the things above.
Next, GOD COMMANDS US TO PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
Does this mean that you must pray every waking moment?
Obviously, not, because neither Paul nor the Lord Jesus did that.
It is helpful to know that the word translated “without ceasing” was used of a hacking cough.
A person with a bad cough doesn’t cough continuously, but often and repeatedly.
It was also used of repeated military attacks.
An army would attack a city but not succeed.
They would regroup and attack over and over until they won the victory.
Even so, our prayers should be frequent and persistent.
Like the friend who came at midnight to ask for a loaf of bread (Luke 11:5-13), we keep knocking until we get what we’re after.
Like the widow who kept bothering the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8), we keep coming back until we obtain what we were asking for.
Rejoicing always and praying without ceasing are related, because it is through prayer that we lay hold of the riches that we have in Christ, which are the source of true joy.
Prayer claims the promises of God in our trials.
Laying hold of God’s promises brings joy, because we know that He is for us.
As Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-32, What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
So, how can we develop a habit of praying without ceasing?
How can we develop an attitude of Gratitude in our praying?
It’s a lifelong process.
First, We must understand that We Can’t Do Life On Our Own.
Prayer is the language of trusting in God to address the issues we lay before him, or to respond to what he has laid on our hearts.
Depending on God takes daily surrender and consent.
We must continually confess our desperate need for God’s help and pray that He helps us to live dependently upon Him.
Oswald Chambers once said, “troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere.”
Depending on God is necessary in the hard times and the good times, it’s unceasing dependence.
Second, Send Up Prayers Whenever You Can.
When you think of a loved one or friend, send up a prayer for him or her.
When someone asks you to pray for some need, don’t promise to pray later and then forget, no, instead pray right there with the person.
I’ve noticed, especially here at church if I am praying with someone, sometimes others will stop and join, not often, but prayer should not be foreign to us.
When I receive an email prayer request from the church, I stop what I am doing, and I pray right then because I know me.
I may forget to pray about it later and I want to make sure I pray for it right then.
Third, Spend Time In God’s Word And Prayer Each Day.
Pray the word back to God.
The Psalms are helpful in this way, but also all of Scripture.
Keep asking until you receive, seeking until you find, and knocking until the door is opened unto you (Luke 11:9-10).
Fourth, Read Some Good Books On Prayer.
Some books that I have found helpful are:
- Extraordinary Hearing by Greg Pruett
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (chapter 3)
- The Power of Praying Boldly by Will Davis Jr.
- Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds
- A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law (chapter 14)
Finally, GOD COMMANDS US TO GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
This command means that in every situation we are to give thanks to our sovereign and good God and Savior.
Paul says In Ephesians 5:19-20, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Giving thanks in every situation does not mean that we must be happy with every situation or resigned to accept matters without praying and working for change.
Also, we don’t need to feel thankful before we give thanks.
When God takes us through hard trials, we don’t feel thankful.
Sometimes followers of Jesus believe God’s love will shield us from all the trials and troubles of life.
But this is not a teaching found in the Bible!
Instead, Jesus promises his followers that not only will they have the same troubles all humans
face, but they are likely to have more suffering because they are committed to living lives that sacrificially pursue love and justice for everyone—even the vulnerable and even enemies.
It can be extremely difficult to give thanks to God in such times.
But the Holy Spirit is here to be our comforter, filling us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
The Holy Spirit ministers to us in the midst of loss and pain; giving thanks during suffering can help us keep our eyes on God as we journey with him through dark valleys.
This is not a way of plugging our ears and closing our eyes, refusing to acknowledge pain and brokenness; rather, like a small child, we raise our hands to the Spirit in humility and honesty, asking for help—and receiving fruit in our inner selves to sustain us.
So, how can we develop a habit of thankfulness to God in every situation?
First, and most importantly, Deepen Your Understanding Of God’s Sovereignty And Goodness.
The story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) illustrates this truth.
Joseph’s brothers hated him and planned to kill him until they saw a caravan of traders heading toward Egypt.
So they cruelly sold their brother into slavery.
He ended up getting thrown in prison, even though he obeyed God by resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife.
He begged the cupbearer to mention his case to Pharaoh so that he could be released, but the cupbearer forgot.
Two years later, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and was instantly elevated to the second most powerful position in the country.
Later, he was able to be reconciled to his brothers and to see his aged father again.
But after Jacob died, the brothers feared that Joseph would get even with them for what they had done.
At that point, Joseph wept and asked, “Am I in God’s place?”
Then he revealed the theological perspective that had sustained him during those awful years of slavery and imprisonment.
Listen to Genesis 50:20, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joseph saw God both as sovereign and good.
Submitting to the sovereign goodness of God in every situation the key to a thankful heart.
The key to developing an attitude of gratitude.
Second, When We Trust In God We Will Be Thankful.
Thankfulness and trust are bound together.
If you are trusting God, you’re thankful.
If you are not thankful, then you’re not trusting God.
This is illustrated with the children of Israel.
God delivered them from slavery in Egypt by the ten miraculous plagues on the Egyptians, while sparing Israel.
He miraculously brought them through the Red Sea and then closed the water on top of the pursuing Egyptian army.
You would think that by this point, they could thankfully trust in God.
But we read (Exod. 15:22-24) that they then went three days into the wilderness, found no water, and grumbled at Moses, which really was grumbling at God.
They didn’t trust that the God who had powerfully saved them from slavery could provide water in the desert.
If you’re grumbling, you’re not trusting.
Anybody in here besides me ever grumble…I grumble sometimes, not all the time but sometimes.
If you’re not trusting, you’re not thankful.
Develop a habit of trusting God, especially in trials, and you will thank Him both for His great salvation and for the opportunity to see Him work in your time of need.
And you will develop an attitude of gratitude.
Another way to develop an attitude of gratitude is to get the focus off yourself.
And as a church we have a great way to help you with that.
Today, we are giving away 277 Thanksgiving bags to our community.
If you weren’t already, why don’t you stay and help us with that.
We will be giving those out at 1pm.
If you can’t today, okay, mark on your calendar to help us as a church to distribute Christmas Eve Dinners to people in our community, or to serve in the kitchen or at one of the Towers in town.
There are ways to develop an attitude of gratitude starting today.
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks.”
Even though we’ll never obey these commands perfectly, we should be working at making progress, because, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Thankfulness That Leads To Praise
November 12, 2023
In this three-week Thanksgiving series we are going to focus on
DEVELOPING A HEART OF GRATITUDE TO GOD THAT LEADS TO GENEROUS GIVING.
Thankfulness is not an occasional act but a lifestyle of intentional and spontaneous appreciation that leads us into the presence of God, empowers us to be grateful in all circumstances, and generates an overflow of generosity.
I want to begin by talking about Thankfulness.
Folks, I want to invite you to turn to your neighbor, either side, or behind or in front of you and I would like for you to tell them something that would make you shout for joy at the top of your voice?
What would make you fall on the ground—yes, flat on your face!—in front of someone?
NT Wright tells of a true story of two explorers lost in the South American jungle not long ago.
For nine months they wandered about, not knowing where they were or how to get out.
Finally, after many adventures and often giving up hope, they were found and rescued.
They probably didn’t have enough energy to shout, but they would have felt like it.
Certainly their relatives back home did.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
THANKFULNESS IS AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE FOR ALL GOD HAS DONE IN OUR LIVES.
Jesus and his disciples are on the move.
Since Luke 9:51, Jesus has moved the focus of his ministry south from Galilee, getting closer and closer to the final confrontation in Jerusalem.
Here Jesus is traveling in the border area at the south extremity of the province of Galilee, and at the north end of the area where the Samaritans lived.
The storyteller reminds us that this took place in a racially-mixed area, so we will be ready for the punch line at the end of the story: "-- and he was a Samaritan."
Leprosy in Biblical times was a terrible thing.
Leprosy could have been anything from psoriasis to full blown leprosy where you fingers and toes rot off.
Whatever it was, once a person caught it, it was considered incurable, and those diagnosed with leprosy were banned from society.
This banning from society was first introduced by God in Leviticus 13:45-46, “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.
While early Israelites didn't operate on the Germ Theory of disease, they understood something about infectious diseases, and those suspected of leprosy were kept isolated until their diagnosis was confirmed (Leviticus 13:5).
But the loathing directed at lepers was not merely fear of a disease.
Leprosy made a person ceremonially unclean.
Meaning they couldn’t go to church, they couldn’t worship with others
To touch a leper defiled a Jew almost as much as touching a dead person.
In a sense, leprosy was a sign of God's disfavor.
Later Jewish practice prescribed that while lepers might attend synagogue, they must be the first to enter and last to leave, and must stay in a special compartment to isolate them from the other worshippers.
No less than a distance of four cubits (six feet) must be kept from a leper.
To the rabbis, the cure of a leper was as difficult as raising a person from the dead.
In all Biblical history only two people had been cured of leprosy -- Miriam, who had leprosy for seven days as a punishment for speaking against Moses' leadership (Numbers 12:9-15), and Naaman, general of the army of Aram, a heathen from Damascus (2 Kings 5).
When he obeyed Elijah's instruction to wash seven times in the Jordan River he was healed.
Healing a leper had not been done in Israel for seven hundred years, and was thought to be an earmark of the Messianic Age (Luke 7:22), when leprosy would no longer afflict people.
So as Jesus is entering this village he meets this group of lepers.
It wasn't uncommon for lepers to group together.
They couldn’t have much social contact with the "clean" members of society, so they formed their own society of the "unclean," the "untouchables."
Being just outside a village would be common, since they probably obtained food from family members or those in the village who had pity on them.
Since they have no land to till, no livestock to look after, they are dependent upon others.
When Jesus and the disciples draw near, the lepers immediately recognize him and call out his name.
The lepers ask for pity, a familiar cry that they have been uttering ever since they were diagnosed with leprosy and cast out of the village.
The word falls easily from their lips, they are used to saying it all the time.
The phrase "have pity" is from the Greek root word, ἐλεέω, and it means to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need.
Notice they don't ask for healing but for pity, for whatever Jesus might give them -- food, clothing, shelter, whatever he decides to offer.
They know Jesus' reputation for compassion.
But do they really ask for and expect healing?
The text, at least, doesn't indicate so.
Verse 14 is one of those verses that we don’t want to hurry past.
Jesus’ response to the lepers after they said, “have pity on us”, seems most unusual.
His response, “Go show yourselves to the priests”
The significance of the priests in Jesus' instruction, is that only priests, according to Jewish law, can declare a person healed of leprosy -- clean and fit to re-enter society (Leviticus 14).
Jesus doesn't say that they are healed, but certainly implies it.
Therefore, they must go to receive a clean bill of health from the official who can grant it.
The second part of verse 14 is the key to understanding what happened.
"And as they went, they were cleansed."
The Greek construction uses the preposition en, which can mean "in, when, while, during."
Literally, "in the going, they were cleansed."
The word "cleansed" is in the Aorist tense, which signifies action at a single point of time in the past tense, rather than action over a period of time as would have been indicated by the Imperfect tense.
So, what all this means is that there came a point -- as they began to obey Jesus -- that their healing took place all of a sudden.
Now, had they disbelieved Jesus and laughed at his command as foolishness they wouldn't have been healed.
But they believed him -- that is, they had faith -- and received their healing as a result.
Even though we talk about someone who "believes," belief doesn't exist in a vacuum.
Faith is exhibited in what we actually do.
Because these lepers believe, they begin to obey and go to the village where the priests live.
As Jesus' brother James says, In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17).
We're not told how they discover that they are healed, but it probably doesn't take long for them to realize that they are healed.
I imagine it may have gone something like this.
Hey Jimmy, your face is looking clear, Bob, your fingers are back on your hands. Harry, your not bald anymore…no wait that’s hair loss not leprosy.
What a celebration as they continue toward the priests' village.
"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him -- and he was a Samaritan." (17:15-16)
All ten lepers realize they are healed, but only one comes all the way back to Jesus, praising God for his mercy in healing him.
The word translated "praising" is the Greek word δοξάζω, It always means “to have or to give a share in a praise.
Notice the "loud voice" in verse 15 in relation to the 10 loud voices in verse 13.
The lepers called out loudly to ask for mercy; but only this leper offers loud thanksgiving and praise.
Is our thanksgiving as loud as our clamoring requests?
Notice the thankful leper's response.
He throws himself at Jesus' feet as a sign of utter humility.
He touches Jesus, no doubt, and Jesus doesn't recoil from him as if he had "cooties."
Jesus receives his thanks graciously.
The leper (1) gives glory to God and (2) thanks Jesus.
The thankful leper may not know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, but certainly he credits Jesus as being God's instrument for his healing.
The account concludes with Jesus' departing blessing:
"Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'" (17:19)
The phrase "made you well" is the Greek word sōzō, the word commonly translated "to save."
Sōzō in this context means "to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm.
This passage hints at the fact that Jesus offers this leper more than others.
They received healing, but this Samaritan receives a deeper salvation in addition.
His faith has prompted him to return to the feet of Jesus in thanks, and that personal contact, that personal submission signifies a soul healing that is more than skin deep.
LESSONS FROM THE LEPERS:
What are we, disciples, supposed to learn from all this?
Perhaps most obvious is that
OUTSIDERS ARE SOMETIMES MORE RESPONSIVE THAN GOD'S OWN PEOPLE.
Sad to say, but being a certified believer can sometimes result in spiritual deafness.
Consider some of the long-time “Christians” you know.
Are they necessarily the most spiritually mature or deep?
We are wrong if we assume that Christians are the only ones who have spiritual acuity.
Jesus is in the business of saving sinners.
He doesn't discriminate on the basis of their religion or lack of it.
Another equally important lesson is,
THE FAITH THAT HEALED THE LEPERS WAS THAT THEY ACTED ON JESUS' WORDS.
Jesus said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests," implying that they were healed.
If they had done a quick physical check to see if they were healed before they headed off to the priests' village, they never would have started.
The healing didn't take place until after they obeyed.
We sometimes want instantaneous healing before we'll believe that Jesus heals us.
But the faith here is shown in the going.
"Your faith has made you well" (17:19b).
I don't recommend throwing away pills, firing doctors, or discontinuing treatment before the healing is manifest.
That isn't what Jesus asked the lepers to do.
Rather, we can turn from a fear-filled faith to an expectant faith.
We can turn a corner to a new way of seeing what God is doing and will do.
And perhaps we should make an appointment with the doctor -- the modern-day equivalent of going to the priests for a physical exam.
These can be acts of faith.
Another clear lesson is that,
JESUS EXPECTS US TO SHOW GRATITUDE.
In the account of the Thankful Leper, Jesus is clearly angry at the unthankfulness of the nine lepers who didn't return.
We must train ourselves to show thanks, to give thanks, to be filled with thanksgiving.
I don’t know if you ever pay attention to parents but they are constantly telling their kids to say thank you…when I take candy to kids in back, teachers remind kids thank you
Without being thankful disciples we won't be pleasing to Jesus.
But this thankfulness is sometimes time-consuming.
Sometimes it requires going out of our way, delaying some of our urgent appointments.
A life of thanksgiving is a life of prayer.
Before going to the priests to be declared healed.
Before the things we have to do.
Before we get immersed in our everyday activities.
Give thanks first.
GRATITUDE IS AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT IN OUR SALVATION.
Were all ten lepers healed? Yes.
Were they all saved? Yes, in the sense that they were rescued from their disease.
But not in the sense of drawing close to God in thankfulness and dependence.
The nine were saved physically but not spiritually.
"Where are the other nine?" Jesus asks.
Healing that doesn't bring a person to Jesus is incomplete and stunted.
The Scriptures instruct us to give thanks to God with all of our heart: “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).
I want to share with you a couple ways you can express your gratefulness to God.
First, we can express our gratefulness to God through,
That is, we can set aside deliberate times and practices to give thanks to God such as the following:
- Keep a gratitude journal by writing out five things each day you are thankful for.
- Set aside time with God exclusively devoted to thanksgiving and praise.
- Thank God for everything…When you pray over meals, take time to give thanks to God for things other than the food, such as family, friends, and other blessings of God.
- Write God a thank-you note for his goodness and loving-kindness.
Another way we can develop an attitude of gratitude is through,
This was the response of the one leper who returned to Jesus.
Spontaneous thanksgiving is developing an ongoing practice of giving thanks to God as you go throughout your day.
In 1967, at the age of 17, Joni Eareckson Tada was injured in a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands.
During her rehabilitation, Joni spent long months learning how to paint with a brush between her teeth.
Her high-detail fine art paintings and prints are sought after and collected.
To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for people with disabilities.
Her life has been hard, but if there is anything Joni personifies, it is joy.
She states, “Today, look around you. Surely there are small blessings, little joys, tiny hints of God’s favor, for which you can be grateful. Don’t take things for granted today. Take them with gratitude!”
So, how do we do this: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you give thanks as you go throughout your day.
We have the ability to choose, through the grace and strength of Jesus, a grateful attitude.
Chuck Swindoll reminds us how we can choose our attitude in the following video quotation:
In our story, Jesus heals all ten lepers; however; only one returns to give thanks to Jesus.
Would you be one of the nine or would you be the one who returns?
Are you thankful to Jesus every day?
To The End Of The Age
November 5, 2023
How good are you at doing what you are told to do?
I don’t know about you but for me, sometimes it depends on who’s doing the telling.
Growing up in a single family home, my mom was the ruling authority, and for the most part we listened to her.
But when I went to my grandmother’s house…you better believe I did what she told me to do.
My grandma was just one of those lady’s who, when she spoke you better listen.
I remember my uncle telling us of the time he did something and got in trouble.
So, my grandma was going to discipline him.
She was going to discipline him, like she did me and my brother and sister, like most everyone disciplined their children back then, my uncle was going to get a whoopin’.
Now a whoopin is a lot different that a paddling, or a spanking.
A whoopin was something you didn’t forget soon.
Now, when my uncle was younger my grandmother used to send my mom and him out to get their own switch so she could use it on them.
How many of yall no what a switch is?
Now that is just a regular old switch, my grandma and my mom preferred the King Switch.
So, my grandma sent my uncle to fetch his own switch so she could whoop em with it.
My uncle, who I wish yall knew, but he’s a little bit, no I take that back, he is a lot honory.
My uncle comes drag back to the house an entire tree limb, hoping to gain some kind of compassion from my grandma.
I mean just picture this little fella, carrying back an entire tree limb, it just melts your heart doesn’t it.
Well, my grandma came out and looked at the limb and looked at him
And, well she whooped him with every switch she could get off that limb.
So, how good are you at doing what you are told to do?
Does it matters who is telling you to do it?
What if it is Jesus telling you what to do?
Would that matter more?
Throughout the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection there are a whole lot of examples of people telling other people what to do and what not to do.
The religious leaders come to Pilate and tell him that Jesus had said that after he died 3 days later he would rise again. So they asked Pilate to place a guard at the tomb.
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
They did as they were told.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb after the Sabbath.
There was an earthquake, because an angel rolled the stone away from the tomb and sat on it.
The angel said to the Mary’s in
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
The women do what they are told to do.
Some of the guard go to the priests to tell them about the miraculous events they have witnessed.
The guards are told to say his disciples stole the body and they are paid off.
The guards take the money and do as they are instructed.
The Mary’s are on their way to the disciples when all of a sudden Jesus shows up.
He greeted them and they worshipped him.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
So, the Mary’s take the story to the disciples and they head out to Galilee.
In this closing scene from Matthew’s gospel, we are clearly told by a trusted source what to do:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
WALKING WITH JESUS MEANS DOING WHAT HE TELLS US TO DO.
Many of you are familiar with this passage as the Great Commission
The Great Commission is where we as the Church, receive our marching orders.
It is our mission from Jesus as His people, His Church in the world.
If someone were to ask us, “What are we supposed to do as Jesus’ Church?” This Great Commission is our response.
If someone were to ask us, “Why do we support missionaries, send missionaries, and go on mission trips?” This Great Commission is our response.
If someone were to ask us, “Why do we make such a big deal about this word discipleship?
What is discipleship and why does that matter?” This Great Commission is our response.
The way we say it here at MACC is: Transforming People to Christ-likeness, this text is that much of a fixture of our faith in action.
But did you know, that this Great Commission does not stand on its own?
As it is with every text of Holy Scripture, this Great Commission is not given to us without a context.
In context, not only is The Great Commission the summation and conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, but it is also the climax of the Easter story!
Now that’s an odd statement to make, right.
What do I mean that “The Great Commission is the climax of the Easter story?”
I mean, isn’t the resurrection event the climax of the Easter story?
The angel...the stone rolled away...the empty tomb...?
Isn’t that all there is to Easter?
We celebrated Easter nearly 7 months ago, some of you are thinking, we haven’t even made it through Thanksgiving or Christmas and here you are talking about Easter.
Jesus’ resurrection means something for us as we sit here today.
And if we learned anything at all from Jesus’ teaching in The Sermon on the Mount, He is not going to leave us without a call to action.
Faith is not merely hearing what has been spoken.
Faith is doing based on what has been heard.
The Great Commission is the fulfillment of the promises of Easter.
The location of the instructions, a mountaintop, underscores the importance of obeying the instructions.
Mountains in Matthew’s Gospel are places where Jesus’ authoritative teaching and divine identity are revealed.
They include the mountain in the temptation where Jesus rejects false authority (Matthew 4:8)
The mount on which Jesus teaches with authority (Matthew 5:1)
The mountain on which the feeding of the four thousand occurs (Matthew 15:29)
And the mountain of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1).
So, what does Jesus tell us to do?
JESUS SAYS GO MAKE DISCIPLES
Notice that he doesn't say, "Go convert all nations."
Our goal is not to convert people so that they say, "I believe in Jesus, and I want to give him my life."
Our goal is to make them disciples.
A disciple is a student or follower.
He is speaking to his disciples and telling them to make more disciples.
Make more people just like you.
They need to follow me as you have followed me.
They need to be trained by you as I trained you.
They need to make more disciples like you are doing.
This is going to lead to multiplication and transformation.
Where are they supposed to go to make disciples?
What is the extent of this mission?
Notice that Jesus opens it up to people beyond the Jews.
He says to "make disciples of all nations."
Their work sounds too big for them ever to get bored.
It is a job that will never end.
They are constantly supposed to learn how to make disciples of all nations.
And listen folks, when you surrender your life to Jesus, it is no longer an option, you are to be a disciple making disciples.
You are to be a transformed person transforming people.
This means that Jesus’ church will be mixed bag of nuts.
We aren't all going to be alike.
We have different backgrounds, cultural impressions, and opinions about how some things should be.
But Jesus is where we all find our similarities.
Jesus tells us to make disciples.
HE SAYS BAPTIZE
If you are a believer in Christ, you should be baptized.
If you are not a believer, then you should not be baptized.
The primary reason for a believer to be baptized is obedience to Christ.
If Jesus commanded the apostles to make disciples and baptize them, it only stands to reason that a disciple should be willing to submit to baptism.
It does not make sense for a person to claim to be a disciple and then object to the first thing mentioned by Jesus in conjunction with being a disciple.
That would be akin to a disciple refusing to be taught all the things that Jesus commanded so that he might obey them.
Water baptism, as a ritual, does not save anyone.
Neither does the obedience required to submit to baptism.
Baptism is a public proclamation of your obedient surrender to Christ.
Baptism pictures the washing away of sin and also the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on behalf of the believer.
Baptism shows the believer’s identification with Christ.
In first-century Judaism, baptism was only performed on Gentiles who were converting to Judaism.
When John started baptizing Jews, they were admitting that, because of their sin, they were no better off than Gentiles.
They, like the Gentiles, needed to repent.
This is why John responds to the religious leaders who were not being baptized in
And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
The religious leaders were at least in part relying upon their Jewish heritage to save them, but John tells them that their heritage was of no importance.
John’s baptism was a public declaration of one’s sin and need to repent in view of the coming of Christ.
In the early church, baptism soon became the way that a person was identified as a true believer.
If a person was casually connected with Christians or a church, but not baptized, no one considered him to be a Christian.
When he was baptized, he was considered part of the church.
If he was Jewish, he was often cut off from his family and synagogue, and in the Roman Empire, this was when persecution might really start as well.
Baptism does not make a person a Christian, but it publicly identifies one as a Christian and opens one up to persecution in many cultures even today.
As Christians we often forget there is a tangible cost to embracing the gospel.
Sure we might lose a friend here or there.
We might even lose our professional standing.
How about our entire family?
All of our other social connections?
Even life itself?
That’s the dilemma Muslims face when confronted with the choice of embracing the cross, Jesus, and the gospel.
It’s a dilemma illustrated authentically and poignantly by Muslim-turned-Christian Nabeel Qureshi in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
Let me share his words with you today:
So, in obedience to Christ, a believer should be baptized.
The believer’s baptism is a picture of the washing away of sins, the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ, and the believer’s public identification as a Christian.
The cost for a Muslim to accept the gospel can be tremendous. Of course, following Jesus meant that I would immediately be ostracized from my community. For all devout Muslims, it means sacrificing the friendships and social connections that they have built from childhood. It could mean being rejected by one's parents, siblings, spouse, and children.
If there were traits my family was known for in the Muslim community, they were my parents' joyfulness, our close-knit relationships, and the honor we had garnered by faithfully following Islam. My choice to follow Jesus meant razing all three. My decision would shame my family with incredible dishonor. Even if I were right about Jesus, could I do such a terrible thing to my family? After everything they had done for me.
These are the costs Muslims must calculate when considering the gospel: losing the relationships they have built in this life, potentially losing this life itself, and if they are wrong, losing their afterlife in paradise. It is no understatement to say that Muslims often risk everything to embrace the cross.
But then again, it is the cross. There is a reason Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:34 – 35)...Nabeel Qureshi
Jesus tells us to make disciples.
HE SAYS BAPTIZE
HE SAYS TO TEACH THEM TO OBEY EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU
Everything Jesus commanded?
That’s a lot!
It’s far too much to put in a brochure.
In fact, we’re not asked to merely inform people but teach them so they can obey.
Disciple-making is a long-term commitment of taking Jesus’ teaching in one hand, your relationship with the new disciple in the other hand, and working out what it all looks like in your real life and community.
In other words, this step of the process is going to take the rest of our lives.
There’s no “check the box” option, and it’s not a drive-by mission.
We’ll never be done learning, teaching, and obeying.
And what has Jesus commanded?
What is it we are meant to learn, teach, and obey?
Again, a lot.
Four entire books were written on Jesus’ teaching called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
There are 23 other books that expound and apply the teaching found in those four books.
Furthermore, Jesus’ teaching itself reflects on and applies the teaching in the thirty-nine books He had a hand in writing at the time (which we call the Old Testament).
He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
You have to understand the Old Testament to truly understand the New Testament and to obey all Jesus commanded you must understand both…which is a life time process.
Yet Jesus said that God’s law (and therefore His teaching) could be summarized in the following: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39).
Jesus offered plenty of specific commands to unpack what this looks like.
We are to pray, and fast, and give; seek, hear, believe, and enter.
In addition to loving our neighbors we are to love our enemies and pray for them, even sacrificing for them.
We are to take special care of strangers, travelers, widows, orphans, and anyone who is vulnerable and in need.
If anyone is sick, hungry, thirsty, in need of shelter or clothes, or in prison, we must take care of those people specifically, as faithfully and tenderly as if they were Jesus Himself.
To be honest, these are not popular positions.
We tend to fear and demonize those in need, rather than provide and sacrifice for them.
If we’re going to follow Jesus by knowing and obeying these commands and we’re to teach them to others, I get the feeling He intends our entire lives and communities to be upended, disrupted, and reconfigured, don’t you?
Just to be clear, this is not a checklist of things to do, this is a heart check to see if you even care about the same things Jesus cares about.
The making of disciples is Jesus’ means for answering the prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).
In His infinite wisdom, Jesus chose to use dedicated followers, His disciples, to carry the message of salvation to all peoples of the world.
He included this as a command in His last words before His ascension to heaven
Jesus tells us to make disciples.
HE SAYS BAPTIZE THEM
HE SAYS TO TEACH THEM TO OBEY EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU
So how do we live out this Great Commission?
Our mission is lived through actions.
When I was first introduced to the Great Commission I always thought the word go was the command, but I have discovered that this is only a present participle the command in the text is the “make disciples” and this text is better understood, “while you are on your way going, teach anyone you come in contact with.”
No matter were we are: work, school, shopping center, sporting events, in our homes-we are to be a witness for Christ.
Today, the term disciples seems like a term thrown around to impress others, but this is what we as a leadership desire to do today and in the future, make disciples.
This term disciple is what the early church called their followers, but it denotes more of an attitude of an apprentice and not merely a convert or a church member.
An apprentice is one who follows closely to his teacher’s teachings.
An apprentice also identified with his teacher, learned from him and even lived with him.
It was a very close relationship that harnessed the will of the student unto that of the teacher.
So what does it mean to be a disciple?
I like the way Warren Wiersbe says it.
“A disciple, then, is one who has believed on Jesus Christ and expressed this faith by being baptized. He remains in the fellowship of the believers that he might be taught the truths of the faith (Acts 2:41–47). He is then able to go out and win others and teach them. This was the pattern of the New Testament church (2 Tim. 2:1–2).
In many respects, we have departed from this pattern. In most churches, the congregation pays the pastor to preach, win the lost, and build up the saved—while the church members function as cheerleaders (if they are enthusiastic) or spectators. The “converts” are won, baptized, and given the right hand of fellowship, then they join the other spectators. How much faster our churches would grow, and how much stronger and happier our church members would be, if each one were discipling another believer.”
This is why we want to help you discover your God given passion and gifts to unleash you on the community to be strategic in everything we do. CHIP INGRAM GIFTS STUDY
One last thing I want you to notice with me, see the statement in vs. 20” I am with you always to the end of the age” this is a blessed hope that is not designed as a sedative to an inactive mind and complacent conscience, but an incentive to the fullest endeavor to press on to the farthest limits of the world that all the nations may know Christ and the power of his Risen Life.
So Matthew’s Gospel closes in a blaze of glory.
Christ is conqueror.
Christian history from that eventful experience on the Mountain in Galilee has been the fulfillment of that promise in as far as we allow God’s power to work in us for the winning of the world to Christ, who is with his people all the time.
Jesus employs the prophetic present here (εἰμι [eimi], I am).
He is with us all the days till he comes in glory.
So how do we live out this mission statement, this Great Commission
By TRANSFORMING PEOPLE TO CHRIST-LIKENESS.
To The Empty Tomb
October 29, 2023
Most, if not all of us have someone we visit at the cemetery don’t we?
We go and pay our respects standing over a grave that contains the earthly tent that once lived among us.
We remember good times, like fishing and boat rides, or cookouts, or intimate talks into the wee hours of the morning.
We remember the laughter and tears we shared with that person.
If you are like me, sometimes I get lost in the past, just remembering as many things as I can about the loved one I am there to pay my respects to.
When I go to visit my dad’s grave, I always remember our times fishing, because he’s buried beside a pond in the cemetery back home.
Sometimes, not very often, I will drive around the cemetery back home when I visit my dad’s, and grandparent’s gravesites and just take a few minutes and notice all the different tombstones.
The last time I was there I took a picture of this unique tombstone.
I have never seen one like it before.
That is real stone and it is in this awesome shape of a tree trunk with a Bible opened up.
Now it is really old and didn’t photograph well, but on each of the pages are the names and dates of birth and dates of death of the people buried there.
It’s just a really cool tombstone.
I think I’d like something like that, just unique.
Something I noticed is that all these gravesites have something in common.
There was a body buried there and the remains, the earthly tent, is still there.
But this morning we are going to talk about a tomb that has no remains, yes a body was laid there, but the remains are gone.
No, Jesus wasn’t resuscitated and walked out under his own power.
He was resurrected.
He is not dead and decaying, He is alive and ruling.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST IS A MESSAGE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.
THE RESURRECTION IS A MESSAGE OF HOPE
The message that comes from the empty tomb is that there is hope.
There is an everlasting hope.
There is a certain hope of life eternal in Jesus Christ.
For many centuries the men and women in Europe looked out upon the western sea, what we call the Atlantic Ocean, and they saw the sun dancing upon the glittering surface of the waters, and they wondered.
They wondered if there was anything beyond.
Scholars said that you could sail off the edge of the world—there was nothing out there at all.
In fact, inscribed on the escutcheons of the coat of arms of the nation of Spain was its national motto, Ne Plus Ultra, meaning, "There is nothing beyond."
One day Columbus went west.
He sailed off into the sunset as people waited expectantly, and finally after a long time the sails reappeared and the crowds were exultant.
They shouted with joy, and Columbus announced that there was a land beyond the sea that was rich beyond their dreams.
It was a glorious paradise.
The king of Spain changed the motto of that land until it reads as it does today, Plus Ultra, meaning, "There is more beyond."
For many centuries innumerable people have stood beside the dark hole that we call a grave and watched the remains of their loved ones lowered into the earth, and they wondered: What if anything is beyond?
Then one day, a young explorer went west into the setting sun and descended into the blackness of the pit.
He walked off the edge and crashed into hell.
People waited expectantly.
Finally on this Resurrection morning, as the sun arose in the east, the Son of God stepped forth from a grave and declared, "There is something beyond.
There is a paradise beyond your greatest expectations.
And there awaits a heavenly Father, waiting with outstretched arms to wipe away every tear from your cheek."
Folks, there is something beyond the black hole in the earth.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would rise on the third day.
Listen to Mark 9:31, He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”
He promised them, he gave them hope.
And that hope is for all of us, if we surrender to HIM, that’s the key.
In one of the clearest statement in all of the Bible Jesus told His disciples that it was through Him that they could have that hope that lies beyond.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
No one has the hope of eternal life with the Father unless they surrender their entire life to Jesus Christ.
No bones have been or ever will be discovered, for Jesus Christ on the first day of the week arose from the dead.
He defeated that last great enemy – death!
He is alive forevermore!
The greatest historical evidence for any historical fact is that an institution be built upon that fact.
Any secular historian will tell you that the church of Jesus Christ began in the year 30 A.D. in Jerusalem, when the followers of Jesus of Nazareth began to proclaim ... what?
THAT HE IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!
He conquered death, destroyed it and now reigns supreme in the heavenly realms.
The church was built on an empty tomb.
You may go to the tomb of Mohammed, and they will tell you, "Here lay the bones of the great prophet."
You may go the tomb of Napoleon, and they will say, "Here lay the bones of the emperor of France."
You may go to Moscow and see the tomb of Lenin, and they will say, "Here lay the bones of the great founder of Soviet Communism."
But if you go to the tomb of Jesus, they will tell you, and you may walk in and see for yourself, "Here lie the bones of no one. He is not here. He is risen, as he said he would."
The message from the empty tomb is a message of hope.
THE RESURRECTION IS A MESSAGE OF LOVE
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
In the beginning of John’s Gospel, he lays out for us the immeasurable love of God for each of us.
God wrapped His One and Only Son in a garment of skin, complete with bone and muscle, tissue and fiber, nerves and tendons, finger nails and hair.
He went from His glorious splendor in Heaven to what Paul describes in
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
A love so great that it would cause Him to send His One and Only Son from heaven to earth, from the earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave…
But fortunately for all of us Christ rose from the grave!
The love of Christ was so strong that the grave could not hold him!
Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
That’s exactly what Jesus did, no one took his life, he laid it down.
I want to share a story with you this morning, a true story.
Hank Hanegraaff shared this story over a decade ago.
It was first published in the Michigan Baptist Bulletin in 1967.
John Griffith was in his early twenties.
He was newly married and full of optimism.
Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful baby.
He was living the American dream.
But then came 1929—the Great Stock Market Crash—the shattering of the American economy that devastated John’s dreams.
And so, brokenhearted, John packed up his few possessions, and with his wife and his little son, headed East in an old Ford Model A.
They made their way to the edge of the mighty Mississippi River and found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges there.
Day after day, John would sit in the control room and direct the enormous gears of the immense bridge over the mighty river. He would look out wistfully as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge.
Each day, he looked on sadly as those ships carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.
It wasn’t until 1937 that a new dream began to be birthed in John’s heart.
His young son was now eight years old and John had begun to catch a vision for a new life, a life in which Greg, his little son, would work shoulder to shoulder with him.
The first day of this new life dawned and brought with it new hope and fresh purpose.
Excitedly, they packed their lunches and headed off towards the immense bridge.
Greg looked on in wide-eyed amazement as his Dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge.
As he watched, he thought that his father must surely be the greatest man alive.
He marveled that his Dad could singlehandedly control the movements of such a stupendous structure.
Before they knew it, Noon time had arrived.
John had just elevated the bridge and allowed some scheduled ships to pass through.
And then taking his son by the hand, they headed off towards lunch.
Then, suddenly, in the midst of telling a tale about the time that the river had overflowed its banks, he and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train.
Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that it was already 1:07.
Immediately he remembered that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express would be by in just minutes.
In the calmest tone he could muster he instructed his son “Stay put.”
Quickly, he leaped to his feet, he jumped onto the catwalk.
As the precious seconds flew by, he ran at full-tilt to the steer ladder leading into the control house.
Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight.
And then, as he had been trained to do, he looked straight down beneath the bridge to make certain nothing was below.
As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest.
For there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.
Apparently Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk.
Even now he was wedged between the teeth of two main cogs in the gear box.
Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed.
Then an even more horrifying thought flashed through his mind.
Lowering the bridge would mean killing the apple of his eye.
Panicked, his mind probed in every direction, frantically searching for solutions.
In his mind’s eye, he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down towards his son, pulling him back to safety.
Then in an instant, he would move back down towards the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.
As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized the futility of his plan.
Instantly he knew there just wouldn’t be enough time.
His agonized mind considered the four hundred people that were moving closer and closer to the bridge.
Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed, but this was his son…his only son…his pride…his joy.
He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do.
He knew he would have to do it.
And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever.
The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground slowly into position.
With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express—with its 400 passengers—roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.
John Griffith lifted his tear-stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train.
A businessman was reading the morning newspaper.
A uniformed conductor was glancing nonchalantly as his large vest pocket watch.
Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining cars.
A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a large dish of ice cream.
Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter.
No one even looked his way.
No one even cast a glance at the giant gear box that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and his dreams.
In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room.
He cried out “What’s the matter with you people?
Don’t you know?
Don’t you care?
Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you?
What’s wrong with you?”
No one answered.
No one heard.
No one even looked.
Not one of them seemed to care.
And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over.
The train disappeared moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.
Folks, this is but a faint glimpse of what the Father did in sacrificing his Son to atone for the sins of the world.
I’m curious, how many of us are more emotionally distraught by John Griffith’s story than we are at the story of Jesus?
Unlike the Memphis Express, however, an express that caught John Griffith by surprise, God in His great love and according to His sovereign will and purpose, determined to sacrifice his Son so that we might live.
Not only so, but the consummate love of Christ is demonstrated in that He was not accidentally caught as was John’s son.
Rather, He willingly sacrificed his life for the sins of mankind.
Well, the story of course doesn’t end there.
Three days later, Jesus arose from the grave.
The resurrection is a message of hope and love.
THE RESURRECTION IS A MESSAGE OF GRACE
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death…
At Calvary, those wages were paid in full.
Jesus paid it all.
All to him I owe.
But the second part of Romans 6:23, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Before salvation, we were slaves to sin and destined for death.
But through faith in Jesus Christ, we received the gift of God, which is the salvation of souls unto eternal life: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16–17).
The word gift is the Greek word χάρισμα (charisma) and in Romans 6:23 it means “a present given as a sign of good favor.”
Ephesians 2:8–9 elaborates on this gift: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The gift of God does not depend on our behavior.
It cannot be earned, like a wage.
It is a “free gift”.
We don’t work for the gift of eternal life; we receive it simply because God’s good favor is poured out on us, when we surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The gift of God is His “abundant provision of grace.”
It is “not like the trespass,” which brings death through sin.
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Sin pays its wages in death, and sinners get what they deserve.
But God bestows a free gift, and believers in Jesus Christ receive what they don’t deserve—eternal life.
The gift of God is Jesus Christ, His Son.
The apostle Paul thanks God for His “indescribable gift” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Jesus calls Himself “the gift of God” in the form of “living water” to the woman of Samaria (John 4:10).
Jesus provides this definition of eternal life: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
The gift is knowing the One True God through a relationship with Jesus Christ, His Son, who is Himself eternal life.
Christians receive all of Christ’s benefits because of our union with Jesus Christ. Jesus died, and therefore we have died in Him (Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20).
Christ was raised from the dead; thus, we were introduced to new life (Romans 6:4–5).
He lives to God, and now we live to God (Romans 6:10–11).
Jesus Christ will live forever, and we will live eternally with Him (John 17:3; 1 John 2:25).
The only grounds for receiving the gift of God is the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the grave.
The message of the resurrection is a message of Grace, God’s Grace.
I want everyone in here this morning to know that Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh, was tempted as we are, yet did not sin, died on the cross (in our place) for our sins so that we could live in his place as his brothers and sisters.
He was raised up by the Father vindicating his life and death and showing the Father’s pleasure over his obedience.
What do I want you to do?
And my hope and prayer is that if you haven’t yet, you would this morning and that is surrender your whole life to Jesus Christ and let him forgive you, cleanse you, free you from sin and death, shame and guilt, and hell itself.
Do this by grace through faith. Walking in the Love of Christ. Knowing the Hope we have through the resurrection of Jesus.
The only question that really matters is this,
Have you received him?
Have you trusted in him?
Have you repented of your sins?
If you haven’t you're missing the greatest thing in all of the world.
Your Creator came that you might have life and have it abundantly.
Open your heart and let him come in. Do it today!
To The Cross
October 22, 2023
How many of you would say you are adventurous?
Let’s just take a couple of minutes and I want you to share with the person to your right and if no one is to your right then the person in front of you, or if no one is in front of you, the person behind you…closest person to you.
Let’s define adventure.
Adventure is defined as engaging in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
Adventure might be something like going behind enemy lines during a military battle and implanting equipment to better inform your army as to the enemies movements and better understand their patterns and habits so that you can more easily eliminate enemy threat.
Then coming back and monitoring all that data, only to go back behind enemy lines a few months later and recover the equipment that you had earlier planted in the hostile territory and come back out undetected.
That might be an adventure right?
When I enlisted in the US Army, they said, it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure…they were right, that was one of my many adventures.
So, let me ask you again, How many of you are adventurous?
I want us to take an adventurous journey with Jesus as he walks us to the cross.
A little context before we jump into our passage this morning.
Jesus had been arrested, convicted in an unfair trial by the Sanhedrin, disowned by his disciples, had a murderer released in his place before Pilate.
Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, he was mocked and flogged and beaten by Roman soldiers.
Let me give you a little insight into this flogging and beating.
First the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus and tied his hands to a post above his head.
The whip (flagellum) was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends.
Two men, one on each side of the victim, usually did the flogging.
The Jews mercifully limited flogging to a maximum of forty stripes; the Romans had no such limitation.
The following is a medical doctor’s description of the physical effects of flogging.
The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.
At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only.
Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper in the subcutaneous tissues, producing first and oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles…
Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.
Keep this image in your mind as we read our text today.
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
WHEN ALL SEEMS DARK AND HOPELESS, JESUS IS THE LIGHT THAT BRINGS HOPE.
Have you ever thought what it would have been like to walk side by side with Jesus as he made that walk to the cross as he was crucified and died.
Crucifixion was the most shameful and painful way to execute a criminal.
Roman citizens ordinarily were not crucified.
As a matter of fact, crucifixion was so degrading that it wasn’t even mentioned in polite society.
Jesus was led outside the city to the place of execution (Heb. 13:12–13).
It was required that the prisoner carry his own cross (or at least the crossbeam), and that he wear a placard around his neck announcing his crime.
That placard was then hung over his head on the cross for all to see.
It seems that Jesus was so exhausted and depleted from the scourging that he didn’t have the strength to carry his cross, or at least he was slowing down the convoy enough that the Roman soldiers felt they needed to pick up the pace.
There was to be no delay in this execution.
The Passover was about to be celebrated, and the Jewish leaders did not want their holy day desecrated by the dead bodies of criminals.
In order to speed things up, the soldiers drafted a visitor to Jerusalem, Simon from Cyrene.
He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and now he was humiliated by being forced to carry the cross of an unknown criminal!
Something interesting is that all the Gospels refer to Simon as though the audience would readily know who he was.
Mark referred to Simon as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21).
Apparently these two sons were well-known members of the church.
It seems likely that this humiliating experience resulted in Simon’s conversion as well as in the conversion of his family.
Simon came to Jerusalem to sacrifice his Passover lamb, and he met the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for him.
It was customary to give a narcotic drink to those about to be crucified, for this would help to ease the pain.
Jesus refused this drink; He did the will of God in complete control of His faculties.
Also this act fulfilled Psalm 69:21, They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
It was also customary for the soldiers to share the loot at an execution.
This was a fulfillment of Psalm 22:18, They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
After they had finished gambling for His clothing, they sat down and “guarded Him there…”
After all, this Jesus was known to be a miracle-worker.
Nobody knew how many followers He had, and perhaps they were even then preparing to rescue Him.
He had one man in His band of disciples who had been a Zealot (Matt. 10:4—“Simon the Zealot”), and that fanatical group stopped at nothing when it came to opposing Roman authority.
By combining the Gospel records, we arrive at the full accusation that was put over His head: “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”
The Jewish rulers did not approve of what Pilate wrote, but for once the governor did not waiver.
When they arrive at Golgotha the crucifixion begins.
Cicero once said , “Crucifixion is the cruelest and most hideous punishment possible.”
Don’t close your eyes, don’t turn away, we are still on this adventurous journey with Jesus.
Simon of Cyrene is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood.
The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist.
He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.
Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement.
The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.
The victim is now crucified.
As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in brain.
The nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.
As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet.
Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, another phenomenon occurs.
As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.
With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. . . .
Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled.
Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath.
Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside.
Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber.
Then another agony begins a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
It is now almost over the loss of tissue fluids reached a critical level the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
The body of Jesus is now in extremis, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues.
His mission of atonement has been completed.
Finally he can allow His body to die.
As we stand there with Jesus, watching him on the cross in this adventurous jouney, there is something else that gets our attention.
Jesus was not crucified in a quiet building, away from the city’s noise and activity.
He was crucified on a public highway, on a day when perhaps hundreds maybe thousands of people were traveling.
The fact that His indictment was written in three languages—Greek, Hebrew, and Latin—indicates that a cosmopolitan crowd passed by Golgotha, “the place of the skull.”
This in itself was humiliating, for the passersby could stare and shout and mock the victims.
It was bad enough that the common people mocked Him, but even the Jewish leaders joined the attack.
They reminded Him of His promise to rebuild the temple in three days.
“If You can do that, You can come down from the cross and prove to us that You are God’s Son!”
In reality, it was the fact that He stayed on the cross that proved His divine sonship.
The Jewish rulers mocked His claim to be the Savior.
“He saved others; but he can’t save Himself” (42).
He had saved others.
But if He saved Himself, then nobody else could be saved!
Jesus said in
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I want this to be really clear, Jesus died for all to surrender to Him, but all won’t surrender to Him, so He died as a ransom for many…the many who will surrender to Him.
Only through Jesus will we have eternal life.
Listen to John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Folks, it doesn’t matter what you do in life, if you don’t surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior, then you will enter into a Christ-less eternity and you don’t have to.
Jesus did this for you!
Jesus was crucified at 9 o’clock in the morning; and from 9 until noon, He hung in the light.
But at noon, a miraculous darkness covered the land.
This was not a sandstorm or an eclipse, as some liberal writers have suggested.
It was, I believe, a heaven-sent darkness that lasted for three hours.
It was as though all of creation was sympathizing with the Creator.
There were three days of darkness in Egypt before Passover (Ex. 10:21–23); and there were three hours of darkness before the Lamb of God died for the sins of the world.
Jesus had spoken at least three times before this darkness fell.
While they were crucifying Him, He repeatedly prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
He had spoken to the repentant thief and assured him a place in paradise (Luke 23:39–43).
He had also given His mother into the care of His beloved disciple, John (John 19:18–27).
But when the darkness came, Jesus was silent for three hours.
After three hours, the darkness left.
Then Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
This was a direct quotation from Psalm 22:1.
It was during the time of darkness that Jesus had been made sin for us.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He had been forsaken by the Father!
That darkness was a symbol of the judgment that He endured when He was “made a curse” for us.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
Psalm 22:2 suggests a period of light and a period of darkness; and Psalm 22:3 emphasizes the holiness of God.
How could a holy God look with favor on His Son who had become sin?
Jesus spoke these words in Hebrew, and the spectators did not understand Him.
They thought He was calling for Elijah to help Him.
Had they listened carefully and consulted Psalm 22 in its entirety, they would have understood the truth.
In rapid succession, Jesus spoke three more times.
He said, “I thirst” (John 19:28); and this fulfilled Psalm 69:21.
Someone took pity on Him and moistened His lips with some sour wine.
The others waited to see if perhaps Elijah would come to His rescue.
Then Jesus shouted, “It is finished! Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!”
The fact that Jesus shouted with a loud voice indicates that He was in complete control of His faculties.
Then He voluntarily yielded up His spirit and died.
There are three little words I don’t want us to miss on our adventurous journey with Jesus.
It Is Finished.
This phrase is only found in the Gospel of John, is the Greek word tetelestai.
This word is an accounting term that means “paid in full.”
When Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the debt owed to His Father was wiped away completely and forever.
Not that Jesus wiped away any debt that He owed to the Father; rather, Jesus eliminated the debt owed by mankind—the debt of sin.
Just prior to His arrest by the Romans, Jesus prayed His last public prayer, asking the Father to glorify Him, just as Jesus had glorified the Father on earth, having “finished the work you have given me to do” (John 17:4).
The work Jesus was sent to do was to “seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10), to provide atonement for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him (Romans 3:23-25), and to reconcile sinful men to a holy God.
Paul wrote in
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
None other but God in the flesh could accomplish such a task.
Also completed was the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies, symbols, and fore-shadowings of the coming Messiah.
From Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of the Anointed One, all fulfilled by Jesus.
From the “seed” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, to the prediction of the “messenger” of the Lord (John the Baptist) who would “prepare the way” for the Messiah, all prophecies of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death were fulfilled and finished at the cross, EXCEPT HIS RESURRECTION, which we will talk about next week.
The sufferings Jesus endured while on the earth, and especially in His last hours, were at last over.
God’s will for Jesus was accomplished in His perfect obedience to the Father (John 5:30; 6:38).
Jesus’ finished work on the cross was the beginning of new life for all who were once “dead in trespasses and sins” but who are now made “alive with Christ” as we surrender our life to Him.
Let me ask you a question this morning:
Are you ready to take an adventurous journey with Jesus to the cross?
Jesus said in
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
So, I ask again, are you ready to take an adventurous journey with Jesus to the cross?
Into The Garden
October 15, 2023
we are going through a series entitled WALKING WITH JESUS and what we are doing through this series is looking at what happened whenever Jesus visited certain places.
We are focusing on the impact he made on the people and the life change he called people to.
A thought to hang on to as we go through this series is: WALKING WITH JESUS MEANS FOLLOWING HIS LEAD.
I want to begin this morning by talking about strength.
When I say the word strength there are probably a lot of different images that come to your mind.
Right off the bat maybe it’s a Superman or Thor character or the ultimate strong man, the HULK from the movies.
Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to your mind, in his prime he was considered the perfect male specimen, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Maybe you think of events like the World’s Strongest Man competition.
This is an international event held every year and athletes of various sizes and body compositions compete in various events to see who is the world’s strongest man for that year.
Maybe, for some of you, you think of Popeye the sailor man…you know when he would eat his spinach, he became very strong.
For others of you maybe it’s somebody closer to you, like your dad.
I remember and relish the time when my kids thought I was as strong as Superman.
They were little bitty at the time and no I did not correct them.
If they wanted to think I was as strong as Superman, I didn’t mind at all.
This is back when I could carry them over my head and let them soar through the air.
This is when I could carry two of them at a time, dangling from each arm.
This is when they would all three get on my back and I’d do push ups with them.
This is when we would wrestle and they have me on the ropes, but I’d come back with a vengeance.
I think my kids felt safe with me.
Peoria Rivermans game, drunk guy, old nature crept back in, Kelly, you have three kids watching you, Ian, give him the candy dad, give him the candy…I don’t know where he got that phrase, no one ever got beat up in our home for having candy…
Like I said, I think my kids felt safe with me.
Now, I feel safe with them.
I’m the little guy now and my superman façade has been exposed.
But honestly this is not the kind of strength we are going to talk about today.
We are talking about that inner strength, that courage that some of us seem to have and others of us seem to lack.
John Wayne said, Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.
This is a lesson we learn firsthand from Jesus in the passage we are going to read today.
And it is a lesson the disciples are being taught.
The disciples are about to go through an intense trial, and they will fail.
Before that happened, Jesus tried to prepare them for it.
They don’t know what’s about to happen or what they need to do to prepare for it, so he shows a few of them.
Jesus trains the disciples, and he will train us if we let him.
Everything has been done to prepare for Jesus’ betrayal except one thing.
Before Jesus is betrayed, he wants to go to God in prayer.
This will be the last time Jesus would withdraw to pray before being arrested.
In this text we see the real strength of Jesus, we see what true strength is
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
JESUS DEMONSTRATES REAL STRENGTH IN DESPERATE TIMES
So, how does Jesus demonstrate real strength
JESUS ASKS FOR STRENGTH IN TIMES OF SORROW.
In verse 38 Jesus said, My soul is very sorrowful…
The world for sorrowful is the Greek word
and it means “afflicted beyond measure.”
Jesus struggled with the pain and agony of betrayal, arrest, humiliation, and suffering on a cross.
How did he choose to fight against his sorrow?
How did he choose strength in the face of sorrow?
He had time to escape and pray.
Once Jesus and all of the disciples made it to Gethsemane, he told his disciples to stay in one location while he, Peter, James, and John went a bit farther.
Then, Jesus showed his three closest disciples what was on his heart.
He was distressed, anxious, and in agony over what would happen to him and his disciples.
I want you to know that you’re in good company if you’re here today and you feel anxious or distressed or you feel like you’re in agony over something there’s nothing wrong with you.
You, like Jesus are overwhelmed maybe sorrowful and that’s not a sin.
I’m tempted to think that the author got it wrong when I read this.
Jesus wasn’t the upset type.
He knew everything that would happen before it happened, and he was always ready for anything.
But knowing what was about to happen was the worst part in this case.
Knowing that he would be mocked and humiliated, knowing that those he loves will fall away “because of him,” and knowing that it would all end with torture on a cross is having its effect on Jesus’ body and soul.
Some things are outside of the control of a human being.
Sometimes the body has a mind of its own, and it is debilitating.
Jesus shows all of this to his disciples to know that he is human and he has struggles that are beyond him.
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
This text displays what Jesus was doing.
He offered prayers and supplications (the act of asking or begging for something earnestly and humbly) with loud cries and tears to God.
Jesus, who healed thousands and won every argument against religious leaders, cried loudly over what he was about to go through.
What a tremendous example this is for us.
How often do we face a trial that debilitates us?
So often, we are sorrowful and troubled about things that might never happen, but Jesus knows what is about to happen to him.
Can you imagine? If we knew what would happen, we might put on a show in front of our friends and family to keep them from getting worried, but Jesus shows us that we don’t have to put on a show in front of God.
We can let God see our deepest concerns and struggles.
Jesus exemplifies that for us.
He wanted his disciples to know that he understood what that was like.
When we compare this to the disciples, we see that they aren’t sorrowful.
They are asleep.
They aren’t concerned about the huge trial and test they will face.
Can we relate to that?
Did you ever stop to think about why they aren’t concerned?
They don’t believe in the spiritual warfare that is taking place.
Jesus told them it’s about to happen, but they can’t see it, so they don’t believe it.
Often, I think Satan wants us to be like these disciples.
He wants us to live carefree because that makes us easy targets.
Jesus shows us that we need a deep concern over the spiritual trials and tests that we are about to face.
Then, he takes those concerns to God and asks for strength.
JESUS NEEDS STRENGTH TO ACCOMPLISH HIS MISSION
Jesus mission was to drink a cup.
The “cup” to which Jesus refers is the suffering He was about to endure.
It’s as if Jesus were being handed a cup full of bitterness with the expectation that He drink all of it.
Jesus had used the same metaphor in Matthew 20:22 when prophesying of the future suffering of James and John.
When Jesus petitions the Father, “Let this cup pass from me,” He expresses the natural human desire to avoid pain and suffering.
Remember, Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully human.
His human nature, though perfect, still struggled with the need to accept the torture and shame that awaited Him; His flesh recoiled from the cross.
In the same context, Jesus says to His disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mathew 26:41).
In praying, “Let this cup pass from me,” Jesus was battling the flesh and its desire for self-preservation and comfort.
The struggle was intense: Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and Luke the physician observed that Jesus was sweating blood—a sign of extreme anguish (Luke 22:44).
If anything shows that Jesus was indeed fully man, this prayer is it.
Jesus knew of what was to come.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
The agony He faced was going to be more than physical; it would be spiritual and emotional, as well.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
Jesus loves mankind, but His humanity dreaded the pain and sorrow He faced, and it drove Him to ask His Father, “Let this cup pass from me.”
Jesus’ prayer to “let this cup pass from me” contains two important qualifications.
First, He prays, “If it is possible.” If there was any other way to redeem mankind, Jesus asks to take that other way.
The events following His prayer show that there was no other way; Jesus Christ is the only possible sacrifice to redeem the world.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Second, Jesus prays, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus was committed to the will of God, mind, body, and soul.
The prayer of the righteous is always dependent on the will of God.
Think back to how Jesus taught the disciples to pray…
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
In Gethsemane, Jesus conquered the flesh and kept it in subjection to the spirit.
He did this through earnest prayer and intense, willful submission to God’s plan.
It is good to know that, when we face trials, Jesus knows what it’s like to want God’s will and yet not to want it; to act out of love yet dread the hurt that often results; to desire righteousness and obedience, even when the flesh is screaming out against it.
This conflict is not sinful; it is human.
Don’t forget that Jesus identifies with us in our humanity.
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
He had come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), and He accomplished His mission, even though it meant drinking the cup of suffering to the bitter end.
So, what does all of this have to do with us?
I believe one of the clearest teachings in this passage is that don’t have to go through trials alone.
Jesus asked his disciples to go through this with him and we should learn to ask others to go through trials with us.
Well there is a phrase Jesus states that I believe sums up what we must walk away with.
Jesus told his disciples, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Because “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” the disciples were caught unaware in Gethsemane.
The word for “spirit” in this passage is the Greek word pneuma, which in this context refers to the soul of man or the mind.
The word for “flesh” refers to the human body and nature, with its moral and physical frailties.
When Jesus first found the disciples sleeping, He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40), and then afterward told them all to watch and pray in order to avoid temptation.
The disciples’ spirits were willing to do what was right.
In fact, just a few minute earlier, all of them had pledged their lives to Jesus: “Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same” (Matthew 26:35).
But, as it turned out, they couldn’t even pray with Jesus for any length of time.
Their flesh was weak.
They fell asleep because of their physical human weakness.
They were tired.
By affirming that “the spirit is willing,” Jesus was saying that He knew the disciples wanted to stay awake and pray, but the weakness of the flesh had overpowered the spiritual desire to pray and watch.
Jesus was not scolding them but exhorting them to beware of the weakness of the flesh.
Jesus was fighting the same struggle against the flesh, but He had overcome it.
The story of the disciples in Gethsemane rings true for all of us.
We can so easily be distracted from prayer, worship, or a kind act by hunger, exhaustion, sexual desire, feeling too cold or too hot, thirst, pain, and even a persistent itch.
The flesh shouts loudly when it wants something, and the ruckus it makes can easily drown out the desires of the spirit.
Even when the spirit is willing to do whatever God asks, the flesh remains weak.
The answer is just as Jesus said: watch and pray.
What does it mean to watch and pray?
How can that help us succeed against the weaknesses of the flesh?
Prayer is straightforward.
We know that we can ask God for whatever we need.
Jesus made a special point that whatever we ask “in His name” He will do (John 14:13).
The phrase in His name means “according to His will.”
Is having the strength to obey, to worship, to do what is right and true according to God’s will?
Jesus will answer the prayer for spiritual strength to overcome the flesh.
When we feel the weakness of the flesh about to overpower us, we can always pray.
Watchfulness is the other weapon we have against the weakness of the flesh.
The apostle Paul said in
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
We should watch for the “way out.”
Spiritual watchfulness sees the temptation coming and prompts prayer.
The fact that the flesh is a natural ally to temptation makes spiritual alertness all the more important.
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
The spirit of a believer is willing to follow God, but the flesh is weak.
So here’s my question for us, what typically wins in your life, the sprit or the flesh?…I have some days when the spirit is strong and wins and I have some days when the flesh wins.
The demands, desires, and fears of human nature can pull us way off track.
Satan has set up the world to appeal to the weaknesses of the flesh: lust, greed, gluttony, and other sins are directly related to the demands of the body.
Is it any wonder that almost every advertisement you see and hear speaks to the fulfillment of the lust of the flesh?
Another weakness of the flesh is the fear that we will not be taken care of.
But Jesus spoke to this fear too in
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
All believers know the struggle.
But when we watch and pray—when we remain spiritually alert and appeal to God for help—we can find strength in the time of need.
And when we fail, “we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2).
Jesus demonstrates real strength in desperate times.
You can trust Jesus to be your strength not only in desperate times, but at all times.