Sunday – January 21, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Baptism of Jesus” Luke 3:21-22

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Luke 3:21-22
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And, as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

If you are a Christian, then one of your deepest longings is to see others come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. And yet who among us has not felt tongue-tied when an opportunity to tell someone about Christ was staring us in the face. John the Baptist’s life and ministry pointed people to Jesus Christ. As John 1:8 explains of John, “He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.” Luke uses this section to take John, the forerunner, off the scene and to authenticate the person of Jesus Christ, whose official ministry is inaugurated in Luke 4:14.

As we have seen, John’s message is summed up as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3). Repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ are at the heart of the gospel. A person who does not see and feel himself to be a sinner has no reason to need a Savior. If I came up to you and said, “I have great news. The governor has just offered you a pardon from prison,” you would not be very thrilled with that news, and you might even be offended. Why? You are not guilty of any crime deserving of prison. But, if you have just been convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, my announcement would be the most welcome news you could imagine.

If you walk up to a person who is not a Christian and say, “I have great news. God loves you and Jesus Christ died for your sins,” the person will not appreciate your message and he might even get offended. He will think, “Of course God loves me. God is love and I’m a basically loveable person. But as for this sin stuff, I’m only human and I have my faults, but I’m not that bad of a person. Why do I need Jesus to die for my sins?”

One of the best ways you can confront a sinner with his sin is to get him to read the New Testament. He won’t be five chapters into Matthew until he reads that if he has been angry with his brother, he has broken the commandment not to murder. If he has lusted after a woman in his heart, he has broken God’s commandment against adultery. You can also give him tapes of sermons by preachers who preach God’s Word. But remember, you are not really pointing a person to Jesus Christ unless you help him to see that he is a guilty sinner, under the just condemnation of God’s holy Law.

Sunday – December 24, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Savior Has Come!” Luke 2:1-20

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Luke 2:10-12
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.

Twenty years ago, Moody Magazine reported that 49% of professing Christians agree that “all good people, whether they consider Jesus Christ to be Savior or not, will live in heaven after they die.” If that opinion is true, then the story of the birth of Jesus may warm your heart but it won’t be the best news in the world, news that you cannot live without. However, if the Bible is correct in stating that all people have sinned and are separated from God, then the news that the Savior has been born is not just nice – It is the best news in the world.

So many legends, such as Santa Claus, have become intertwined with the Christmas story that people lump them all together and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible is true history. In the eyes of the unbelieving world, the story about the Christ child, the angels, the shepherds, and all that stuff is a heartwarming tale. It helps everyone focus on peace on earth for a few brief days every year. So what difference does it make if it’s really true or not? It makes all the difference in the world. If it’s just a heartwarming legend, you can choose to believe or disbelieve it.

I fear the Christmas story is beloved even by those who do not believe in Christ because the babe in the manger is far less threatening than the Christ who interprets and applies the Law later in the gospels and  who condemns sin and speaks of faith in His blood. The baby in the manger is sweet and cuddly, and “controllable.” The baby in the manger is a kind of “God in the box,” a God whom we are comfortable to approach, to think about, even to worship. But the Christ hanging on the cross is not a pretty picture, He is not one who evokes in us warm and fuzzy feelings. Many have made much of the babe in the manger because this is the kind of “god” they wish to serve, a “god” who is weak, who is helpless, who needs us, rather than a God who is sovereign, and who demands our obedience, our worship, our all.

According to Revelation and the prophecies of the Bible, the Jesus who came the first time as a little baby, is coming again as an avenger and a righteous judge, to punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This may not be the kind of Jesus you wish to think of or serve, but it is the same Jesus that came to Bethlehem. His second coming will be vastly different from His first appearance. Then, He came to humble himself, to die on the cross, and to save. Next time, He comes to judge. Are you ready to face this Jesus, to fall before Him in worship? This is the Jesus of the manger. This is the coming King. I urge you to accept Christ as He came the first time, as your Savior, and then to wait for Him eagerly, to come the second time, to establish His kingdom on earth and rule over all creation. Let us learn from Luke’s account that the babe in the manger is the Savior of the world.

Sunday – November 12, 2017 Series Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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Ezekiel 36:26-28
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

It is true that we cannot “have it our way” when it comes to church, but rather we must function in ways that are consistent with sound doctrine, and which are obedient to the principles and commands of Scripture, illustrated by apostolic practice. We have been given certain terms like elders and deacons, and we have seen how the early church functioned. But let us not err by concluding that being a New Testament church is primarily a matter of terms and forms. The essence of a New Testament church is more a matter of the heart.

The New Testament church is made up of those whose sins have been covered and atoned for by the shed blood of Jesus, and who now have hearts of flesh, rather than hearts of stone. The New Testament church is one in which the Spirit of God dwells, empowering Christians to play their unique role in the body of Christ so that our Lord now ministers to the world through His body, the church. We can use all the right terms and have all the right forms and traditions, but fail to be a New Testament church because we lack hearts that are filled with faith, hope, and love – not to mention many other attitudes that should characterize the Christian (like humility, servanthood, joy, and thanksgiving). This is why a church may not have all the right terminology or just the right forms, but may nevertheless manifest the life of Jesus.

A New Testament church manifests Christ to the world. Through the presence and power of Christ, the church ministers to itself and then to the world. Thus, the church is not just about principles and procedures, but about people, people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, who have been joined to the church, and who are divinely indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. A New Testament church has New Testament life and power. It not only carries on the work of Christ, it manifests His character. The heart of a New Testament Christian (and a New Testament church) is the work of God’s Spirit, the outworking of the New Covenant inaugurated by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. It all begins with Jesus, just as it ends with Him. I pray that you have trusted in Him, and thus have become a part of His church.

Sunday – November 5, 2017 Series Week Eight: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

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2 Corinthians 11:3-4
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

There are other goals that are essential for Christians, but the one I would like to deal with is that of sincere and simple devotion to God, or as the nearness of God (as Asaph expressed it in Psalm 73:28). In our series on how we serve church, we are faced with what we perceive as a very important question: Is public “egalitarian” ministry necessary for intimate fellowship with God? Put differently, are women hindered from intimacy with God by being denied certain church leadership roles designated for men?

The Corinthian saints were all too eager to follow new leaders and their teaching – teaching which turned them away from Christ to pursue so-called “wisdom.” Paul likens the situation to the fall of humanity in the Book of Genesis. There Satan deceived Eve, offering her wisdom (the knowledge of good and evil) that was to be achieved by disobedience to God’s command. While Satan promised Eve they would be “like God,” he did not inform her that this act of disobedience would disrupt their relationship with God. The intimacy with God known initially in the Garden of Eden would be lost. We knew that as soon as Eve and her husband ate of the forbidden fruit they sought to hide themselves from God and soon they would be cast out of the garden, never to return in their lifetime.

Satan’s scheme is to keep people from what is best by tempting them with some lesser thing which appears to be good and desirable, but which is a forbidden fruit. When we think of the Garden of Eden we tend to think of the one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – and less of all the other trees, from which Adam and Eve could freely eat. But we should remember that there were two trees in the center of the garden: (1) the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and (2) the tree of life. By focusing Adam and Eve’s attention on the forbidden tree and its fruit, Satan caused them to lose sight of the most important tree of all – the tree of life. Satan seeks to keep our eyes off what is best, what is most important – serving God and His purpose – and to distract us with something inferior, something forbidden.

Satan is still employing his same tactics, seeking to get us to desire what God forbids under the pretense that we are denied something God owes us. Satan goads us to be complainers and accusers focusing on ourselves. Then we neglect the truly good gift(s) God has provided. The “tree of life” is before us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many fear that close fellowship with Jesus will mean the end of our worldly pleasures. We fear that if we follow Him, God will deny us our personal desires. But God never takes from us what is truly good. Whatever perceived power or pleasure you give up to follow Jesus (and there will be things we all give up as men and women), you will gain that which is truly good: salvation through Christ and intimacy with God. Nearness to God belongs to those who serve Him with a willing heart and spirit, as stated in God’s First Commandment.

Sunday – July 2, 2017 Genesis 43:1-34 “Tears and Fears”

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Genesis 43:16-19
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, “Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.” So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.”

Joseph’s brothers provide us with an excellent illustration of salvation. In their current spiritual state they faced Joseph with the greatest fear. They perceived their only “salvation” to be in their “works” of returning the money they found in their sacks and in the pistachio nuts and other presents they brought from Canaan. The first was refused by the steward, and the second was ignored by Joseph. It was not their works that endeared these brothers to Joseph; it was their relationship to him. That is what they did not yet realize.

In the same way today sinful men dread the thought of standing before a righteous and holy God. The future must be faced with great fear. Frantically men and women seek to gain God’s favor and acceptance by their “pistachio nuts” of good works. Such things as trying to live by the Golden Rule or the Sermon on the Mount, joining the church, and being baptized, are unacceptable to God as a basis for salvation. What saves a man or a woman is a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

When we stand before the throne of God, the only thing God will be interested in is our relationship to His Son, Jesus Christ. As our Lord Himself put it, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). This is the consistent message of the Bible: “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I John 5:11-12).

Have you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ? I urge you to acknowledge that you are a sinner, deserving of God’s eternal wrath. Let your eternal destiny rest in Jesus Christ, Who died in your place and Who offers you His righteousness and eternity with Him. Realize that any work which you may do will do nothing to gain God’s favor; He is pleased only with the work which Christ has already done on the cross of Calvary.

Jacob was putting all his hopes for the future on his son Benjamin (42:38; 44:29-31). Without Jacob’s realizing it, God had purposed to save him and his sons through Joseph, who was rejected by his brothers, marked for death, and who was, so far as Jacob knew, dead. Later this son who “was no more” was elevated to the throne where he was able to save his brethren. Jacob’s hopes were placed on the wrong son. It was through Judah, who offered himself in place of Benjamin, and Joseph, who was rejected and then exalted, that Jacob and his sons were saved. Jacob would be saved God’s way or not at all. God had to systematically pull out all the props from under him before he was willing to accept things God’s way. How little has changed between the time of Jacob and today.

Sunday – February 5, 2017 Genesis 27:1-46 “Working Like the Devil, Serving the Lord”

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Genesis 27:15-17
Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.

Frank Sinatra’s well-known song, “I Did It My Way,” is the anthem of many who think that is the life well lived. The words of the song state plainly that his glory was all about how he “did it my way.” A life lived “my way” is true of every person who does not submit his life to Jesus Christ. Most people just aren’t as open as Sinatra in stating the controlling force of their lives.

In Genesis 27, four people sing Sinatra’s song. Isaac does things his way by trying to bestow the family blessing on Esau, in opposition to God’s revealed will. Esau tries to take back what he had already sold to his brother Jacob. When he is foiled, he plans to kill his brother. Rebekah deceives her aging husband into giving the blessing to her favorite son, Jacob. And Jacob lies to his father and outsmarts his brother. Rebekah and Jacob could argue that they were only trying to bring about the will of God, since God had told Rebekah that her older son would serve the younger. But I’m not persuaded by those who attribute high motives to Rebekah and Jacob. I think that what you have here are four self-centered people seeking their own advantage. They all did it their way, not God’s way. In the end they all came up empty and paid a high price for their selfishness.

Every person must have as a theme song in life either “I Did It My Way” or “I Did It God’s Way.” You would think that the lines would be clearly drawn: Every person outside of Christ would sing, “I Did It My Way” while every Christian would sing, “I Did It God’s Way.” But I find that many who profess to believe in Christ are really just living for themselves, often using God as the means to self-fulfillment. But the genuine Christian life is a matter of God confronting our self-centeredness and enthroning Christ as Lord in our hearts. While the process takes a lifetime, I question whether the person who is not involved in the process of dying to self is truly a child of God.

Many Christians are telling hurting people, “Assert yourself. Stand up for your rights. Don’t be codependent. You’ve got a right to some happiness in life, so go for it.” But God’s Word is clear: If you seek your own way, you won’t get what you want and you’ll pay a high price in family conflict. If you’ll die to your way and seek God’s way, He will give you the desires of your heart. You’ve got to decide which will be your theme song: “I did it my way,” or, “I did it God’s way?”

Sunday – December 25, 2016 Christmas Day – Celebrate the Savior’s Birth Service

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Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Christmas is so much more than a Bible story. It is more than a history lesson. It is more than songs, lights, parties, and pretty presents under a tree. Christmas is more than just a yearly holiday celebration. Christmas represents not only the birth of the King of Kings but the incarnation of the God man. Leaving the eternal and taking on the form of a man, Jesus stepped out of Eternity and into time. He took on a temporal life so that He could invite us to have an eternal one.

Who, but the King who defines Himself as love, would be willing to be born in a stable so that the Shepherds who received a heavenly invitation to come and celebrate His birth would feel right at home when they arrived? The message of the angels was that God had sent Peace on Earth, The Prince of Peace. God blessed mankind with good will. Through Christ God’s good will was done on earth as it is in Heaven.

We must remind each other and teach our children these basic truths in such a way that when we are opening those pretty packages under our tree, we will remember that on that first Christmas God wrapped His Son in human flesh as a gift of salvation to all mankind. The truth of God’s unbelievable love should be so much a part of our Advent lessons that as we buy presents for those we love, we understand that Christmas is about loving our enemies too. That first Christmas was God giving the most important gift to a world at war with Him and His ways. But even when we were at war with God, He sent His Son to pay the price of our peace (Romans 5:10). As we sing the Christmas Carols of peace on earth, our songs remind the world Christmas is when God announced Peace on Earth by sending us the Prince of Peace to bring peace between man and God. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It is one thing to read the story of Christmas. It is another thing to understand how to live it. I pray that God will help each person here this morning share the Christ of Christmas in such a way that He will be well remembered throughout the season. He is worth remembering; truly Jesus is the reason for the season!

Sunday – May 15, 2016 “I Am the Resurrection”

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John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the high point of our Lord’s self-disclosure to men. This is without a doubt the greatest miracle of His ministry. Humanly speaking, there was no hope of recovery, and yet at the point of absolute helplessness and hopelessness, Jesus gave life to the dead. The spiritual parallel is obvious, for all men are ‘dead in their trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1-3). When we reach the point of utter despair and self-distrust we find that what we can never do anything to merit the eternal life God has provided as a free gift, as Paul explains in the books of Romans and Ephesians. Jesus Christ has come, not to aid men in their struggle toward heaven, but to give life to those who are dead. As He gave life to Lazarus, so He offers spiritual life to all men, on the basis of faith.

As this miracle is the high point of self-revelation by Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, so it is also the high water mark of human resistance and rejection of the person of Christ. In the face of the most irrefutable evidence the Jewish leaders chose to set aside the evidence for the sake of expedience and sentence the Savior to death. The rejection of men was not based upon a lack of evidence, but upon moral decay and willful rejection of the truth. Our Lord was not taken by surprise, for He said in the gospel of Luke, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The timing of this miracle also anticipates the coming death of the Lord Jesus Christ and guaranteed the fact that He would rise from the dead, just as He informed His disciples. If Jesus had power over death and the grave for Lazarus, then surely death could not hold Him in the grave.

In addition to John’s primary reasons for recording this miracle there are lessons for us by way of practical application. The resurrection of Lazarus confronts us with the same decision the people had to make when Jesus walked on earth as a man: What will you do with Jesus? You must either accept Him as the Savior and the Son of God, or you should reject Him as a phony and a fraud. He cannot be anything but one or the other. If we take these gospel accounts seriously at all we must face the same destiny-determining decision as those who witnessed His works while on the earth.

Sunday – March 20, 2016 Rev. 20:1-15 “Pay Day is Some Day”

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Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Revelation 20 is one of the greatest and most important chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that encompass the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Many Bible teachers believe that it is in this future period that many Old and New Testament prophecies will find their ultimate fulfillment. However, the view that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ is also one of the most controversial and a bewildering array of diverse interpretations that may be found in regard to this passage.

The term millennium, a Latin word meaning one thousand years, is the term that has come to be used of the thousand-year period spoken of in this passage. The term “millennium” is found six times in verses 2-7. The Premillennial View is the view that Christ will personally return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The prefix “pre” expresses the view that Christ returns first, then literally reigns on earth. It also views Christ as fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies literally in a kingdom on earth. The premillennial view is the result of a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, a view held by even the very early church fathers of the first and second century.

The Amillennial View is the most popular modern view. The prefix “A” simply means a denial of the Millennium and the literal reign of Christ on earth and seeks to make the Book of Revelation a spiritual allegory. Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ and the present age between the first and second comings of Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the Millennium. Its adherents are divided. Some believe the Millennium is being fulfilled now on earth, and is equivalent to the kingdom of God in you. Others believe it is being fulfilled by the saints in heaven. It may be summed up in the idea that there will be no more Millennium than there is now, and Christ’s second coming is immediately followed by the eternal state.

Paul teaches us that the Old Testament Scripture and God’s dealing with Israel do have spiritual analogies for the Christian life. Scripture is full of such analogies and types, but the significance is based on the literal historicity of the event whether past or future. It is never a means to deny its literal meaning or fulfillment. Scripture abounds in allegories, whether in the form of types, symbols, or parables. These are accepted and legitimate ways to teach and communicate spiritual truth. However, there is a great deal of difference between such use of allegories and allegorical interpretation. In one you have the illustration and application of spiritual truth based on literal interpretation and historical fact. In the other, you have disregard for the literal meaning and historical fact based on the literal method of interpretation and in its place an allegory is set up based on the interpreter’s own fancy.