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 31, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Psalms and Announcements” Luke 2:21-38

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Luke 2:27b-32
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Whether we are young or we are old, everyone needs hope. Hope is not just for those who approach old age with questions about how their life has been spent and what to do with the days that remain, but also at all other points in life. We need hope to see there is more to life than the circumstances we find ourselves in, today or any day. A hope that is more than just whistling in the dark, a hope that is firm and secure in the heavens.

One of the blessings we receive along with the children God entrusts to us is hope. I can recall the day my daughter was born and the hope that I had for her future – all the things she would see and do in years ahead of her. And yet, the hope that comes with children is an uncertain hope at best. There is always the uncertainty of disease or death. What parent of a newborn has not gone in by the crib in the middle of the night and put his or her ear down close enough to make sure that the little one is breathing? If the child survives and grows into a young adult, there is the uncertainty of this evil world. Crime, child molesters, drunk drivers, the threat of terrorism or war, and economic instability make every parent worry about the kind of world our children and grandchildren will grow up in.

Given these uncertainties, when we meet an elderly person who is filled with hope, we need to sit up and take notice. Here is someone who could be pessimistic, cynical, filled with fears and anxieties. But he is brimming over with firm hope – hope in the salvation God will bring for all people. We had better listen, for there is much we can learn from someone who has the hope of the Lord in their life.

Simeon was such a man. When he held the infant Jesus in his arms in the temple courtyard, we see more than just an old man taking hope in any newborn. Rather, we see an old man who has put his hope in the promises of God. This was no ordinary newborn. He was the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. If Christ is your salvation, you can have hope no matter how difficult your circumstances. Whether you’re suffering from a deadly disease or grieving over the loss of a loved one or facing overwhelming trials of some other nature, you can have hope if you will trust in Jesus Christ as God’s salvation for you. He has won the victory over sin and death and hell. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed.

Sunday – December 17, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Why Not Call Him Zach Jr?” Luke 1:57-80

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Luke 1:67-69
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant…”

Suppose that you had just visited Niagara Falls, marveling at the massive power of all that water gushing over the falls. So you decided to see what the river looked like about a mile upstream. As you’re there, you see a guy in a rowboat, floating downstream toward the falls, oblivious to any danger. You yell at him, waving your arms to no avail – he is oblivious to the danger that waits ahead. If there was a speedboat moored nearby, you could jump in and race out to where he was and throw him a lifeline. But he may not even take it, because obviously, he is not aware that he is in any danger. He’s just cruising down the river, and to take your lifeline would interrupt his leisurely cruise.

The guy in the rowboat represents many in our culture today. Many of them are in church on a given Sunday. They’re cruising down the river of life, fairly contented with how things are going. But they’re oblivious to the fact that God’s terrible judgment lies just ahead. They think it only applies to people who aren’t in a good boat like they’re in. They’re in the rowboat of their own good deeds, and they figure that it will carry them through what they think may be a few ripples of the judgment. So any warnings you shout to them, or any efforts to throw them the lifeline of salvation, are ignored. They don’t see their desperate need of salvation, and so they don’t respond with gratitude and relief to the tender mercy of God in sending the Savior.

Zacharias could easily have been the man in the rowboat. He was a faithful Jewish man who performed his duty as a priest. He and his wife kept the Lord’s commandments and ordinances (Luke 1:6). He wasn’t a godless man, like the pagan Romans and he wasn’t a religious hypocrite, like the profane Herod who reigned over the land. Zacharias easily could have thought of himself as a man who was secure in the rowboat of his own good works, with nothing to fear from God’s judgment. But, thankfully, Zacharias did not see himself that way. He knew that the falls were rapidly approaching, and he saw himself helplessly drifting toward them with increasing speed. And so, when God revealed to him that he would have a son who would be the forerunner of the Savior, Zacharias broke forth in this beautiful psalm of praise to God for His great mercy in sending the Savior who had been promised centuries before.

Have you personally experienced the tender mercy of God by receiving the forgiveness of sins He offers through the Lord Jesus Christ? Has the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to your desperate situation outside of Christ? You sit in darkness and the shadow of death, awaiting God’s awful judgment. You can do nothing to save yourself. But God has done it all. In His tender mercy, He offers you a full pardon if you will receive Jesus Christ.

Sunday – December 10, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Worship of the Women” Luke 1:39-56

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Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

There are those who have distorted the truth of God’s word about Mary, and rather than regarding her blessed above all women, have honored her as above mankind, worshipping her and praying to her as though she were on the level of deity, or even above Messiah. This is clearly seen to be in blatant disregard for the teaching of our text. Nevertheless, others have reacted to this error by failing to see this woman as a model disciple.

Mary is not a model for disciples in being the mother of Messiah. It is true that Elizabeth blessed Mary as the mother of her Lord (1:42), and that future generations will bless her as such also (1:48). While this is true, this must be kept in its proper perspective. Our Lord was careful to show that being obedient to God’s will and His word was more important than being humanly related to Him: “And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28).

Mary’s hymn is brimming with information about the attributes of God. But it is not cold, academic information. Mary is extolling God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior” (1:47), which implies that Mary knew she was a sinner; none but sinners need a Savior. Implicit in the term “Savior” is the fact that we are lost and alienated from God because of our sin. As those who are lost, we don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right. We don’t just need a few tips on how to get our lives in order, how to polish our self-esteem, how to succeed in our families or businesses. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary’s “Magnificat” focuses on much more than just her own blessing in the bearing of the Messiah. Indeed, she does not focus on the child, per se, but on the results of the coming of the Messiah. We know now this includes both His first and His second comings. Mary has a great breadth of understanding. She looks back, to the covenants which God has made with Abraham and with His people in the Old Testament. She looks forward to the ultimate righteousness which will be established when the Messiah reigns on the throne of David. Mary has a good sense of history and a broad grasp of God’s purposes and promises.

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 – April 30, 2017 Genesis 37:1-36 “Jacob, Joseph and Jealousy”

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Genesis 37:2
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives.”

It is impossible to live in this world and not be hurt by someone else’s sin. When you have been wounded by someone else’s sin, you’ve probably wondered, “Where is God in all this? If God is all-powerful and loving, why is He allowing this terrible sin against me? If He is in control, why do wicked men literally get away with murder? If God is sovereign, why am I in the pits?”

Joseph could have asked that question. Due to his brothers’ sin, he was literally in a pit. From there things didn’t get better. His brothers didn’t kill him, as they originally planned, but they did sell their 17-year-old brother into slavery in a foreign land. As that caravan made its way south toward Egypt, perhaps passing within a few miles of Joseph’s home in Hebron, he must have been overwhelmed with grief and loneliness as he wondered if he would ever see his father again. He must have wrestled with fear, anger, and feelings of rejection as he thought about his brothers’ cruelty toward him. A skeptic might say, “See, God isn’t there when you need Him. If He cared about you, He would stop sinful men from carrying out their terrible plans.” But God’s sovereign providence runs like a strong river through this chapter, carrying even the sinful plans of man downstream in His overall purpose.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of God’s sovereign hand in these events is the remarkable parallel between Joseph’s history and that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph was loved by his father and sent to seek the welfare of his brethren, so Jesus was loved and sent by the Father. Just as Joseph’s brothers hated him because he spoke the truth about their sin and he convicted them of sin by his righteous life, so with Jesus. Just as Joseph’s brothers sold him for a few pieces of silver, so Jesus was betrayed for the same. Joseph’s brothers sought to get rid of him so that he would not reign over them, but their action resulted in that becoming true. Their rejection of him resulted in his later becoming their savior from the famine. Even so, the Jewish leaders did not want Jesus to reign over them. But their killing Him resulted in His becoming the Savior of all men, exalted in His resurrection as Lord of all at the right hand of the Father, just as Joseph was second under Pharaoh.

In various situations, we may feel that we’re in over our head. A terrible tragedy hits us out of nowhere. We lose our job, someone dies, someone wrongs us, and we feel as if we’re going to be swamped. But, the truth is, we’ve always been held up by the grace and love of our Heavenly Father. If He let us go, we’d drown even in the shallow end. If we’re in deeper waters, we’re still in His strong arms. God is never out of His depth, and so we can trust Him even when the waters seem deeper than we’ve ever been before. If you’re in the pits, remember, God is sovereign over all the details of your life. You can trust Him to work it all together for good! If you’ve never trusted Him before, why not begin now?