The blog contains notes from the weekly messages.  We encourage you to review the notes during the sermon or through the week!  Most of the posts will have the audio or video link at the end of the notes.  From time to time the pastors will share other insights here.

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Responding to Jesus (Week 7)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord of the Harvest: Go with Him!”

Key Verses: Luke 10:1-3

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World!

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest and He has invited us to pray for people to work His fields. Let’s look at the text where Jesus teaches us this.

 

Turn with me to Luke chapter 10, verses 1-3 (Luke 10:1-3):

 

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

 

This is not the only place Jesus gives His followers a command to take the good news (gospel) to other people—we call this evangelism or missions.

 

Jesus famously commands in Matthew 28:18-20,And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

 

In our lesson today, we see that Jesus instructs His followers:

 

1. The work is not just for pastors and missionaries.

 

Jesus sent 72 followers, not just the 12 Apostles. This is the mission of the church—all the people of God are to go!

2. Don’t go alone!

 

Jesus sent the workers two by two. Each of us needs a battle buddy!

 

In the Army, we were trained to have a battle buddy… [I will tell a story of my battle buddy linking arms with me in Ranger School to illustrate what a battle buddy is and why they are important.]

 

Do you have a battle buddy? That question may seem out of context, but when you listen to Jesus’ words, they make sense: “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” There is hardship and pain awaiting each of us in the world we live and attempt to serve in the name of Jesus. We live in a very broken world, filled with sadness and grief, sin and selfishness. Bad things happen to all of us and all we have sometimes is our faith in this message of hope, to reminder ourselves and to share with others because so many are feeling hopeless and beat up by a world that doesn’t seem to care.

 

If you got at it alone, there is a very good chance that your initial excitement to be a part of the work of God will waver and fail in the midst of so much pain and hardship. It is amazing how much life can beat us down, circumstances and chronic pain, alike, can distract us and keep us from seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Listen to three promises from God’s Word about spiritual relationships:

  • 1 Corinthians 16:17-18 states,

    “I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.”

  • 2 Corinthians 7:13 reiterates,

    “Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”

  • Hebrews 10:24-25,

    “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

 

We are better together in Jesus Christ! Be a refreshing presence to one another as you bring the love and hope of Jesus to a world in so much conflict and pain. Remember, we are hope-bearers and the first people we need to bring hope to is one another and then we go out together to help people and love people through their most damaging and devastating life experiences.
 

3. Go to every place Jesus would go!  Stay in His yoke!

 

Jesus commands His followers to follow a certain path in how we plow the field: I want you to listen to some teachings from Jesus that help us understand how we are to work His harvest fields.

 

Acts 1:8 instructs,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

This scripture has 2 lessons I want you think about: 1) start where you are because this is where you are (Jerusalem, your home community), but be willing to move outside of your comfort zone as the Lord leads you. That can include our region/state (Judah), the nation (Samaria, this also has the implications of people who may not be like you, maybe people considered outcasts or “not like us”), and to the end of the earth (anywhere and everywhere, people distant from you in every way).

 

Jesus is tearing down the cultural and religious prejudices of His day and He’s still doing it, today! Are there people or places you are not willing to go?

 

Don’t just think about way away out there, think about in here (around this room) or around our city or your school or workplace or extended family… Are their barriers in your mind and heart that disallow you from loving people the way Jesus loves you? Do you need to seek forgiveness or forgive another person today? Are there a few difficult minutes of a hard conversation ahead of you so that you can be free forever?

 

Does this sound like a heavy-burden to you? Does it cause anxiety or fear just thinking about going across this room or across the street in your neighborhood or across town or across the lunchroom or across the world?

 

Remember don’t go at it alone! The second lesson of Acts 1:8 is that the Holy Spirit will be with you and give you the power to be on mission with Jesus. Jesus invites, instructs, and promises in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

I want you to get one thing out of this passage today: when you take on Jesus’ yoke, He will direct your path and set your pace in the harvest field. When you are yoked to Jesus, you are now working under a different power source that causes His yoke to be easy and His burden to be light. We are in the yoke of Jesus when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. You are not alone!

 

And when you are not alone, you can do whatever it is God is putting on your heart to do! You can go where He leads you, even if others don’t understand why you are going to that place or to those people. We all needed someone to come to us at some point in our life… Let’s return the favor and reach out to others where they are.

 

Remember this story in Mark 2, after Jesus invited Levi (a.k.a. Matthew) the hated tax collector to be one of His followers and Jesus went to Matthew’s house and ate with sinners, and all the “church people” were upset with Him. Listen to Mark 2:16-17 and how Jesus reacts, “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,
‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

 

Where is God calling you to go? Then, you go there! If each of us would just go where we each were called to go, then how many more people would have Jesus in their lives?

 

4. The final point for today is this: Pray for God to capture the hearts of more people to come on journey with Jesus and share in all the work.

 
Never forget, the Harvest Field belongs to God, not to you and me! He loves all these people, including you and me, more than we possibly can. But He uses you and me to love one another. So pray… pray for people’s hearts to be captured by the love of God!

 

 

There is so much pain in the world and there is so much pain right here in this room. The final point is also the starting point: Pray. Seek God’s face—His presence and His power for all the hardship and pain in the harvest field.

 

Don’t go alone means praying to God and inviting Him to go with you. He also invites you to bring a friend with you as you go. If you are currently going alone, pray and ask God to raise a worker to join you.

 

If you currently see places of need that you aren’t called to go to, then pray that God would raise up people to go.

 

I can’t go everywhere, because that would be disobedience to what I am called to do. No guilt to you, nor will accept guilt to come back on me. We each are called—I’m in the yoke of Jesus learning to go where He calls me.

 

Whose yoke are you in and where is that yoke taking you?

 

It’s time to pray…

 
You can listen to the message here:
 

 


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Responding to Jesus (Week 6)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is our Example: Serve Like Him!”

Key Verses:  John 13:1-20

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World!

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus is our Example in all areas of life. We are called to serve like Jesus served. That is why He came and that is why we have been saved: Jesus emptied Himself, took on the form of a servant, and died on the Cross so that we can live an abundant life. We are Blessed to be a Blessing! Serving is a life of giving away what you cannot lose: God’s grace!

 

Jesus said to His first followers (the disciples) in Mark 10:42-45,

 

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many [by being lifted up on the Cross].

 

Jesus makes it clear in His teaching that He came to set us an example: one of a servant who was willing to put aside His own comforts, in fact His very life, so that we can return to a right relationship with God that was intended for us from the beginning of creation, but was destroyed by human sin. Jesus came to rescue us and to show us what our lives can look like when we are completely submitted to the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in us.

 

The example Jesus came to set for us is found in our theme verse of John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” It was on the Cross of Calvary that Jesus demonstrated what true service looks like! As we talked about last week, it was not easy for Jesus to do this: in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sweat blood leading up to the Cross because of the extreme anguish He felt (Lk 22:44; Mt 26:38; Mk 14:34), but loved compelled Him to serve us this way; as Hebrews 12:2 says, it was for the JOY SET BEFORE HIM!

 

Just like Jesus, we are called to be different and live different than the ways of the world: to die to self-service and live for God-service. The world says look out for number one and use other people to get your way. The world teaches us self-service and most everything that makes a profit in today’s world is something that caters to the whims and desires of “self”. Just think of the billions of dollars the advertising departments of multi-million dollar businesses spend on wooing you to invest your time and money into yourself.

 

Unfortunately, this includes in the American-led church growth models if you want to have a “successful” church. I don’t know what to tell you other than that I, and your elders, won’t pander to that mindset and false definition of success for the church. With that said, for us to remain in our community, the faithful need to step up in even greater ways, in both serving and giving, to keep a Jesus-centered church thriving in our self-centered culture. Giving in to the self-centered culture is idolatry and we must flee from it and not cooperate with it. Lord Jesus, please forgive us for the ways we have already.

 

Jesus says that the only way to glorify God through your service and to truly be great is to not to self-serve, but to serve people by submitting to God first; this is God-service. In fact, Jesus’ life glorified God for this exact reason as we learn from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” Jesus did not heal every person that needed healing, teach in every synagogue, feed every hungry person, tackle every social evil, tear down oppressive regimes and solve economic disparities between the haves and the have nots. Jesus did not do everything that would have been on each of our agendas for this world and all of its problems, but Jesus did everything His father asked Him to do!

 

Jesus rescued humanity from the damaging effects of sin so that we would be “free” as God-centered people to do all these things and even more—to do even “greater things” (John 14:12).

 

Jesus prays for us, His future disciples, in John 17:22-23,
 
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

 

Jesus has given us the same glory that His father gave Him and that glory is to do the work God has given each of us to do. We are called to be pleasing to God by doing what He commands us to do. People will often misunderstand how we serve them, because we are pleasing them in the Name of Jesus, not in our own name (personal self-interest), or the name of our church (corporate self-interest), or even in the name of our city, state, or nation (ethnocentric self-interest). We are God-serving people: God-pleasing service not people-pleasing service!

 

The bottom line is that living a non-serving life or self-serving life is not the real thing—neither biblical Christianity nor Jesus following. It’s disobedience to Jesus because you are still living according to your selfish nature. Following Jesus means your faith produces acts of obedience. Not to save you, but because you are saved! Not as works of the Law to attempt to please God, but obedience that flows from faith. Faith and good works are inseparable, and if you are separating them and you think that is OK, that is a problem. 

I do not have permission from God as your pastor to allow you to sit there and think that it is OK to live disobedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ. With truth and grace, I say to each of you: you are blessed by God to be a blessing to others—to real people with real issues in real everyday life! Put some feet on your prayers and go serve in such a way to meet the needs of a lost and dying world. Faith compels you! The Holy Spirit within you empowers you… take a step of faith and follow your Lord and Savior Jesus by putting on the towel of service.

 

Even Jesus’ closest followers did not understand the example of Jesus. Grace abounds for those who do not get it, but we can’t stay there. God is calling you to understand this very basic teaching—to get it and to stop making excuses for disobedience. Even Jesus’ closest followers were consumed with self-interests. Listen to this very famous real story, the historical account of Jesus Christ putting on the towel of service, from John chapter 13, verses 1-20 (John 13:1-20):

 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

 

Jesus emptied Himself in this moment by doing the work of a slave by washing their feet. In the times of Jesus, the person who was to wash the feet of guests was not the husband or wife, nor the children or hired hand. It was the work of the lowest person in their culture. Jesus took on the form of the lowest person to wash the feet of His followers. But Jesus’ followers did not want this kind of example nor understand Him.

It’s not that Jesus wasn’t clear in His teachings or in the example He set—how could Jesus have been any clearer in either?—it was just that His followers were blinded by their own self-interest. They wanted Jesus to be greatest of all (not least of all) and to lead a revolution against Rome and liberate them so that Israel could be great again and they could then personally rule their country (and then the world) with Jesus (not to be a part of some spiritual kingdom that gets you ridiculed, side lined, and eventually crucified).

 

Jesus’ followers were still consumed with self-interest, but Jesus did not have an ounce of self-interest in his example. Jesus did not have an ounce of self-serving in mind when He went to the Cross—Jesus experienced extreme anguish in going to the Cross, but He did so because of the Joy of knowing that we would be rescued from sin—the very sin that keeps us yoked to SELF!

 

You are either yoked to Jesus or yoked to yourself! As Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Sin has been defeated, now abide in Jesus and God-serve—that is true freedom!

 

Are you free in Christ?

 

One of the core values of our church is, “Developing people for a life of service.” Over the last year and a half I have often talked to you of the “7:1 initiative”, which is an FBC initiative to: 1)  invest in 7 relationships through a small group, Sunday School class, or Bible study opportunity where you are learning from God’s Word and one another how to love others like Jesus first loved you; and 2) invest in 1 place of service in the church where you can be involved in a ministry team or mission partnership to serve like Jesus. If you don’t know where you can find a place of service, we have provided you with an updated 2020 “service opportunities” handout that has lots of places for you to prayerfully consider.

 

I know for a fact that we are having a hard time meeting the basic needs of meals needed for people in need of meals after medical issues or having babies. I was informed just this week by one of elders of these recent data points for our church:
 
  • lack of sustainable financing, evidenced by a huge deficit in the maintenance budget and the recent cutting of the mission’s section of the 2020 budget.
  • struggles of the Meal Trains, which get sent out to 118 +/- families every time:
      • missed 3 of 8 days for a member.
      • missed 5 of 10 days for a member.
      • missed 4 of 10 days for a member.
      • struggled to fill out for a member.
      • If you look at who is taking the meals, it is a relatively small group.
  • lack of volunteers in the Children’s area, leading to the closing of the elementary children’s church during 1st Sunday services.

 

The 7:1 initiative is not about meeting these needs of our church; it is about our maturity in Christ. To love and serve are the ways of Jesus! How you do them shows who you are in Christ! We must expect that by loving and serving we will become more like Jesus because we are living our lives by the example of Jesus.

 

We do this, not because it will get you respect from other people or make our church better or will cause God to love you more, but because it is obedience that comes from faith—in other words, it is a faithful response to the gospel of Jesus Christ when you put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. To say it another way, it is what the Holy Spirit will compel you to do because He lives in you and He is forming you into the example of Jesus Christ.

 

As you examine yourself about your area(s) of service, please remember that we do what the Spirit leads us to do, the way the Spirit has gifted us to do it, and in the way of Jesus—for the glory of God! I am not asking you to do anything more or less than obey Jesus! For me, that caused me to resign my career as an Army Officer before I hit my 20 years with no retirement or medical benefits. To leave all that I knew as security, to find my security in Christ alone. Then, again to leave all of our security at our first church in Sunnyvale, CA to come to New Castle, IN over a decade ago. And again and again, to die a hundred little deaths to obey Christ to love and serve like Him, instead of loving and serving myself and my own self-interest.

 

I am not asking you to do anything more or less than I have done, I never will! I am only asking you to respond to Jesus’ example by completely submitting to God and by asking the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants you to respond to Jesus’ example. Through God’s grace and only by God’s grace can we serve like Jesus!

 

How are you going to respond to Jesus’ example?

 
You can listen to the message here:
 
 
 
 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 5)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Savior: Love as He First Loved You!”

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World!

 

Today, we are going to learn that if Jesus is Savior, then a way we can respond to His love is by loving other people as He first loved us. This will be my outline: 1) I will teach from the Bible that Jesus is the Savior and show a video to help you decide for yourself, and 2) I will explain how we are invited to respond by loving other people as Jesus first loved us and then invite Katie Kinnaird up to share a testimony that leads us to make a decision on how we will respond.

 

First, Jesus is Savior. In fact, this is why He was lifted up on the Cross of Calvary (John 12:32)—to show the world the love of God to all people. As Paul stated 1 Timothy 4:10, “we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

 

To make it even more clear, Paul explained in Romans 5:8-10, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

 

To understand what Paul is saying about Jesus saving us (being the Savior), let’s take a quick walk through a historical account of Jesus’ life, seeing and hearing what first-hand witnesses recorded about Jesus in this reliable historical document called the Gospel of John:

 

The author of the Gospel of John, the Apostle John, starts his historical account with a big picture statement about Jesus in chapter 1, verses 9-13 (John 1:9-13), “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 

John is teaching us that this is why Jesus came: to give us every opportunity to be saved from the damaging effects of sin that separate us from God and His family. Jesus makes a way for us to have our sin forgiven, so that we can return to the household of God.

 

We this when John the Apostle quotes John the Baptizer, who declared about Jesus in John 1:29-34, “‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’”

 

John the Baptizer gives witness to the fact that Jesus is the One who can return us to God by taking away our sin and filling us with the presence of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which happens when we put our faith in Jesus, as the Son of God who died on the Cross as the Savior of the World.

 

Jesus is recorded of saying this so clearly about Himself in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

 

Then to illustrate that His salvation is available to all people (those who were near and far away from God, then and now), John 4 gives us an historical account of when Jesus saves a Samaritan woman. But Jesus’ encounter not only impacted her life, but the whole community because she shared her transformed story with her town. Listen to John 4:39-42, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

 

This historical account makes it clear that Jesus not only came to be the Savior, but He came to be your savior. He doesn’t want you to only know about Jesus and how He has impacted other people (maybe a family member or someone at work or that person at the YMCA), but Jesus wants you to know him personally.

 

John records Jesus’ words about Himself in John 12:44-50, “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.’”

 

These are the words of Jesus Christ, and prior to these quotes from Jesus, I quoted two other primary witnesses about Jesus—John the Apostle and John the Baptizer—both of whom had direct encounters with Jesus. I also quoted to you from Paul who met Jesus after he died and was resurrected. Today, we have a decision of what to do with not only these historical witnesses of Jesus, but two thousand years of historical witnesses and most intimately, what to believe about the transformed stories of those six people who got baptized today.

 

Please watch this video to help you:

Jesus: Lord Liar or Lunatic? (@CFIMission)

John testified of Jesus in his first letter, chapter 4, verses 14-15 (1 John 4:14-15), “we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

 

Will you confess Jesus Christ as your personal savior today?

 

Let’s pray together and invite God to lead us in making a decision that leads to life.

 

Second, and very practically, in response to Jesus being our personal savior, we are called to love others as Jesus first loved us.

 

Before I invite Katie to come up here and share her testimony and invite each of us to respond to this message, I want to share a part of Jesus’ story that most people miss. It is so important for us to know this about Jesus so that we can respond to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as Savior.

 

While Jesus did endure the Cross because of the Joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), it was not easy. We miss this point! It was hard for Jesus and it will be hard for us; but it is worth it! We love others as Jesus first loved us because we know there is a greater joy in seeing people respond to the love of Jesus than our own anxiety, fear, and insecurity in trying to do it!

 

Just like Jesus had to face His Garden of Gethsemane moment in order to share God’s love with us, so will we face our own Garden of Gethsemane moments. In Luke 22:44 we see this historical account of Jesus’ human experience of anxiety to in going to the Cross, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Do you see how hard this was for Jesus?

 

Jesus literally sweated blood in anticipation of the suffering He would endure to be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary so that we would know the love of God. Listen to the medical science behind this historical event, “Hematidrosis is a rare, but very real, medical condition where one’s sweat will contain blood. The sweat glands are surrounded by tiny blood vessels. These vessels can constrict and then dilate to the point of rupture where the blood will then effuse into the sweat glands. Its cause—extreme anguish.”[1] (emphasis original)

 

In the other Gospel accounts, we see Jesus’ level of anguish that aligns with this medical condition: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34).

The intense agony and sorrow Jesus felt was certainly understandable. In John 18:4, while in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the guards came to take Him to be abused, beaten, falsely accused, put before a mock trial, brutalized to the point of death, and then murdered on the Cross, Jesus willingly gave Himself to them, “knowing all that would happen to him”. But we must never forget that while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully human: Because Jesus knew what He was about to go through, He experienced extreme anguish as He willingly went to the Cross to show us God’s extravagant love and amazing grace.

 

This is how God first loved us! Jesus took His extreme anguish and agony to God in prayer and still decided, “Your will be done” was what was going to lead Him to share God’s love. And in order for us to love others as Jesus first loved us we have to bring our own insecurities, fear, and anxieties to God in prayer and decide “Your will be done” allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us to share God’s love.

 

I don’t know what is holding you back from practically loving others as Jesus first loved you, but I do want you to know this: It wasn’t easy for Jesus and it won’t be easy for me or you, just like it isn’t easy for me or Katie Kinnaird. We all look at Katie and see fruit of how she brings the extravagant love and amazing grace of Jesus Christ to the youth of our community through Young Life, but what we can’t see are her Garden of Gethsemane moments, each and every time.

 

Katie Kinnaird is going to share a part of her story and then call us to action and pray for our time of response. She and I, and others, will all be up front ready to pray with and for you.

 

(Katie shares her testimony – You can listen to it in the recording below or you can watch it under Media/Video above.) 

 
 

You can listen to the message here:

 
 
 

Footnotes:

 
 
[1] This quote is from a great article “Why did Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane?” at Got Questions webpage: https://www.gotquestions.org/sweat-blood-Jesus.html (last accessed January 20, 2020). For more information on this from a medical point of view, the top google search took me to: https://www.healthline.com/health/hematidrosis.
 
 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 4)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

Jesus is the Head:  Belong to His Body!

 

In a recent devotional (by Jeff Randleman) I read, the author wrote about the different ways people responded to Jesus in just one chapter in the Book of Matthew. If you read chapter nine, you find that people were in awe of Jesus   (v 8) when he healed the paralytic; Matthew followed him and invited friends to meet him (vs 9-10); sought after by a woman with a blood issue (vs 19-22); they laughed at Jesus (vs 23-26) when he went to pray for the ‘sleeping daughter’ of a church leader; pursued by two blind guys who wanted healing for their sight (vs 27-31); marveled at the power he possessed (vs 32-33); and criticized him, saying this power came from the prince of demons (v 34).

 

So responding to Jesus does not always have a positive connotation. But it does always align with the person doing the responding. When we take and place Christ as the priority or main focus, then we find ourselves on target. God created us to have a choice, never forcing himself upon us, but always longing for us to come back into right relationship with Him! He moved the access point to him from the Temple Holy of Holies, where only the priests could enter in; to His Son, where all who accept Him as Lord and Savior could come to the Father.

 

Today we are going to further respond to Jesus by declaring him as the head of the church (us) who is the body of Christ, and how we are to fulfill our part in serving Him as our Lord and Savior.

 

Frank Viola writes:

“To be subject to the headship of Jesus is to respond to His will regarding the life and practice of the church. Submission to the headship of Christ includes obtaining God’s mind through mutual ministry and sharing, obeying the Holy Spirit through the mutual subjection and servanthood, and testifying to Jesus Christ collectively through mutual sharing and corporate witness.”

 

Jesus is to be Lord of the individual and Head (Master) of the corporate body. When we have those in alignment, then we are truly functioning, as God desires us to be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Let’s see what God’s Word has to say when we recognize: 

  1. Christ is the Head
  2. We are the Body
  3. We have to Submit

   

I. Christ is the Head

 

A) Supreme Qualifications (Preeminence)
 
Colossians 1:15-20

 

B) He is the Chief Cornerstone

 

Psalms 118:22 

“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

 

Ephesians 2:20  

“Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.”

 

1 Peter 2:4 

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.”

 

C) The Benefits of Jesus in Charge

 

Ephesians 1:15-23                       

  1. God appointed Him & placed all things under His feet
  2. The power of God is at work
  3. We are made full & complete

 

 

II. We are the Body

 

A) One body, many parts
 
Romans 12:1-5

 

B) Not all the same abilities/responsibilities              
 
I Corinthians 12:14-27

 

ILLUSTRATION:   When the head is not connected to the body

 

III. We have to Submit

 

Ephesians 5:21      

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

Reverence defined: 

honor or respect felt or shown : deference especially : profound adoring awed respect”

                                                                                                Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

A) We have to make the choice James 4:5-8

 

B) He gave us the choice, always has, always will

 

OT: Joshua 24:15 – choose who you will serve

NT: Luke 16:13 – cannot serve God and money

 

Romans 12:1-2

 

C) We have to do the presenting

 

  1. Not a dead sacrifice, but a living one – alive to serve
  2. Allowing God to transform us, not the world.
  3. The results will be called ‘good’ by God. (morally honorable, pleasing to God, beneficial)

 

That is the ultimate meaning of submission. Surrendering what you want to do by saying “not my will, but YOUR will be done.” Jesus did that for you and me so that we would have a way to have our relationship with God restored. He is also making a way for us to never have to ‘go it alone’, for He is always beside us, in every situation. With Christ as the head, His vision is so much clearer that He can see the bigger picture so we can “count it all joy”, no matter what we are faced with in this life.

 

So, as I have presented God’s Word to you today I need to ask… How will you respond to it and to Jesus?  I know in this world there are some who may not see a need for church or faith or even Jesus. And there are others who may just have a hard time letting go of the control. But maybe you finally have realized your need to let go and let God have control. Whatever your response, that choice is up to you. No one can make that choice for you. But know that you have a church body that will love you and support you as you submit to God and His plan for your life.

 

Listen to the Message here:

 
 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath: Enter His Rest!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 12:1-14

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross by exalting Him (lifting up His Name) in every aspect of our lives!

 

If you were here the last two weeks, you might remember that we talked about our responses to Jesus’ call are: 1) to believe in who He is and what He did to save lost sinners, 2) to exalt the name of Jesus above all other names and authorities, 3) to gather to Him and listen closely to His teachings, and 4) to follow Him and obey His commands. If you missed either of these previous messages, you can check out the videos and the blog notes on our website, www.newcastlefbc.com.

 

Here is the main point of today’s sermon: A person cannot experience the promised rest of God through either human effort or religious legalism; the rest of God can only be attained through a personal response to the gracious invitation of Jesus Christ, made possible through His shed blood on the Cross of Calvary. It is only by faith in Jesus that anyone can enter the rest of God.

 

Listen to Jesus’ gracious invitation, from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor [tired, weary] and are heavy laden [burdened], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [humble] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Last year, I spent eight weeks preaching this promise for rest, and I am again teaching it on Wednesday nights in the Chapel. You can go back and listen to all eight of those sermons on our webpage and you are personally invited to attend my Wednesday night class. 

 

Immediately following Jesus’ gracious invitation, Jesus illustrates His authority to do what He promises by demonstrating how He fulfills the Law of God in which sabbath, the ancient biblical principle of finding rest in God, is found. Unfortunately, sabbath understanding had become reduced to what you can and cannot do on a certain day of the week—Saturday for the Jews and now Sunday for many Christians, but even that is argued about, like everything else. Jesus gets us back to the heart of the matter. Let’s watch and listen to Jesus in Matthew 12:1-8,

 

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [ref. 1 Samuel 21:1-6] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ [cf. 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8] you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

 

Jesus states two major truths about Himself: 1) in v. 6 “something greater than the temple is here” and 2) in v. 8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus is declaring His authority to fulfill His promise to give rest, within God’s Law (though not according to man’s additional 600 codified rules). Jesus is the fulfillment of Sabbath and the rightful, authorized Lord over it (not just Sabbath, but all of the Law as we saw in the Sermon on the Mount).

 

Jesus is the One to which the temple pointed. The story illustrates this in Matthew 12:9-14,

 

[Jesus] went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

 

Jesus’ action to heal the man with a “withered hand” on the Sabbath was Jesus fulfilling the original sabbath principle of God—to demonstrate trust in God to bring about rest for His creation, as it was originally intended. In healing this man, Jesus was pointing to the consummation of all things, when there would be no more withered hands in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21-22). The seventh day principle upholds our faith in the finished work of the Cross and our hope in the return of Christ to complete all things in Him. As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end. Even though your current life circumstances under the sun do not invite rest, you declare your faith in this hope every time you rest in the Son, Jesus Christ!

 

While this could become a major off ramp opportunity for me to teach the whole “rest motif” of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, I will not do that, but I will say this: Jesus is reminding us that from “the beginning” God’s intended purpose of the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3) and the future commands to honor the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15) are to demonstrate God’s sovereign rule over all things (time, land, people) and our right response to trust Him by resting in Him and His work, instead of the work of our hands! To do otherwise is the definition of vanity of vanities, to chase after the wind, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes.

 

God’s rule over all creation is not ushered into the world by us slaving away—the anxious toil of Psalm 127:1-2—as if we were still in Egypt working under heavy taskmasters who make impossible demands of us, and in so doing ignoring the damage our lack of sabbath rest is doing to us, our families, and our culture. The Kingdom of God is ushered in through us resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is only through Jesus Christ being lifted upon the Cross that anyone can come to God and “find rest for their souls” (the ancient promise of Jeremiah 6:16, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 11:29). To sabbath is to publicly protest against the Pharaohs of this world and the gods of commerce that they serve, and to declare your loyalty (faith) in the God who not only modeled and commands rest for His people, but died so that we can enter it.

 

A thousand years before Jesus, the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Whose work will bring the exaltation of God to the nations and bring the blessing of salvation to the people of all nations? Let’s be clear, not your anxious toil… God’s finished work on the Cross of Calvary!

 

The dying blow to any missionary or pastor, church or gospel ministry is to put that burden square on themselves or on their people. As Paul said in Galatians 3:1-9,

 

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 

We are all “weary” from the universal human experience of trying to make life work for us in a fallen world. And many of us are “heavy-burdened” by working hard to meet the requirements and/or expectations that religion and churched people put on us. Whether you are weary or heavy-burdened, sick or tired, or just plain old sick of being tired, you can “be still/cease striving” from all further humanistic or legalistic efforts to please God and be pleasing to people.

 

Collapse into the arms of Jesus Christ, who graciously invites you: “Come to Me, [all y’all]…”

 

Jesus’ actions on that Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-14 were not in rebellion to the sabbath commandment, but it was a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders addition of “works of the Law” by which no one can be saved [ref. Gal. 3:10-14, Paul’s way of saying, “legalism” because there was no Greek word for the concept]. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, He did not come to abolish the Law, but in fulfilling it to remove the addition of these “works of the Law” (i.e. religious legalism). In adding “works to the Law”, as they did in so many other places, they missed the real purpose of God’s Law, as Jesus said to them, “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mt. 12:7; cf. Hebrews 10:5-10). They missed the invitation of God to yoke with Him through faith, as Abraham had done in faith (ref. Galatians 3; cf. Hebrews 11). In doing so, they cut themselves off from God and put heavy burdens on others. Jesus came to offer them a new way to walk in the ancient paths of God—and that way is Himself, empowered daily by the Holy Spirit.

 

Instead of teaching people to walk with God through faith, the religious leaders had cut them off from the life in God’s Spirit by burdening them with teachings and additional commandments that were far too heavy for even them to shoulder.

 

Listen to Jesus’ scathing rebukes of these religious leaders in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Again in Luke 11:46, “And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

 

It is only in Christ that we can enter rest. As the author of Hebrews 4:8-11 explains, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

 

Why does the author of Hebrews say we must “strive to enter that rest” and Psalm 46:10 state, “Cease striving and know that I am God”? Is there a contradiction in the scriptures? No, allow me to answer this by using Paul’s words from Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

This is essential to you being able to apply this lesson: The rest of God is not first to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but preeminently in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God (faith) and move closer and closer to Him every day. I am prescribing rest to you through the life of obedience that comes from faith empowered by the Holy Spirit, not the “works of the Law” empowered by the flesh. If you are finding physical and mental/emotional rest difficult (i.e. taking a day off from working and ceasing from worrying), then how much more must you start with rest for your soul. It is only in Christ that you soul; hence, your brain and heart will be delivered and rescued from the deceptions of the world, the wickedness of our own desires, the lies of humanism, and the corruption of religious legalism. These are all yokes!

 

Strive to enter into the rest than can only found in the truth of Jesus who sets us free from all these other yokes by giving us the truth (John 8:32). As Paul expressed this truth so clearly in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Break the yokes of the world and get into Christ’s yoke. The rest of God is found only in Jesus Christ because “Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath: Enter His Rest!”
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 2)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Master: Follow Him and Obey His Commands!”

Key Verse:  Mark 1:17
 
Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for that weekend.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! We are not lifting up the name of FBC although we will celebrate. We are not going to pat ourselves on our collective back: we are not here because of us or our great ability. We are here as a church because of Jesus and His great ability.

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says,
“He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
 
The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross by exalting Him (lifting up His Name) with every aspect of our lives!

 

If you were here last week, you might remember that we talked about our responses to Jesus’ call are:
1) to believe in who He is and what He did to save lost sinners,
2) to exalt the name of Jesus above all other names and authorities, and
3) to gather to Him and listen closely to His teachings
 
If you missed last week, you can check out the video and the blog notes on our website, www.newcastlefbc.com.

 

Building upon this teaching, and not repeating it, we are going to focus on the next implication of Jesus being lifted up: Follow Him and Obey His Commands! 

 

Jesus draws each of us, personally, to Himself for God’s glory and our good! Jesus did this with his first disciples in Mark 1:17,
“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
 
We have turned this into a mysterious verse. What is Jesus inviting us to? What does He mean by “fishers of men”?

 

Being a follower of Jesus is a very practical call. Those first disciples had to make a choice between remaining fishermen (that was their occupation) and continue on with their regular schedules or literally leave their normal rhythm of life behind in order to follow Jesus. As the historical records shows in Mark 1:18-20,
“And immediately they left their nets and followed [Jesus]. And going on a little farther, [Jesus] saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately [Jesus] called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

 

Jesus’ call to follow Him is not only a practical one, but it is also a comprehensive call. What I mean by comprehensive is that this decision affects how you are going to live your life, work your job, raise your family, and invest your time and money. It is complete!

 

Jesus’ invitation, “Follow Me” is a short phrase including the Greek word δεῦτε which for these original followers of Jesus, Israeli fishermen, carried the implications of the Hebrew word and concept of הלך (hālakh). While the use of this concept does not jump out at us today, it carried a tremendous amount of practical and comprehensive connotation to those first invited. As the Lexham Theological Workbook explains of hālakh:

This word can refer to literal walking, i.e., traveling by foot (e.g., Genesis 9:23; Deuteronomy 11:19). It sometimes also refers to forms of literal travel that are not on foot, such as the motion of Noah’s ark on the waters (Gen 7:18). It has a common metaphorical sense that pertains to one’s manner of living. To walk (hālak) in a certain lifestyle or custom is to habitually practice it (e.g., 1 Kings 16:19; Isa 33:15; Psalms 1:1; 81:13).[1]

 

Jesus was not just inviting these early followers to take a walk with Him, He was inviting them to take on His lifestyle and go on a life transforming journey with Him. To put it in our language, Jesus was saying, “Come with me and learn how to talk the talk and walk the walk.” This is more comparable to a young person’s decision to join the military, rather than find a job or go to college—it is an all-consuming decision to take on the way of Jesus (hālakh). The mannerisms of Jesus, the lifestyle of Jesus, the language of Jesus, the mission of Jesus! That is why Jesus says, “and I will make you become fishers of men”.  More than a play on words, it is the promise of the Holy Spirit to transform their stories to the glory of God by putting them to the plow (in His easy yoke, ref. Matthew 11:28-30) of His harvest fields!

 

In the same way, Jesus is calling you “follow” Him. By God’s grace, I pray for you to respond to Jesus’ call today!

 

But before I go any further. Let’s make sure you and I are hearing the same thing. When I say the word “follow,” what do you hear? Scott Underwood helps us answer how our culture hears it:

It seems to me that the world/culture/society has hijacked the word “follow”.  Social media and social networking sites have cheapened the word, making it mean nothing more than “keep tabs on” or “keep track of”. I can follow a company on LinkedIn, bands on Spotify, or companies, bands and people on Twitter, Facebook or various other social media platforms. I can follow as many or as few as I want. With even less commitment from us, it means that we are following by having someone send us info on something we are interested in. I don’t have to do anything. And when someone or something I follow does something I don’t like; I can just unfollow them. No commitment, no relationship, nothing. On the other end of the spectrum, we often hear the term “follow” applied in a weird or uncomplimentary way toward people that follow cult leaders – Charles Manson, Scientology, etc.. The people who have pledged their lives to live out the wishes and precepts of an individual or another are often described as followers, which is a very different definition than the social media following. Of the two extremes, I think the cult leader portrayal is closer to the biblical understanding. The problem with the cult situation is not the followers – it’s the object (person or group) of their worship. He or she can’t be trusted.  Like you have said many times before, the person who is worshiped is not worthy of that worship, and the worship itself will crush them. When we follow a worthy God in a way that pledges our lives to live out His wishes and precepts, we can truly be thought of as followers. To keep tabs on Him with the understanding that we can unfollow Him when he asks too much of us surely is not the way He has intended.[2]

 

Truly “following” Jesus means we will submit our lives to His life. In following Jesus, we come to Him as our Lord (check out last week’s sermon) and Master/Teacher (John 13:13)!

 

The Holy Spirit then starts God’s work in us to conform us to Jesus’ likeness and to transform our stories to bring glory to God by bearing much fruit; hence, proving ourselves to be His disciples (John 15:8). God saved you to do good works which He prepared in advance for you to walk in—to do! (Ephesians 2:10). Again, this is the 2nd half of Mark 1:17, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

 

Here is another illustration from the Bible of what happens when someone follows Jesus in a practical and comprehensive way. This time, not a fisherman, but a tax collector. Think of an accountant for the IRS or government employee as I read to you Mark 2:14-17,

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Jesus continues by calling Zacchaeus, who in response to Jesus’ invitation changes the way he does his family business and gets right with people he has victimized by paying them back restitution for his previous crimes (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus challenges the rich young ruler on the one thing he won’t give up in order to follow Him (Mark 10:17-22). He tells others that they shouldn’t return to their lives to bury their father or tend to personal business (Matthew 8:18-22). Following Jesus changed the daily lives of all these early followers because they knew Jesus was calling them to make a practical and comprehensive decision. Not just mental assent to an idea or an emotional decision to a felt need. The faith decision is mental and emotional, but it is also practical and comprehensive. Jesus never said it was anything but all this—He calls us to join with Him in His relationship with the Father and that is eternal life!

 

Listen to Jesus make this very clear in Luke 14:26-33,

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

 

If Jesus is your Lord and your Teacher/Master (as He says He is in John 13:13), then follow His commands! Listen closely and obey His commands. As He says in Luke 6:46-49,

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

 

When you obey Jesus’ teachings you are lifting up Jesus Christ—the exalted One who was crucified, resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father—and through your submission to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will draw people to Him, to the glory of the Father.

 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:16,
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

If you don’t know where to start, then this is the right time to start. I am teaching a class on how to do this on Wednesday nights. Join me as I follow Jesus. Open up your Bible with a Christian and go verse by verse, chapter by chapter through the Gospel of Matthew and start doing what Jesus commands. Submit to God, read your Bible, pray for guidance, and obey with God’s help.

 

This is a decision for your head, heart, hands and feet. As the earliest followers of Jesus heard in the command of “Follow Me”, they were taking on the walk (hālak) of Jesus, meaning they were changing their lifestyle and their customs to now habitually practice the commands of Jesus.

 

This is how the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ keeps getting told, sermon after sermon, good work after good work, person after person. It is all a work of God’s grace in and through you! It is a visible witness—a shining of His Light!

 

You may be the only way for someone to know Jesus. Will they see and hear the call to follow Him? Is your life proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ?
 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “Travel,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[2] These words are from a private email between me and Scott. Scott may or may not say these words exactly during the sermon as it is our intent, Lord willing, for Scott to share his thoughts during the sermon.
 

Listen to the message here:

 

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Responding to Jesus (Week 1) Supplement

Jesus is Quoting Numbers 21:4-9 in John 3:13-15

 

In my sermon on Sunday, January 5, 2020, I referenced an Old Testament story, but did not have the time to elaborate upon it. In this short blog article, I am going to do just that. Enjoy!

 

Jesus the Christ declares in John 3:13-15,
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

 

To know what Jesus is talking about I have to take you back to the historical event Jesus is referencing from Numbers 21:4-9. While you read this I want you to take a look at the two pictures on the screen. Look closely: What is in the center of each patch—EMT and Medical Corps?  It is called a “caducea” or a version of one. You see snake(s) wrapped around a pole. While most understandings of the origin of the caducea are from Greek mythology, there is a Bible story that is far more ancient (by thousands of years) than these mythological origins.

Images were found on www.bing.com (accessed 1/8/20).

 

Numbers 21:4-9 reads,

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

 

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, to save the people, though this time, not just the Israelites. Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, not to heal venomous snake bites, but to deliver us from the effects of the Fall, all of us have been affected by that original serpent in the Garden, Satan, who tempted the first people to sin.

 

You see this idea clearly expressed in Romans 5:12-17,

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

Our response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross starts with putting our faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life. That is and always will be our most important response to Jesus being lifted up—Faith! And not just any faith—the object of your faith must be Jesus Christ! This is God’s grace for our lives as Jesus draws you to Himself according to God’s will and for God’s glory.

 

It is amazing to me how our culture continues to capture these biblical images without understanding their origin or meaning. It is my hope that more people will realize that every EMT is putting on display the grace of God in their life-saving work. Every doctor is putting on display the life-saving work of Jesus Christ in their medical practice. All healing in this life is a good gift from God, but temporary. Whereas eternal life is the ultimate healing, only possible through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

 

From this time forward, whenever you see the caducea, may you think of Jesus lifted up so that all people will be drawn to Him. May you see the common grace of God declaring the finished work of Jesus Christ for all who are in need of healing.

 


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Responding to Jesus (Week 1)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord: Gather to Him and Listen Closely!”

Key Verse:  John 12:32
 
Today, we kick off a new year. Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for that weekend.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! We are not lifting up the name of FBC although we will celebrate. We are not going to pat ourselves on our collective back: we are not here because of us or our great ability. We are here as a church because of Jesus and His great ability.

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up!

 

First, we lift up Jesus Christ by putting our faith in Him—to believe in Jesus and the Good News of what He accomplished for the world through His finished work on the Cross (the Gospel). Listen to the words of Jesus the Christ, from John 3:13-17,

 

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [reference to Numbers 21:4-9], so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, to save the people, though this time, not just the Israelites. Jesus was lifted up on the Cross not to “condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

 

Our response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross starts with putting our faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life, and His being lifted up also calls us to exalt the name of Jesus by lifting His Name above all other names! Listen to Paul explain this in Philippians 2:5-11,

 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

As we hear in this scripture, Jesus is not only the Savior, He is the Lord, to the glory of the Father! As Paul says in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 

Jesus came into the world to glorify God through His obedience to the point of death on the cross. In His submission, He rescued humanity by defeating sin once and for all through His vicarious death on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the tomb.

 

We are called to respond to Jesus being lifted up by exalting Jesus above all other authorities in our lives. If Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father, then He is preeminent before all things—that means if you call Him Lord, He must come first in your everyday life! Listen to Paul explain who Jesus is and His Lordship as God over all creation, from Colossians 1:15-20,

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

This is who Jesus is! Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

 

Is Jesus your Lord? There is only one way for you to know: Jesus will gather you to Himself!

 

Jesus’ promise of John 12:32 is that His death on the Cross “will draw all people”. This is Jesus’ promise! When you respond to the crucified Savior lifted upon the Cross, you are simultaneously called to submit to the Exalted King of kings and Lord of lords, on whom God bestowed “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

This is the Good News! This is God’s Grace! As Paul said in Ephesians 2:4-10,  

 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Jesus will lift you up with Him in the heavenlies, just as He was lifted up by His Father at His ascension (Acts 1:6-11). As Luke records in Acts 1:9, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

 

There is only one way to salvation and it goes through the Cross, and upon being drawn to Jesus you will have a change of mind. You will have a new perspective on yourself, others, and on life itself, because Jesus is Lord. Listen to Paul in Colossians 3:1-3,

 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

 

Upon being drawn to Jesus you will have a change of mind (perspective) and a change of heart (loyalty). You will listen closely to His words, His teachings, His commands, because Jesus is Lord! Listen closely to these words from Jesus Christ in Luke 6:46-49,

 

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

 

God’s grace gives you eternal life through faith in the One who is exalted and lifted up. God’s grace empowers you to live your everyday life with a new mind and a new heart. This is important because when you obey Jesus’ teachings, then you are exalting Jesus Christ—the lifted up One who is crucified and risen, who is the Light of the world—and through your exaltation of Jesus Christ all people will be drawn to Him, to the glory of the Father.

 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

The good works that flow out of your life, flow out of faith, from a new mind and a new heart that are being transformed after being drawn to Jesus Christ—crucified, risen, and coming again! This is how the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ keeps getting told, sermon after sermon, good work after good work, person after person.

 

By God’s grace alone and all for God’s glory, you are gathered to scatter, to shine the Light of Jesus Christ for all the people to see, no matter how deeply in darkness they dwell.
 
 

You can listen to the message here:

 
 
 

 


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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 5)

A Cord of 3 Strands: Faith, Hope & Love

Key Verse:  1 Corinthians 13:13

The Bible is our source of wisdom and knowledge.  It is God’s word.

1 Corinthians 13:13

 “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

This verse helps put them together:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

 
 

When we help each other, things are much better, whether just helping a friend or stopping someone from bullying others. 

Faith, hope & love is what holds our lives together!

 

Faith and Grace

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Grace is God’s love for you that you cannot earn.

Grace – There is nothing you can do to make God love you more.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.

 

A good father demonstrates a secure love to his children. 

It is the parent’s responsibility to discipline them when they are disobedient.  But nothing you do can stop me from loving you…

 

We discipline you as children to teach you how to submit, so you understand how to submit to God. 

Grace is about the power of our relationship with God.  It holds the cord of both ends of our life together.

We do not earn God’s love by our works, it is only by His Grace! 

Faith is a gift from God that activates His grace in our lives.

 

Hope is Knowing

 

While faith is enough for salvation, it is not all we need to live a Christian life.  You need hope:  Knowing what you believe is going to happen in the future.

 

Hope is our life bread.  Hope is believing that tomorrow will be better than today.  It is believing that God is going to do what He promised to do.  It is what lets us demonstrate God’s love to the world.

 

Romans 5:2-5

“and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,

knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

and perseverance, proven character;

and proven character, hope;

and hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts

through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

Hope is not wishful thinking.  “I hope it snows.”

It comes from us persevering through hard times.

 

Hope is Faith in Action!

Remember the saying:  “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is.”

 

We are the hope of the nations.  We bring hope.

When things get rough, hang on to Jesus!

You don’t need to go through tough times alone!

God will provide!  We should never feel the full weight of responsibility.

God is the rock – not us!

 

He will fulfill all of His promises to us!

Then we can love others in the same way that God loves us!

 

Love is the Greatest

 

Your life needs to be a 3-cord rope!

Faith, Hope & Love!

 

When we unweave the 3 strands, life begins to feel uncertain, empty.

We must stay in rhythm with God.  Develop habits in your life that keep you in God’s rhythm.

 

Make room for God in your life…in your family. 
 
Spiritual Disciplines.  Spending time in His Word, time in prayer together.
 
When we don’t things begin to fall apart. 

When we are in a positive rhythm with God it is easier to feel God.  When we are not, life becomes a vicious circle. 

 

Sin:  I want what I want and I want it now!  You are in my way so I am going to remove you rather than love you.

Love:  Giving what is needed.

 

The Fruit of the Spirit

 

Nine qualities woven together by the Holy Spirit that are graced to us when we believe.

 

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

 

Faith, Hope and Love is the Life we are called to live!

 

When we get to Heaven, it will all change…

We won’t need Faith any longer, since what we believe in will already be revealed in all its glory!

We won’t need Hope any longer, since we hoped for will have already happened!

 

In Heaven there will only be LOVE. 

 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and wisdom is perfected by love!
 
Note:  The content in this blog was notes taken by the ADMIN while listening to the message.  Any errors may be his.  I hope you find them helpful.  They were checked by Pastor Jerry.
 
 
You can listen to the message here:
 
 

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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 4)

“Jesus is our Peace!”

Key Verses:  Luke 2:1-20, emphasis on verses 13-14 (NASB)

 

Life is crazy! How can you find peace in the middle of it? Christmas is a time of peace, but what does it mean to have peace if the world is crazy all around us? How can we experience the promised peace of Christmas? Let’s look at the Bible to learn how to find the promised peace of Christmas and then bring it into everyday lives.

 

Read the Christmas story of Luke 2:1-20. Emphasize 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.” (emphasis added)

 

The Christ of Christmas brought to this world the good news of a great joy which is peace with God, peace with one’s self, and peace with other people!

 

Listen to Jesus in John 14:27,

 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

 

Jesus does not offer us the peace of the world (which at best is a cease fire, but not the end of hurt feelings and tensions), but Jesus offers us His peace. Jesus says, “My peace I give to you…” and the peace of Jesus is the end of strife between us and God, and the end of the enmity “among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Enmity is when there is strife/discord/hostility between two parties.

 

As Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:13-18,

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

 

How do we receive the peace of Jesus Christ?

 

You can have peace with God by inviting Jesus to be the Lord of your life. By taking our faith off of ourselves, off of anything or anyone else, and putting our full trust on Jesus for this life and the life to come. There is no other way to peace. The catastrophic damage caused by trusting in yourself as Savior, trusting in a career, a person, an achievement, a goal, a degree, a job, or in anything or anyone is so prevalent and rampant around us that there is no peace to be found. Only in Jesus, can we have peace!

 

Listen to Romans 5:1-8, where the Apostle Paul teaches us of this peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ,

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

But this is not just a promised peace between us and God, as we have already seen. We bring the Peace of Jesus into our everyday lives by bringing our peace with God to other people.

 

How do we have peace with other people when other people can be so “unpeaceful”?

 

To do this you first must be at peace with God and then with yourself. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this to the New Testament church in Philippi. He teaches in Philippians 4:6-9,

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

This kind of peace – from God and internal to us – is one that will stand guard (military imagery!) in our hearts and minds, so that we can face even the worst of life situations. This keeps us off the roller coaster of the world’s concept of peace and stable in God. Listen to Jesus in John 16:32-33 explain how:

 

Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

 

We have this promise to anchor our souls in life’s storms so that the peace of God perseveres in us and through us, first from God, then into our own self, and then out to our neighbors. Only then are we ready to do what Jesus commands in the Greatest Commandment found in Matthew 22:37-40,

 

And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

 

You can’t love your neighbor with God’s love, and live at peace with him/her, unless you are first at peace with God and loving your “neighbor as yourself” which means giving them the peace you first received. This peace, like joy, is a grace from God, given to us as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

 

Here is what I want to know: How can I walk in this peace every day?

 

By trusting that Jesus is who He says He is—knowing the promises of God and persevering in them! Listen to Jesus teach us about why He came that first Christmas morning. From John 10:10-18,

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.

 

Jesus came to earth to bring us into God’s care and protect us from the true dangers of this world (the thief, the wolf). Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He will walk with you no matter the storm or situation, relationship struggle or financial woe. The Lord is with you and He brings His peace with Him wherever He goes. Invite Jesus to walk with you and talk with Him along the way so that He can bring His peace to your mind and heart in each and every situation.

 

Do you know His voice? His leading? Do you know the peace that comes from abiding in His presence?

 

Listen to Psalm 23 to see how the Lord will walk with you as your Good Shepherd:
 

    1            The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

    2            He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

    3            He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

    4            Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

    5            You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

    6            Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Did you hear the final promise?

This promise is the promise of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, walking with you throughout your life on earth and taking you home to dwell with Him for eternity. This is why Jesus came to earth, so that we who put our faith in Jesus can have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with other people.

 

Let us persevere in this peace, not just in this Christmas season, but as patiently wait for His 2nd coming. As Jesus taught us in John 16:33,
 
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
 
 
You can listen to Pastor Jerry’s message here:
 

 


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