Responding to Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

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

(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!”

 
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!”

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.
 
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